Islamabad - Renaissance by Social Innovation, an NGO, has launched a series of events under the title “Mashal-e-Rah” to engage and present youth with an alternative narrative to extremist ideology.

The first of these events was held in collaboration with NUST Bazme-e-Pakistan at Islamabad where Dr Khalid Zaheer, a renowned Islamic scholar, was the guest speaker.

The Mashal-e-Rah series of events aim to expand individual strengths and virtues to benefit all citizens of Pakistan, as our society is divided along sectarian lines, and the growing extremism in the name of religion, politics and ethnic divides are by far the main causes of social disorder; the organization feels that it is time to end out our differences and save our coming generations from this strife.

The NUST “Mashal-e-Rah Conference” tailored dialogue was moderated by Sidra Rafique (scholar in religious philosophy and vice president Renaissance by Social Innovation), as a question answer session to challenge the orthodox and ultra-orthodox mind sets. Dr. Zaheer emphasized on the need of the state machinery to take control of religious institutions for the elimination of the menace of sectarian violence and radicalization. He further said that sectarianism had several causes, some of the more prominent of which are mentioned in the Quran. The main reason seems to be extreme attachment to religious personalities. Such individuals are revered to such an extent that whatever they believed in, whatever they said or did, is often considered to be the last word, as in our society asking questions of an elder who professes to be a religious person may be considered sacrilege. When people follow their own religious leaders to such extremes, they do not listen to any other point of view.

, and their perspective is likely to be clouded by emotions.

Another major reason for sectarianism to flourish is exaggeration. People exaggerate the virtues of their beliefs and practices, and downplay and even badmouth other beliefs to the extent that strong prejudices for and against are created and no one is ready to listen to and reflect on an alternative point of view.