Separate Religion From Politics

From Pakistan Observer

Nosheen Saeed

Hats off to Bangladesh’s Supreme Court! Banning politics on the basis of religion was a giant leap, which will no doubt make Bangladesh a modern, prosperous, secular, democratic country. Will Pakistan follow Bangladesh and end decades of exploitation in the name of religion? Will it take into account the fact that resistance offered by cross-sections of Pakistani society to extremists and the people’s resolve to fight the Taliban-led terrorists, showed clearly that the majority of the people, though religious, openly condemned being exploited on the basis of religion.

Perhaps, its time for Pakistan to renounce the last three decades of Islamization and return to the original vision of its founding fathers; it’s time, for the nation to put a more distinct differentiation between politics and religion. I support the separation of the two not to protect politics from religion but to protect religion from politics. By dragging religion through the dirt of politics, we are doing great disservice to Islam and Pakistan. It’s an idea that should be respected and contemplated upon. Religion and politics will exist in great purity, disengaged. Politics is corrupt by its very nature. Intertwining religion with politics makes religion look corrupt. Whenever religion and state interlace, it creates turmoil, intolerance, violence and collision. In today’s multicultural and multi-religious society, no religion should be able to control and dominate law and the Government.

States cannot be based on their personal religious beliefs it would be the downfall of society. One cannot force ones belief on others. Religion is a matter that solely lies between man and his God; man owes account to none other for his faith but God. I disagree with those who say that religion is a central issue in Pakistan; the real issue is the manner in which religion is being exploited to gain political advantages. The clergy uses religion to obtain political power; our politicians use religion to entice voters and justify pseudo politics; successive governments that have grabbed power illegally, used religion to gain political legitimacy. Religion has been used as a crutch by opportunists; a supporting device to remain in power. Not realizing that crutches render one completely powerless, ineffective or inert. If religion and caste is removed from the public sphere then most worthless politicians will have nothing to present for acceptance.

Religion and national identity are vital for ones sense of pride and recognition; both being the fountainhead of ones strength and the raison d’etre of ones very existence. Like fish out of water, I twist and turn, when extremism and Islam; terrorism and Pakistan are used side by side. Critics of Islam have raised alarm, by proclaiming Islam an “evil wicked religion” and claiming Quran promotes violence. Much more is repeated gazillion times in several publications, making it impossible to give a “soft image” to Islam and Pakistan. This slander is affecting our youth and will influence our future generations too. They will perceive Islam through the eyes of the West and will be “swayed” by its version. Their argument will be based on the fact that, if the West is exploiting religion so are we. Why curse the West, why not ourselves, for coquetting with religious groups, to gather support. We are solely responsible for the transition of religion, as a source of values and wisdom, to religion as a strategy for passing legislation or winning elections. Its easy to blame the West for its ignorance and prejudice against the fastest growing religion in the world Islam and the Western media for carrying out a concerted misleading campaign of distortion but then we can’t throw all the blame on others; we must share some too. Our religious Jamats have contributed in strengthening this false impression with their fiery rhetoric, extremism, intolerance and misinterpretation of Islam. By allowing them to exploit Islam, we have done great “disservice” to the “supremacy of Islam” and to our “motherland.” Beware Frankenstein “destroyed” his own creator!

A vibrant society should be based on the rights of individuals as human beings, not on rights granted by the clergy. Today all politics is hostage to religion. The Jamats seek to convert Pakistan into their personal fiefdom and want to enslave the minds of the Pakistani people to “religious priests” The clergy have become the “agents of Islam” Every “uneducated low IQ mullah” feels entitled to acting like a scholar and gives sermons on what God said and what he meant; define who is a Muslim and who isn’t; decide what is Islamic and un Islamic; declare whose a good Muslim and whose bad; run our lives by interfering in harmless activities, such as marathons and musical concerts. They have been responsible for derailing democracy and in preventing the emergence of political institutions in Pakistan. In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty, he is always in alliance with the despot abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.

