Reducing the Role of Political Islam

By Feroz Khan

It is easy, to debate a taboo, once it has been shattered. The de-mystification of Islam is necessary in Pakistan and what needs to be argued; to counter the misuse of Islam in Pakistan is not to parse and quibble over interpretations, but to frame the questions. No general has ever won a war by fighting it according to the plans of the enemy and so it is, with the religious debate in Pakistan.

 For too long, and with painfully hurtful results, we the so-called and rightly contemptible moderates and enlightened cowards and liberal hypocrites, and deceitful secularists, have appeased the intolerant clergy and have abdicated our responsibilities of civic participation. We have allowed the religious discourse in Pakistan to be taken over and dominated by mullahs – the washers of the dead – and have argued according to their rules. The first step to regain and reclaim the debating space for the idea of a new Pakistan, is to ask questions and make the defenders of the faith actually defend their faith.

This new, re-energized, debate needs to focus on the simplicity of its message and it needs to propagate that message with all the venom of a cobra. The message of this debate is to make the people realize the dichotomy that exists in this world and in the Hereafter, as promised in religion.

The first point which needs to be articulated is to make a case for the separation of justice; from God’s and humans. The best and the most effective manner to whittle Islam to its rightful place in Pakistan is argue, convince and make the people understand that in the Hereafter, we will all be judged by God’s laws. In this Present World (which is what the term secular actually means), we will be judged by laws made by humans.

The next logical step is to argue that if Islam, as a religion, wanted to become political and exercise control in this world, then it loses its “divine immunity” and will be judged by human laws. This should be seen as breach of a contractual agreement, because the understanding was that God’s laws will apply in the Kingdom of God, but human laws will apply in the kingdom of human beings. If Islam wants to have influence in “our world”, then it will be judged according to “our” laws and it will be responsible and accountable to our laws just as we will be responsible to God’s laws once we enter His kingdom. This will happen, and it will happen not without a cost, but Islam and religion as an idea in Pakistan will stand disabused.

Religious intolerance, and when a religion becomes political, pushes people into a sense of alienation because the main functionality of a religion and its legitimacy is to offer a sense of spirituality to the people and act as anchor in times of need and uncertainties. When religion itself, instead of standing aloof from the secular concerns, becomes a partisan in the secular debates of the day, it loses its spirituality. People become alienated from religion, when instead of offering them a promise of certainty and hope; religion becomes the very cause of their hopeless and loss of certainty and of increasing doubts. When people start to question the very foundations of their belief systems and religion cannot provide them with convincing answers, the end is apparent.

The power of a religion, over its people, lies in the absolutism of its dogma, but the vulnerability of dogma is that it is supreme as long as believed and not questioned. When religion is questioned and its answers prove inadequate, or its actions are seen in violation with its professed teachings, questions ferment in the mind and once the mind acquires the confidence to think rationally and independently, religion loses the fear of its dread over a person.

 Pakistanis are questioning their religion. They are questioning their religion, because it does not make sense; from what they were taught , and what is being practiced in the name of the religion itself. The next evolutionary step will be increasing self-doubts as people start to make independent personal decisions about their acts of devotion and if organized religion does not provide them with the answers they are searching from; they will move away from organized religion itself.

This does not and should not be taken as step towards atheism, because it is not. All religions are political constructs of behavior control and the purpose of every organized religion is to control the lives of its followers and it controls the lives of its faithful by decreeing an existence for them and a code by which that existence is rationalized and makes sense.

When people lose faith in their religion and start to question it; it does not mean they have become non-believers. All it means they do not follow the precepts of an organized religion and instead of searching for answers within an organized religion, they start to search for it outside the hierarchical organization of the religion and instead, follow their religion outside of the organized manner or the established code of conduct.

They become independent of a religious control over their lives and become free to think on their own and break the shackles of mind control and in the words of Bob Marley, emancipate themselves from mental slavery. Devotion in this sense then becomes very personalized and individualistic and in the process, religion loses it ability to control the lives of the person and furthermore, becomes gradually less significant.

The insignificance of a religion and its importance in the daily lives of its adherents becomes pronounced as people start to search for answers, to the issues which plight them, outside of the religious experience and based on their own experiences in the present (secular) world. Once, it becomes self-evident that religion is not capable of providing all the answers and what it says does not mesh with the reality of the experience, and then the thoughts of the people become more pre-occupied by the present (secular) world and how to live in it.

When this happens, something else also happens. Once people start to question an experience outside of a religious explanation, they realize by their own experience and awareness the subjectivity of a religion and its place in their lives. Religion then becomes a part of the diversity and the plurality of a person’s experience instead of being the centrality of their existence.

This is the threat, which politically enforced and manipulated Islam will face in Pakistan. As it becomes more intolerant towards Pakistanis, and forces them into submission and not to question it, Pakistanis will move away from the practice of organized religion and will practice more varied and individual forms of devotion. They will still be Muslims and they will still read the Quran, and they will still pray but they will do it on the basis of their own experiences and not on the basis of what someone tells them their experiences should be!

