Peshawar (PR) – Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology, Dr. Qibla Ayaz, has said that Pakistan is a land of rich religious and cultural diversity where cultural values, social customs, and religious practices vary from province to province. Addressing university students at a workshop on January 19th in Peshawar, Dr. Qibla Ayaz said that even within a province social and cultural practices differ from one ethnic group to another. He added that many people were unaware of the fact that Pakistan is home to many Jews, Zoroastrians, and several lesser-known Muslim sects. In Pakistan, religion and culture are interlinked and interact with each other at many levels, Dr. Ayaz said. According to him, often obsolete cultural practices such as violence in the name of honor are given the name of religion which is misleading because honor killing has no basis in religion. He said traditional lifestyles in many rural regions of Pakistan were undergoing social transformations, and people of these areas were gradually accepting change.
Similarly, Dr. Rasheed Ahmed, professor of Islamic Studies at Peshawar University, said it was unfortunate that the Pakistani society continues to manifest symptoms of religious extremism and intolerance. He urged the youth to develop the habit of thinking and questioning, and contemplate why Pakistan has not been able to appreciate its enormous cultural and religious diversities. Dr. Ahmed also explained the history and background of some extremist movements in Muslim societies. He said national prosperity depends on the contemporary generation’s ability to hand down a cohesive, diverse, and peaceful Pakistan to future generations. Likewise, Haroon Sarab Dayal, chairman of the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement, explained to the youth that how Islam was a universal religion that promoted peace and harmony among followers of different faiths. Quoting Jinnah’s sayings, Mr. Diyal said Pakistan’s non-Muslim citizens are equal citizens of the state, and that faith should not be a criterion for judging citizens’ loyalty or services to the country.
The workshop participants were also taught about some popular misperceptions by Muhammad Amir Rana, director of Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). Amir Rana said social behaviors are often shaped by perceptions rather than facts. He explained how students could base their opinions on facts by studying books and expanding their mental horizons. The participants were also acquainted with effective uses of social media by journalist and social activist, Sabookh Syed. He said social media gave the common men opportunities for two-communication with policymakers and opinion-makers. In the end, Pakistan’s noted constitutionalist, Zafarullah Khan, discussed the constitution, parliament, democracy, and fundamental rights of citizens with the university students. Mr. Khan said it was worrying that the majority of university-level students had never had a chance to read the constitution. He explained why every citizen must know his fundamental rights and learn about the duties of the state and the limitations of its authority. He said the state came into existence to serve the public and not vice versa. The workshop was part of the nationwide youth engagement drive organized by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) – Islamabad-based research and advocacy think tank.