Unfortunately Islam is held “accountable” for actions, which are committed in its name, by people claiming to “represent” it. The erroneous ideas about Islam are largely linked to the actions of Mullahs and their actions are not in conformity, with what they claim to preach and practice. Tragically the mullah is identified with Islam and the criticism of the Mullah is understood as a criticism of Islam itself. An absolutely incorrect way of judging Islam! If the Mullahs are willing to use religion for political ends, then they should be held politically responsible for their actions and face accountability.

The pre- Partition generation is a witness to how the Mazhabie Jamats, both Hindus and Muslims hated Jinnah, The Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement. These sects by fomenting sectarianism, creating divisions, preaching violence, intolerance and spreading “Desi Islam” are busy undoing what Jinnah achieved. These religious Jamats never quote Quaid-i-Azam or even mention him because they oppose his philosophy, even today. Jinnah cautioned the people to be vigilant against quislings, fifth-columnists, clichés and mobs. These people opposed the great struggle and raised obstacles with insidious false propaganda and pose as saviors of the people’s just rights; they incite people to defy the government and threaten to commit acts of lawlessness. Their object is to undermine the solidarity of the Muslims, by creating a split amongst brother Muslims and finding ways and means to weaken and destroy the State. These people have been financed by foreign agencies; their purpose is to disrupt and sabotage Pakistan and to destroy what we have achieved. Its time to dig deep into our souls and take a bold stand that might be startling for a hand full of people but will be beneficial for the country. Its time to get rid of the crutches of theocracy and mullahcracy!

To clear the image of Islam and to revitalize Pakistan, there is a pressing need to divorce religion from politics. We need to develop institutional safeguards against religious extremism. Pakistanis must wake-up to the threat of extremism and the exploitation of Islam. The nation must join hands on a common platform to restore pluralism and tolerance. We must revert to Jinnah’s liberal, anti ethnic, secular and democratic Pakistan. Our founding fathers drew their basic moral concepts from secular laws with freedom of religion for all belief systems, in favor of the rights of mankind.

22 Comments

Filed under Activism, Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, Pak Tea House, Pakistan, secularism

22 responses to “Separate Religion From Politics

  1. AZW

    Banning politics on the basis of religion was a giant leap, which will no doubt make Bangladesh a modern, prosperous, secular, democratic country

    Not so fast. This is an unrealistic expectation, and for some reason author is thinking that secularism is the magic wand that will end Pakistan’s problems as well.

    We stand for complete separation of mosque and state. We all believe that Pakistan has suffered immensly due to introduction of religion into our state policy. And that secularism would indeed be the step in the right direction.

    Yet realistically, there are plenty of secular countries in the world that are downtrodden, poor and fall easily into the third world sphere. Passing laws does not mean much when the state is toothless to enforce them. A society without the rule of law is likely to perish, whether it is secular or not.

    Our current problems are a mosaic of various mistakes committed by us in the past. Our salvation is also dependent upon following all the tenants of a progressive society, rather than focusing on just one and hoping all will turn out well;

    1) establishing fair laws (that includes eliminating religious edicts and discrimination)

    2) complete implementation of the laws (or adl for all)

    3) keeping inclusive democracy in place where society can share its ideals to move the society forward.

  2. Mustafa Shaban

    The religious rightist parties that do not represent the real Islam are being voted out and will soon disappear. I support that but at the same time, we should not ban anybody from introducing thier ideology in politics, it is up to the public to understand what is true Islam and what is not. Also now that our youth are active and aware, I am confident that curropt forces will not be able to get votes anymore, in the next 5 years things will change a lot in Pakistan.

  3. Mustafa Shaban

    I agree with AZW to a certain extent, except that Islam has no role in politics, on that I have a different opinion

  4. Nikita

    In order to ensure complete separation of the state and religion in Pakistan, it is imperative not only to implement secular laws but to even reform or overhaul the state institutions responsible for promoting some of the most parochial and dogmatic beliefs……for instance the education system.
    also, shouldn’t Pakistan not have any state religion at all considering that it has a sizeable number of non muslim religious minorities? i might be completely wrong but does it not amount to a tacit endorsement of the majority religion by the state while simultaneously putting the other religions at a lower pedestal?

