The Indian subcontinent first met the ‘western civilization’, with its full colors, during the 19th century when the British colonialists subjugated most of India. With their rule, the British also brought their new ideas, culture, languages, education, political and economic systems. Having lost their rule and now witnessing the ‘rooting out’ of their ‘civilization’, many Muslims took a ‘hostile’ approach towards the British, boycotting their new ‘system’. However, some Muslims felt that this is not going to play well and so they encouraged the Muslims to ‘accept’ the British, ‘befriend’ them and enroll in their ‘system’. Sir Syed and his Aligarh Movement played the most important rule in this regard. However, the Muslims who couldn’t ‘accept’ the ‘foreign usurpers’ started attacking Sir Syed also, frequently labeling him as an ‘agent’ and a ‘traitor’!Muslims who started adopting the ‘Western culture and ideas’ were dubbed as ‘Mister’ and blamed for ‘drifting away’ from the religious and cultural values. In contrast, those who kept clinging to the ‘traditional’ educational system and values were called ‘Mulla’ and were accused of keeping the society ‘backwards’. Thus, began the ‘Mister-Mulla divide’ among the Indian Muslim community, which varied over the course of history.When Pakistan was created in 1947, a new ‘Muslim state’ was born and Muslims from all walks of life, including ‘Misters’ and ‘Mullahs’, had worked to achieve this ‘identity’ and ‘freedom’ (the nationalist Muslims who opposed partition of India are being excluded from the discussion). Pakistan’s first flag hoisting was honored to two religious scholars, i.e. Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani and Maulana Zafar Ahmad Usmani (in West and East Pakistan, respectively), in the presence of ‘Mr.’ Muhammad Ali Jinnah and other leaders of the All India Muslim League. These religious scholars, among others, were also included in a committee that was tasked to draft a new constitution. Hence, this was a time when the religious clergy trusted the leadership of ‘Mr.’ Jinnah (in the ‘worldly affairs’) while Jinnah respected the ‘religious views’ of these Islamic scholars.Mufti Muhammad Shafi, former ‘Head Mufti’ at the famous seminary in Deoband and a staunch supporter of Pakistan Movement along with Allama Usmani, remarked that the various educational systems that came into being under the British rule – traditional Madrasahs, spearheaded by Deoband, and modern schools, spearheaded by Aligarh – should be integrated in the newly developed ‘Islamic state’, creating a harmonious and well-integrated society (and overturning the longstanding ‘Mister-Mullah divide’).However, things didn’t turn out this way. These senior political and religious leaders passed away one after another and the rest were gradually sidelined. Authoritarian leaders paved their way to ‘grab’ the power, many of whom were ‘distrustful’ towards the ‘conservative Mullahs’. In reaction to this, sections of the religious clergy also grew ‘hostile’ towards these ‘pro-western’ (at times ‘pro-USSR’) political leaders. As a consequence, the public too felt ‘divided’. The country has since been witnessing a ‘tug of war’ between the ‘two sides’ wherein those taking a ‘middle path’ frequently get eclipsed by the ‘charged fiery’ of the polarized voices.During the recent case of Asia Bibi, the ‘Mister-Mullah’ divide appeared to have turned ‘full-blown’ yet again! The ‘conservative’ side protested the court’s verdict as a ‘liberal’ agenda and, more so, a ‘western conspiracy’! In contrast, the ‘other side’ was appalled at the extreme conduct of certain ‘conservatives’ and they wished to ‘crush’ such ‘extremism’! When some ‘liberals’ brought out ‘religious opinions’ of earlier Muslims scholars and jurists to support their cause (for Asia’s acquittal), they were snubbed for having ‘little or no knowledge’ regarding Islam. Some of them were even reminded about their ‘mockery’ (on previous/other occasions) for the same scholars and books that they were quoting from! Likewise, when the ‘conservative’ people tried bringing up a solution to the problem, they were ridiculed for ‘not knowing anything about the modern world’! In this scenario, the relatively ‘moderate’ voices were relatively ignored as usual (among religious scholars, Mufti Rafi Usmani’s opinion seemed to be relatively balanced). Thus, Asia Bibi’s case has been a typical manifestation and a hotbed for the ‘liberal-conservative’ divide in our ‘developing country’. Yet, this is just one example and such ‘polarization’ keeps taking place on varying scales in our society.Being Pakistanis, we must realize that both the so-called ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ people are part of our nation – neither side can be eliminated! Instead of wasting our precious time and efforts in pointing guns at each other, we must work together to bridge this gap in our society and collectively address the numerous issues that we are facing as a nation. Its due time that we need to seriously think about it and devise practical steps to move forward, instead of engaging in the century old ‘tug of war’ and blaming each other for our collective problems. After reforming our education system, listening to and trying to genuinely understand each other and tolerating the differences of opinion, it is hoped that we can hopefully tackle certain ‘sensitive issues’ (like that of Asia) in a better and calm manner, while ensuring a ‘smoother drive’ towards ‘prosperity’! The differences may remain but that should not become a reason for us to ‘divide’ as a nation!Syed Talha Shah has studied Medicine (MBBS) at Ziauddin University and takes a deep interest in religion, history and current affairs. He can be contacted on Twitter at @Drsyedtalhashah.