Our Intolerant Youth

Monday, May 10, 2010 Awais Aftab 19 Comments Category :

My (first ever) column 'Our Intolerant Youth' which was published in The News on 8th May 2010.




  1. very true .....awais bhai you have given words to my screaming feelings .jinnah`s pakistan has been forgotten......i have no knowledge regarding the issue of essay competition,but i do have first hand experience of this intolerance in extreme form.
    people immediately start to dislike a person who dares to think differently from them .freedom of thought and expression only lies with the powerful.......the weak has no freedom

  2. Debate and discussion is truly the only real solution to the problem but does it banish the already persisting confusion? A well-rounded debate may show you the other side of the picture but then what? You may not actually start believing what the other person does but maybe what you’ve always believed may not seem so infallible anymore either. Doesn’t that add further to the indecisiveness? Where does the concept of right and wrong come into all of this? Or is there no absolute truth, no fail-safe definition of what’s right and what’s not? Isn’t intolerance an inevitable result of a pluralistic society? Peaceful co-existence may not stop people from thinking that they’re the ones on the idyllic path of righteousness while at the same time having a condescending attitude towards the ones who think differently from them. “Oh we’re really very broad-minded you know, we respect you and everything, but the fact of the matter is that deep down we know that you’re wrong and we’re right because well… there really is no other option besides the two.” As you said “intolerance-expressed from intolerance-concealed” but intolerance nonetheless, huh?:)

  3. is it necessary taht all people should be convicenced on one point to be tolerant?
    To think that someone is wrong and your are on the idyllic path to righteousness has no harm in it and does not mean "intolerance concealed".
    for me tolerance means to accept and respect the conflicting issues of other societies and people while disproving it,wholeheartedly.
    while the intoleranace concealed is to have grudge against somebody inside, while faking emotions of tolerance on outside.
    It is right that human beings who have progressed so far in science and technology have failed to resolve the issues of religion and morality.But this i think is the will of God ,as HE says:"had God willed, He would have made you all one nation, but He tests you with what He has given you; so strive to do good"(Qur'an 5:48)
    but dialouge is necessary because it helps to remove unnecessary suspicions and grudges,it helps us to see that other people have something to prove their beileves .
    follwoing lines from kofi annan's nobe acceptance speech elaborates tolerace further:
    "The idea that there is one people in possession of the truth, one answer to the world’s ills, or one solution to humanity’s needs, has done untold harm throughout history"......"human diversity is both the reality that makes dialogue necessary, and the very basis for that dialogue."
    ........ "We recognize that we are the products of many cultures, traditions and memories; that mutual respect allows us to study and learn from other cultures; and that we gain strength by combining the foreign with the familiar."

  4. your point of bringing into light the social unacceptance of the who present with a novel lifestyle realy enlightend me to believe that there do exist calls for moderation muffled beneath the filth savage thoughts

  5. @ Anonymous: So basically tolerance is all about living and letting others live, right? Retaining your own set of beliefs without losing respect for the beliefs of other people. That’s all very good in theory but is it workable practically? What happens when you bring in issues with a broadly varied public opinion? Isn’t conflict bound to develop when different people living together in a society want to put their beliefs into PRACTICE? Take the issue of homosexuality for instance. What do you do in a society where one group calls for the stoning to death of homosexuals (and fornicators and adulterers) calling it a duty which their faith places on them while another group calls it a celebration of personal freedom? They can talk about it and debate over it to their hearts content but what is the ultimate solution? Or can’t a solution ever be reached without compromising the spirit of your belief? I mean ofcourse sometimes in the interest of peace you have to practice discretion and bend certain rules and all but what about religious issues where too much skepticism might just (and often does) lead to infidelity?

  6. Or can’t a solution ever be reached without compromising the spirit of your belief?

    If the spirit of belief entails intolerance, then i am afraid not.

    It is impossible for a society to be tolerant and yet have beliefs that are by their very nature intolerant. To believe in tolerance would be to believe that homosexuals have as much right to live as heterosexuals have. Calling for the death of homosexuals is sheer intolerance. No person who believes that homosexuals ought to be killed can claim to be tolerant.

    It is an interesting philosophical dilemma: should a tolerant society tolerate those who are intolerant? And if they don't, would the intolerant have any right to complain?

  7. @solution without losing the spirit of your own believes.
    You have got a valid point.but there should be a solution.
    Broadly varying issues will create problems.But the point is to altleast define certain limits which balance the equation well.Which give freedom and do justice to all,with minimum comprise to their believes .Their working or not depends upon the willingness and social maturity of society.
    If to stop homosexuality is your beleif ,than u can content yourself by limiting it to the people who are in agreement with ur philosophy and for further contemtment u can convince more people and create the society u want. In this way u will b fulfulling the sense of dutifulness and obedience to your religion as well as giving freedom to others.Similarly the other side should do the same.The idea is to get maximum freedom for yourself without harming the freedom of others.

