May 29, 2023

To prevent mob lynching we need to stop teaching supremacy of one religion over others

Another tragedy, another blasphemy allegation, another murder, another few weeks of raising our voices before forgetting what happened, only to start over again when we are struck by another tragedy. This cycle seems to be repeating itself, only that we don’t seem to be learning from it. In fact, it is almost as if we have become so used to it that such incidents no longer stand out – we’ve become so desensitized that any new tragedy eventually becomes a mere statistic.

The lynching of Priyantha Kumara, in broad daylight, in the presence of police officers highlights not one but two very terrifying flaws in our system; the obvious use of religion as a tool for pretty much everything, and the inability of the authorities to enforce law and order. Combining the two results in what we saw; a man ruthlessly murdered, his murder broadcasted live on all social media platforms, and hundreds of complicit individuals who will never be held accountable for their actions.

The incident immediately drew attention with prominent politicians, ministers and even leaders of religious parties condemning the horrific crime, and several arrests have been made since. And while that should provide one with some hope that justice will be served, it seems very unlikely that that will be the case. In fact, there’s absolutely no guarantee that an incident of the sort won’t repeat itself, the reason behind it being the simple fact that for every person who condemns crimes of this nature, there are ten people out there supporting or in some way justifying the action. In a rather sad statement, Pakistan’s own defence minister made extremely ignorant remarks and almost justified the incident quoting that when ‘emotions run high, people make mistakes.’ It is this very narrative, perhaps, that continues empowering the mob mentality that has for so long plagued our country.

Mr. Khattak conveniently stated that the removal of the ban on TLP was in no way linked to this public lynching and neither is the country on the brink of a catastrophe. I must give him credit for the latter statement as the country indeed is not on the brink of a catastrophe; it is very much in the midst of a catastrophe which we seem to be avoiding by burying our heads in the sand. A country where the defence minister can justify a gruesome murder by accrediting it to the uncontrollable emotions of its youth has crossed the point where it is merely at the brink of destruction.

While Mr. Khattak’s views may sound outrageous to anyone with a functional brain, he isn’t isolated in hosting these beliefs. In fact, many Pakistani netizens have taken onto the micro-blogging site Twitter in the hopes of proving that this incident does not represent the country as a whole and that Pakistan is a peaceful and hospitable country. This is where the problem lies. One can only find a solution to any problem only when the problem is acknowledged. We refuse to admit that there is a problem. Every time an attack of this nature takes place, and many such attacks have taken place, we conveniently quote that a few hundred people do not represent the entire country. That would make sense in case these attacks were isolated events- which they most certainly are not. These are recurring events which have taken place all over the country showing that this mob mentality does, in fact, represent the majority of the country’s citizens.  

To make matters worse, we are now more determined than ever to bombard our syllabus with Islamic content. As a child, I remember having a religious studies class in which we studied the basics of many different religions, which is something that allowed me to respect people from different religious backgrounds. Now, it is all Islam-centric content which will instill a sense of isolation among numerous students who happen to be part of Pakistan’s religious minorities. It will also give rise to even more discrimination in classrooms. In fact, not even all Muslim children will be shielded from this discrimination; only the version of Islam being taught in classrooms will be considered valid and any child coming from a different sect will automatically be alienated.

One may ask what the syllabus in a school has got to do with a horrific lynching? The answer is simple. In a country where religious intolerance is at its peak, it is simply absurd to further fuel religious divides from such a young age. Repeatedly teaching children that one particular religion is superior to all others will intimidate all those who don’t follow it and will unreasonably empower those who happen to be lucky enough to be born into that religion. It is perhaps important to realize that these actions of ours will create even more intolerant future generations. We can condemn this tragedy all we want, but it is simply foolish of us to believe that more such tragedies will not follow.

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