Tolerance vs Inclusion: Lesson from Neelam Ghar

Dr Jawad Syed

In this brief clip from a popular TV show (Neelam Ghar, later renamed as Tariq Aziz show) in 1990s in Pakistan, the host (Tariq Aziz) in simple words explains what many people have a real difficulty in understanding, i.e., the difference between tolerance and appreciation/inclusion. The Urdu/Hindi words that Tariq Aziz uses in his explanation are bardaasht (tolerance) and pasand (liking or appreciation). He says that the essence of democracy is the appreciation (not tolerance) of differences. It’s surprising to see that several leaders and organizations in the world today still describe tolerance as one of their core values without realizing the negative connotations of this term. Similarly many people think that they are magnanimous by virtue of their expression of tolerance of people of different races, ethnicities, religions, sects, gender identities etc. This represents a parochial and regressive approach. In fact, two highly deceptive words that have actually harmed the cause of equality, diversity and inclusion are tolerance and merit. The notion of merit continues to be recycled and parroted by certain powerful quarters to continue to produce and legitimize their hegemonies without giving any consideration to issues of level playing field and positive action.