Recently, an American congressman, Steve King, tweeted, “Assimilation has become a dirty word to the multiculturalist Left. Assimilation, not diversity, is our American strength.” We witness similar debates in Pakistan, particularly in the context of refugees, tribal groups and religious interpretations. We must recognise, however, that assimilation seeks to preserve the hegemony of those in power. It calls on people to give up their cultural specificities and adopt the social, cultural and linguistic mores of society’s elite and ruling classes.
Coincidently, one of the world’s biggest advocates of diversity and pluralism, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, is on a visit to Pakistan. He has not only established the Global Centre for Pluralism in Canada, but is globally recognised for his efforts to advance the ethic of pluralism. According to the Aga Khan, forging pluralistic societies that are just and where the vulnerable are cared for is an ethical imperative of Islam. It was back in 1967, at Peshawar University, when he observed that human greed for material possessions was leading us to shirk our responsibilities towards the most vulnerable in society: “This fearful chase after material ease must surely be tempered by peace of mind, by conscience, by moral values, which must be resuscitated. If not, man will simply have converted the animal instinct of feeding himself before others and even at the expense of others, into perhaps a more barbaric instinct of feeding himself and then hoarding all he can at the cost of the poor, the sick and the hungry…
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