Law Unto Themselves

Courtesy Daily Times.

Ahmad Shah Abdali, the hero of our Pakistani textbooks and a first-class marauder, would have wondered what all the fuss was about when his contemporaries Edmund Burke and Fox took Robert Clive to task in the English parliament for his corruption

All England Law Reports — the most reliable record of English case law — date back to 1558. Recorded case law dates back another 400 years prior to that. In 1558, the English began to see the benefit of compiling and publishing case law for easy reference.

Institutions like Lincoln’s Inn had already been serving the legal community since the 13th century when a papal decree forbade clergy from teaching common law, thereby separating temporal law from the church. Thus, by the time All England Law Reports were being organised, the modern English legal system was already into its third or fourth century. Consider, then, that in 1558, Mughal emperor Akbar the Great ruled as a despot with a remarkable concentration of power and Suleiman the Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire as God’s shadow on earth. These two great monarchs were literally the law, while in England, the greatest queen to rule the western world, ruled limited by the Magna Carta — arguably the world’s first modern constitution.

Civilisations are not built overnight. The British Empire was the greatest empire in human history precisely because the English had disciplined themselves into a realm of laws long before others. While the extravagant absolutists who ruled from Constantinople to Delhi, acting on their whims, even the best of them, the queens and kings of England ruled responsibly, allowing fullest expression to ideas of liberty, citizenship and the social contract. Thus, while Aurangzeb Alamgir was getting his brother trampled under an elephant and having his elderly father’s eyes gouged out, John Locke was writing his treatise on the true end of government and when Aurangzeb Alamgir was executing the Sikh Gurus, the English parliament was passing the bill of rights.

Feeling against ancient tyrannies was palpable and while, purely for economic reasons, 13 North American colonies rose up against the British Empire, it was the culmination of a process grounded in the age-old ancient English idea of justice and fair play. The colonies cried out: “No taxation without representation”. This was around the same time the saying in the plains of Punjab was, “Whatever we eat and drink is ours, the rest belongs to Ahmad Shah Abdali.” Ahmad Shah Abdali, the hero of our Pakistani textbooks and a first-class marauder, would have wondered what all the fuss was about when his contemporaries Edmund Burke and Fox took Robert Clive to task in the English parliament for his corruption. Many of our modern day Ahmad Shah Abdalis still would not understand. Even the much touted lawyers’ movement has failed to instil the sense of justice and fair play that fired up Burke and Fox in the closing decades of the 18th century.

There are some who are driven by a vague sense of anti-imperialism and an unfortunate romantic idea of the independence movement. Under Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s guidance, the Muslims of the subcontinent prospered. Even in his day the great Sir Syed was abused by the likes of Jamaluddin Afghani — the Pan-Islamist revolutionary. Today, the Aga Khan is similarly abused because he stands as a voice of reason and solitary light in a sea of darkness. He is denounced as a lackey of foreign powers by the likes of Jamaat-e-Islami.

It is forgotten, of course, that even today many of our people are forced to live in conditions far worse than feudal England. This is particularly true of places where the British influence during the Raj was limited. The people there are bound by horrendous customs and are left to subsist below a reasonable human level. The excuse given to them is a religious one and the way out is also religious. Mullahs and pirs, our witchdoctors and shysters, mislead the people into accepting their lot. The reaction is even worse — Taliban recruitment. The Taliban give the dirt poor an opportunity to stand up on the authority of religion. In its callousness, the rich Anglophone Pakistani elite has shot itself in the foot.

The solution is for us to take stock of our situation honestly and without any illusions. First and foremost, we must realise that civilisation is one and indivisible and our attempts to stall progress by hiding behind non-existent ‘Eastern values’ and religious excuses is simply indicative of our inability to accept change. Secondly, we must understand that borrowing is an essential part of the human experience and that we ought not to reinvent the wheel. Third, as Pakistanis, we must embrace again, wholeheartedly, the finer elements of our magnificent British heritage: modern institutions and a first rate legal system. Finally, we must realise that, as citizens of the world in the 21st century, we have certain obligations to our people as well as to the world. We cannot live in isolation and in an integrated world, we cannot forever keep our people mired in ignorance and as second and third class citizens in their own country.

Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer. He also blogs at https://pakteahouse.wordpress.com and can be reached at yasser.hamdani@gmail.com

92 Comments

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92 responses to “Law Unto Themselves

  1. AZW

    Yasser,

    This is a brave piece of writing. I suspect it would be too much to stomach for the eastern/glorious Islamic traditionalist brigade that has Mahmood Ghaznavi, Ghauri, Ahmad Shah Abdali or Jamal Uddin Afghani as their heroes.

    A sad indictment of the autocratic Mughal rule from 1500s-1700s is narrated in Abraham Eraly’s book titled The Mughal Throne. As Europe was slowly moving towards establishing a society governed by the rule of law, India was grinding under intense poverty and dreamy, ineffectual rulers who were the law unto themselves, with no regard for the welfare of their citizens. Eraly pointed out a staggering number that out of some 100 million plus souls living in India in the 1600s, the majority of wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few thousand people at best (I will check the exact number and post it later here).

    I am disappointed when the so called Islamic nationalists mourn the loss of great Islamic civilization and lament how West has gotten ahead of the East (never mind East in their mind is sharply divided between the Muslim East and the non Muslim (predominantly Hindu East, not worthy of any mention).

    Rule of law, technology, democracy, equality of humans are not western domains. West happened to realize them first and got the upper hand across the globe. Many historians have pointed out that British dominance of its colonies came from the naval dominance across the seas. This naval dominance would not have been possible if London had not developed itself as financial capital of the mercantile economy, where offshore expeditions were able to finance themselves using a well established lending and borrowing market (mercantile banks). This market itself was not possible in the absence of rules and laws governing the interests of borrowers or lenders. In other words, the darn old “law and their proper application (rule of law)” was one of the biggest reasons how Britain surged ahead in the world.

    West did not get here overnight. From Magna Carta to today we are talking some 1,000 years. But we don’t have to reinvent the wheel for the next 1,000 years. Segregating ourselves from the west based on hypothetical West/East divide is going to keep us at the losing end in the future. Regressing back to religious orthodoxy in face of technological assault underpinned by law-abiding societies in the west has been an utter failure for the past few centuries, for a good reason.

  2. Tilsim

    “The British Empire was the greatest empire in human history precisely because the English had disciplined themselves into a realm of laws long before others. While the extravagant absolutists who ruled from Constantinople to Delhi, acting on their whims, even the best of them, the queens and kings of England ruled responsibly, allowing fullest expression to ideas of liberty, citizenship and the social contract. ”

    Yasser, I have been to Hereford Cathedral to see the Magna Carta and Mappa Mundi – what awe inspiring documents they are. However I would put a somewhat different slant on things. I am not belittling the fine English common law tradition which has made such a tremendously positive impact but I think your construct is a little romanticised view of history. Law limiting the rights of rulers existed in ancient Athens. There is also the example of Jewish law. They have also had a profound impact on civilisation.

    Then we come to Islamic law. For several centuries this introduced new legal concepts such as the concept of trusts which were incorporated into the English common law. Islamic law also can lay claims to its share of contribution to civilisation.

    I view despotism, arbitrariness and a paucity of academia/intellectualism, lack of rational discourse and lack of evolution of fiqh in the Islamic world since the middle ages as it’s principle problems for where we are today. The rulers that you mention clearly had more mundane considerations.

  3. ishfaq

    More I read the writings of youthful generation of Pakistanis represented in Pak Tea House, more I am amazed at their clarity of thought, depth of knowledge and above all their courage and boldness. With this kind of people, there is no reason why Pakistan should be where it is now – one of the most dangerous place to be in. As a Bangladeshi and as a South Asian it gives me renewed hope for a Pakistan that is democratic, prosperous, secure and its people happy and contented.

    I strongly believe that a whole generation of Pakistanis, and for that matter most of the Muslims in South Asia, grew up with wrong lessons of history. We all consider ourselves descendants of conquerors from Central Asia or Persia. No one worth his salt would admit to be sons of the soil – converted Hindus or Buddhists. Based on that fallacy Pakistan named its missiles as Abdali, Ghazni or Ghouri.

    I saw the Tajmahal a number of times. While I do admire its architectural beauty, I always felt the pain that we emptied the state coffer on a tomb, while the Brits had Oxford and Cambridge and Newton was giving out his Laws of Physics at the same time. The filth and squalor that we see around Agra was there at that time too amid the opulence of the Mughal palaces.

