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Pakistan: Why Secularism

Monday 6 February 2017, by siawi3


May 5th, 2016

By Najeeb Kakar

Pakistan has often been experienced the religious orthodoxy since its inception. It has engendered religious narratives among the people who recalls secularism as a non-Islamic ideology. People in Pakistan are spewing detrimental arguments, that secularism is a Western ideology, which is an antipodal to Islam and a planned Western conspiracy against us. Hence, which would lead to destroying our religion, cultural and social values. Unfortunately, they are obviously distraught, since there are no-return to the facts, critical and rational thinking about these flawed existing narratives.

Secularism is a system of belief which emphasis on keeping aside religion from the business of the state and public affairs. Where religion should be confined to one’s individual life and matters, it is merely argued that secularism demands separation of religion from politics. Today is the aeon of modern democracies, where states are run on the basis of politics instead of religion. Therefore, the folks in Pakistan should come out of these delusions and unabated fundamentalist propensities that are circling their mindsets and world views.

Secularism seems to be the most critical demand of the hour in today’s stint, because it inculcates the notion of tolerance and pluralism in the society. Every individual has the right to practice her/his religion without any type of conformity from religious prejudices. Secularism is not an un-Islamic system nor practice, which has been labelled by Maulana Madudi, but rather it is exclusively a belief of separation of “Mosque and State†. It would build a pluralist society where religious freedom could be granted to every member of the society regardless of their faith.

The manifestation of secularism stresses on a society based on universal (pluralism), where all the communities regardless of their faith, cast, creed and color would live in peaceful co-existence. No one could question their faith and religion, thus it precludes the influence and interference of the religion, which has been taken as a mean to exploit the poor in this state of denial. Religion is simply an excuse which the rich use to exploit the poor. Secularism is ultimately an honest approach towards liberating a society from the influence of religion and non-democratic elements.

Religion is simply an excuse which the rich use to exploit the poor.

People are now irritated with ever-increasing religious intolerance and sectarian violence particularly against minorities in Pakistan. The anti-Ahmadis laws and the violence against Shias and Christians, are the most recent instances of theocratic intolerance. They are being subjugated and religiously sidelined in numerous institutions of the state. Interestingly, they are facing contempt in the society in different hues and color. However, it is a mere ideological basis of Pakistan that had been injected in the roots of the state’s institutions, soon after the demise of Quaid-i-Azam. Unfortunately, the religion of the majority is destined to be favored in every possible way.

Photo: Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah giving one of his speeches.

On August 11, 1947, Jinnah delivered his renowned speech clearly elaborating:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or cast or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the state†.

And again on August 14, 1947, he said:

“Tolerance and goodwill that the great Emperor Akbar showed to all the non-Muslims, is not of recent origin. It dates back 13 centuries ago when our Prophet (PBUH) not only by words but by deeds, treated the Jews and Christians after he had conquered them, with the utmost tolerance and regard and respect for their faith and beliefs. The whole history of Muslims, wherever they ruled, is replete with those humane and great principles which should be followed and practiced†.

Our predecessors have circumvented Jinnah’s vision of a modern and secular state since his demise. They have placed the country on the track to Islamic fanaticism rather than putting an effort to craft a secular strategy for Pakistan. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan changed the name of the state to ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’. Although, the ultimate setback came after the General Zia’s Islaminization scheme. When the nation was absolutely pushed off towards interminable path of Islamic fundamentalism by reinforcing religious political parties, establishing Sharia Courts and introducing the notion of militant Jihad amongst the Pakistani folks. However, Zia’s concept of theocracy has ultimately led the country to the zenith of religious intolerance.

A theocracy intrinsically is bound to discriminate people on the basis of their religion. If it treats the minorities humanely, at some point it is inexorable to discriminate in favor of people following the religion of the state. History is replete of immeasurable instances that religious fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam has proven to divide human beings on religious grounds. Where people were not allowed to visibly practice their religious rites, therefore, they were confined to certain breeds of restriction in their religious affairs and worships – because religion was embedded in the business of the state. In the past societies were entwined into religious dichotomies, where differences arose between sects, degenerating the peaceful environment of societies.

During the medieval period the institutions of the Church became so powerful that it dominated the fabric of societies. Such as, political, economic, social and religious. The clergy and monarchs have enjoyed every kind of privileges without impunity. When Martin Luther challenged the Pope and questioned the influence of the Church in 1517AD in European societies. The effects of the Church demolished and Christianity was divided into Catholic and Protestant sects. This question was later followed by the French revolutionaries in the French revolution of 1789. The influence of the Church and Clergy was reduced and its land was confiscated. As a result, secularism has been flourished in European societies. Now they are very much advanced in various fields such as; science, technology, research, education, reasoning and critical thinking.

Correlating secularism with Godlessness and Atheism is tapering it down to a tremendously partial interpretation. Secularism does not strive to obliterate religion. It does not aim at shortening religious autonomy and practices. Religion can co-exist in a secular society, but it aims at shaping a collective society of peace and harmony. It only leads a separable life and freedom. Its manifestation teaches the principle of pluralism and humanity, this is needed to deliberately endorse and revive more than any other principle.

Najeeb Kakar is a freelance writer and researcher interested in politics, society, history and terrorism.