Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza’s comments may have been appalling. Undoubtedly, this has sparked anger and hatred in a society already amidst an ethnic conflict.
Beyond what was said, however, the societal reaction has laid bare a major element that perpetuates the problem and aggravates the situation: the ignorance and reluctance from both sides to engage in productive, enlightening dialogue.
While Dr. Mirza said many important things about being united against political affiliations that exploit their power to the detriment of our people, as well as being united towards a common goal, the betterment of our civil society, his single comment about the Urdu-speaking nation buried all those positive calls-to-action in violence across the city of Karachi.
But what is at stake here is more than just our ego. Any comments such as those made by Dr. Mirza are a clear opportunity for us to engage on a civic level about our individual, as well as our collective identities. It is an opportunity to engage in a dialogue about our common future and aspirations. This can only be done when the record is set straight about what our identities really are and what they mean to us. Neither ignorance, nor anger is an excuse.
Instead of the killing spree that a cohort of miscreants went on, a public debate addressing the realities and history of the Muhajir would have been more effective. While Mirza went on record to apologize (which I believe is a very admirable thing to do), the situation should not have been allowed to deteriorate the way it did. Our anger caused the loss of civilian lives, and our resistance has steeped us into a more despicable reality.
Isn’t this what our media is there for? A force for democracy? A platform for dialogue? Feverishly resembling yellow journalism, the Jang Group (Geo TV) used language that was highly partial against Dr. Mirza, discrediting its role in journalism proper.
Let us take a lesson from this incident. This is not the first time ethnic tongue-lashing has occurred. It won’t be the last. At the same time, let us find solace in the fact that we are equipped to engage in productive conversation about who we are to each other and what we can do. Indeed, as His Highness the Aga Khan puts, there is more that unites us than divides us. Let us build bridges.
Next time you find yourself at odds with someone, remember that your communication needs the following questions answered:
1. Whats really going on?
2. Who am I to you and who are you to me in this situation?
3. What happens next?
We ask these questions subconsciously all the time. Asking them at a conscious level will allow us to disengage our emotional hijack and allow us to come to a win-win situation.
What are your thoughts about how to use these situations as opportunities?