Pakistani social worker and journalist Sehyr Mirza, launched the #AntiHateChallenge on social media Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: Give peace a chance.

That is the message of Pakistani social worker and journalist Sehyr Mirza, who has launched the #AntiHateChallenge challenge on social media, followed the venom being spewed in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack in which 49 Indian paramilitary forces were killed.

Pakistan-based banned outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility for the attack which has raised tensions between nuclear India and Pakistan. India blames Pakistan for the attack while Pakistan denies its hand in it.

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Speaking to Gulf News from Pakistan, Mirza explained why she decided to launch the #AntihateChallenge.

“The war-like situation after the Pulwama attack was extremely distressing because of the silence. Peace supporters on both sides were facing a lot of backlash as all sorts of negative and hateful comments were being shared on social media.

“I thought it was very important to break the silence to create a healing space and the best way to do that was through giving out a message of love and warmth. So, I initiated the #AntiHateChallenge to express solidarity with friends across the border.”

Mirza has been contributing to the cause through interviews of intellectuals and thinkers on India-Pakistan relations. She also works with the team of Aman ki Asha (Wish for Peace) initiative. “Similar situations have arisen in the past and I have participated in campaigns with like-minded friends to counter negative propaganda.”

Sehyr Mirza launched the #AntiHateCampaign with this Facebook post Image Credit: Aman ki Asha/Facebook Group

How her campaign is being received

She said many like-minded friends from Pakistan have joined in the campaign. “I am still expecting more people to accept the challenge. Hating is very easy and it’s almost challenging in the current times to stand up for peace.” The post is widely being shared and appreciated in India by peace supporters.

“A lot of love and positive messages are coming in. At the same time, I have faced negative reaction from trolls from both countries. While Indians are calling the photographs fake and disseminating the images with distorted photo-shopped messages, several Pakistanis are responding by calling it an act of appeasement towards the Indian establishment. “

She said neither the images nor the spirit behind the campaign is fake. Mirza argued that those considering it appeasement or acceptance of guilt, must realise how Pakistanis are being attacked and labelled as terrorists.

“I was distressed and wanted to counter that by giving out a public message that Pakistanis are against terrorism and Pakistanis and Indians stand together in fighting the menace,” she added.

On defusing tension

“Sharing positive energy and love is the only way as both countries need to fight our collective issues such as poverty, inequality, violence against women and lack of education and health opportunities,” she said. And this, she said, would work only through establishing regional peace instead of spending hefty amounts on defence budgets.

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Indian and Pakistan expatriates in the UAE are calling for peace in the wake of the tension between the neighbouring countries.

Irfan W. Malik, a Pakistani resident in Dubai

The hate campaigns and hurling abuses at each other should stop. An act of terrorism should be condemned. It should not create hatred amongst people. Social media users should stop fighting online creating more tension and hatred and instead promote peace. I often visit India and always get superb treatment by Indians during my trips. Likewise, Indians visiting Pakistan get even better treatment. People in Pakistan always warmly welcome their Indian guests in Pakistan and it is very heart warming. Relations between the countries and the people should not be spoiled because of some rogue elements who are trying to play dirty games for vested interests.

I often visit India and always get superb treatment by Indians during my trips. Likewise, Indians visiting Pakistan get even better treatment.

- Irfan W. Malik, a Pakistani resident in Dubai

People in Pakistan always warmly welcome their Indian guests in Pakistan and it is very heart warming. Relations between the countries and the people should not be spoiled because of some rogue elements who are trying to play dirty games for vested interests.

Amjad Iqbal Amjad, a Pakistani resident in Sharjah,

War are is not a solution to Indo-Pak problems as it would only serve a political agenda. Terrorist attacks are security issues and both Indian and Pakistan are victims of this curse. We should let such incidents spoil our people to people relations. The #AntiHateChallenge is a good way to tackle this issue. Holding a dialogue is the only way to resolve our issues as war is merciless and disastrous for people in both countries.

The cordial relations and good friendship between Indians and Pakistani living in the UAE is a clear example that we as a people don’t hate each other.

- Amjad Iqbal Amjad, Pakistani resident

The cordial relations and good friendship between Indians and Pakistani living in the UAE is a clear example that we as a people don’t hate each other. Sanity should prevail to avoid any war. People promoting warmongering should be discouraged.

Syed Tabish Zaidi, Pakistani resident in Dubai

I have been holding literary and poetry programmes inviting intellectuals and poets from both India and Pakistan to Dubai as I believe people from both the countries do not hate one another. We as Pakistanis condemn the Pulwama attack and the loss of lives. We feel equally sad about any such incident happening either in India or Pakistan. People in Pakistan do not want killings. We should have more interaction and people to people contact as it will help promote peace. People should respect humanity and precious human life. Hate campaigns should be curbed and we should not be a part of this.