    Few hundred British soldiers with couple of thousand native Sepoys defeated Nawab Sirajuddowla’s 50,000 strong army in Plassey in 1757. The defeat was inevitable whether Mir Jaffar had conspired or not. By that tine, the British firearms and artillery were many times superior to the Indians’ just because of better metallurgy. While Company’s troops were regulars, the Nawab’s were mostly levees. It is said the British won India by paying the soldiers regularly.

    Anyway, coming back to what YLH said – I concur with him and wish that we have more like him in Pakistan to rise up to reason and enlightenment.

    Ishfaq

  4. krash

    Sharia law was not the word of the ruler but was interpreted by independent jurists and the ruler was subject to it.

  5. Suvrat

    Good article YLH. Rule of law is something South Asia has still not reconciled. Even when there is rule of law, enforcing contracts takes so long that it virtually nullifies the concept. In the middle ages all Indian rulers neglected technology and education and built monuments. Harvard and Taj Mahal are contemporaries and while Harvard has paid rich dividends to US and the world Taj Mahal just attracts a few tourists

  6. YLH

    Krash mian,

    I have gone through the works of independent jurists like shafi, malik, hanbal etc…

    Their rulings could hardly be considered law or atleast anything but ecclesiastical law… For serious commercial and civil law to develop, a separation of law and religion is very necessary.

    This is the reason why Islamic Jurisprudence is so restricted.

  7. stuka

    Excellent write up and equally valid for the Indians who will always point to our history and our culture while ignoring the cesspool of the present day.

  8. stuka

    I especially like the chronological comparison – it makes the point much more effective by comparing apples to apples.

  9. Suvrat

    @Stuka
    Any historical event before 1947 reflects both on India and Pakistan. Nobody denies it

  10. Tilsim

    There is the concept of developing the law and a respect for the rule of law. Neither the rulers nor the ruled paid much heed to the latter – even now.

  11. Tilsim

    Such is the reality of people’s mindset and respect for law….

    ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was hearing petitions challenging the 18th Amendment on Tuesday, DawnNews reported.

    A 17-judge full court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was hearing the petitions challenging certain clauses in the amendment.

    During today’s proceeding, one of the petitioners, Shahid Orakzai, argued against the establishment of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

    Islamabad will have to be made a province before the IHC can be established, Orakzai said.

    The petitioner was also critical of the criterion described in the 18th Amendment for judges’ appointment.

    He further said he would prefer the Holy Quran over the country’s constitution if he had to make a choice between the two. He then tossed a copy of the Constitution to the floor.

    Consequently, Justice Saqib Nisar ordered Shahid Orakzai to seek apology from the court for disrespecting the court and the Constitution. — DawnNews

  12. An Ahmadi Muslim

    A welcome ray of light in the pitch dark that Pakistan has become. Thank you, YHL for being the voice of reason and humanity!

  13. Parvez

    “All England Law Reports — the most reliable record of English case law — date back to 1558. Recorded case law dates back another 400 years prior to that. In 1558, the English began to see the benefit of compiling and publishing case law for easy reference.”
    Middle-easterns started such practices of documentation a thousand years before that. Hadis is just one example of such practices. I won’t even mention Chinese. When are the British going to write their constitution?
    You should know that no large city can exist without set of laws even under a despot.

    English were were essentially pirates, applied same approach to trade and then took over and administered countries for for monetary benefits. End of story.

    By the way, I find Persians lot more civil than English.

    Ahmad Shah Abdali should be compared to Bush or Blair.
    We need some serious educational reform, perhaps, re-education camps.

  14. YLH

    Parvez mian… I have already dealt with the issue of religious and ecclesiastical rulings. The Romans and the “English” have had them since before the common era.

    So the point about hadith is neither here nor there.

  15. AA Khalid

    While I largley agree with the author’s main points in the article, I am concerned about the simplistic dichtomies constructed in terms of ”religious” and ”secular” (in the metaphysical sense of the absence of religious reason).

    The author cites John Locke, and rightly so. All of John Locke’s arguments and theories about freedom of conscience, the basis of authority, the legitimacy of political authority and equality do not stem from a solitary focus on human reason devoid of religious revelation.

    Rather they must be understood as emanating from a revised reinterpretation of Christianity, setting the parameters for a political theology of liberality. Locke recast religious norms, fought the conservatives of his times on their terms and in their idioms and successfully merged liberal ideals with religious legitimacy, to advocate a unique form of governance.

    Locke modified the concept of ”natural law”, a theory present in Christian theology but also in Islamic theology (and in other faiths, and as recently as in the work of Frank va Dun have tried to elaborate secular conceptions of natural law).

    Indeed English jurisprudence greatly assimiliated and modified the concept of natural law to bridge the epistemic differences in religious systems of legal deliberation and secular systems of legal deliberation.

    I will in the future elaborate on this in the form of an article, demonstrating a clear separation of the sacred and secular, law and morality is not totally possible or desirable, in religious societies.

  16. YLH

    The word secular dear sir owes its existence to the concept of “secular clergy” … so in so far as that goes yes it is a revised interpretation of Christianity …

    The million dollar question is whether A A Khalid sb you are going to come up with a revised interpretation of Islam that will catch the fancy of the people enough to allow for a system analogous to Great Britain develop.

    In any event religion in law stifles law in my view and this excuse of “religious” society is merely an excuse to keep us ignorant, dogmatic and backward.

    *** This Message Has Been Sent Using BlackBerry Internet Service from Mobilink ***

  17. PMA

    @ ishfaq (July 20, 2010 at 8:03 pm):

    “We all consider ourselves descendants of conquerors from Central Asia or Persia. No one worth his salt would admit to be sons of the soil – converted Hindus or Buddhists. Based on that fallacy Pakistan named its missiles as Abdali, Ghazni or Ghouri.”

    Dear Ashfaq Sahab: With all due respect, I can not say about Muslims of Bangladesh and of India, but in case of Pakistan what you say is not true. Most Pakistanis identify themselves, that is if they do at all, with their tribal family name and association what ever it is regardless of its origin. In Pakistan there is no stigma attached or for that matter no privilege granted to any one type of family heritage or lineage. Pakistanis are equally proud of their Indo-Ayrian as well as of their Turko-Persian heritage. Missiles were named Abdali, Ghazni or Ghouri as a reaction to names like Prithvi and Agni from the other side. It is part of the ‘shock and awe’ psychological warfare. Being an ex-serviceman you must be knowing it already. You should see the names given to the bombs Americans routinely drop on Af-Pak region these days.

  18. AA Khalid

    Locke belonged to a tradition of liberal Christian thought at the time, which was asking serious questions of itself in terms of the way religion interacted with society. The central dogmas and tenents were left largely intact, but other questions to do with the social role of religion were asked.

    The point I made and this is abundantly clear with the case of John Locke, is unless we wish to enter into the authortarian contradictions of Turkish secularism, religious reason will stay in the public sphere (not because I say so but due to the empirical nature of this fact, see the Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies).

    We can cite the example of liberal Islamic scholar Abdullahi An Naim , who once wrote ”To seek secular answers is simply to abandon the field to the fundamentalists”. Natural law seems to be a viable way which can put ”religious reasons” and ”secular reasons” in critical conversation.

    One must ask why in Pakistan the religious discourse is dominated by radicals, conservatives and fundamentalists.

  19. AA Khalid

    To drive home the point of natural law, this is a very interesting new publication, ”Islamic Natural Law Theories” -Anver M. Emon.

    The thesis:

    ”Islamic Natural Law Theories offers the first sustained jurisprudential inquiry into Islamic natural law theory. It introduces readers to the central figures in the Islamic natural law tradition and their canonical works, analyzes the historical development of Islamic jurisprudence and explains the major contrasts with Western traditions of natural law.

    In popular debates about Islamic law, modern Muslims perpetuate an image of Islamic law as legislated by God, to whom the devout are bound to obey. Reason alone cannot obligate obedience; at most it can confirm or corroborate what is established by source texts endowed with divine authority.

    This book shows, however, that premodern Sunni Muslim jurists were not so resolute. Instead, they asked whether and how reason alone can be the basis for asserting the good and the bad, and thereby justifying obligations and prohibitions under Shari’a. They theorized about the authority of reason amidst competing theologies of God and their implications on moral agency. For them, nature became the link between the divine will and human reason. Nature is the product of God’s willful creation for the benefit of humanity. Since nature is created by God and thereby reflects His goodness, nature is fused with both fact and value. Consequently, as a divinely created good, nature can be investigated to reach both empirical and normative conclusions about the good and bad. They disagreed, however, whether nature’s goodness is a result of God’s justice or grace upon humanity, thus contributing to different theories of natural law.

