Last Wednesday, specialists from three universities visited UTM to discuss sectarian violence and religious extremism in Pakistan.

Around 30 students attended the event in the Instructional Building, where it was hosted as a collaboration of the Political Science and Pre-Law Association, the Pakistan Youth Alliance, and the Pakistan Development Fund.

The guest speakers were York masters student Saad Sayeed, Ryerson professor Tariq Amin-Khan, and University of Cambridge professor Tahir Kamran. Kamran participated via Skype.

During his introduction, Kamran spoke about religious sectarianism and its violent history within Pakistan. In his discussion of the historical perspective on Pakistan as a colonial state, Kamran remarked that “problems are crystallizing” in regards to the Shia and Sunni populations.

Amin-Khan, on the other hand, was optimistic that Pakistan’s sectarian problems could be resolved. He spoke about the need to prioritize education, denounce military attacks, and encourage the media to clean up the culture of cruelty.

“I don’t think democracy and religion are incompatible,” he said. “I feel that the two can coexist.”

Sayeed spoke about ongoing struggles of religious intolerance, making special note of the violence against the Ahmadi, Christian, and Hazara minorities in Pakistan and questioning the factions supporting the military.

“The terrorist is the root of all problems,” he said.

The other topics included the controversial blasphemy laws, the need for education, and the meaning of modernity.

After the three speakers had a chance to respond to one another, the floor was opened for a Q&A session with the audience. Questions about colonial rule, the role of the military, and secularism were asked and addressed.

According to Hadia Hussain of the PYA, the event was organized to raise awareness of the issues in Pakistan. Rija Rasu from PSLA added that the discussion was meant to help work towards developing a resolution to the problems.

Kamran and Amin-Khan have both published articles on the discussed issues and have appeared in several broadcasts and given lectures on the subject.

The discussion forum was filmed by UTM/TV.