To outside observers, who see religious leaders as obstructions in the way of peaceful coexistence and pluralism in Pakistan, it might be difficult to imagine that a Muslim religious leader can be welcoming to the idea of peaceful coexistence and pluralism. On this issue we are sharing story of an eminent Muslim leader who is member of Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) an influential leader who shapes the opinions and political behavior of religious leadership and masses in Pakistan. He also works as an editor of a notable religious journal Naway.e.Haq (voice of the truth), and authored several books on Islam. After becoming part of PEF iinterfaith training workshop, he was not only open to the idea (of pluralist societies) but also an advocate of the idea. When PEF provided safer interfaith environment in its workshop he openly acknowledged that he had been nursing stereotypical and biased views about non-Muslim Pakistanis. Sharing his views prior to attending workshop, he said:
“I believed that Pakistan came into being through two nation theory, so there was no question for minority rights in a Muslim country. Now I realize, We have been marginalizing and excluding non-Muslim Pakistanis. We have been denying their equal rights as citizens of Pakistan. It’s our prime responsibility to know about their problems and try to solve them. When I will go back, I will visit a nearby church and meet the pastor that I avoided for long. Being a political leader I will support and become a symbol of equal rights advocate of my non-Muslim brothers and sisters”. Talking about the transforming impact of the training, he said that after this workshop he would work in his area to reduce faith and custom based violence. He unveiled his commitment to work in following areas:
- Launching women’s rights campaign to protect women from forced and early age marriages.
- Visiting Churches and temples and have regular meetings with the non-Muslim Pakistanis living in his area to solve their problems.
- Raising voice for equal rights of non-Muslims in religious and political circles.