The International Sufi Music Festival 2014 held in Islamabad and Lahore this weekend is just a glimpse of a long lost tradition of inter-cultural exchange and development. It celebrated the richness and vibrancy of the Sufi culture hidden in its iconic rhythmic beats along with the whirling derveish. Various artists from Syria and Iran came all the way to Pakistan to charm the audience with their soul-wrenching symphonies.

As such, liberal Arts need to be urgently revived in Pakistan if the nation as a whole wants to escape from the clutches of extremism. The liberal arts were classically considered those subjects that were necessary for a free person to take so that he could participate actively in civic life, defending himself in court, and engage in public debate. And just how apt this description is because technically you are restricted to your skill-set but with liberal arts you develop the right mindset that lets you be more and do more than what you skills originally allow.

And yet only a small percentage in Pakistan knows that Islam in the subcontinent was not spread by the Mughals, but rather by the Sufi merchants who travelled there centuries before the Emperor Babar even set foot on the Indian soil. What this implies is that contrary to popular opinions, Islam was not spread through the conquerors of territories but by the conquerors of hearts. And in order to familiarize the Pakistanis with such a version of history, liberal arts and cultural education is a must.

With the increasing corporatization of education, subjects such as music, performance arts and philosophy suffered an immense setback. While such cultural festivals in Lahore were a common occurrence when I was growing up in the 90's, they became completely extinct in the past decade. However, with the great bastions of art and theatre like Rafi Peerzada still standing strong, it is expected that this decade will finally see a resurgence of such cultural celebrations. The Rafi Peer Theatre alongside Peeru's Cafe is one such light in the dark.

After all, with the ban on International Cricket in Pakistan and the prevalence of terrorism, families in Pakistan have hardly any recreational activity left to enjoy outdoors. Most of them then flock to shopping malls just to have a nice family time. The International Sufi Music Festival ensured that families and friends can finally have some place to hangout besides shopping stores and restaurants.

Indeed, it is for this very reason that our educational institutions should now treat liberal arts as a proper field of study rather than just as electives that have no scope. Only in this way can we truly unleash the creative potential of our youth. Because the next time you make fun of a young man wanting to become a singer, or ridicule a young woman for wanting to become an actor, consider the fact that at least they have taken the risk to be different and be who they want to be, whereas you yourself might be stuck being someone you were never meant to be.

The writer is a digital media scientist, a movie buff and a cultural critic. Follow her on Twitter