Once this happens, organized religion or political Islam will lose its hold over the average Pakistani and in time, will find its own niche in the lives of the people and once this balance is attained, Pakistanis will be better positioned to exist in this world (secular) and will stop living their lives in the present world as they were living in the Hereafter. Once, Pakistanis realize this and start to understand the role of religion in the proper perspective of life and its experience as one of many, they will start to think outside of the organized religious thought and that will be the beginning of the end of political Islam in Pakistan and first step towards the idea of secularism!

372 Comments

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372 responses to “Reducing the Role of Political Islam

  1. Thomas

    Yaa, sure dude, we should all becum Christians so we can torture and drone our distant adversaries in their homes. We can kill all thoz we think may oppose our occupation…. Is that what Feroz Khan is saying???

    “The first point which needs to be articulated is to make a case for the separation of justice; from God’s and humans. The best and the most effective manner to whittle Islam to its rightful place in Pakistan is argue, convince and make the people understand that in the Hereafter, we will all be judged by God’s laws.”

    What does “God’s” laws have to say about an invader of another religion [infidel??] who kills the faithful and seizes their land and holy places like say Israel and NATO..???

  2. Perspective

    Since Feroz Khan wants us to ask questions to show that we are governed by human law, mine is – where is it taught in the Holy Book that I must stop at an intersection when the traffic light is red?

  3. Parvez

    FK, after reading your writing I can say ignorance is bliss.

  4. Raza Raja

    @ Feroz Khan

    It is brilliant articulation for the seperation of religion from laws and politics. I expect heavy debate on it.

    Lets see what commentators have to say

  5. Pingback: Reducing the Role of Political Islam

  6. ali hamdani

    I would not agree with terming the citizens as ‘deceitful secularists’. We are a peace loving nation but it is just that we must get rid of extremist mindset in the country.

  7. Cobra

    @ Feroz Khan

    After reading your article i have come to a conclusion that Extremism in Pakistan is not restricted to TTP or the rest of the factions. Are you any different from any Mullah ?

  8. Raza Raja

    @Cobra

    Can you point out where feroz khan has even vaguely sounded according to your allegation. In fact this is an article against political manipulation of Islam. Kindly read it before slandering

  9. Tilsim

    @ Feroz Khan

    Your ideas and approach, whilst they may break new ground, will cause damage to the cause of a secular state in Pakistan because they play to people’s fears.

    I think of the people that I come across (away from airconditioned drawing rooms) and I know this is not the language they speak or wish for. As Ali Hamdani said many people want to get rid of the extremist mindset and intolerant first and foremost. It ends there in most cases. A secular state is not a short term objective for many because they fear what you talk about – a society where religious values become confined to the private sphere and increasingly irrelevant (as has happene in Northern Europe). In my experience, debating religious ideas with a view to it’s reform still hold interest but the concept of getting rid of organised religion altogether don’t, infact they invite a hostile reaction from otherwise moderate people who are opposed to Mullahism and might otherwise be open to the idea of a secular state.

  10. Zulfiqar Haider

    Secular principles of Islam can be reintroduced to help the development of democracy in Pakistan. This is necessary because misinterpretation of Political Islam has already created problems for the public.

  11. Cobra

    The worst thing about you secularists is that you take that thing as a “Religion” and preach is out lout even when it doesn’t make any sense.

    You may feel like Kemal Ataturk while writing this article but the fact is that this sort of rubbish wont change any hearts and minds.

    Pakistan was snatched out of the hands of hindu nationalists. Pakistan is an Idealogical state which was liberated in the name of Islam , if you can prove it otherwise be my guest.

    IF Pakistan was to be a secular entity then why didn’t we just stayed in the Hindu dominated India ? , why did we take Pakistan ?

    How can you justify that , i know its very easy to sit on a blog and talk shit but when it comes to justifying your views it goes down the drain.

    Mullahs are bla bla , whatever they are doesn’t make any difference and Islam in Pak is not all about them. I would not support an Islamic system like the one in Iran and Saudi but i do support a true Islamic system in which everyone has equal rights.

  12. Tilsim

    @ Cobra

    “i know its very easy to sit on a blog and talk shit”

    You say that you support a true Islamic system but you use foul language against those who you don’t agree with?

  13. Poke

    @ Cobra
    Great you represent the true spirit of islam and pakistan….

  14. Ally

    Very well written article… you hit the nail on the head… the process you have described is already happening in Pakistan… i have gone thru various stages and have arrived at what your article talks about… i do practice my faith but not the way it was taught to me, it is a part of me but not the only part!

    And that is important… religion isn’t our only identity, its one of many!

  15. Talha

    The average religiously scarred conspiracy theorist Pakistani is not prepared to understand such write ups.

    One thing I have realized over the years in regards to Pakistani’s is that when you discuss complicated matters, its like talking to a dog who neither understands nor capable of replying in a civil manner.

    I agree with Iskander Mirza once more when I say that these people do not have capability to know what is good for them and their country.

  16. جلا لے پادشاہی کو کہ جمہوری تماشہ ہو
    جدا ہو دین سیاست سے تو رہ جاتی ہے چنگیزی

  17. Why just poltical Islam? Why not full Islam?

  18. due

    Thomas has a truncated and shortened view of history and memory.