    By recasting the Islamic tradition of jurisprudence, the book sheds substantial light on an uncharted tradition of natural law theory, and on the proper understanding of Islamic faith. ”

  20. PMA

    A very timely message by Hamadani and equally well-worded rejoinder by Syed.

  21. androidguy

    @PMA,

    Besides the point of this article, however,

    ” Missiles were named Abdali, Ghazni or Ghouri as a reaction to names like Prithvi and Agni from the other side.”

    Prithvi=Earth, and Agni=Fire , in Sanskrit. How does that equate to marauders who looted and killed and raped? Shouldn’t the equivalent (if at all you wanted to go tit for tat, would be to name them persian/arabic equivalents of the five elements of the nature?

  22. YLH

    No. Locke’s Christian values are without question but he was not limited by it. The true end of government makes a lot of things plain.

    Religion has no place in government. State should be impartial to faith. This ridiculous attachment and confusion between the two has messed up Pakistan quite a bit.

    Religion can continue to inform the morality of individuals in public sphere but no religion should get any place of superiority in a state… Here I depart from the English model but even the English model’s unity of church and state at the very top is only symbolic and it is completely secular otherwise.

    If this requires Turkish authoritarianism then so be it but I’d very much prefer if people came to their senses of their own accord.

  23. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    The Islamists appear to believe that Shariah should be the sole basis of the law. See my comment above citing an example of the consitution being thrown on the ground at the Supreme Court today. There are several countries with Muslim majority populations that are secular e.g Syria and Turkey. Many others have parallel systems such as Pakistan, Malaysia. The so called purely traditional Shariah based societies such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan appear to be models most out of sync with the concepts of univeral human rights. There is clearly a diversity of opinion and practice (both modern and ancient) in the Islamic world. Are you advocating a new reformed model of a Shariah based state or a secular constitution informed by religious principles?

  24. PMA

    …..And Khalid (July 20, 2010 at 11:34 pm) has raised a very good question:

    Why in Pakistan the religious discourse is dominated by radicals, conservatives and fundamentalists?

  25. AA Khalid

    I am an advocate of soft secularism, thinkers who are religious liberalists like Locke. I see religion as having a positive influence, but is corrupted if is fused with the State.

    I see religion having proper place in the public sphere, where religious convictions should be allowed to contribute to debates about law and public policy. No privelege should be given to religious convictions however. Coercion should not be acceptable to further religious belief, since this is a contradiction. For belief to be true it has to be free. Coercion breeds hypocrisy (nafiq) which is against the true value of belief which needs to be free to be authentic.

    I see Sharia still having a role, but independent of the State. So I do not subscribe to a ”Sharia state”, this is because of the indeterminate nature of Islamic law. The theory put forward by Abdullahi An Naim in his book ”Islam and the Secular State” is very intrguing and encouraging in this respect.

  26. Tilsim

    “I see Sharia still having a role, but independent of the State. ”

    Thanks for giving your views here again. I was familiar with them from earlier discussions but thought it may be helpful for thread here.

    I find your idea attractive however I want to explore it further a little. What is the exact role of Sharia in such a construct? Sorry for the probing questions but it helps to shed much needed light on a framework for secularism that is particular to Pakistan. You may be our Locke in the making!!

  27. AA Khalid

    Hence authoratarianism whether secular or religious inevitably corrupts the organs of the state, and does not allow a democratic culture, where the convictions of the people can freely interact and exchange ideas can take place.

    As for Sharia being the sole basis of the law, this is an historical fallacy. It is known rulers advanced separate codes of law distinct from the Sharia known as the Qanun. Furthermore custom (urf as it is known in fiqh) had a role in the construction of the law. The notion of a ”pure Sharia” put into place is a myth.

    For me secularity has a minimal meaning, that the State should not have a monopoly over religious expression and religious interpretation. That it should not be coercive in regards to religious belief.

    The real issue is to develop a democratic and liberal public religiosity and public theology, independent of the state to help foster a pluralistic and democratic culture.

    This goes way beyond secularism, and which is why I think the debate on secularism misses the point completely.

    Religious believers can’t and should not expect to win arguments just by appeal to faith, but they need to be able to explain their reasoning and bridge differences hence the use of civic reason.

    It’s the point made recently by Michael Sandel in his book Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? – about enriching public argument by taking more seriously the moral and religious dimensions of people’s convictions and reasoning.

  28. AA Khalid

    ”’What is the exact role of Sharia in such a construct?””

    An Naim’s theory is still very controversial. I advise you to go to his website. He tries to go beyond the contemporary reductionist approach to the Sharia as a series of punishments and envisions it as the moral, ethical and spiritual project of Muslims.

    Sharia principles can still remain in play, and can be a source of inspiration for legislation provided they can be debated and democratically contested and justified through civic reason. Its a delicate model, Sharia principles remain in play, the Sharia is seen as an over-arching moral and ethical path towards spiritual bliss but it cannot be enforced by the State otherwise it ceases to be God’s Will and becomes the expedient will of the State.

  29. AA Khalid

    The heart of this debate is what does the Sharia mean and represent. This is the crucial question.

    Does it mean a postivist and codified state law?

    Or is something more over-arching, a spiritual and moral concept as a mean to deepening the relationship between the believer and God, and as such has to be independent of the State?

    Khaled Abou El Fadl a noted Muslim intellectual advocates the latter. Indeed many scholars from textual analysis of the Quran, in terms of the occassion when the word Shariah occurs in the Quran demonstrate that the Sharia is an ethico-moral and spiritual concept. It means in Arabic, not law but the ”watering path”.

    Its a path of moral and spiritual development and conduct, indeed the way the Sufis interpret the notion of the Sharia (in their poetry) is a beautiful elaboration of this point.

  30. AA Khalid

    I advise you to go to An Naim’s website, where his publications are made free online to download and read:

    http://www.law.emory.edu/aannaim/

  31. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    Thank you, I will certainly do that. I am familiar with Khalid Abou El Fadl’s work and hold him in high regard. Wonderfully, you have given us so many citations now and in the past, I have an ever expanding list of reading material.

    At the moment, in Pakistan, the takeover of religious discourse by Islamists is such that these ideas sound heretical to muslims which is of course utter nonsense. Non-muslims think they are not representative and therefore of little consequence. As we said elsewhere, there is increasing evidence that an Islam centred reformation has begun although still in its infancy. Paradoxically radical Islam and terrorism are giving it the biggest boost!

    Hope it’s not too late for Pakistan. Need to keep up the work to inform and rescue the religion from the abyss.

  32. krash

    Religion has been used as an instrument of coercion through the power of the state. But, the real issue is not religion per se but coercion. Non-religious ideologies have been used for coercion too. There is no justification for anyone to coerce anyone else. I was disappointed to see YLH endorse authoritarianism for secular ends.

  33. Kaalket

    androidguy
    The names of the mizzles represent the coresponding values of the 2 different nations called India and Pakistan. I agree with PMA, this is the part of psychological warfare i.e battle between 2 distinctive psyches of being a defencder against a invader, sons of soil against an alien marauders.

  34. Tilsim

    Authoritarianism certainly gets one results for a period (expeditiously), but in my view eventually things tend to revert to the mean. It requires cooercive power which may result in further loss of individual rights, corruption and stagnation of society.

    To bring about lasting change, it’s important to change the mean and that can only come through public engagement, argumentation, intellectual discourse and ultimately through the demonstration of tangible societal benefits. This requires patience, dedication and consistent effort. We don’t have much of a tradition of these qualities in modern Pakistani culture but perhaps that is changing – difficult to say as there is contradictory evidence.

    I would argue that with the passing away of a generation that was schooled under the British Raj we lost these qualities and our elders were not able to transfer them to coming generations. Impulsiveness, half hearted effort and instant gratification seem to be important characteristics for our national psyche. Maybe these things have a different order in India? Intellectuals need to raise more awareness of this issue. Radical Islam is authoritarian.

    Nothing wrong in borrowing from others rather than reinventing the wheel if it is to our benefit. Actually we do quite a lot of that in Pakistan but are hypocritical about it by condemning the West at the same time.

  35. AZW

    Khalid:

    The western secularism today is an evolution from the European christian society. By nature of evolution, it has retained traces of enlightened Christian society from where thinkers and leaders like Locke and Jefferson rose. The idea of God as the governing body in various western constitutions is a legacy hallmark that points towards the religious societies that evolved to the present ones. I suspect this will change over the coming few decades, not even centuries as the secular ideas have accelerated this evolution in the modern communication age.

