Tuesday January 25, 2022

Strengthening universities’ role in combating intolerance stressed

July 30, 2020

Islamabad : Experts at a virtual conference on ensuring peaceful and tolerant campuses in Pakistan suggested adopting a top-down approach instead of only focusing on students.

The speakers pointed out that intolerance was tackled incorrectly, especially in Pakistan, and said that the university management and faculties should themselves display tolerance to reinforce positive behaviour among students.

The Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA) organised the conference—how can we ensure peaceful and tolerant campuses across Pakistan—in collaboration with the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and with support from the European Union Delegation to Pakistan under its project Advocacy and Legal Aid for Religious Minorities (ALARM).

Dr. Zulfiqar Gillani, a policy advisor at the Higher Education Commission (HEC), said that tolerance and intolerance were practices always in a continuum, and such behaviours existed in every human. However, to tackle the situation, it was crucial to analyze multiple factors that allowed intolerance to persist.

“A peaceful campus is one where the university management, faculty, and students are in constant mental synergy with each other, respect each other’s opinions, and accept them as well,” Dr. Qibla Ayaz, the head of CII, who chaired the conference, said. “Contrary to the present trend, whatever opinions people have in that premise must not be enforced on others since that result in indoctrinated minds, rather than creative, progressive minds.”

The conference had 39 participants, including ten females, including academicians, students, civil society representatives, and International donor organizations.

Ms. Anne Marchal, Chargé d'affaires a.i. European Union delegation to Pakistan said in her keynote address that the EU believed that education was the key to uniting nations and reforming societies into progressive and inclusive ones.

Dr. Afia Zia, a leading academic and writer, highlighted another misconception often attached to student unions that they were violent or revolutionists. This had resulted in the stigmatization of student unions, and the youth of the country being disassociated from the political sphere. She thought that teachers needed to start believing in students’ intellectual capacity to reach conclusions themselves, rather than forcing conclusions on them.