Letters To The Editor

“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”– Maya Angelou

Sectarian divide

Sectarian-based conflicts – or at any rate, spasms of intercommunal violence characterised as such – are certainly not new. With increasing frequency, the "sectarian divide" in Pakistan is widening and intensifying. Violence between Islam’s sects has been rare historically, with most of the deadly sectarian attacks directed by clerics or political leaders rather than erupting spontaneously. Extremist groups, many of which are fostered by states, are the chief actors in sectarian killings today. Extremist groups have come to rely on satellite television and high-speed Internet over the past two decades to spread propaganda and attract recruits. Sectarian rhetoric dehumanising the “other” is centuries old. But the volume is increasing. This cycle of demonisation has been amplified throughout the Muslim world. Across this variegated landscape, inter- and intra-sectarian violence has taken many forms and has claimed far too many victims on all sides. Against the backdrop of this tragic loss of life, there are many questions begging for answers: Why have the terms "sectarianism," "sectarian divide," "sectarian fault lines," "sectarian fissures" and the like become so prominent in the political discourse? Do religions have resources within them that can justify or even encourage violence? What roles have state, sub-state and transnational actors played in fomenting sectarian discord? And importantly, what mechanisms and approaches have been or could be employed to avert sectarian violence, to foster tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and to promote reconciliation?

Qurat-ul-ain Siddiqui,

Blessing, curse and the freedom to choose

Freedom is not a 21st century discovery nor is it a fashion that lasts one season and fades away the next. People everywhere cherish freedom and want to be free. This is true of Arabs, Americans, Asians and Europeans. It is true of nations whose history is fraught with wars against colonisation and who have made hefty sacrifices to gain independence. No sane person hates freedom and places obstacles in its way. No person in his or her right mind prefers the fire of slavery and servitude to a rising flame of freedom and liberation. But the world has learned from experience that freedom is similar to cholesterol. Just as there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, there is good freedom and bad freedom. Good freedom is a rare blessing. It makes people masters in their own lands and gives them the right to choose and nourish the democracy that befits their culture, suits their nature and can grow and blossom in their society. It prevents divisions in societies and shuts the door against invasion and hateful occupation. It protects lives, preserves world cultures and respects world religions. Bad freedom is dangerous. It is a Trojan horse that creates chaos, destroys cultures, undermines self-confidence and eliminates national and cultural identities. It creates dangerous rifts in peaceful societies and allows outsiders to meddle in one’s internal affairs with impunity. Good, real freedom is the faithful companion of true democracy.

Iqra Rashid,