    But these are big issues.our society is at a very initial stage of social maturity.we dont even have the freedom of expression!let alone tolerating of what others do.
    To question the prevalent concepts especially the religious ones is considered a grave sin.And yes much skepticism leads you to be declared as an infidel or a conspirator against the religion.
    Atleast we should give each other the freedom of expression and thought without tagging him/her a traitor.mad etc............This would be the first step towards the solution.

  8. you're forgetting that tolerance is a broad term and has its types. Religious tolerance, which is a reflection of man's belief in God and his prophets, and what's right or wrong, is a different entity that can only have one possible direction that is true in all forms....one vital link that though missing in other doctrines, STILL does not entail an intolerant attitude.
    but homosexuality and fornication, albeit having roots in religion do not come under the same heading, which is more a matter of social and moral tolerance that reflects more of a person's background and nature...
    The former would be a case of intolerance suppressed but tolerance nonetheless while the latter reflects it in a wider spectrum.

  9. hmmm something that mariam touched in her article2... like i said b4, near 2where i live sometime back, a student organisation-religious attacked a teacher (pu) who later had 2b hospitalised...
    Telling others what u think is right be it a religious belief or otherwise in a calm way is tolerence. n expressing yourself in ways that are hurtful, violent.. is intolerence. simple.

  10. ok so if it's absolute, no- holds-barred tolerance that we're upholding, would you or would you not call the 'blasphemous cartoon contests' a matter of freedom of expression? What would you call the govt.'s banning of Facebook? A reactionary act of intolerance towards something that was intolerant itself? The thing is, whose standards do you judge it all by?

  11. 'The thing is, whose standards do you judge it all by?'


  12. the 'standard' standard...
    look, should a racial comment 2 a coloured person b waved away as ok cz whoever made the comment is using their freedom of expression? NO. It SHOULD b intolerated cz its hurtful. Similarly the blasphemous cartoons should b intolerated... cz theyre hurtful. if a thing's hurful it can b intolerated...u have every right 2 show a reaction 2 it.. uhh provided the reaction itself doesn't hurt any1. thts the 'standard' standard... i guess :P

  13. Freedom of speech is a slight different but over-lapping issue. I'll discuss it, but it is not the case that Freedom of Speech should allow only tolerant comments.

    Perhaps what is meant by asking for a 'standard' is: who gets to decide that a particular thing is to be called intolerant? There is no clear-cut answer, but that does not mean that no answer is possible at all; that anything may be called tolerant or intolerant depending on perspective. [Though a post-modernist may argue otherwise.] Objectivity is the goal, but it is never fully achievable.

    There are no two aspects of something being unacceptable: one is moral, and one is legal. For instance, if a white man says to a black man on the street "You filthy nigger!" it is something morally condemnable, hardly anyone would disagree. Such a thing should not be said. That is the moral aspect of it. The tricky part is: should it be punishable by law to say such a thing? The answers to this would vary, and would depend on one's judgment and wisdom.

    Let's take up the "blasphemous cartoons". There are two things to be discriminated. First, that these are depictions of Prophet Muhammad. And second, that they are blasphemous and ridiculing.

    Now, Muslims believe that any depiction of Prophet is a blasphemy. So, even if the Contest were to "Draw a historical illustration of Muhammad" meant for a history book, Muslims all over the world would still have protested with outrage and called for a ban. But i do not believe that there is anything wrong with it, or that it should be called 'intolerant' or that a massive outrage is a justified reaction to it. I would defend it both morally and legally.

    Now, coming to cartoons that are meant to ridicule. Here too, it is difficult to give a generalization. Some of the cartoons produced, i can't even dream of ever defending them. But some of them, i found amusing. Satire, though being intolerant at times, is often a brilliant form of critique, and that is why it is to be protected under the banner of freedom of speech as such. But there would be instances where it becomes so intolerant and provocative, that a legal action becomes appropriate. That again, depends on a wise judgment.

    Wikipedia describes: "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day is a protest against Islamists who threaten violence against individuals that attempt to depict Muhammad."

    Based on purely this description, i would support it, and i would not judge it to be intolerant, but rather a protest against intolerance.
    But i know that many cartoons were produced that were clearly racist and Islamophobic and extremely provocative. Such cartoons, i do condemn, and do call them intolerant.

  14. against voilence u may call it a protest .but jst ask wikpedia what about the emotions of islamists who gave a very peaceful and civilzed response to the matter of caricatures?isnt it an assult on their feelings.even if it was to draw simple caricatures not blasphemous,while knowing that it will be of extreme pain to all muslims(not a grp or 2) who consider that drawing of their prophet is an insult to him.you still will call it as right use of freedom of expression.cant that simple comprise be made in freedom of expression to respect the sanctity of human feelings? Is hurting somebodies feelings is tolerance?

