THE shameful scenes witnessed on Thursday evening at the Masjid-i-Nabawi, one of Islam`s holiest sites, would have been deeply upsetting to observers of the faith whose reverence for religious traditions is more than skin-deep. As newly inducted Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his entourage of federal ministers made a pilgrimage to the mosque, they were accosted by a small crowd of uncouth pilgrims, believed to be of Pakistani origin, who heckled and harassed them with chants of `chor, chor`. Videos of the deplorable incident, circulating widely on social media, show that some miscreants even tried to physically assault some members of the visiting group. That this shocking display of boorish behaviour happened within the confines of a sanctified place, with utter disregard for the last resting place of the most revered icon of Islam, goes to show how far we have corrupted social etiquette and our sense of propriety.
Our `leaders`, who rant and rave while carelessly mixing religion and politics, have successfully demeaned both, leaving no difference between them for their followers. As a result, we are now seeing even houses of worship and spiritual contemplation being used to attack and humiliate political targets. Though other political figures, including those from the PML-N, are also to blame for cheering on such incidents in the past, the PTI must take responsibility for this recent incident because of the spiteful rhetoric it has been encouraging against its political rivals for some years now. Not only that, instead of roundly condemning the loutish behaviour on display, its leaders, even if they do issue half-hearted condemnations, seem to be acting as apologists for it by describing it as the public`s expression of anger against the new government. This is not to mention that the grounds for this contemptible act seem to have been laid by people like Sheikh Rashid, who, while addressing recent press conferences and PTI rallies, had suggested repeatedly that incidents like these would be happening. The effect on impressionable minds of such casual disregard for unacceptable behaviour is now manifest. Anyone revelling in it must take a long hard look inside and ask whether their politics has now superseded religious traditions. The rapid decline in our moral and cultural values needs to be arrested and reversed with great urgency; otherwise, the regression in our social norms will render us a mob rather than a civilised nation.