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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Respecting dissent, cultivating diversity and tolerance

Like tolerance is a feature of every society that is peaceful, diversity is a bedrock on which nations rise and fall in relative sequence; accepting it creates a viable and mutually harmonious citizenry, while rejecting it and forcing uniformity, brings with it the splintering of the masses and eventually strife and conflict, which we now see in many parts of the world.


The human experience is defined by wide stretched parameters of diversification and an ancient multicultural reality throughout our existence on this earth. Diversity was the hallmark that produced civilisations of tolerance and a beautiful respect for cultures in neighboring empires and kingdoms. Within the local communities was a globalised outlook of other cultures. The notion of civilisation clashes is a myth.


Civilisations are creations of men and women who have diversified their outlook of the times. They, having seen how others have thrived and then how they failed, learn from that and incorporate that to their own narrative in their work towards creating a lasting society of high values. This endeavour cannot be ever divorced from the globalised outlook they possessed. This comes foremost from respecting the value of diversity.  


Perhaps the one social organisation that needs the principle of respecting dissent is that of religion. Faith and belief are at the core of the human being’s psyche and works in shaping his worldview and paradigm through which he approaches the external reality beyond him. If the religion or faith he subscribes to is not tolerant or do not accept diversity, then the possibility of him inclining to accepting the views of others without recourse to any violence or isolation is very minimal, hence the problem the world faces with Isis and other anachronistic groups.


 Islam, for example, speaks with different voices and multiple interpretations. It only becomes monolithic and authoritative when it comes to the core foundational beliefs that are unchangeable by interpretation. But apart from that, Islam has a vast legacy of dissent and through that it developed a civilisation that span the world and built a lasting intellectual and academic legacy. The theological differences and speculations brought with it various schools of theology, which exist to this day and a fundamental in making the idea of tolerance and diversity a real possibility.


Ultimately, every faith and ideology on this earth desires the good of all creatures. Even those seemingly violent ideologies, promote violence as a means to a good end. Of course the end cannot justify such evil means, but it illustrates the fact that men are by nature lovers of good. Tolerance is a virtue that is taught in all the scriptures that the major religions of the world profess belief and conviction. So the issue of intolerance, we can safely say, stem from men trying to use religion in their evil machinations to further their own selfish interests. 


As for the political bigotry and prejudice that dominate the world, it will only be solved when we realise that political differences are the outcome of a diverse society. The diversification of the people will by necessity bring about different political leanings and followings. Through understanding that, we will come to terms and then move towards a cohesive nation building process. And the various governments and political parties need to put it on their programmes to educate their followers on the need for tolerance and acceptance of different views. It’s their civic duty to educate people on this if we are to have a society that can endure and live in peace and harmony.


Being receptive to dissent and differing ways of seeing things is a sign of enlightenment and maturity. The outcome of which is of course development of the people through the influx of different ideas that would enrich their outlook and lead to a fulfilled intellectual and academic environment. The fullness of religion and theology also lies in the rejection of dogmatism and inclining to tolerating the other voice.


Of course corrupt interpretations have to be rejected and refuted by the right authorities, who are mainly the intellectuals and leaders in the community. And in doing that too, we have to offer every chance to the contending party to articulate its views thereby creating a healthy forum for rectification and conciliation. When people with false ideologies and beliefs infiltrate society, the rational voices have to stand firm and defend the truth through reason and convincing proofs, but if they indulge in persecution and force for the others to relinquish their beliefs, it only fuel more problems and create a following for the wrong group; for the gullible love to follow what is seen as a threat to the status quo even without sufficient proof as to its validity.


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