Archive for the 'Quaid-i-Azam' Category

06
Apr
16

The failure of religion in Pakistan

Published here: Express Tribune

Inciting violence in the name of religion has become an all too common theme in Pakistan. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to whip up mobs into a frenzy whenever the divine is concerned. Religious faith provides a route to inner peace for individuals and all of the major religions share the golden rule, to treat others the way you want to be treated. In the case of Pakistan, it has deteriorated into a tool to promote violence and deny women’s rights. Why is religion failing us? Islam was never intended to be Pakistan’s identity. Now we’ve allowed it to be hijacked by fanatics who have subsequently sabotaged our constitution. That was never Quaid-i-Azam’s vision, nonetheless each amendment to the constitution further engrained fanaticism in our society at the expense of minority rights and freedom of speech.

_88966425_35a62f92-b8c5-49df-812e-b3d3db72d6a5The violent mob that descended on Islamabad to demand sharia law while participating in a protest for the hanging of a murderer was appallingly misguided. The attack on Easter in Lahore was disgusting. The government appears to have a bottomless stomach for this ongoing violence.

Pakistan’s government is helpless as long as religion is tolerated as justification for murder, rape, and violence. It has become the victim of its own mutated constitution and cannot differentiate between a sin and a crime. For instance, Christians celebrating Easter, the hanging of a murderer, and a woman’s protection bill could all represent symbols of betterment of our society. In practice, they are construed as secular concepts and a threat to Islamic principles.

In the rest of the world, we’re seeing the implications of this fanaticism that is broadcast nonstop. 20150912_blp502Muslim refugees escaping from ISIS might just get banned all together from Europe following terrorist attacks and ogling of women at public swimming pools. Looking at the US, a once farce of a candidate like Donald Trump has a real shot at the presidency since his statements about banning all Muslims or requiring them to carry an ID card are increasingly popular.

An ideal way to reverse this trend is for religion to be stripped from the constitution and for the rule of law to be supreme. Blasphemy law and the Islamic Council would also be abolished since these primitive laws and institutions have no room in a modern world. This would free everyone to observe their faith as they see fit and also provide personal freedoms to Pakistani men and women that the rest of the world takes for granted. Can any of this happen in our lifetime? The momentum doesn’t favor the optimistic as Pakistan’s government 2992already conceded to the mob in Islamabad and assured the protestors that it won’t amend the country’s blasphemy law or pardon those convicted of blasphemy. Will the government eventually learn from history and realize that each concession to these fanatics, dooms the nation to an even longer period of self inflicted hell? While military operations can destroy the terrorist infrastructure, the government will eventually need to step up and address the obsession with religion that has seeped into our identity. This is unlikely to happen until the voices of reason are loud enough to silence the madness of mobs.

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16
Aug
13

A Return to Founding Principles

imagesQuaid-i-Azam envisioned a democratic Pakistan with rights for all. In a radio broadcast to the people of the US on February, 1948 he said “in any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians, and Parsis – but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.” Yes, Pakistan was created for Muslims, but citizens were free to go to their mosques, churches and temples. Our own flag has a symbolic section in white dedicated to the religious minorities within the country.

Within a decade of the nation’s inception, the 1956 constitution declared Pakistan an Islamic Republic; it also deemed Islam as the official religion of the country. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the patronbhutto of the 1973 constitution took it a step further and declared Islam as the state religion. A year later an amendment was also added to the constitution which proclaimed Ahmadis as non-muslims. Bhutto’s government went on to make Islamiat and Pakistan Studies compulsory in schools and banned alcohol in Pakistan. Ultimately his government’s policies led to empowerment of Islamist groups. Add in Zia-ul-Haq’s fanaticism and Pakistan’s destiny was on a treacherous path. Zia managed to indoctrinate religion into the society, media, armed forces and universities. Politicians have relied on religion since that point to garner votes and allow extremism to seep even deeper into the societal fabric of Pakistan.

Image: Dawn.com - Feb 12, 2013

Image: Dawn.com – Feb 12, 2013

Using religion as an extension of politics often leads to discrimination and imposition of a majority’s beliefs on a minority. Add illiteracy and ignorance to the combination of religion and politics and we arrive at the current toxic situation in Pakistan. The use of contraception is deemed un-Islamic by local clerics while 4 million babies are being born into extreme poverty every year. Some of these impoverished children are the same we see on frequent news reports with suicide vests and righteous hopes of fulfilling their godly duty. Freedoms of speech along with women’s rights are suppressed in the name of religion. Let’s not forget Quaid-i-Azam’s words “no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men”. Instead of attempting to define who is a Muslim or not, Pakistan’s government should focus on granting equal rights to all men and women whether they are devout Muslims, non-Muslims, non-practicing Muslims or atheists.

Image: The Friday Times, July 14, 2013

Image: The Friday Times – July 14, 2013

Religious beliefs other than Islam must be tolerated in order for Pakistan to move beyond this era of violence; after all, the original constitution protected the freedom to profess, practice and propagate any religion. If other religious views are such a threat to an individual’s beliefs then he or she must question their own faith rather than seeking to harm “non-believers”. Spiteful mullahs should not be allowed to incite another mob under the primeval blasphemy laws.

At this turbulent time, Pakistanis need to reevaluate the role of religion within the government. A true democratic state cannot play a game of religious favorites, particularly not the radicalized version which is being preached by illiterate clerics to the poor. It is time to realize that faith or lack of faith is unique to individuals and it should be kept that way. No one person has the right to impose their system of belief upon others. Overcoming years of Islamization will be a challenge in this time of economic woes and conflict. But, these trials should also provide an equally strong motive to right our path. The Quaid envisioned Pakistan to be a modern, progressive and democratic state. Sixty six years after independence that dream still has not materialized. Let’s use this time to peacefully reflect and come together to prove that the dreams of our founder didn’t pass away with his mortal body.

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