    In an ideal world, I would love to see an irreligious secularism where all religions are equal and the same. In practice I recognize that even a moderate Muslim will be extremely uncomfortable being part of society where laws have not an iota of religious influence. I suspect this is what Jinnah recognized as well; he harked back to Islamic ideals while trying his best to instill a soft Muslim secularism. I don’t think this soft secularism will work, as any laws that are sympathetic to one creed are likely to be exploited over time. But the option otherwise is equally unlikely to take place if it could ever take off. Talk about a catch 22 situation.

    Tilsim:

    Your comment about the previous generation that lost the patience and forbearance of their parents generations is very valid. It is my view as well that 1 to 1-1/2 generations before us (born between 1920 to 1950) badly mangled the tolerant sufi version of Islam practised in India with a poisonous political Islam that was almost unrecognizable to their ancestors. This generation was supremely unclear about what to do with Pakistan and seldom asked itself tough questions.

  36. AZW

    Futher to my comment at 7:23 PM on July 20 regarding the massive inequality present in the golden Mughal age: This was the time of rulers having all to themselves, being the laws themselves and 99% of the society living in wretched conditions, going nowhere for seemingly forever.

    Abraham Eraly in his book “Mughal India; India’s Tainted Paradise” writes:

    “Mughal society was starkly unequal and pitilessly exploitative. In the reign of Shah Jahan, 36.5% of the entire assessed revenue was assigned to sixty-eight princes and amirs, and a further twenty-five percent to the next 587 officers, so that 61.5 percent of the total revenue of 220 million rupees of the empire was arrogated by just 655 individuals. The distribution of income was even more unequal in the reign of Akbar, when the top twenty-five took over thirty percent of the total revenue.

    …. The magnitude of these appropriations astounds us all the more when we consider that the revenue claim of the state was between 1/3rd and ½ of the gross national product of the empire – which meant in the reign of Shah Jahan at least about a quarter of the gross national product of the Mughal Empire was appropriated by less than 700 persons out of a population of over 120 million! The people of India, says Sir Thomas Roe, “lives as fishes do in the sea – the great ones eat up the little. For first the farmer robs the peasant, the gentleman robs the farmer, the greater robs the lesser, and the King robs all”.

  37. Hayyer

    A A Khalid:

    “The real issue is to develop a democratic and liberal public religiosity and public theology, independent of the state to help foster a pluralistic and democratic culture.”

    You are talking of belief here I think. You believe that religion in public life can and should prevail independent of Government laws, which sounds fine, except for defining what public religiosity is. Also how does an exclusivist faith become pluralistic and democratic.

    “Sharia principles can still remain in play, and can be a source of inspiration for legislation provided they can be debated and democratically contested and justified through civic reason. Its a delicate model, Sharia principles remain in play, the Sharia is seen as an over-arching moral and ethical path towards spiritual bliss but it cannot be enforced by the State otherwise it ceases to be God’s Will and becomes the expedient will of the State.”

    What is a democratic contest here. It is no contest actually given the fact that only some scholars can even hope to define and debate the sharia. Once you make it the source of inspiration for legislation you are not far from Zia. For every one A A Khalid there are probably twenty Alims who think differently. Just look at Iran. It is a no contest. What happened to Montazeri.

    Delicate model is right. You hope for an opening where the delicate model might just condense from the ether but faced with more robust practitioners of the those wispy clouds would soon disappear.

    Why can’t that over arching moral and ethical path towards spiritual bliss be privately sought instead of looking for a debate in the public sphere of the state. The public sphere is the state. Beyond that is the media, also in the public sphere. It is only a short step to razakars enforcing the moral and ethical path. It looks the start of the slippery slope to me.

    “The heart of this debate is what does the Sharia mean and represent. This is the crucial question.
    Does it mean a postivist and codified state law?
    Or is something more over-arching, a spiritual and moral concept as a mean to deepening the relationship between the believer and God, and as such has to be independent of the State?…………..
    Indeed many scholars from textual analysis of the Quran, in terms of the occassion when the word Shariah occurs in the Quran demonstrate that the Sharia is an ethico-moral and spiritual concept. It means in Arabic, not law but the ”watering path”.

    All the more reason to keep the debate entirely private.

  38. Hayyer

    please read ‘art’ after ‘more robust practitioners of the’ above

  39. Bade Miyan

    PMA,
    “Missiles were named Abdali, Ghazni or Ghouri as a reaction to names like Prithvi and Agni ”

    Ironically, Abdali caused greatest harm to present day Pakistan and Ghazni et al. would trample the area now known as Pakistan before they would get into the hinterland. Isn’t this a case of cutting your nose to spite your face?

  40. Raj (the other one)

    Regarding the names of Indian missiles
    Prithvi, Agni these were supposed to be the names of the elements in Hindi, EARTH and FIRE, and not the names of Hindu kings.

  41. Bade Miyan

    Ylh,
    “Thus, while Aurangzeb Alamgir was getting his brother trampled under an elephant and having his elderly father’s eyes gouged out”

    That’s a sloppy bit of history. There is no record of Aurangzeb getting his brother trampled or gouging Shah Jehan’s eyes. I wonder where you got your information. I commend you for the rest of the piece though. I think Muslim rule in India was primary sustained on trade and manufacturing and they had outsourced scientific study to Baghdad, which after the attack by the Mongols, slowly gave away its scientific thought and process of inquiry. Mathematics and science began to be considered a lower “Hindu” art. Substantial minds of the day became obsessed with inventing clever Persian phrases, which though very pleasing, could never make up for the scientific stagnation. So while big madrassas came up, notably one at Jaunpur, but they were primarily concerned with the Islamic jurisprudence.

    In some sense we are still doing it now. Even after all the so-called economic progress, it would be hard to find a modern product that can be exclusively assigned to our subcontinent.

  42. Gorki

    The other day there were some people questioning the value of liberal arts and humanities in education. It was argued that since science subjects; physics chemistry, math etc. were enough to get a decent job in the today’s economy, it was unimportant to study anything else.
    I would recommend the article above as an argument against that line of reasoning. Even if one were to overlook the substance of the message itself, (I personally agree with it wholeheartedly) I suggest it should be read by every Indian and Pakistani on the PTH for its style.
    If the author had not written the article under his own name, it would be hard to believe that it was written by a South Asian, much less by a Muslim and a Pakistani.
    It is refreshingly free of any preconceived notions that most educated ignorant types accept as given; Eastern ‘greatness’ versus the ordinariness of the West, the superiority of structure and institutions over heroes and personalities deified in much of South Asia. There is no effort made to connect morality or justice to any religious dogma. The arguments are made forcefully yet dispassionately comparing civilizations and cultures to reach a solid conclusion; lasting civilization can only be built upon rule of law.
    No math or physics wizard, no matter how gifted, can possibly bring such unbiased clarity of arguments nor the breadth of information that comes from training in humanities.
    Education that focuses solely on memorizing theorems and laws of the natural world can not provide the critical thinking skills needed for such original essays.
    YLH possess a very sharp mind; his apparent knowledge and reasoning skills makes him a very persuasive writer. I hope more young people can learn to emulate him. Such skills are sorely needed; on both sides of the Radcliff line.

  43. Gorki

    AZW

    Excellent points.
    It would be nice if you could spare a few moments someday to highlight the economic history\trajectory of South Asia before, during and after the British rule.

  44. libertarian

    @YLH: thanks for a very informative piece.

    I take issue with your characterization of Akbar in particular. Yes, he was The Law. But he did not have the benefit of 500 years of critical political thought and system-building to stand on. For the hand he was dealt, by most accounts he did a spectacular job. Jared Diamond, in “Guns, Germs and Steel”, makes the case that Europe’s geographical divisions leading to it’s deep political divisions and the dynamic of competing political systems. This (in his very persuasive view) causes inevitable advancement in political thought and wartime and peacetime technology. India (and China too) because of it’s geography tends to be a winner-take-all deal. The absence of competing ideas leads to inevitable long-term stagnation. So it’s possible that Akbar was an individual genius but the British just had a better system, honed over hundreds of years. No knock on Akbar personally, but a serious knock on India’s inability to “let a thousand flowers bloom”. Aurangzeb, in contrast, was a wack-job. .

    Today, with a free flow of ideas, and clear “best practices”, no nation-state has an excuse to not make the changes necessary. The thrust of your article is spot-on – ” … our attempts to stall progress by hiding behind non-existent ‘Eastern values’ and religious excuses is simply indicative of our inability to accept change”

    Seems what Pakistanis lack most is enduring hope. With my limited imagination, I cannot see the current system allow the necessary change. A catastrophic/revolutionary change seems a pre-requisite.

  45. Bade Miyan

    Gorki,
    While I am not going to comment on the rather unbridled praise you have showered on the article, I must say that calling this piece as “original” would be stretching things a little too far. It’s commendable, however, that someone has reminded us of the superiority of institutions.

