by Sabur Ali Sayyid
from Common Ground News Service
Islamabad – Hunched on the floor of Gurdwara Sis Ganj, a Sikh temple in New Delhi, Khurshid Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s Deputy Attorney General, earnestly polished the shoes of devotees flocking to him either in delight or amazement. To him, polishing shoes served as penance for the brutal killing of a Sikh man at the hands of the Taliban two years prior in Pakistan. Engaging in this lowly act, for him, relieved the burden on his conscience about the problems that minorities face in his region. He believes they deserve a better life, free of intimidation and coercion.
Some may disagree with Khan’s philosophy of redemption. Khan, himself a Muslim, took time out during his visit to India to shine the shoes of devotees at places of worship, regardless of whether they were Sikh houses of worship or Hindu temples. In doing so, he wanted to show his respect for humanity and for other religions.
No one would dispute the fact that communal harmony in South Asia – particularly in India and Pakistan, where each year a large number of people are killed in the name of religion – is far from satisfactory. And no significant progress can take place in this area unless it is backed by the introduction of a multipronged approach to bring about greater communal harmony.
The genesis of Hinduism and Sikhism lies in South Asia. It has been welcoming to Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths, such as Jainism, Taoism and Shintoism. Peaceful coexistence has been a hallmark of this region. Though there have been instances of great strife, this tradition of coexistence is equally a part of the region’s history.