A recipe for disaster


The Pew Research Centre has published a report on the extent to which governments and societies around the world are influenced by religious beliefs and practices. According to the report, religious hostilities have reached new heights all over the world except the Americas. The Middle East and North Africa are the hardest hit. Within the Asia-Pacific region, China has edged into the ‘high’ category for the first time. Religious hostility is exhibited through abusive behaviour towards religious minorities by private individuals or groups. The reason for the ill feeling towards the minorities is usually their different faith that rubs the majority the wrong way. In other words the report highlights the level of intolerance such countries exhibit in accommodating diverse religious beliefs. There were incidents in the past in Sri Lanka and Myanmar where Buddhist monks captured churches and mosques and turned them into Buddhist temples. In Egypt, Coptic Christians have seen their property confiscated and churches demolished by extremist Muslims even well before the advent of the Arab Spring. Pakistan has been in the news for similar reasons. Intolerance in Pakistan has reached the level where the worship houses of other religions or sects have been targeted, along with the intimidation, and worse, of people and groups belonging to other sects and religions. The Ahmedis have been barred from publically sacrificing animals on Eid-ul-Azha — a religious ritual — and even reading the Quran. Extremists believe the Ahmedis have lost the right to practice such rituals after being ‘constitutionally’ declared non-Muslims. Attacks against, including assassinations, and the harassment of Shias are a common phenomenon in the country. 
According to a press report, Quaid-e-Azam University, one of the best universities in Pakistan, is witnessing increasing Islamisation on campus. Teachers are compelled to allow students to leave class to offer prayers in the middle of a lecture. In some instances the students simply file out of class as soon as they hear the azan (prayer call). In most cases students either return a half-hour late or do not get back to class at all. Fearing a backlash that could range between physical thrashings to expulsion from the university, teachers do not admonish students to wait until the lecture finishes. The culture in the university according to the report has become increasingly radicalised, with the result that there are three mosques but no bookshop in the university. Books on religious matters on the other hand, usually those condemning music, are distributed free. ‘Obscenity’ is associated with secular and liberal values, while women on the campus are encouraged to keep a distance from their male counterparts. A replay of this sort is also seen in the Punjab University, Lahore. Recently the university has been in the news for accommodating in its hostels al Qaeda and Taliban affiliated groups. Such attitudes towards Islam or any religion are a recipe for disaster. *

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