Puppeteers lead message of tolerance in Pakistan

FILE PHOTO: Artists play a string puppet during a show in a puppet theater in Karachi, Pakistan, December 2, 2016. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 May 2019

Puppeteers lead message of tolerance in Pakistan

  • Aim to counter religious and ethnic antagonism in poor neighborhoods
  • The show plans to travel to other neighborhoods of Karachi

KARACHI: In the narrow alleys of a poor neighborhood of the Pakistani city of Karachi, known for drugs, gang wars and low literacy rates, children are learning about peace, love and interfaith tolerance from string puppets.
As the curtains open on stage, a narrator tells the story of “Sindbad the Sailor,” a hero of Middle Eastern origin and his journeys around the world in which he meets people of different faiths, languages and religions — who often do not have much tolerance for one another.
“A man is dying and you guys are talking about castes,” the protagonist puppet rebuked a fellow puppet who did not want to save a drowning marionette because it belonged to a lower caste.
“You should be ashamed calling yourself human beings. Humans save humanity not caste,” Sindbad says.
Writer Nouman Mehmood said the story came to mind when his group was conducting an education awareness campaign in some poor neighborhoods in the city.
They noticed religious and ethnic antagonism in those neighborhoods and decided to create a show to spread a message of peace, tolerance and harmony.
Pakistan, an overwhelmingly Muslim country of more than 200 million people, has seen repeated attacks on churches, Hindu temples and sufi shrines in recent years by hard-line religious groups and Islamist militants.
Conservative religious schools or madrasas are regularly blamed for radicalization but they are often the only education available to millions of poor children, making alternative messages especially important.
“The basic thing is acceptance. You should have enough room to accept others regardless of whether he is a Christian, without considering he is a Hindu, without considering he is a Sikh,” Mehmood said.
Organized by Thespianz Theatre, the show plans to travel to other poor Karachi neighborhoods and provinces after its run in the tough Karachi neighborhood of Lyari.
“There is a message that we should not interfere with others’ religions. We should help each other,” said eighth grade student Adul Rahim Arshad after watching the show.
“If one deceives us, we should not deceive him back. Instead we should help him.”


Pakistan to present resolution at OIC in wake of Islamophobic campaign in France

Updated 11 min 35 sec ago

Pakistan to present resolution at OIC in wake of Islamophobic campaign in France

  • Pakistan summons French envoy “to lodge strong protest against recent Islamophobic diatribe,” foreign office says
  • Condemns in "strongest manner the systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)”

ISLAMABAD:On the instructions of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday a resolution would be presented at the next meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, proposing to observe 15th March as an international day against Islamophobia.

Qureshi’s remarks came as Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Monday summoned French ambassador Marc Baréty as anger spread in the South Asian nation over President Emmanuel Macron’s reaction to the murder last week of a French teacher by a Muslim who wanted to avenge the use of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in a class on freedom of expression.

On Sunday, in an open letter on Twitter, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called on Facebook to ban “Islamophobic content” on its platform, hours after he accused the French president of “attacking Islam”.

On Monday, FM Qureshi urged the United Nations to take notice and act against the campaign against Islam, saying there was resentment world over due to the resurgence of the blasphemous caricatures.

“Nobody has the right to hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims under the garb of freedom of expression. Irresponsible statement of the French President has added fuel to the fire,” Qureshi said. “Hate speech is on the rise. The Prime Minister raised his voice against hate speech and Islamophobia at the UN General Assembly this year.”

Foreign office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told Arab News the french ambassador to Pakistan was summoned to the Foreign Office to lodge "strong protest against the recent Islamophobic diatribe,” saying Baréty was handed over a ‘dossier’ by the special secretary for Europe on Monday.

On Wednesday, Macron had vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), saying that Samuel Paty, the teacher who was beheaded for showing the blasphemous sketches, was “killed beca­use Islamists want our future”.

“Pakistan condemns in the strongest manner the systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and desecration of the Holy Quran by certain irresponsible elements in some developed countries,” foreign office said in a statement.