We as Pakistanis condemn the Pulwama attack and the loss of lives. We feel equally sad about any such incident happening either in India or Pakistan.

- Syed Tabish Zaidi, Pakistani resident in Dubai

We should have more interaction and people to people contact as it will help promote peace. People should respect humanity and precious human life. Hate campaigns should be curbed and we should not be a part of this.

Sohail Ashraf, general secretary at the Pakistan Association in Dubai

War is not a solution to resolve any conflict. We encourage and appreciate those who have launched the #AntiHateChallenge and condemn those who are promoting hatred on social media and television. A large number of my friends and business partners in the UAE are Indians and we work together very well. We have very cordial relations between Indian and Pakistan social clubs in Dubai. I would say we should talk to each other to defuse the tension and discourage people who are flaring it up on social media.

We have very cordial relations between Indian and Pakistan social clubs in Dubai. I would say we should talk to each other to defuse the tension.

- Sohail Ashraf, general secretary at the Pakistan Association in Dubai

I would say we should talk to each other to defuse the tension and discourage people who are flaring it up on social media.

Anoop Bhargava, Indian resident in Dubai

To start with, this has been a tragic and horrible incident where lives have been lost. This is something that has to be universally condemned by people of society, politicians and governments across the world. The solution lies in resolving the matter which quite honestly has been inflated. The solution to tackle terrorism is not violence, but educating people on how we can lead a better life and create open spaces for dialogue. That will be the only way one will give up violence, not indulge in such horrible ideologies and get intoxicated with views to kill people. Educating the youth is equally important so people don’t fall for false news or fake opinion. Open dialogue and communication is the key.

The solution to tackle terrorism is not violence, but educating people on how we can lead a better life and create open spaces for dialogue.

- Anoop Bhargava, Indian resident in Dubai

Educating the youth is equally important so people don’t fall for false news or fake opinion. Open dialogue and communication is the key.

Dr. Sameer H. Shaikh, an Indian resident in Dubai

The sad turn of events in Pulwama and the massacre of Indian troops is yet another painful stab in our back by non-state incendiaries. Yet, I am a believer in positivity and harmonious co-existence is definitely a probability provided there is a productive change in mindset of both our countries.

War mongering is not the way forward. Dialogue is the call of the day. Media interpretations should advocate caution and wanton statements by politicians on both sides must be kept in check.

- Dr. Sameer H. Shaikh, an Indian resident in Dubai

Sadaf Khurshid, an Indian Instructor in Dubai

The recent attacks in Pulwama have been encouraging ill feelings between India and Pakistan. This is not how we should be responding to any act of terror. First stop belittling the other country, its citizens and the governments involved. Instead they must stand together and come to consensus with a dialogue. I belong to Delhi and I have friends from Pakistan too. As someone who has been living in the UAE for the last 30 years I have come to realise we cannot stop living in a multi-cultural environment. We are living in peaceful coexistence outside our country, why we can’t our government peacefully co-exist.

We are living in peaceful coexistence outside our country, why we can’t our government peacefully co-exist.

- Sadaf Khurshid, Indian instructor in Dubai

As someone who has been living in the UAE for the last 30 years I have come to realise we cannot stop living in a multi-cultural environment. We are living in peaceful coexistence outside our country, why we can’t our government peacefully co-exist.

Devanand Mahadeva, Indian director with a law firm in Dubai

It is very disturbing to see the countries battle this way. There has to be a peaceful co-existence and dialogue is the only solution to everybody’s problem. There is no way of tackling terrorism with violence and hatred. Education and dialogue are imperative.

There is no way of tackling terrorism with violence and hatred. Education and dialogue are imperative.

- Devanand Mahadeva, Indian, director with a law firm in Dubai

#AntiHateChallenge grows on social media

Amid the hate and warmongering on Twitter after the #PulwamaAttack, some Pakistani and Indian social media users are finally standing up to say #NoToWar. After Pakistani journalist Sheyr Mirza launched the #AntiHateChallenge to speak out against war and terrorism and hundreds of Twitter users from both sides of the border joined her.

Image Credit: Twitter

Quoting Indian poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, Pakistani Twitter user @Khalidgraphy, highlighted that war will only bring destruction: “Whether blood is ours or theirs. It’s the blood of humankind. War is a problem itself. Today it will rain fire and blood... tomorrow, hunger and scarcity. I am a #Pakistani and I’m against #terrorattacks anywhere in the world.”

