LAHORE, Pakistan — “How do we prevent the 5-year-old in Pakistan from becoming a radical?” U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan asked in an April interview.
Imran Azhar has a ready answer: “You make him a hero. And you redefine what it is to be a hero.” Azhar is part of a small group of Pakistani artists, activists, and entrepreneurs trying to do that through cartoons.
In Pakistan, “intolerance and extremism … [are] so deep as to be … part of the national genetic code,” the Express Tribune wrote in a May editorial about the assassination of an anti-extremist blogger and activist. Since then, the litany of bloodshed has only continued, from a hospital bombing that killed more than 70 lawyers, journalists, and others mourning the death of an assassinated judge to a seemingly endless series of “honor killings,” including the murder of a controversial female social media star by her brother.
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