By Maria Ahmed & Safiullah Shahwani
Samuel P. Huntington, an American political scientist, argued that the future wars would not be fought among countries rather among cultures. He professes the view that cultural and religious identities would be the cause of conflict in the post-Cold War world. As a matter of fact, this is what can clearly be observed around us today in the world in general and in Pakistan in particular. Religion, culture and race are no more mere identity markers for people. These have become factors that determine people’s behaviors towards each other. These factors define who is to be accepted and who is to be rejected, who should be loved and who should not be loved. In short, these identities become causes of unconscious love, hatred, inclinations and hidden biases in our behaviour towards our fellow human beings.
There have been such incidents for centuries where people have been discriminated merely for how they look, what language they speak, how short or tall they are, what are their origins and the list runs to an inexhaustible length which gives man license to kill his own kind. Bengalis were rarely recruited in Pak-Army on account of their comparatively short heights and today Bangladesh has its own army. Perhaps, the colonial doctrine of ‘martial race’ sunk ship of half of Pakistan. The recent cases of killing of Black are also cases in point in America. Those ‘human beings’ were killed just because of a different skin color which is not readily accepted by people of their own country. They look down upon them because of their South African features. These behaviors are manifested on the basis of skin color, which undoubtedly is not determined by human beings themselves, peoples’ attitude and perception of others is decided, not chosen. People, generally, are not ready to accept somebody who is not similar to them. Acceptance of diversity and change is feared by a large majority in the world. The world is diverse, human nature, behavior, universe and colors of life reflect diversity. But siege mentalities only promote monotony and hatred towards diversity, resulting in human killing worldwide.
As a matter of general observation all of us consciously or unconsciously are not willing to accept what does not belong to us in terms of our culture, religion, political leanings, social status and general opinions about daily life. Extroverts do not accept introverts, speakers of one language do not accept speakers of any other language, inter-cultural marriages are not accepted and the list goes on including a variety of trivial matters from our daily life.
Without taking into account the facts, without coming into interaction with people we form our opinions about them simply on the basis of difference of culture and beliefs. Our inbuilt perceptions about them would always keep us short-sighted and paranoid of diversity if we fail to interact with them respectfully. Perhaps, part of the problem lies in our curriculum and the national policies which are not very much appreciative of diversity of cultures, languages and religions. Therefore, on many occasions, unconsciously we tend to mock at different accents and sometimes on different languages. Many a times, we find it a favorite pastime to mimic people disrespectfully who are not like ‘us’ or who do not speak like ‘us’. Cultures are not laboratory makeups which come into existence overnight. They are result of rich experiences over centuries which need to be studied, understood and appreciated to make an identity that is inclusive of all the cultural components of a particular geographic region.
To nurture acceptance for diversity we need to inculcate the appreciation of diversity through the mediums of mass communication, policy papers and curriculum. The way United Nations proceeding and important policy papers are published in 6 different languages of the world, we can also take an initiative from our parliament to publish important Acts and policy papers in regional languages of Pakistan. If Turkish dramas find place on our national Television, our regional dramas can also be dubbed and aired on our national television. If it is not possible to teach all the regional languages and to make them a part of curriculum, at least a respectable mention of them can inculcate respect towards the rich diverse cultures in Pakistan. To cement the bond of love, respect and harmony, we need to pave the way for appreciation and acceptance of diversity which is, to date, a rare practice in Pakistan.
The writers are members of staff