Society needs to return to the same spirit of tolerance, intellectual, cultural and religious magnanimity that prevailed in the Indian sub-continent in the days of Sufi saints in order to nurture a society based on love and harmony that springs from mysticism and spirituality.
This was the consensus among speakers at the launch of Dr Kamran Ahmed’s book ‘The roots of religious tolerance in Pakistan and India’ held at the Arts Council on Friday evening.
Speaking as the keynote speaker, University of Karachi (KU) Pakistan Studies Department Chairman Dr Jaffer Ahmed classified the book as a must-read for college and university students and a book that must be made part of the curricula.
He said that seeing the conditions of extreme bigotry, hatred and militancy around us today, we find it hard to believe that there ever was religious tolerance in the sub-continent.
Dr Fouzia Saeed, sister of the author, social activist, and author of Taboo, said that we’d have to view our identity against the background of our culture.
Lamenting the present day air of acrimony and bigotry in society, noted journalist and intellectual Ghazi Salahuddin said that the concept of rational debate is totally non-existent in society today, and various groups just want to foist their views and beliefs on the more susceptible and vulnerable members of society.
He referred to the recent “peace deal” in Swat, which he termed a surrender. Talking of the love, tolerance and harmony of yore that bound society in a bond of warmth and love, he said that the Heer-Ranjha legend was reflective of the nature and collective love of society.
Noted journalist Owais Toheed bemoaned the fact that the oneness which bound the sub-continent together had become a relic of the distant past. He said the love preached by Odero Lall and Sachal Sarmast, which transcended all barriers of worldly religions and bound society in a bond of mystic love, was not there any more.
Winding up, the author, Dr Kamran Ahmed narrated his experiences in Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, with Islamic and Hindu groups. He advocated the pluralism of thinking and culture.
“We need to strengthen the roots of everyday spirituality,” he said.
[Book cover from http://tinyurl.com/cwdp3m]