Omar Al-Mukhtar, famously known as “The Lion of the Desert” organized guerilla groups and for nearly 20 years led the resistance movement against the colonial Italians in Libya. Once he captured two Italian soldiers but he protected them both. One of Mukhtar’s followers asked him to kill the Italian soldiers as revenge. But the guerilla leader replied: “We do not kill prisoners!” “They do it to us!”, replied his follower upon which, Omar Al-Mukhtar said his historic words: “They are not our teachers”
This reply indeed is a reasonable answer to all those who are opposing and criticizing the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad by giving analogies of the inhumane treatment of Muslims in India and IOK(Indian Occupied Kashmir). These critics are also seeing the step as directly opposed to the teachings of Islam. They compare this to the tragic verdict of Babri Masjid in India, where it was decided to demolish the historic mosque, not realizing that the temple is being constructed for Hindu minorities in Pakistan with a vision of religious harmony, pacifism, and progressiveness.
Although it is true that in PM Modi’s India, Muslims and their religious rights are being incessantly undermined and overridden. Their lives, security, honor, and dignity are being jeopardized through legislation and state-sponsored terrorism campaigns. However, this is the philosophy of PM Modi and his BJP’s extremist elements and not of the secular and moderate Hindu community even in India. There are peacemaking Hindus in India as well, who categorically deny Modi’s extremist Hindutva policies and war-mongering.
It is also necessary to understand that there are aspects of the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad which are strategic in nature. Such steps are good for changing the otherwise negative global impression of Pakistan as tough on minorities, which had been part of the agenda that inimical forces have been trying to portray.
There is now a dire need to draw distinctions in our minds between religion and politics; religious beliefs and personal perceptions and between religious teachings and a person’s actions. Construction of the temple is a progressive step taken by the government to cater to the religious needs of the Hindu community. But alas, the so-called religious pundits started denouncing the step as antithetical to Islam.
These very loud critics, wrong as they were, still managed to pressurize the government and construction of the temple in the Capital was temporarily stopped. The resistance which comes from the extremist elements, who in spite of being in few numbers have been using and abusing their influence and power, is getting out of hand. So much so that, on Sunday a video went viral on social media in which a young boy can be seen demolishing the foundations of the temple in Islamabad. Yet the governments bending under their pressure has made these elements even more confident and lose any regard for the state’s strategic needs or law and order.
The provision of the due rights of the minorities in Pakistan is in accordance with the vision of the Quaid. In his famous address on 11th August 1947 in Karachi, he voiced, encouraged, and asserted the right of religious freedom, especially for minorities when he said: “You are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state… we are all equal citizens of one state.”
Moreover, Quaid himself formed his first cabinet elected purely on merit. Mr. Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Hindu, was Minister of Law, Mr. Sir Zafarullah Khan, an Ahmedi, as the Foreign Minister and Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. But now, it seems that the State has lost the true vision of Quaid’s philosophy of equality and pacifism at the hands of extremists.
Apart from that, bearing in mind the changing geopolitics, psycho-political and socio-political dynamics of the world, even the Wahhabis or Salafis, who were considered very ruthless are taking a one-eighty-degree turn from their erstwhile philosophy. Back in 2015, during Narendra Modi’s first visit to the UAE, the government had allocated land in Abu Dhabi for its first Hindu temple. The project includes a 20,000 square meters complex, and also homes to idols of Hindu Lords Krishna, Maheshwara and Ayyappa. Further, the government of UAE has started the first unique and historic multi-faith project named the “Abrahamic Family House”. This project will bring a church, mosque and synagogue in one location to show a culture of mutual respect and dialogue across all backgrounds, beliefs and nationalities.
Apart from Muslim countries, in the communist and Orthodox Christian’s Russian, there is a “Temple of All Religions” which serves as a peaceful combination of different cultures. The colorful Temple of All Religions, also known as the Universal Temple, is a mish-mash of architectural flourishes inspired by the major world religions to create a complex where all can come together in harmony.
However, apart from other illogical resistances, the renowned Islamic scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani questioned that the Hindu populations in Islamabad is very small so there seems to be no need for a temple there. He also raised the point that Pakistan is already in a severe economic crisis and that allocating funds to the project is not a wise step.
The government should not halt construction at the temple site because of any extremists. Islamic teachings dictate that we respect people of other faiths. The government should not indulge extremists and should continue onwards with what has been inaugurated.
Finally, the actions of a few extremists like PM Modi cannot describe the actions of the whole community. Peaceful Hindus, especially those who are a minority in Pakistan should not become a scapegoat. We should never turn to act like them in return for their cruelty because as Omar Al-Mukhtar said, “They are not our teachers”