  5. kashifiat

    Juda ho dien sai syasat to reh jati hai changezi

  6. Sadia Hussain

    Politics and religion cannot coexist as it is not only insulting to the religion which is solely a spiritual subject but also politics is not divine the code of ethics are poles apart. Pakistan was not foreseen as a theocratic state and its charter derives its roots from progression not suppression!

  7. YLH

    Nikita,

    What do you think separation of religion and state means?

    Frankly I don’t understand how any state can have a religion.

  8. YLH

    “Juda ho dien sai syasat to reh jati hai changezi”

    And yet all the changezi in the world today happens in places where deen is not juda from siyasat.

  9. kashifiat

    e.g ???

  10. YLH

    “e.g.”

    Taliban, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Ahmadinejad’s Iran, America under George W Bush, Modi’s Gujurat, even our own Pakistan where Gojras happen every day.

  11. YLH

    Interestingly Kashif mian…before Iqbal said what he did, it was Gandhi who said that religion must be introduce into politics to humanize it. Bad idea… always.

  12. YLH

    erratum “introduced”

  13. Majumdar

    it was Gandhi who said that religion must be introduce into politics to humanize it.

    Yaar, tumne to usse saath saal pehle hi naata tod liya tha. Ab to buddhey ko baksh do!!!

    Regards

  14. YLH

    I was just pointing out the ideological congruence of those self styled Iqbalians who quote this ridiculous verse to Gandhiji.

    You are right. But instead of following modern rational renaissance founder, the Mullahs and the Army invented Iqbal as a counter-founder to fill Gandhiji’s vaccuum.

  15. YLH

    Erratum:

    But instead of following the modern rational renaissance man Jinnah was, the Mullahs and the Army invented Iqbal as a counter-founder to fill Gandhiji’s vaccuum.

  16. B. Civilian

    @Mustafa Shaban

    “Islam has no role in politics”

    or

    “Religion has no role in politics”

    what is the difference?? what is the “except” for in I agree with AZW to a certain extent, except that Islam has no role in politics, on that I have a different opinion??

  17. YLH

    AZW,

    That is a well written post.

    I think in the medium term the lesson to be learnt from Bangladesh is the undoing of all that the dictators have done in the interim period.

    Bangladesh has tried to restore the constitution of 1972… we must try and restore the constitution of 1973… as a first step…because the constitution of 1973 in its purist form was still less theocratic than the post-Zia 1985 constitution.

    For Pakistanis it will be a major victory if for now the clock could be turned back to the constitution of 1973.

  18. Mustafa Shaban

    B. Civilian : You misunderstood, I said I agree with all of what AZW has said regarding secularism and that it is not necassarily the answer and that certain steps neeed to be taken to stabalize Pakistan. I disagree on the point of merging religion with the state becuase what YLH and others refer to in reality is the merging of a perverted religious fundamentalism with the state which is wrong, but the merging of the principles of true islam with the state is not a bad thing and is most beneficial for us.

  19. B. Civilian

    @Mustafa Shaban

    …… one man’s “perverted religious fundamentalism” is another’s “principles of true islam”. it’s a sordid mess that individuals are free to clear away or pile on, as far as their private lives are concerned. the state has no need nor business to get bogged down into trying to sort it out… for anyone.

  20. AZW

    Yasser:

    I completely agree with you that the first priority is to bring back the 1973 constitution. As Cowasjee said, we need to move towards the four hour old 1973 constitution. It was a major achievement of political consensus before the political expediency by Bhutto kicked in and he started introducing amendments for his own purposes.

    The Bangladesh Superior Court decision is a step in the correct direction. But it is important to emphasize that secularism is not the panacea to all the ills as the writer blissfully says in this article. Separating religion from politics is a step that paves way for fair laws; laws that do not differentiate any faithful from infidels of that faith.

    The next step is the enforcement of fair laws, in total and without any regards to political expediency.

    Because a society cannot survive when laws are subservient to rulers or political considerations; it results in a decaying society, and it ends up undermining the secular concepts badly themselves.