Indian tweep @AjaySawant11 posted: “#AntiHateChallenge: Respect to all the Pakistan citizens who condemn these cowardly attacks. Citizens of both countries should hold their government accountable... Only the common man dies, no corrupt politicians.”

And, @Ranjish_ added: “It is usually the common people on both the sides of the border with sane voices, while, people occupying ‘big’ offices are busy peddling their agenda.”

@KunalKriplani tweeted: “Thank you for keeping the differences aside. Love and respect from across the border. #AntiHateChallenge #NoToWar”

Pakistani tweep @AnisanKhan added: “Stop creating more hate! Both countries need to stick together. Don’t forget the partition in 1947... instead of killing more people, find alternative solutions. #notowar”

Stop using social media to fuel war, say expats

Promoting peace and tolerance, many Indian and Pakistani expats in the UAE shared the same view. War is not the solution.

Use social media responsibly, say Indian and Pakistani expats Image Credit: Stock image

Dubai-based Indian expatriate Nitin Kumar said: “What is happening is pure politics. I support the #AntiHateChallenge. The governments and people in power should ensure that people do not use social media for hate messages and slander. People are suffering at ground level, in both the countries and we cannot afford war.”

The 30-year-old sales coordinator added: “We need to stop using social media to fuel the fire. If there is proof about the attackers, they should openly share it and punish the culprits. Political speeches of hatred will only escalate the situation.”

Political speeches of hatred will only escalate the situation.

- Nitin Kumar, Indian expat in Dubai

Stick to facts on social media

Sudeep Devpura, a 23-year-old Rajasthani working as an analyst in Dubai, agreed: “Fear-mongering speeches by politicians are not solving the issue, they are just adding to people’s fury. Social media users need to control what they are sharing and stick to facts and the truth. Their purpose should not be to boil blood. We need to let go of the past and start a humane conversation.”

Social media users need to control what they are sharing and stick to facts and the truth.

- Sudeep Devpura, Indian expat in Dubai

Wage a war against extremist ideologies

Dubai-based expat Sarika Jamkhedkar, a Mumbaiker, added: “The attack seems to have aggravated the feeling of hatred between people in the two countries. What people should understand is that the need of the hour is to fight terrorists and extremist ideologies and to tackle the attackers.”

Jamkhedkar said: “This is not a fight between the people of the two countries, the solution is not a physical war. It is a great thing that some Pakistanis have taken to social media to condemn the attack, it’s a positive step. That being said, condemning is not enough, they should urge their government to take action.”

The 43-year-old Dubai homemaker feels, we need to, “focus on changing the mindset of people involved in terrorism. Both countries need to ensure this.”

She also feels people should use social media responsibly: “Rather than writing messages of hatred or forwarding such messages we should focus on sharing posts about the development in our own country or posts about empowerment and social justice. The military should be left to strategise and solve serious border issues.”

Rather than writing messages of hatred or forwarding such messages we should focus on sharing... posts about empowerment and social justice

- Sarika Jamkhedkar, Indian expat in Dubai

No animosity between civilians

Mohammad Sarmad, an inventory coordinator based in Dubai also feels that the issue should be resolved at a government level and the general public does not need to involved: “There is no animosity between any civilians. It’s completely a political issue between two countries.”

The Pakistani national also believes that media is to blame when it comes to “pushing the agenda for war”.

Commenting on official statements by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, the 40-year-old said: “Being a leader of a country, he [Khan] definitely has the right to reply. India has the right to reply as well. That is how it goes.”

There is no animosity between any civilians. It’s completely a political issue between two countries.

- Mohammad Sarmad, Pakistani expat in Dubai

However, Sarmad believes that “war is not an option” and “a discussion is needed”. He added: “It’s 200 per cent important to not have a war. There should be a table talk and the countries should come to a consensus without showing any grudges. That’s an easy solution.”

Commenting on the consequences of the attack, Sarmad said: “If any solid proof is found, we are open to an investigation and action should definitely be taken against whoever is responsible.”

Understand the repercussions of war

Another Pakistani living in the UAE, Rehan Khalid has similar sentiments regarding the issue. “War is not the answer in this era, we have lessons from the past,” the events manager said. The 37-year-old believes that most of the reactions are prominent online, however, that is not the case in everyday life: “Kids are typing things and pushing for revenge on social media without understanding the consequences of war.”

Emphasising on the consequences of a conflict, he said: “The repercussions of a potential war can’t be estimated right now. People who are asking for revenge don’t understand the results of it.” Khalid believes Pakistanis living in the UAE as well in Pakistan “are not taking the threat of war seriously”.

Kids are typing things and pushing for revenge on social media without understanding the consequences of war.

- Rehan Khalid, Pakistani expat in the UAE