The colours of tolerance on Facebook
A year or perhaps two years ago, I was a ‘regular’ guy on Facebook, with some considerable following from alumni and friends. When my account would tend to max out (towards 5,000-friend limit), I would delete about 1,000 +/- people with whom I would not have interacted over the period of preceding year, or may not have known them in person. This would allow me to make space for new ones who wanted to add me.
In my statuses, besides work updates which nobody commented on (of course unlike LinkedIn, FB is social!), I would add quotes, funny bites and pearls of wisdom from poets, writers, comedians from around the world.
They were the usual suspects – Mark Twain, Eliot, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Bhudda, MLK, Kennedy, Lincoln, Desmond Tutu, Mandela, Marilyn Monroe, Law of Attraction, once or twice Angelina Jolie or even Pitbull (my iPod-addicted son Danyal rushed to my room saying how could I upload a Pitbull quote! He thought I was some kind of an academic/thinking man!).
I would also share what I ate and where, where I was travelling to, the coffee at airport business lounges and the usual hot/cold weather updates. Along came, some pictures wherever I went. So, it was apparently an interesting profile and people got some education, or entertainment.
Then something changed.
I became a cause-oriented man on FB!
For a few years I had been working on the CEO leadership model of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). I had spoken to audiences in Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Madinah and to various audiences in Karachi and Pakistan. To promote the notion and create a buzz about the book which had yet to come, I decided to put up an FB page for this.
Our page on the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as CEO: Screen shot below
Along came my wife, who started giving a Daura Quran during Ramadan (i.e. Quran tafseer compressed in a month) to ladies in Karachi’s DHA. She confronted me and our 13-year-old daughter Aiman on why she couldn’t have her page. So we set up her page as well, Aiman being the admin.
Our page on Quran Markaz: Screen shot below
Since 2009, I had been running a page for my cause, called Tehreek-e-Adl, a political reform movement, which is based on this premise that you can only get just leaders if you are a just society. So with bits and pieces, I have been encouraging people to do justice with each other and with environment. I use guidelines from modern psychology (parenting e.g.), example of rule of law (e.g. UK ministers leaving office just because they over-claimed an expense), and emphasis of justice (e.g. Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz linking broken roads with lack of justice). Major emphasis for a just life coming from Quranic and Hadith guidelines.
Our page on sociopolitical reform movement, Tehreek-e-Adl: Screen shot below
Besides, there was this. My learning and training firm SkillCity’s FB page. Which gave bits about technology, future and learning & training.
Our page on Skill City: Screen shot below
In order to spread the message, develop a fan base and increasing ‘likes’ for these pages, I started sharing posts, photos and videos on my profile/ wall from these pages.
Now, instead of an ordinary social-social FB user, I was a man raising a voice for causes.
Two things happened.
- Over-sharing: Where earlier I would share only two to three posts a day, my combined posts now started touching 10-plus.
- Overdose of religious posts: Since three pages were related to Quran, the Prophet (SAW) and notion of adl, most of the contents were of religious nature.
This is what happened in reaction:
Most of my liberal friends and alumni, who were very aware, mostly Western liberal arts-educated individuals trained in tolerance for diversity, and those who abhorred the ‘intolerance’ associated with religion Islam, suddenly started showing their colours of ‘intolerance’. It came in shades – from subtle to crude. This is what they did. I only became aware of their actions accidentally or when I asked them.
- Some ‘unfriended’ me instantly. Nip the evil in the bud, they took the easiest route out.
- Some hid my wall newsfeed or notifications.
- Some unliked my pages
- Some homoured me on my wall
- Some humoured me on inbox: Wali, you are doing God’s work and that pisses me off!
- Some started fault-finding/taking issues with my professional work
- Some started guiding me subtly: Although profession and religion are two different domains, I like your posts.
- Some started posting the contradictions to the message in the post. E.g. if I posted a quote saying: be kind to your wife; they would post an instance where one sahabi was harsh to his wife. The worldly parallel would be: Quote 1: Time & tide wait for none. Quote 2: Good things come to those who wait. Or Quote 3: Opportunity comes to those who are ready. Quote 4: If the opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
- One senior banker just became furious with me because I used the word ‘God-fearing’ with leaders. His question: Why bring God into Tehreek-e-Adl’s work?
So as long as it was anything other than Islam (Zen or Pitbull), it was acceptable!
Now, I have all sorts of ‘friends’ and alumni whose newsfeed I receive: non-believing, atheists, Tableeghi, Jamaati, non-religious, drinking Muslims, non-drinking, the veiled and the catwalkers, Christian, Hindu, Shia, Sunni, Ismaili, Bohra, MQM, PML, Musharraf, PTI, ANP, pro-army, pro-Taliban, pro-America, anti-America, liberal. In fact, the most-shared video on our Tehreek-e-Adl page on fatherhood is produced by a Christian Church group. Shares so far: over 11,000.
They all share posts from their perspective. Their perspectives, or even over-sharing, doesn’t bother me a bit. With my FB skills I can manage the newsfeed without being provoked. This comes with the territory. I have not hidden anyone’s activity or blocked anyone so far. I am a practicing Muslim and I stand for religion Islam, which many of my enlightened friends feel is equal to intolerance.
Apparently, many ‘tolerant ones’ couldn’t deal with a dose of religious posts on a friend’s wall with whom they have had a longstanding respectful relationship.
What do you think? Did you too face some ‘intolerance’ when you stood for a cause?