Pulpit concerns

THE pulpit should echo the message of unity. But these megaphones have delivered some triumphalist views of religion, triggering social rejection and persecution of minorities. On Friday, HRCP released a fact-finding report on blasphemy incidents in Sargodha, which gives prominence to the `misuse of mosque loudspeakers and pulpits to press for FIRs against Christians and instigate violence against them`. The report, Mob Violence and the Social Ostracisation of the Christian Community in Sargodha, stresses that culprits of mob carnage and those who bypass due process be held to account. In Pakistan, evidence is not central to a blasphemy charge. Therefore, it must be pointed out, pulpits, especially in Punjab, have been weaponised over time to serve a lethal mix of bias and misinterpreted religious opinion, resulting in gory `justice`. Unsurprisingly, the reasons are often worldly: property, revenge and control. This culture of impunity also seems to suit a shameless power elite that confines itself to customary condemnations. We have long maintained that hate speeches from microphones aimed at stirring up perverse zeal towards weaker sections, cannot be condoned. In the age of social media, it takes minutes for news and accusations to spread, making a disturbed situation more tenuous. Hence, the state and clerics have little choice but to uphold their responsibility to counter social apartheid by ensuring that a community is not demonised from the pulpit.

The power of spiritual podiums should not be taken lightly; with the right ulema in place, these can be vital voices of harmony and acceptance. That said, separating ideas on faith from political rhetoric is the path to reversing the tide of prejudice. Unfortunately, the last two decades have been far from promising, so such a shift is a pipe dream. Meanwhile, authorities can use the power of Friday sermons to erase majoritarian canard and oppressive traditions, or else the plague of militancy and bigotry will annihilate our own.

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