UNTOUCHABILITY AMONG MUSLIMS? FINDINGS OF A CASE STUDY IN PAKISTAN
Keywords:Islam, Hinduism, caste system, untouchability, Christians, social descrimination, Chuhras
The notion of untouchability, i.e., certain social groups are impure and polluting, is generally associated with the Hindu religious tradition. However, a few studies maintain that upper-class Muslims, too, observe it in some parts of South Asia. Against this background, the present paper investigates the validity of these claims as regards the practice of untouchability among Muslims towards Christians based on data collected during a field study on Christian-Muslim social interaction in Peshawar, Pakistan. The method combined a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews.According to the study, 65.2% of Christians disagreed with the statement that Muslims consider them untouchables. Similarly, the majority (61.8%) of Christians insisted that they were never hated, while the majority (95.9%) of Muslims also rejected the claim that they hated Christians. The downside of these findings is that around one-third of Christians view that they are treated as untouchable by their Muslim compatriots. Results from the interviews also corroborated these quantifications. The paper concludes that although the Islamic teachings do not support the idea of untouchability towards human beings of any fold or affiliation, some Muslims in Pakistan still practice it towards a particular Christian ethnicity (chuhras), considering them sanitary workers. The stigma attached to this Christain community is primarily because of their occupation rather than confession. Associating any ethnic or religious group with unclean professions and then considering them untouchable is a social evil that needs to be eradicated.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Khaista Rahman, Muhammad Akram
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