    “Education that focuses solely on memorizing theorems and laws of the natural world can not provide the critical thinking skills needed for such original essays.”

    That is a bit hasty. Ideally, you are not supposed to “memorize” the theorems and laws. It should flow from logic and rational thought. What you have said is more a fault of the way science is taught, not the subject per se. At higher levels, science and philosophy don’t differ significantly. The critical thought underpinning both these streams is quite similar.

    You should get your hands on “A Mathematician’s Apology” by GH Hardy.

    “No math or physics wizard, no matter how gifted, can possibly bring such unbiased clarity of arguments ”

    I am rather surprised at such a grand generalization. If you wish, I can furnish some names that buck that trend. We could start with Descartes.

  46. YLH

    Libertarian … The point was not to denigrate Akbar the great Mughal.

    However Akbar was just another ruler with God complex. One stands with Dullah Bhatti on such issues instead of looking from the top.

    *** This Message Has Been Sent Using BlackBerry Internet Service from Mobilink ***

  47. OMLK

    @ylh

    Excellent article. You mentioned Aga Khan, and having seen first hand the work done by the Agha Khan Rural Support Program in the Northern Areas, one cannot help but admire the same. The Jammat e Islami position of calling him a lackey is just….sickening (and typical). What has the JI done for the masses? While the Agha Khan’s foundation is doing wonderful work in the community. It is facianting to see little irrigation pipes snaking across mountains (while the rest of Pakistan continues to lose precious water in aging canals), little hydel power plants churning out electricity for the village, and the above average rate of literacy.

  48. AA Khalid

    @ Hayyer

    You raise valid and searching questions.

    On the issue of the public sphere and the State. The public sphere is not synomonous with the State. The public sphere is conceptually distinct form the State in political theory, yes there is a link between the two, but the two are not the same.

    The type of secularism you advocate a very French, and hard unforgiving sort of secularism is counter-productive. Since we then leave the terrain of religious interpretation to radicals and fundamentalists. It creates a vacuum, where this discourse is pushed to the margins of society.

    I think soft secularism manages to protect the integrity and neutrality of the State but yet accomodates the religious sensibilities of the people in allowing religious convictions free expression in the public sphere. It allows moral and religious arguments to take place in the moral sphere provided public and civic reason can scrutinise and analyse these arguments.

  49. AA Khalid

    Hard secularism becomes intolerant of religious convictions operating in the public sphere. However, soft secularism recognizes that truth is obscure, human beings are fallible hence tolerance and pluralism are required, with discussions on issues such as faith valid in the public sphere.

    Hard secularism is impossible to establish in Pakistan since as Peter Berger and other contemporary sociologists point out it requires the secularization of consciousness among citizens.

    For hard secularism to take root, people’s religious convictions must die out, and an agnostic mindset can take its place. Otherwise the project of hard secularism becomes authoratarian.

    Soft secularism on the other hand is more versatile.

  50. bonobashi

    @Gorki

    The other day there were some people questioning the value of liberal arts and humanities in education. It was argued that since science subjects; physics chemistry, math etc. were enough to get a decent job in the today’s economy, it was unimportant to study anything else.
    I would recommend the article above as an argument against that line of reasoning. Even if one were to overlook the substance of the message itself, (I personally agree with it wholeheartedly) I suggest it should be read by every Indian and Pakistani on the PTH for its style.
    If the author had not written the article under his own name, it would be hard to believe that it was written by a South Asian, much less by a Muslim and a Pakistani.

    And is YLH a natural scientist, that this article disproves that argument? Perhaps you might have omitted to notice, in your haste to trounce the traducers of the professional, the man’s own social science (Economics) background.

  51. bonobashi

    @Gorki

    I’m sorry, I seem to have got your arguments back to front. You may assign this error to a forced choice of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics with Additional Mathematics during school, to the exclusion of other preferred topics.

  52. AA Khalid

    ”’Once you make it the source of inspiration for legislation you are not far from Zia””

    No the difference is quiet sizeable. Zia tried to centralise, codify and bring the discourse of Sharia under total and utter state control. He used the coercive nature of the State to foster religioisity. He undermined the independent integrity of the Sharia.

    There is practically no epistemological similarity between Zia’s authortarian project and the liberal-juristic project some Muslim intellectuals have proposed which I was talking about. The only basic difference is that we engage with the Sharia, but that’s where the simlarity ends.

    In the model I was talking about the clergy have no priveleged place, they are entitled to enter the public sphere within the democratic discourse and public discussion but should not expect their views to be automatically accepted or given special treatment.

  53. Talha

    Excellent write up,

    We are led to believe tales of peace and prosperity in our collective past. But these seem to be exagerrated claims of a nation that is trying to justify its Islamisation by providing false examples of previous rules.

    Technically speaking, one should follow an example that they have around them, not some fictious tale of past glories which seems to be dubious at best.

    We should take heed from others and follow their pattern in order to emerge as a prosperous and progressive nation.

  54. bciv

    they are entitled to enter the public sphere within the democratic discourse and public discussion but should not expect their views to be automatically accepted or given special treatment.

    they enter the public sphere and then they call you a murtad and kafir and an enemy of god. have you lynched or hounded out. how do you argue with god and those who claim to speak for him and label you an enemy of god? how is that recognisable as any kind of meaningful debate or rational discourse? without god being equal to other participants in the debate, and – ideally – speaking for himself if he must, how can you have a fair debate?

    this might be people abusing or misusing religion or god. but how can you guarantee that they won’t?

    indeed, it is the state’s job to ensure law and order and not allow any breach of the peace (nor of the law). but a ‘soft secular’ state is that much more likely to lose its nerve under the threat of being labelled a murtad and kafir state than a ‘hard secular’ one.

  55. AA Khalid

    ”but how can you guarantee that they won’t?’

    The fact that the clerics will have no political power and will not be priveleged by the State means their threats (in the case they do threaten) will be insignificant and can count as disrupting the public order.

    If the clerics have no political power they cannot threaten. The State can step in when the rights of others are being impinged upon by others, and if clerics impinge on the rights of other citizens because of the misuse of their rights they can be penalised.

    A ”soft” and ”hard” secular state both emphasize the institutional divide between Religion and State, the difference is in attitudes to the public sphere.

  56. YLH

    Pakistan was a “soft” secular state which buckled under that pressure. Turkey didn’t. Hence the difference.

  57. AA Khalid

    ”Pakistan was a “soft” secular state which buckled under that pressure. Turkey didn’t”’.

    The story is more complex than that, and we sometimes exaggerate the issue of secularism at the expense of democracy. The two are not the same.

    Soft secularism (constitutional secularism itself) never took off in Pakistan, hence the frenzy of the ”Islamic State” and ”Islamic Republic”. Even under the notion of soft secularism, a state religion, and a religious state is unfeasible.

  58. YLH

    By all legal definitions Pakistan was a “soft secular state” from 1947-1956…

    Constitutional secularism did not sustain because of the “soft” nature of Pakistani secularism, so susceptible to assault by “pakistan ka matlab kiya” confusion.

  59. YLH

    One must admit a glaring mistake if one makes it…

    It wasn’t Robert Clive… but Governor General Warren Hastings who was taken to task by Edmund Burke.

  60. bciv

    Even under the notion of soft secularism, a state religion, and a religious state is unfeasible.

    if ‘soft’ secularism means the Objectives’ Resolution, then we know what follows – both quickly and eventually. If the OR has no place in secularism, ‘soft’ or ‘hard’, then what we had before that was jinnah’s august 11 speech and the GoI of 1935. i don’t know if you consider either to be incompatible with ‘soft’ secularism.

  61. Majumdar

    Yasser Pai,

    One must admit a glaring mistake if one makes it etc…

    And also about Alamgir sb gouging out his father’s eyes or trampling his brother under elephants as bade miyan pointed out.

    Regards

  62. YLH

    Well Dara Shikoh’s head and an elephant were involved in the nasty transaction according to Abraham Eraly’s “Great Mughals”. Good enough for me.

    As for Shah Jahan’s eyes being gouged out …I am not the first person to claim this. This has been claimed by many people.

  63. Majumdar

    Yasser Pai,

    As for Shah Jahan’s eyes being gouged out …I am not the first person to claim this. This has been claimed by many people.

    You will believe any tale fabricated against Moslems, that’s all.

    Regards

  64. Tilsim

    @YLH

    Turkey is buckling now so no guarantees.

