By Dr. Malik Muhammad Sohail
An increase in intolerance can be seen globally. Abrupt economic, social, and political changes have given rise to the radical right in various European countries. Intolerance of headscarves in France, burning copies of the Holy Quran in Denmark, and derogatory cartoons published in Italy; all depict a rise in intolerance. A report by Nevada Policy Research Institute (September 2020) suggests that Americans of all ideological stripes are growing more intolerant of people who don’t share their political outlook. In India, Hindutva ideology is intolerant to Muslims and people of other faiths who are lynched and tortured. Similarly in Pakistan, intolerance among youth is showing an extremely grim situation. A lack of recognizing differences of opinion is creating polarization in society. False allegations resulting in mob lynching have become normal. Thinkers, scholars, and teachers are barred from having healthy sociocultural, religious, and philosophical discussions.
This chronic intolerance among our youth has become a lethal weapon against our own social fabric. Menace of unjust distribution of resources, flawed system of governance, poor policies for youth engagement, and injustice are responsible for increasing intolerance in society. Attractive slogans and emotionally appealing propaganda have deprived the youth of trust in the system. The lack of social mobility and the monopoly of the power elite has fully exposed youth to the extremism caused by a sense of deprivation and dejection.
The intolerance is also being manifested through anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide among youth. They are disappointed and want to escape from this land. A sense of patriotism is clearly lacking when youth shows indifference to their country and want to run away merely for material gains. Unfortunately, the intelligentsia of society has chosen silence and inaction. We need to wake up as hatred, intolerance, and violence have reached our doorsteps. The power elite of this country seems insensitive to the worsening of this situation.
It is time to intellectually comprehend the phenomenon of intolerance and conflict within society. However, it is only possible with a clear sense of history specifically our colonized past.
Pakistan is facing exceptional circumstances which demand exceptional contemplation and social changes. Negative tendencies among youth can only be mitigated by engaging youth in constructive activities. They must feel that they are important in building this society.
There are certain things to do to increase tolerance in society on an urgent basis. The education system needs to create an environment to tolerate different dissenting and incompatible worldviews. The education system and media need to spread the idea that tolerance is a key ingredient for a successful diverse, equal, and open society. By imposing political theories of their own choice on the masses, the power elite of this country has already aggravated the situation to the extreme.
It is the responsibility of the state to provide fair social mobility opportunities, better education, and good governance to all citizens equally. It can only be achieved through a new sociopolitical and economic model of governance, not through this rotten colonial remnant. Academia, religious scholars, media, teachers, and writers need to come forward for such a paradigm shift to save the sinking boat. Peace and tolerance must accompany justice and equality.
A large body of social psychological research reports that cultural relativism can induce toleration and prejudice reduction in society. Cultural Relativism is a sociological concept that refers to not judging a culture to our own standards of what is right or wrong. Living in a diverse society having people from different cultures, we ought to have the ability to understand a culture in its own context and not to make judgments using the standards of our own culture. One should appreciate that every culture has some virtues and is not totally devoid of ethics.
Parents and teachers should socialize adults to cope with heated arguments and extremist thinking around them. Parents and teachers can also be good role models by showing tolerance towards differences of opinion. Adults want to listen thus family and school environments should reflect their willingness to listen to them. As they say, understand before being understood.
In mainstream global media, religion is viewed as a source of intolerance and violence. Such observations and studies have focused on individuals’ internal religious commitment and their relationship with certain religious groups. A recent study by Brigham Young University USA depicts, though religious intolerance is a reality of current society, religion has great potential to cultivate peace and tolerance in society.
Imams and religious scholars can play a pivotal role in mitigating intolerance and violence. Engaging them in scholarly debates and dialogues in schools, colleges, and universities can be helpful. Religious scholars can teach the masses how the religious freedom of minorities is our national responsibility.
The author is the Head of the Department of Sociology, University of Chakwal, and a faculty scholar at the center for spirituality, theology, and health, Duke University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org