Pursuing religious harmony

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In a world that increasingly values diversity and inclusivity, no nation can lay claim to prosperity and democracy unless its population enjoys equal rights, particularly in the realm of religious harmony. Recent events, such as the attacks on the Christian community in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala tehsil over blasphemy allegations, underscore the urgent need for a transparent probe and a collective awakening within Pakistani society.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar’s poignant statement that they may be from us but they are divorced from our identity and that we do not identify with them, encapsulates the sentiment of many Pakistanis who reject violence and discrimination against religious minorities. Fortunately, Pakistan has solid religious and legal grounds that obligate everyone to respect minority rights, ensuring that all citizens, regardless of their faith, can coexist harmoniously.
The Islamic faith itself provides clear guidance on tolerance and respect for diversity. Islamic teachings and the principle of “no compulsion in religion”, emphasize the importance of religious tolerance. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) practiced religious tolerance towards non-Muslims, setting an example for Muslims to follow.
As an Islamic state, Pakistan has a moral obligation to guarantee religious rights to non-Muslims and to treat them fairly and equally. In doing so, Pakistan can reflect the true essence of Islam, which promotes peace, tolerance and respect for all faiths.
The Constitution of Pakistan, under Article 20, grants freedom to every citizen to profess their religion and manage religious institutions. Article 25 guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the law, emphasizing that the law should treat all citizens equally. Article 36 calls upon the state to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minority communities and stresses affirmative measures to create a non-discriminatory and protective environment for all.
These constitutional provisions align with the vision of the Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who in his historic speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, declared, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
Therefore, the incumbent government must direct its energies toward ensuring that no citizen lives under a cloud of fear simply because of their chosen belief system. In a broader context, the state must be proactive in protecting its minority communities, which often face unwarranted restrictions on their ways of life.
The pursuit of equal rights for religious harmony is not only a legal and constitutional imperative but also a moral obligation deeply rooted in the principles of Islam. Pakistan can truly prosper and strengthen its democracy by upholding these values, protecting its minority communities, and creating a nation where all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, can coexist peacefully and thrive.