    In any case, it’s more realistic to think that Pakistanis may be more comfortable with accepting a soft secular state over time (hopefully asap) than become a hard secular state through a revolution. This comfort would be derived from at least some historic familiarity with that concept (even though it was a very poor experience).

    If there was ever a revolution, the result is likely to be an Islamist dictatorship (based on the evidence that is around us) rather than a hard secular state.

    As I see it, I think the current trajectory is towards more and more Islamic radicalism of the mainstream public opinion – although Pakistani democracy is a welcome change and provides a positive counter narrative and the courts are providing some outlet to public frustrations.

  65. PMA

    Dear Khalid Sahab:

    In a very short period you have contributed substantially to this site. Here at PTH we been used to the generic brand of “secularism” which has meant different things to different people. Your introduction of the terms like “soft secularism” and “hard secularism” adds new meanings to the discourse.

    We have understood Mustafa Kemal Pasha – the Ata-e-Turk as a secularist. Perhaps under the definition he could be further classified as “hard secularist” and our own Baba-e-Pak Mohammad Ali Jinnah as “soft secularist”. While Turkey in one hundred years has moved from the position of “hard secularism” to “soft secularism” we in Pakistan under Bhutto, Zia, Benazir and Nawaz have moved from “soft secularism” to a “soft-theocracy”. What lasting impact Musharraf and the follow-ups will have on our national life is perhaps too early to say. My hope is that we move back to “soft secularism”. Thanks.

  66. YLH

    I wrote about the secularism with a small s and secularism with a capital S.

    Also the difference between Ataturk’s secularism and Jinnah’s secularism.

    I have nothing against soft secularism except that it does not work against Islamist tyranny.

  67. PMA

    Majumdar (July 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm, and July 21, 2010 at 4:08 pm):

    What is your problem sir. Must you always be a stickler.

  68. Tilsim

    In Pakistan we have propaganda masquerading as history. We are not interested in history. We are interested in propaganda. The Islamists are particularly programmed that way but there is no exclusivity.

  69. Raj (the other one)

    What I see here is a nice theoretical exercise. At least on the Internet ‘soft secular’ Islam will live and survive, well in the archives at least.

    Jiska danda, ussi ki bhains!

    The Islamic extremists have guns, lots of guns. The Pakistani Army has a cadre rising to the highest ranks in a few years, who would be the children of the Zia Revolution. They too would be Islamic extremists. They too have guns, lots of guns.

    It is their versions of Islam, which will become the dominant version. Even today, Deobandis are chewing the Barelvis, the Ahl-e-Hadees are chewing up the Deobandis. Within 15 years, Pakistan would be a completely Talibanized society.

    The Pakistani Liberals’ solution consists of moderating the fire that burns in Islam, but the Islamists would always have more oil than the few drops of water the liberals bring along.

    Moderation has only existed in Islam either where it was recently introduced and the local pre-Islamic populace was of moderate world view (soft-secularism) or if some enlightened general forced moderation (hard secularism).

    The Pakistanis are way down the road for a soft-secularism and the power-than-be are too vested to the system for the enlightened general to appear.

    All this ijtihad is only for the books and blogs but has no meaning on the ground. Face the facts. Islam in Pakistan will only become more extreme. Accept it. The only contribution you can make is to treat your wives a little better.

  70. AA Khalid

    There is misunderstanding. Soft secularism does not mean that the State buckles under pressure from religious forces. It means that yes there is an absolute and uncompromising division between religion and State. In this respect hard and soft secularism are the same in regards to the nature of the State.

    The public sphere and the State are two different things, the confusion lies in confusing and conflating the two.

    However, the difference is the attitude towards the public sphere. I think soft secularism has a more democratic attitude to the public sphere when it comes to religiously based convictions than hard secularism.

  71. AA khalid

    Our grasp of secularity has to be mindful of diversity and different perpsectives in the paradigmatic analysis of religion and state (if you introduce the public sphere, it can be seen as a tripartite relationship).

    There is no one ”secularism”, yes there are some key principles but there can be different models as contemporary sociologists and political theorists have noted.

  72. YLH

    Raj mian no religion – certainly not Islam- will continue to have the hold you imagine- nay want – it to have.

    Pakistan’s future is a normal secular society just like every confessional state in Europe ultimately went secular.

  73. Raj (the other one)

    The problem in ijtihad is not winning the theological argument, but rather having the necessary muscle on the street.

    As long as the moderates do not have the street power, nothing is going to happen.

    If the extremists push you, you have to push back!

  74. Gorki

    Dear Vajra, Bade Miyan:

    In my effort to make a point about the weakness of our education system I wrote a small post in haste which itself was not very clear (perhaps demonstrating my own lack of training in humanities😉 ).
    Therefore when I wrote the following “No math or physics wizard, no matter how gifted, can possibly bring such unbiased clarity of arguments nor the breadth of information that comes from training in humanities” I did not mean to imply that math training somehow stunts critical thinking in humanities (Bertrand Russell is an excellent example) but rather that an education that focuses solely on developing one’s skills in crunching numbers leaves one unschooled in ideas and concepts that require a knowledge of the wider human experience and historical background.

    My post was indeed meant to be read with the qualifiers that BM suggested. More specifically, I do not have a problem with teaching Physics Chemistry Math etc. but with teaching those solely while minimizing the need for humanities and liberal arts.
    Also, in addition to having a problem with what is not taught, I have a problem with how the subjects are taught (as BM suggested). There was an article published recently, I think in the Newsweek which mentioned that while India produced more engineers than the US, only one third of those received the same quality of education and as a result many lacked the skill sets needed in today’s economy. An extreme opinion held by some is that even the much admired IITs produce tech leaders not because they provide good education but because they have entrance exams that are very competitive and thus are an excellent way to select out exceptional students.
    Most education even in higher levels in India (Pakistan?) is based on memorizing a large number of facts and figures handed down and internalized uncritically.
    The result is that in technical fields we produce technicians and rather than leaders in science.
    The record is much worse in humanities and as a result we produce citizens and many leaders who substitute emotion to deal with situations which need rational thinking. The recent controversy about Jaswant Singh’s book is a glaring but not an isolated example. We routinely ban ‘controversial’ books to keep peace and yell loudly when someone says something not in line with the official historic hagiography. A few years ago Manmohan Singh very mildly praised the British rule in India while at an official function at Nehru’s former alma mater and was roundly criticized before he beat a hasty retreat. Other examples abound.

    I believe such an education and consequently the way of thinking is inadequate and needs to be rethought. We should raise students and citizens who can calmly understand our own history including the effect of Islamic ideas, the Mughal\Afghan experience in much of North India and specifically the British rule in the context of the larger human experience.
    It was in this frame of mind I asked AZW to write about the economic evolution of India under the British rule.
    I believe there are valuable lessons there.

    Regards.

  75. bciv

    Turkey is buckling now so no guarantees.

    the first lady wearing or not wearing a scarf is not what a secular state is necessarily about. other than govt’s failed attempt at lifting the head scarves on campus ban, what real evidence do we have of this alleged ‘buckling’? but what real evidence do we have of the actual diluting or amendment of the Turkish version of laicite?

    in france, head scarves are banned in schools, not in universities. both the turkish and french states fund religious educational institutions (sunni and catholic, respectively).

  76. libertarian

    YLH, Pakistan’s future is a normal secular society just like every confessional state in Europe ultimately went secular.

    I sincerely hope so. The challenge to the status quo will likely come from something the current dispensation does not even see. One possibility: the sudden and dramatic increase in mobile connectivity. The fallout of 80-90% of the population that is addressable by SMS cannot be underestimated. It could serve as a basis for grassroots political activism for someone who can pull it together.

    Not sure if the folks at PTH are politically active. Folks like you are a crying need in Pakistan today. The political spectrum is currently Far Right and Even Further Right. Centrist and Left-of-Center ideas are completely missing from the discourse. Even though I subscribe to Even Further Right, I understand the need for checks and balances. You guys do a great job of articulating those positions.

  77. YLH

    Pakistan’s mobile connectivity is 55 percent of the population.

    For 170 million population we have 95 million cell phone connections.

    Pakistan has one of the highest densities of cell phone users in the world.

    It doesn’t help.

  78. libertarian

    Pakistan has one of the highest densities of cell phone users in the world.

    It’s an enabler that did not exist before.

    It doesn’t help.

    Too early to say. The serendipities and (positive) unintended consequences are still to be discovered. Here’s an example of venture capitalist with access to big money salivating over the possibilities.

  79. Tilsim

    @bciv
    It’s true secularism is not buckling (and initial fears are not panning out) but hard secularism – where all possibility of political expression of religion is strictly kept out from state institutions is buckling in my view.

