Lahore is one of the few cities in Pakistan where you can see magnificent churches, visible symbols of a Christian minority in an otherwise homogenous looking Muslim society. Christmas Day is one day you can discern lower and middle class Christian families enjoying themselves in markets and parks. During my stay in Lahore, I have noticed that on December the 25th this effort by certain religious elements belonging to the religious majority to have especially vociferous gatherings in many mosques, with loud speeches and loud hymns and acclamations driving home the point that their religion and religious figures are the superior ones. This clamorous show on this day is a way to assert their – the majority’s – superiority. It seems like they are afraid that if they don’t put this effort on December 25, the lure of Christmas will attract all the impressionable Muslims to Christianity. The same brigade is seen brandishing batons on the New Year Eve.

This behavior by these guardians of religion is disturbing, to put it mildly. They have 364 days to do everything they want and shriek as loudly as they can from the loudspeakers of their mosques. It would definitely be commendable that—if they had to take to the loudspeaker today at all—it was to extend well wishes to the Christian brethren of our country. Another equally disturbing example is efforts by some Sunni organizations to promote celebration of caliph Omar in Muharram, the month that Shia minority have spent mourning for thousands of years. I am unable to wrap my head around this really nefarious idea of ‘service to Islam’ which smacks of intolerance and hatred.

This behavior points to an inability to evolve, or rather a propensity to degenerate, of the brand of religion practiced by the majority in this society, and extends beyond this anti-Christmas ostentation. For example, a recent article by Pervez Hoodbhoy titled ‘Pakistani textbooks are teaching theology instead of science’ shows how an ossified concept of religion is internalized by many at the helm of policy decisions as well.

When I read news like ‘Pope Francis wishes happy Eid to Muslims’, I wish our religious leaders were also seen giving the message of peace. Especially in a country like ours, divided along ethnic, religious and sectarian lines, it is all the more important for the religious organizations and groups which wield power on the masses to give out messages of unity and hope. But apparently, the ‘true’ followers of a religion that means ‘peace’ –who would do well to celebrate events like Christmas with the Christian minority and Diwali with the Hindu minority –are busy ‘saving’ their religion by causing a lot of noise pollution with careless use of loudspeakers on 25th December, trying their best to hijack the only day that is associated here with a Christian festival.