The vast majority of Pakistanis are Muslims – over 160 million according to some counts – and will celebrate Eid Milad-un-Nabi today to mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Coincidently, this year Eid Milad-n-Nabi comes on exactly the same day when the another 3 million Pakistani Christians will be marking Good Friday to commemorate the day when Prophet Jesus (PBUH) was crucified. About an equal number of Pakistanis – the 3 million Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan (also here and here) – will be celebrating the festival of Holi today (my understanding is that although Holi is a primarily Hindu festival it is also widely celebrated by Sikhs, especially in the Punjab).
Whether they be in the masjid, their mandir, thier gurdwara or their girja ghar, we share heartfelt good wishes with all – in Pakistan and everywhere else – who commemorate these occasions today. The coincidence of Eid Milad-un-Nabi, Good Friday and Holi falling on the exact same day (in 2006 it was Diwali and Eid that came back to back) can be symbolic. But only if we want it to be so.
Symbolism, after all, is important only if one is inclined to derive the message from the symbol. For those who do, there are many good messages to be derived from this coincidence. None more important than the message of religious harmony, tolerance and minority rights. It is a message that we in Pakistan as well as everyone else in our conflict torn world can learn much from.
For those Pakistanis who are Muslims and live as the overwhelming majority in Pakistan today may be a good day to think of those Muslims – including but not only Pakistani Muslims – who live as minorities in societies where the overwhelming majorities are of other faiths. How would we like them to be treated by those around them… and should we not treat those of other religious traditions who live amongst us the same way. To think not just of the bad treatment that we object to, but of the good treatment that we all hope for. Maybe this would be a good opportunity and a good way to think of what it means to be a minority. In doing so, I hope they will also think of non-Muslim minorities living in Pakistan. Maybe those of other faiths living elsewhere in the world will similarly think of the religious minorities – including but not only Muslims – in their own societies and do likewise.
Maybe on this day when so many people in so many places are reminded of why their own faith means so much to them and gives so much to them … maybe on this day they will all also take a moment to show respect to the faiths of others as much as they want their own faith to be respected. I have no relious or scholarly authority to know what Muhammad, Jesus or the great sages of Hinduism would have said about this, but within my heart I cannot imagine that they could possibly have wanted otherwise.
Peace, to all.