    As one piece of anecdotal evidence, see below the reaction of the Army top brass to appointment of Pres. Gul from AKP (the islamic secularist party) to the post of President in 2007.

    “In Kayseri, the town where Mr Gul was born, crowds celebrated around an Ottoman fortress where giant portraits of the new president and Ataturk hung side by side.

    But amid the euphoria, tensions were already surfacing between Mr Gul and the army, which lobbied hard to prevent his presidency. In an ominous sign, the top brass boycotted his oath-taking ceremony.

    A day earlier, General Yasar Buyukanit, the chief of general staff, aired his displeasure about the expected outcome of the vote. He spoke of “sinister plans” and “dens of evil” that were bent on eroding secularism and the unitary nature of the Turkish state.

    The armed forces would not hesitate to continue in their duty of “safeguarding the Turkish republic”, he added.

    Mr Gul’s earlier bid for the presidency in April failed after millions of pro-secular Turks protested.”

  80. PMA

    Gorki (July 21, 2010 at 9:18 pm):

    Sir, yours is the voice of reason as always. Please allow me to cut & paste:

    “We [in India] should raise students and citizens who can calmly understand our own history including the effect of Islamic ideas, the Mughal/Afghan experience in much of North India”

    Judging from most of the comments posted here at PTH by the Indian commenters regarding Muslim period of India, your advise is not misplaced. As you have said, Indians must analyse that particular period of their history rationally and with calm understanding. Dismissing Muslim rulers of the past simply as despots and marauder will not do. One must go beyond one’s own raw emotions.

  81. Bin Ismail

    @Tilsim (July 22, 2010 at 12:01 am)

    Turkey does indeed provide a good case to be studied by Pakistan. While the challenge before Ataturk was to dismantle the pro-theocratic environment, the challenge in front of Jinnah was to prevent the genesis of such an environment in the newly-born state. It is interesting to note that without the involvement of the Turkish Military, the resilience of the politically ambitious clergy could not be neutralized.

    More recently, Bangla Desh has performed the most impressive, in fact admirable feat – first the reversal of the 5th amendment and then banning of Maudoodis books.

  82. mubarak

    @ bin ismail

    Pakistan should definitely follow in Bangladesh’s footsteps.

  83. Bade Miyan

    Mubarak,
    How about Indonesia? I am surprised no one has mentioned it as yet.

  84. PMA

    Bin Ismail:

    Sir, while I agree with you that here in Pakistan we must study Turkey as a case history in order to understanding our own political developments, I will like you to re-examine your ‘July 22, 2010 at 6:26 am’ post.

    Ataturk (1923) did not simply set out “to dismantle the pro-theocratic environment” as you have put it but to modernise what ever was left of the Ottoman (Usmania) Empire. In 1923-24 Turkey there was no theocratic or pro-theocratic environment to be dismantled. There was no “politically ambitious clergy” in 1923 Turkey. Ataturk did not face any such challenge.

    Similarly Jinnah, even though initially opposed by some sections of the clergy, did not have a “theocratic” challenge to face. By 1947 Pakistan areas of the Empire were already being run under a modern European-English system. All of her institutions were set and running on modern lines. The Islamist challenge comes later in post-Jinnah years.

    While Turkey after independence moved from backwardness to modernity, Pakistan after independence moved from modernity to backwardness. In the post-colonial period, (1960s onward) the rulers of newly independent Muslim states from North Africa to Far East aligned themselves with their former colonial masters and in many cases became their neo-colonial cohorts. Islamist Movements through out the Muslim World were born as a reaction of this development. Turkey and Pakistan were no exception, even though with different results.

    And about banning of Jamaat-e-Islami material in Bangladesh. It is more for the political reasons than for the religious reasons. Banning books will not solve the political problems of that country.

  85. Bin Ismail

    @PMA (July 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm)

    1.”…..While Turkey after independence moved from backwardness to modernity, Pakistan after independence moved from modernity to backwardness…..”

    Agreed. Turkey was able to move “from backwardness to modernity” because its leadership was able to neutralize the ever-aspiring pro-backwardness clergy. Pakistan’s movement, on the other hand was retrogressive. Why? Because the leadership failed in neutralizing the clergy, whose negative influence thereafter increased exponentially.

    The mainstay of the Turkish Sultanate/Caliphate was the extremely influential clergy. Even as the Sultanate/Caliphate ceased to exist, the latent pro-theocratic forces carried on until they were systematically dismantled by Ataturk. This was quickly followed by Turkey’s movement from, as you’ve put it, “backwardness to modernity”.

    2. “…..Banning books will not solve the political problems of that country…..”

    If the books promote religious intolerance and bigotry and coercion, there banning would indeed help solve a lot of political and societal problems.

  86. Tilsim

    Bade Miyan
    July 22, 2010 at 8:25 am

    “How about Indonesia? I am surprised no one has mentioned it as yet.”

    Indonesia: Essay: “Is secularism a choice?” by Ali Noer Zaman
    Source: Common Ground News Service
    “Indonesia in the post-Suharto era has maintained the Pancasila, a political ideology comprised of the belief in one God, humanity, the unity of Indonesia, democracy and social justice. However, demands for the implementation of shari’a remain audible…”
    “During his one-month visit to Indonesia between July and August 2007, Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, a Sudanese Muslim intellectual who now teaches at Emory School of Law in the United States, campaigned for Muslim countries to adopt a secular system of governance. In this system, the state is not based on specific religious teachings, whose interpretations, he argues, are monopolised by the authority. The state would also not intervene in the religious beliefs and practices of its subjects, with the possible exception of donating aid to religious institutions.
    An-Na’im disagrees with the efforts of those political and social organisations that champion for the adoption of shari’a, a political system based on Islamic principles. He believes that shari’a is based on time-bound religious interpretations from scholars of previous eras. These antiquated interpretations have many shortcomings, such as the relegation of women and non-Muslims to the role of second-class citizens in society.
    Indeed, the debate over secular versus Islamic states in the Muslim world is not a new one, and has raged on since the abolishment of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924. In Egypt, the Islamic scholar Ali Abdul al-Raziq provoked controversy with his book Islam wa Ushul al Hukm (Islam and the Fundamentals of Government), in which he stated that the main message of the Prophet Muhammad has to do only with religious matters, while mundane affairs are relegated to the ummah (Muslim community). He rejected the unification of religious and administrative affairs under the control of a caliph who serves as a successor to the Prophet.

    It is likely not by chance that An-Naim chose to make this speech in Indonesia, a country with a long history of secular nationalism that still struggles with calls for the implementation of a state governed by religious laws.

    Sukarno (1901-1970), the first president of the Republic of Indonesia and a secular nationalist, was the first Indonesian Muslim leader who triggered the discourse on the separation of religion from politics, rejecting Islam as political ideology, and preferring secular democracy as a foundation for the country’s government. For him, Islam within a secular state would not be marginalised, but would instead function as the moral force of the Muslim community.

    In response, Muhammad Natsir (1908-1993), an Indonesian scholar known for his Islamist orientation, believed that Islam and the state are inextricably linked; the first being an ideology of the second. In practice, the state has to be controlled by the Muslim authority because it is a medium through which to implement Islamic orders, such as those regulating zakat (alms), religious marriage and the banning of alcohol and adultery.

    As Suharto’s New Order administration (1967-1998) reinforced modernisation, the Muslim community in general suspected it as having a hidden agenda to mitigate the role of Islam in socio-political life. To get out of the deadlock, the young thinker Nurcholish Madjid (1939-2005) made a breakthrough by proposing the idea that Islamic values could be realised through spiritual and cultural development. Categorising Islam as a political ideology would only trap the religion in political interest conflicts. In his words: Islam, yes; Islamic political parties, no.

    Indonesia in the post-Suharto era has maintained the Pancasila, a political ideology comprised of the belief in one God, humanity, the unity of Indonesia, democracy and social justice. However, demands for the implementation of shari’a remain audible as many Muslim social organisations seek to integrate facets of shari’a by hiding them within an amendment to chapter 29 of the 1945 constitution, which says that the Muslim community should practice its religion fully and through local regulations.

    In a 2002 national survey conducted by the Centre for Research of Islam and Community at Syarif Hidayatullah State University, Indonesia’s Muslim community also demonstrated growing interest in an Islamic state. In this study, for example, 71% of respondents supported the implementation of shari’a in Indonesia. However, it is worth noting that only 33% agreed with cutting off a thief’s hand as punishment for stealing, which some would argue is a quintessential example of shari’a at work. These findings indicate that though the majority of respondents diverge in their understanding of what shari’a, would look like.

