Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai has been shot and wounded in the Swat Valley of Islamic Republic of Pakistan by an extremist group. Her fault: She spoke out openly against militants, emphasising the need for education of girls and empowerment of women.
Pakistani Islamist activists carry photographs of gunshot victim Malala Yousafzai during a protest rally against her assassination attempt in Lahore on Wednesday. The 14-year-old child campaigner was shot by the Taliban in a horrific attack condemned by national leaders and rights activists.
She was nominated last year for the International Children's Peace Prize in the wake of threats to the brave student and her family.
One has also not yet forgotten the many who were killed and injured in last month's anger over a US film ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) which spread across Pakistan and the Middle East. Slogan-chanting, violent protests, mass rallies and setting public and private property on fire _ all very sad and against the principles of democracy.
While in Thailand from Pakistan, frankly speaking, I have witnessed against this backdrop the spirit of brotherhood in Bangkok and Ayutthaya, as is very often visible in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, especially among the middle and lower-middle segments of society. Is it because of any common socio-economic and political problems?
One reminisces, in this context, speeches of the founder of modern Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, whose selfless leadership provided all-time food for thought to people in any country of the world.
As a man, he professed Islam and remained large-hearted, broad-minded and tolerant, drawing inspiration from the Prophet Mohammad. He had one thing on his mind _ the principle of Islamic democracy.
Mr Jinnah told members of Shahi Jirga and leaders of Balochistan: "It is my belief that our salvation lies in following the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great law-giver, the Prophet of Islam. Let us lay the foundation of our democracy on the basis of truly Islamic ideals and principles."
How deeply impressed the father of the nation was by the life and achievements of the last Messenger of God is no secret. The Quaid's speeches and addresses at public meetings provide ample proof of the fact. In a televised speech to the people of the US, he expressed his belief that the ultimate shape of the constitution of Pakistan would be of a democratic type, embodying the principles of Islam. He made it clear that in any case, Pakistan would not be a theocratic state.
"We've many non-Muslims _ Hindus, Christians and Parsis _ but they're all Pakistanis. They'll enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen, and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan." That meant paving the way for inter-faith harmony and national unity that included Buddhists.
The fact of the matter is that the Quaid borrowed ideas of social and economic justice and tolerance from Prophet Mohammad. True followers of Islam proudly recall how intelligently the messenger of God abolished tribal conflict and grouped the inhabitants of Medina under one general name, Ansar (Helper).
In order to unite the former and the Muhajireen (Emigrants) in closer bonds, he established a brotherhood between them. He realised that the foundation of the Islamic state would be weak unless it was based upon the goodwill and support of all people.
Toleration of others' religion is necessary where different races live together. His policy in this respect was: "Live and let live others."
There are many acts of the Prophet Mohammed which are of great relevance today. One is that he granted to all Christians a charter which is a monument of enlightened tolerance _ they were not to be unfairly taxed, no bishop was to be driven out of his bishopric, no monk was to be expelled from his monastery, and no pilgrim was to be detained from the pilgrimage. Muslims were also to help Christians repair their churches.
Another significant act relates to equality and social justice. A citizen called Ta'ima Ibn Ubairaq, nominally a Muslim but really a hypocrite who committed all sorts of wicked deeds, was suspected of having stolen a set of armour. When put on trial, he planted the stolen property in the house of a Jew, where it was found. The Jew denied the charge and accused Ta'ima of the theft, but the Muslim community's sympathies were with Ta'ima because of his "profession" of Islam.
The case was brought before the Prophet Mohammed, who acquitted the Jew. Some people tried to prejudice the Prophet Mohammed against the Jew and deceive him into using his authority to favour Ta'ima, but he stood firm, saying he was "guided by God".
The Prophet, not only by words but also by deeds, treated the Jews and Christians with the utmost tolerance and respect for their faith and belief.
Learning more from the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed and the sayings of the founder of Pakistan, and following the examples set by them in an atmosphere of liberty, equality and fraternity, will awaken people to the necessity of unity, faith and discipline at a time when their country is passing a critical phase.
Muslims anywhere in the world need to recall some parts of the words of the Prophet, which he delivered from the top of Mount Arafat: "O people! Remember that you shall have to appear before your Lord who will demand from you an account of all your actions.
"And feed your slaves as you feed yourselves and clothe your slaves as you clothe yourselves. If they commit a fault which you're unwilling to forgive, then sell them, for they're servants of Allah and are not to be harshly treated.
"O people! Listen to my words and remember that all Muslims are brothers unto one another."
The first, but not the last, lesson: Don't break anyone's heart, nor any temple, or mosque, or trample any place of worship; all messengers of God have to be respected.
To you your religion and to me my religion, according to the Koran, which demands all Muslims be righteous and follow the examples set by the Prophet Mohammed.
Islam does not approve of aggression against any knowledge seekers _ young or old.
Zafar Alam Sarwar is former editor of the Pakistan Times, Islamabad
About the author
Writer: Zafar Alam Sarwar