Editorial: Pulpit polemics should be penalized

It took a while for a conglomerate of clerics to shoot a restraining order on the ongoing pulpit polemics in Kashmir.

That the joint statement comes in the backdrop of the growing public backlash makes it a mere reactive avowal, than a prompt proactive proclamation.

And this is where it should concern us as a society.

Some preachers in the valley are lately reducing revered public platforms to their personal fiefs used for scoring sectarian goals. The urge to sound shriller has put the sacred seat under sharp scrutiny. A feverish wish for a tiger, and the outrageous slap-gate has fuelled debates on serious pulpit reforms in Kashmir.

Pulpits, and preachers on them, have greatly influenced life in the valley. These podiums have served as the guiding force for the society during treacherous times. But some preachers driven by their own madness are now using the same platforms to create sectarian divisions and spew venom.

Society is fuelled by the sense of reconciliation and preachers on pulpit in Kashmir have historically acted its guardians. But in the competing commotion for likes and shares on social media, while creating sectarian supremacy in society, that role has been put on the backburner.

Sadly, this unbridled tirade influences thoughts and attitudes of masses and makes them prone to hero-worshipping. It births ‘my way or highway’ kind of creed in the community and leads us to a cul-de-sac.

That’s why in a place like Kashmir, where split-thought process has already inflicted massive damage, the search for progressive minds schooled in comparative subjects becomes mandatory. Tunnel vision can never help a society to grow and prosper.

Besides right qualification, the preacher must not harbour any ill-will against any school of thought. The heart of reformation, lies in the semblance— “O People of the Book, come to a word common between us and you.”

Raking differences isn’t good sermonizing, neither is targeting a particular belief.

The pulpit should show a way and lead the community during crisis. It shouldn’t be instead used to create crisis in the community and fuel memes on an already marginalised community of Muslims.

Progressive societies thrive on a vision. And the pulpits being the catalyst and focal point of that vision need to be regulated. In the past, beyond the concept of heaven and hell, preachers in Kashmir contributed to the society by calmly focusing on the resourceful way of life.

Screaming divine wrath is no enlightened oration. A calm commentary on as the way of life is definitely a way out.

Preachers should emphasise on society as to why it is important to make their own vaccines, cars and other worldly things they desire, while being guided by ethics. Blaming ‘conspirators’ for all wrongdoings and then using their platforms—like Facebook—to propagate their poison is a pure hypocrisy.

Clearly, the unfolding events are unfortunate and a barking comment on the silent majority of the valley today.

It was unfortunate even when the same pulpits were used to show women in poor light and blamed them for floods and famines in Kashmir. Thanks to those vitriolic views reeking ignorance, many have now become disillusioned with the whole spirit of sermonizing.

True reforms never begin with the vocal acts of persecution, they start with kindness.

Before this poison of polemics creates further social strain, civil society needs to sit together and restore some sanity. And the first step should be penalizing pulpit polemics by the community itself.

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