    In addition, the result of the democratic elections of 1999 and 2004 suggest that the majority of Indonesians are still loyal to nationalist secular parties such as the Golkar Party, also known as the Party of the Functional Groups, and the Indonesian Democratic Party of the Struggle, instead of Islamic-based parties such as the United Development Party and the Prosperous Justice Party.

    Also, a national poll conducted by the Indonesian Survey Institute earlier in October revealed decreased support for Islamic radical organisations such as the Jamaat Islamiah, Defenders Front for Islam, Indonesian Hizbut Tahrir and the Indonesian Martyrs Council for a variety of reasons, including the lack of financial resources and the incapability to translate Islamic values into socio-political movements.

    If these polling results are any indication, Indonesia is unlikely to become an Islamic state anytime in the near future.”

    23 October 2007

    Ali Noer Zaman is a writer on socio-religious issues. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews)

    Another interesting blog on this topic:

    http://www.indonesiamatters.com/495/separation-of-state-religion/

  87. Tilsim

    Some light relief cross posted from an Indonesian blog..

    Riyoz Says:

    March 18th, 2008 at 1:53 pm
    “Hence despite islam being mentioned as a religion of Peace, the followers did exactly the opposite.
    Despite the Christians saying that Jesus spread Love, their followers did exactly opposite.”

    hmmm….is it possible that it’s the people, not the religion ?…for to know that a religion is a peaceful religion or not you may have to study it’s core teachings directly from it’s source….that is the holy books….coz’ there are many, many bad and good people in this planet regardless of what their beliefs/religions are….and we cannot judge beliefs/religions just by looking at the actions of the adherents…..

    just because a man who has a very bad driving skills, crashed while driving a ferrari, this doesn’t mean that a ferrari is not a good sport car does it ?….and I think, the same principles apply for religions/beliefs….

    Shorty Says:

    March 18th, 2008 at 8:32 pm
    valid point riyoz. the compounding problem is that these ‘bad drivers’ believe we all should drive ferraris, and that they have the god given right to crash into anyone driving something else.

    Shorty Says:

    March 18th, 2008 at 8:35 pm
    ps. people secure in their faith don’t fear, and can tolerate different beliefs.

    dewaratugedeanom Says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 4:08 pm
    Riyoz said

    just because a man who has a very bad driving skills, crashed while driving a ferrari, this doesn’t mean that a ferrari is not a good sport car does it ?”¦.and I think, the same principles apply for religions/beliefs”¦.

    But Ferraris, and in fact most cars, are constantly scrutinized to become better and safer while some religions – and you certainly know which one I mean – are not allowed to change because some prophet once proclaimed that his book was perfect and detailed for all times and that no one could come after him.
    Would you still drive an obsolete car only because it’s brand name is Ferrari?

    Beter put it on the scrap heap of history.

    Riyoz Says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 8:29 pm
    “ps. people secure in their faith don’t fear, and can tolerate different beliefs”

    Yap, you’re absolutely right…I agree…:)

    Riyoz Says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 8:31 pm
    “But Ferraris, and in fact most cars, are constantly scrutinized to become better and safer while some religions – and you certainly know which one I mean – are not allowed to change because some prophet once proclaimed that his book was perfect and detailed for all times and that no one could come after him.
    Would you still drive an obsolete car only because it’s brand name is Ferrari?

    Beter put it on the scrap heap of history.”

    obsolete ? is it ?….:)

    Shorty Says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 9:34 pm
    dewaratugedeanom, riyoz….scrapping the ferrari doesn’t solve the problem………today’s ferrari is a vastly different machine to yesterday’s, yet it owes it’s provenance to it’s predecessors. intelligent people modified and built on it’s success.

    the problem is not with the car, but with some of the drivers.

    Riyoz Says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 10:10 pm
    “dewaratugedeanom, riyoz”¦.scrapping the ferrari doesn’t solve the problem”¦”¦”¦today’s ferrari is a vastly different machine to yesterday’s, yet it owes it’s provenance to it’s predecessors. intelligent people modified and built on it’s success.

    the problem is not with the car, but with some of the drivers.”

    again, I agree….and perhaps those ‘bad drivers’ didn’t even bother to read the manual book that comes with the ferrari thoroughly and carefully….:)

    Aluang Anak Bayang Says:

    March 20th, 2008 at 6:36 am
    again, I agree”¦.and perhaps those ‘bad drivers’ didn’t even bother to read the manual book that comes with the ferrari thoroughly and carefully”¦.:)

    I have to disagree. Anyone who would fork out that kind of money would be a car enthusiastic or fanatic. Of course he would read the manual thoroughly and follow the instruction to the dot. .

    dewaratugedeanom Says:

    March 20th, 2008 at 4:50 pm
    Aluang said

    He claimed he is licensed to perfect and improve the original prototype.

    But still who would want to drive a car – whatever its name or make is – that according to its manual is not allowed to be repaired or improved upon, only because the mechanic who has built it said so?

    I wouldn’t.

    Lairedion Says:

    March 20th, 2008 at 5:06 pm
    @Mas Aluang,

    But I’d rather walk than driving such a car…

    Shorty Says:

    March 20th, 2008 at 9:39 pm
    let’s drop the ferrari analogy before we all vanish up our tailpipes.

    do you want people to respect your beliefs? then respect theirs.

    let new/alternative/confronting ideas be judged by the community at large – not by those interested in self perpetuation. let’s also ensure that those holding such a view/voice are able to speak uninhibited and without censure.

    b4 we rush to legislation, think about the wisdom of pancasila, think about the true meaning of demokrasi

  88. PMA

    Bin Ismail (July 23, 2010 at 2:19 am):

    Respectfully sir, in your effort to make your point about “negative role of clergy in a society” you are over-stressing the role and presence of Islam and Islamic clergy in Turkish society at the time of her independence. Turks, in any period, have never been known to be overly religious or dogmatic people. Even as the Caliphate was on its ‘sick bed’ there was no revivalist Islamic Movement as we see in the case of expiring Mughal Empire.

    Modernization of Turkish society under Ataturk and in the following years took place in all spheres of life and not just religion. Ataturk chose to distance Turkey from the Muslim Middle East and Arabs and attempted to bring it closer to Europe. Religion was just one of the many social and cultural institutions brought under direct government control and supervision. Use of all other languages such as Arabic, Persian, Armenian, Greek and Kurdish were disallowed. This placed a negative effect on all religious and non-Turkish ethnic communities. You are probably familiar with the 1920s exodus of Armenian and Greek Orthodox Christian communities of Turkey.

    We have to remember that Turkish Republic was born out of long Turkish War of Independence fought on many fronts. Islamic clergy was in no position to stake any claims on the newly born Turkish State. Turkish Military was the controlling force and not the Mullah or the Caliph.

    Now look at the circumstances at the time of birth of Pakistan. Pakistan was won through a political and constitutional process and not through war. At the time of independence all of her civic and social institutions were modern and in-place. Although just like Turkey the non-Muslim population of (West)Pakistan had left, but unlike Turkey, Pakistan had received a new group of conservative Muslim clergy from India that greatly disturbed the religious balance. The Barelvi, Deobandi, Shia and Ahmadi clergy upon her arrival started to play an extremely negative role in their new country of choice. Pakistan became a battlefield of sectarian warfare as various sects competed for advantage point. Unrealistic and self-serving religious demands were put on a government that was still finding its way around. Pakistan slipped from modernity to backwardness. There was no Ataturk to save Pakistan from religious sectarian chaos.

  89. YLH

    How did the “shia” or “ahmadi clergy” play a role to Islamize Pakistan?

    *** This Message Has Been Sent Using BlackBerry Internet Service from Mobilink ***

  90. Bin Ismail

    @PMA (July 23, 2010 at 7:23 pm)

    Thank you.

    1. “…..you are over-stressing the role and presence of Islam and Islamic clergy in Turkish society at the time of her independence…..”

    You may like to go back to my previous post. I am not contending that the clergy had a great influence at the time of independence. The influence of the pro-Sultanate/Caliphate Clergy was hardly inconspicuous. What Ataturk did was to systematically and meticulously dismantle it, as soon as he took charge of things.

    2. “…..The Barelvi, Deobandi, Shia and Ahmadi clergy upon her arrival started to play an extremely negative role in their new country …..”

    The Deobandi clergy, yes but I wouldn’t share your perception on the negative role of the Ahmadi or Shia clergy.

    Regards.

  91. Pingback: Law Unto Themselves « Pak Tea House | England

  92. NSA

    Let some non-math/science type author produce a book like Douglas Hofstadter’s “Gödel, Escher, Bach : An Eternal Golden Braid”, and then perhaps we may have an argument that is not a walk-over.