In his treatise titled ‘Politics’ written thousands of years ago, renowned Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) had mentioned how “man is by nature a social animal.” He elaborated by saying “anyone who either cannot lead the common (social) life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” Over the centuries, mankind has witnessed several changes in the human thought process and gone through a series of sweeping changes in a behavioral pattern but despite all this, Aristotle’s classification of humans as “social animals” has never been challenged.
Social customs and beliefs reflect the physical, emotional and spiritual aspiration of the community that has been practiced for long and gained acceptance only if they have been found beneficial and are in the overall interests of the community. Kashmir has historically known to be a very cohesive and tolerant society that has painstakingly preserved its past customs and traditions by consensus and not coercion. Hence, people willing accepted social norms and followed them meticulously without any reservations due to which social beliefs and etiquettes in Kashmir never had to be imposed on the people.
In the present day context, there is a growing tendency among our youth to look down upon social norms with scorn and consider long followed customs and traditions as nothing but impediments to progress. However, the blame for this apathy has to be shared by both elders and the youth. The elders need to realize that unlike in the past, the youth today is longer ready to accept anything unless they are fully convinced and so instead of imposing customs and traditions on children, being they must be both patient and persistent while explaining the rationale behind social practices.
Similarly, the youth also need to act more maturely and rather than considering existing social customs and traditions to be worthless relics of the past and out rightly rejecting them, they should try to understand the real spirit behind these. There could always be some customs or belief that may have outlived their utility or become irrelevant due to changes in the socio-economic sphere. There could also be certain practices that may be steeped in superstition or discriminatory and while these rightly need to be rejected due care must be exercised to ensure that this isn’t done due to ill-considered presumptions.
However, what needs careful preservation and promotion are those virtues and values that promote amity, compassion and pluralism, which many refer to as ‘Kashmiriyat’. There are some who say that while ideal for peaceful conditions, our social culture is completely out of sync today due to the unrest in Kashmir that is going on for three decades. Those who believe so conveniently blame our peaceful ways and tolerant culture for the Kashmir issue stalemate. This is a completely false allegation which is threatening to tear our unique social fabric apart by allowing radicalism to make inroads into our society.
While it’s the duty of the elders to ensure that healthy social values are passed down, the responsibility of shaping society to meet the emerging challenges and threats is that of the youth. Today the world is full of unscrupulous people and groups with vested interests who are distorting Islamic teachings in order to promote regressive ideologies for their self serving interests. There are indications of attempts to introduce such blasphemous thinking in Kashmiri society and so our youth have the major responsibility of ensuring that our society is well guarded against such negative influences.
Islam is a religion of peace which stresses equality and compassion. A closer look at the practices being followed in Kashmiri society will reveal that our social conduct is fully in line with Quranic teachings. Therefore, nothing should ever goad us into accepting any thought or practice that promotes violence or hatred as these are forbidden in Islam. The youth needs to speak up in one voice when it concerns preserving Kashmir culture and should unanimously reject any attempts to radicalize our society. Remember, the collapse of social order has been one of the prime reasons for the extinction of even the most flourishing civilizations.
There have been instances of young boys waving IS flag (which is antithetical) during protests in Kashmir and the sad part is that no one is taking those indulging in this sacrilegious act to the task. In absence of any worthwhile condemnation and social isolation has only made ‘bad hats’ much bolder and the despicable desecration of Jamia Masjid proves the point. Therefore what our youth need to understand is that unholy ideologies like those being propagated by need to be out rightly rejected as they can cause irreparable damage to our society in which social conduct is deeply influenced by Islamic teachings!