A recent survey conducted by PEW Research Center concludes that as many as 89 percent of Pakistanis do not agree to violence in the name of Islam.
When you think of Pakistan, which of the following comes to your mind?
1. Bearded men, shrouded women, Taliban, women being killed, bomb blasts, a country that harbored Osama Bin Laden?
2. Co-ed schools and universities, Women working, driving cars, roaming freely on streets, going to picnics and parties, a bearded man preaching peace?
More likely it’s the first category.
One can not blame you, as most western news coverage of Pakistan focuses on bomb explosions, ethnic killings, violence against women and little girls getting shot in the head because they talk of education and basic rights.
The truth is that these incidents do not define this country. Just like forceful nation-building, a hypocritical foreign policy, republican rants about how women could prevent getting pregnant from rape, and mass shootings killing children do not tell the whole story of the United States of America.
The Pew survey helps highlight these misperceptions regarding the negative image that Pakistan has in the West.
The research institute conducted the survey in 11 Muslim countries including Indonesia, Nigeria, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey, Senegal, Egypt, Malaysia, Lebanon and Palestine earlier this year.
The findings revealed that about three-quarters or more in Pakistan said that suicide bombings or other acts of violence that target civilians are never justified.
Pew also found that the number of people who believed that suicide bombings were at least ‘sometimes justified’ plummeted from 33% in 2002 to 3% in 2013.
In fact, for an average Pakistani, religious extremism and militancy has become a grave concern and they fear the threat these ideologies pose to the nation’s well being as much as those living outside the country.
It is true that the general public in Pakistan has a tendency to be emotional and sensitive in matters of religion and nationality but that does not make them violent -sword bearing-suicide jacket donning-madmen. They themselves are the targets of terrorist attacks and other violence
Even though a large part of the population want Islamic governance implemented in the country, it has nothing to do with enforcing violence. Islam forbids suicide of any kind.
For Muslims, Shariah, the moral code and religious law, is their guide through the world. It is a system thatachieves equality, justice, and freedoms - all things they have largely been denied in their respective countries. Islamic law does not represent the monitoring and policing of the world by dividing it into believers and non believers.
They also exists a silent majority in Pakistani society, whose values, opinions and beliefs differ greatly from the loud and hostile lot that has hijacked the religion as well as the country’s identity – at home and abroad. Unfortunately, the voice of the liberal majority is confined to the four walls of their homes or immediate social circle.
So if your first thoughts when imagining Pakistan involved hysterical bearded man shouting at the top of their lungs to bring the US down and kill all the infidels, try and remember that these do not represent Pakistan any more than the likes of Adam Lanza, Joseph Kony and Dawood Ibrahim represent the people in the US, Uganda and India respectively.