  21. AZW

    @ Kashifiat:

    In one of your previous posts back in the spring of 2009, you praised the Taliban fighting the Pakistani Army. At that time, Pakistan was quite interested in bringing back the tribal areas under the writ of Pakistani government (regaining the Pakistani sovereignty in the lawless tribal area under Taliban control, right?). You mentioned that these Talibans are superb soldiers of Islam, you support them whole heartedly, and you will look forward to meeting these pure soldiers of Islam in the blissful afterlife.

    This was of course before Taliban had unleashed the massive bombing campaigns throughout Pakistan, and before they had invaded Swat. Despite a Peace Agreement with the government. The next month they were roaming Buner, declaring Pakistani constitution haraam, bombing girl schools and hanging Pakistani policemen at the Mingora’s khooni (bloody) chowk.

    On September 23, 2009, I asked you a question under the thread “Pakistan Army’s Corrected Approach”. You may remember that you participated in that thread, yet you never responded to the question. I am reproducing the question below:

    It is quite clear Mr. Kashifiat that you are unhappy with Pakistani Army action against the Taliban. The Amir of JI has called Baitullah Mehsud a “Shaheed”.

    So Kashifiat: Can I hear it from you as well that Taliban are nothing but holy warriors and Baitullah Mehsud was a Shaheed too. Let’s hear it from you that Pakistani Army is the wrong army here, and that the rapidly improving security situation in Pakistan (that many of the poor souls like us believe is due to tackling the root of the problem in FATA) is nothing but a mirage. Or while we are at it, let me hear your opinion on the Mujahideen in Swat, the public beheadings of policemen, burning of schools, forcing women to stay home (thus driving many of them to instant poverty), or the invasion of Buner were justified in your opinion.

    See, it seems you like to have your cake and eat it too. You show your unhappiness, never cease to quote sporadic Hadiths and Quranic verses to show that the liberals are the misguided ones and you are Alhamdolillah on the righteous path; yet we never hear your opinions on the barbarity of the people you support, and how they had systematically usurped the sovereignty of Pakistani state one at a time, and poor Buner people still did not understand why they were a target of a group that wanted the Buneris to live under Sharia under a gun point.

    Somehow all these details become quite trivial and you jump straight to the proclamation and denunciation of American-Zionist agents. Therefore let’s put you (Kashifiat) on the spot: please care to enlighten us on the questions that I have posed in the previous paragraph

    Best Regards.
    (https://pakteahouse.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/pakistan-army%E2%80%99s-corrected-approach-to-deal-with-taliban-thugs/)

    I do not wish to tell you the utopian ideals of a Mumlikat-eKhudadad that you aspire for and that has unleashed havoc across the whole globe. Yasser has pointed out the names of the countries that have looked for divinity to guide their state policies, only to divide the world in a violent black and white us against them war zones. I do not want to tell you that the religious mandated state that you wish for (dar-ul-amn), is destined to violently battle the dar-ul-harb, as clearly told by the religious leaders (including Maulana Moudoudi) to Justice Munir-Kiyani back in 1953. I do not wish to tell you that the renaissance driven social awareness that has focuses on the affairs of government solely for the betterment of the society without any religious or ethnic considerations is playing wonders with the societies in the West and the Far East.

    I am rather interested in the fact that since Taliban do represent a point of view quite similar to what you aspire (politics based solely on religion), what do you think of the public displays of ruthlessness they have displayed against the Pakistani people, Swat invasion, Buner invasion, public beheadings, wiping out entire batch of tribal leaders against them, singlehandedly planning/financing/supporting virtually all terrorism across the globe.

    You missed answering this question a few months back. Surely it won’t take too much of your time to answer it now.

  22. OMLK

    Reverting back to the 1973 constitution would mean also undoing all the “Islamic” amendments, including the ones by Zia and ofcourse the one by Bhutto declaring the Ahmadis non-muslims. This is some thing the Mullahs (the same mullahs who think Taliban are mujahids) would never agree to; in particular the Ahmadi amendment. The sad fact is despite the lack of political strength of the Mullhas, no main stream political party has the guts to stand up to them. In other words Pakistan is probably the only country in the world where politicians make critically wrong decisions to please a politically non-significant, terrorist supporting minority. It is not surprising the country is in the crisis it is today.