  15. @ Anonymous

    I would believe the problem to lie with the hypersensitive emotions of Muslims. Muslims believe that it is disrespectful to draw an illustration of Muhammad. Fine, don't draw. But the rest of the people of the world who do not share their belief, what right do Muslims have to impose their own limitations on them? An artist in the world is free to draw a caricature of any person in the world and history; no historical person of religious importance has actually been spared, as far as i know. But the artist suddenly has to be stop his marker when it comes to Muhammad because Muslims are so touchy about it? Is that a good reason in itself?

    Consider this. Imagine a religious cult 'Moonies', who believe that Moon is a sacred God, and that any attempt to draw, take a photograph or land on the Moon is an act of extreme blasphemy and hurts the feelings of Moonies a 100 times more than the feelings of Muslims are hurt in this case. Now, based on how Moonies feel, should it be banned to draw, take a photograph of or land on the moon? Suppose that NASA decides to go ahead and publishes a detailed catalogue of Moon's topography. Moonies go wild with anger and there are world-wide protests, and one of the NASA photographers is actually murdered. So one person in protest against this violence decides to start a movement on facebook "Draw a Moon Day". Would the Moonies be justified in protesting against it and asking for a ban on Facebook?

    You tell me.

  16. love begets love and hatred ...begets hatred

    if this was an act of love and innocence Muslims wouldn't have given such a response.they would have told them that this is wrong but not this violent response would have erupted and history proves it.

    this issue was intended specifically to teach Muslims a lesson-an act of hatred and arrogance-thats what created a turmoil.Thats what infuriated already paranoid Muslims(thanks to the extremist religious clerics that have emotionally blackmailed muslims ).

    as far as Moonies are concerned if they don't like to see the original image of their god and get frustrated ...its a problem with their faith.they should deal with it.
    on the other hand if science some how can provide Muslims original image of their prophet they will die to see that(see the difference)

    The problem is that a cartoon , an abstract show and give connotations to a thing that may be false especially of a person whom nobody has seen.so it is not right to draw the picture of god and prophets because they might depict wrong connotations.And harm the sacredness attached to them.
    so west shouldn't try to teach (and that is not tolerable and a peaceful response is well justified)and west has no justification to expect such things from Muslims....
    i admit that response given by Muslims to these blasphemous cartoons was not right.It shouldn't be supported.Instead of becoming violent we should try to convince west through dialogue and show them the beauty of Islam and prove to them that Islam didn't spread to through sword and by cutting heads but through the muscle of its logic and by beauty of its content.

  17. The problem is not with the cartoon or illustration being "unoriginal". That is not the reason why it is found offensive or considered wrong.

    Drawing of humans as such is prohibited in Islam* [even the status of photography is controversial**], and since its considered a sin, it becomes even more blasphemous when someone depicts Muhammad. That is the reason. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about drawing gods or prophets, because apart from Muslims, no other religion's followers get offended at the illustration of their Prophets. Some even promote it, like Buddhists and Christians. If it is wrong to depict Prophets, then why are Muslims the only one getting outraged?

    In the light of this, i would say the same thing about Muslims what you said about Moonies:

    "as far as Muslims are concerned if they don't like to see the illustrated image of their prophet and get frustrated ... its a problem with their faith. they should deal with it."

    * http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/39806

    ** http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/365

  18. So what do you propose should be the solution to this moral stew? That nothing is too sacred to be discussed? That blasphemy is a myth? How would you define tolerance in light of what's been discussed so far? What about respecting other people's opinions? How far does the ambit of that respect go? Does tolerance mean no inhibitions at all? Or is tolerance just an euphemism for a reluctance to draw the line somewhere because you fear you'll tumble over your own boundaries?

  19. Drawing Prophet is certainly blasphemous, if Christians and Jews draw their Prophets; then they might not have that degree of respect that we Muslims have for our Prophets. For instance, a Muslim will never draw Christ or Moses. If Muslims are protesting; they are just kinda satisfying their super-ego. But regarding that ban issue, Govt. has proved its insanity in it. Facebook authorities well know how many people are using it and from which regions. Since most of the people in Pakistan have boycotted it, it would be a better response, a better act of intolerance. Banning just means that few Govt. people don't like it, so they banned it, and along with that many other websites, proxies etc. Banning is not a depiction of protesters' intolerance. Things which are prohibited to eat in Islam are not banned, every Muslim has his conscience to forbade him in doing so. Using FB or Youtube is a personal issue, banning is not a solution for that