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Resisting the intolerant

Those who have read Iqbal-e-Lahori, can never ignore his expressive, powerful and stirring poetry through which our founding father besides guiding the nation on numerous aspects, has also stripped off the cloak to expose the real character of a Mullah. Iqbal’s uncompromising rejection of mullahs, their interference in the society, their domination of the religious discourse and even their attempts to steer governance should is a topic for reflection. However, in present times the clerics and mullahs have become so authoritative that even the state and state institutions do not dare not challenge their influence in any way. Iqbal identified the actual Ulema but exposed the pretense of mullahs who under garb of Ulema exercised their power so intensely that they sclipsed the real leaders of faith. Mullahs had to pass fatwas against Iqbal as well to discredit his effort. Just like Iqbal’s period, they not only exercise immense power but have grown even stronger. Today, with a simple decree about anyone’s faith, they can bring heads of even the most powerful people rolling on the dirt roads.
With exception to few genuine Ulema who promote peace, harmony and advocate a progressive pluralistic culture, our country, society and above all our faith seems to be hijacked and commandeered by similar mullahs which Iqbal exposed. Thanks to these self-centred fatwa generating clerics, our country is presently recognized as one of the most intolerant lands on the globe. Although the country’s founding fathers envisioned a tolerant Pakistan where respect for the diversity of beliefs was generous. However, with passage of time with collusion of every succeeding government, clerics and their seminaries have produced and promoted an extremist culture. This ever growing crop of extremist mullas encouraged religious vigilantism against non-Muslims, as well as other Muslim sects alike. While the country waged a bloody war against terrorism, these mullas and their extremist ideas remained immune being under banner of various religious pressure groups and their affiliated wealthy sponsors. As a result, the idea of religious pluralism and the genuine acceptance of adherents of other faiths simply disappeared from our society.
Pakistan today, remains violently divided on the basis of religion and sect where people cannot tolerate difference of opinion and show no forbearance for any logically acceptable clarification. Assassinations of ministers, governors and students like Mashaal Khan are professed and encouraged to save Islam from non-existing danger of elimination by the west. These murders show how fiery this dimension of religious intolerance has become. The irony is that every government succumbs to these mullahs since they are backed by hundreds of thousand students in seminaries and narrative equally motivates protestors on the streets. For these mullahs and their extremist followers Islam (God forbid) has always been on the verge of elimination which as per them can only be protected by black-mailing sitting governments, interfering into progressive ideas and killing those who promote ideas of diversity and harmony.
Recently Pakistan’s first private autonomous national examination body under Aga Khan University Examination Board (AKU-EB) entered into partnership with government to improve the poor state of affairs of education in Pakistan. For some religious school of thoughts, the education board system which was approved and adopted by all stakeholders suddenly endangered Islam. AKU-EB while following the benchmarks of the National Curriculum of Pakistan, ensured a culture of conceptual and higher-order thinking in students could not win the trust of religious hardliners. Thus the AKU-EB syllabus is likely to become a major issue for religious groups particularly the madrassa boards. These madrassa boards are already engaged with government in fruitless discourse on reforms for more than six years. With an advanced syllabus aligned to national curriculum policy, AKU-EB was properly measured by government to be a necessity to improve the educational system in the country. However, one of the Madrassa boards under umbrella of Itehad-e-tanzeemat Madaris Pakistan (ITMP) has now raised red flag on this national discourse. One of the board under ITMP has demanded the government to undo the agreement and abrogate recently published notification regarding AKU-EB.



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