OVER the years, the Council of Islamic Ideology has generated its fair share of criticism for coming up with controversial observations. However, this time in a welcome break from the past, it has ruled, in the matter of the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad, that there was nothing in the Constitution or Sharia to bar the provision of a place of worship for a minority group in the country. The dispute had been referred to it by the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. CII chairman Qibla Ayaz also took into account the concerns of those who had opposed the building of the temple complex in the capital at state expense. Hence, the government cannot spend directly on creating this temple and the community centre meant for weddings and other ceremonies. For such funds, a new head would have to be created exclusively for the community of which 3,000 members hope to use the promised facility as well as the nearby old temple in Saidpur village. The decision also allows Saidpur temple and an adjoining dharmsala to be handed over for use by the Hindu community. Hindu leaders are hoping that the project can be executed without further hiccups. In agreement are others who believe in a dignified coexistence based on the principles of tolerance and mutual respect — values that many in this country will reflect on, especially today on the birthday of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
In these highly volatile times there is a need for countries, leaders and the public in general to shun all forms of discrimination — social, economic or legal — in national life. All too often, communal feelings have run high, compromising the safety of minority groups. Patient deliberation and course correction are needed to resolve issues such as forced conversions. This government has taken some positive steps towards recognising religious freedoms — such as inaugurating the Kartarpur Corridor. However, a greater effort is needed at all levels to ensure that minorities don’t remain on the fringes of society.
Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2020