    It was islam and muslims who committed aggressions and snatched lands belonging to other religions and to non-arabs after 631 AD. Except for Makkah, all holy places of muslims are situated on lands which were taken by muslims and arabs through violence and aggressions. Muslim children are mentally molested and truncated by being taught a falsified narrative of history that suits the needs of islamic imperialism. This childhood molestation then manifests itself in an unreformable arrogance and hatred towards non-muslims. The muslim believes only his own one-sided version of history and takes it as a justification for violence and hate against non-muslims. This muslim habit is proving to be detrimental even within islam, even among muslims. Falsification of history has its horrendous price.

  19. Feroz Khan

    @ Thomas (October 11, 2010 at 7:25 am)

    The article does not suggest or advocate conversion to another religion, but discusses the process by which an enforced religion, for political intents, loses its value in the lives of the people.

    The process of a society becoming secular passes through certain stages and one of the foremost stages is marked by skepticism regarding the religion in a society. This is followed with attempts to blend and harmonize the religion with the secular world and this is known as humanism. Humanism tries to give religion a more humanistic approach and it tries to revert the religion back to its orginal idea, which is one of spiritulality and spreading the word of God and seeks to remove religion from the political sphere.

    At this stage, it must be remembered that all religions are basically organized as bureaucratic heirarchies of power and the bureaucracy of a religion, from whence its political interests are determined and protected, will always resist the the process of the humanization of a religion and this then, creates a conflict between a political religion and a society, which is trying to humanize that particular religion and remove its influence from politics.

    This is the stage, where political Islam and Pakistan are heading and fight over religion in Pakistan is not so much over the issue of an interpretation of a religion or its moral value, but the loss of its political influence in the affairs of the state itself.

    Secondly, God’s laws had nothing do with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Those nations were invaded on the arguments of violating international law, which is a secular law, and not a divine law. To understand those laws, and the reasons for the invasions, critical international theory of conflict as it pertains to the concept of Westphalian state model and the application of that idea within the parameters of a realist theory of conflict management, needs to be studied.

    The issues of transnationalism and the emergence of non-state actor groups and their influence on the traditional bi-lateralism of international diplomacy, will better answer the question why those nations were invaded than any holy text.

    ciao

  20. Perspective

    Cobra:

    Pakistan was snatched out of the hands of hindu nationalists. Pakistan is an Idealogical state which was liberated in the name of Islam , if you can prove it otherwise be my guest.

    Pakistan comprised the Muslim-majority districts of the British India provinces + whatever princely states acceded. Hardly snatched from anyone – unless you say that people have no tie to the land in which they live.

    IF Pakistan was to be a secular entity then why didn’t we just stayed in the Hindu dominated India ? , why did we take Pakistan ?

    For the same reason that Bangladesh split from Pakistan. Rightly or wrongly they felt that they would not get justice in a unified state.

    How can you justify that , i know its very easy to sit on a blog and talk shit but when it comes to justifying your views it goes down the drain.

    Mullahs are bla bla , whatever they are doesn’t make any difference and Islam in Pak is not all about them. I would not support an Islamic system like the one in Iran and Saudi but i do support a true Islamic system in which everyone has equal rights.

    What is this “true Islamic system”? Is it that of Mullah Omar? or Ibn Wahab? or Maudoodi? or Khomeini? Who decides? How are differences settled, if to each the principles they adhere to are “God-given principles on which there can be no compromise”?

    One could equally well say that everyone mouths “true Islamic system”, but can only go blah blah blah when asked about the least of details.

  21. Sardar Khan.

    Another attempt to secularise Pakistan,but this will fail as before.Pakistan is and will remain an Islamic State in name and deeds.

  22. Talha

    @ Sardar Khan

    “Pakistan is and will remain an Islamic State in name and deeds.”

    So corruption, intolerance, violence, bigotry and all the other deeds of Pakistan we have been suffering so far is Islamic.

    Better get your head sorted out boy.

  23. Feroz Khan

    @ Talha (October 11, 2010 at 5:42 pm)

    Yes, the average Pakistani will have a very difficult time understanding such concepts. However, such concepts will be increasingly debated as the people react, evolve and seek to rationalize the realities of the Pakistani society.

    @ Tilsim (October 11, 2010 at 2:41 pm)

    The problem with reform, as you suggest, is that it will not matter a whit and will do nothing to improve the situation.

    Reform, by itself, implies a political decison and a political will to do something. The problem in Pakistan is, and why the situation is increasingly getting worse, is not because the governments/centers of power are making bad choices, but THEY DO NOT MAKE ANY DECISION AT ALL.

    There can be no reforms in Pakistan unless the government/centers of power wish for a reform in Pakistan and make a decision to this effect. When it comes to religion in Pakistan, the prefered method of action, and response, is playing the osterich and pretending the problem does not exist.

    The situation has moved beyond the stage of reforms and whether we like it or not, the evolutionary situational process of the events will not stop and give us time to make up our minds, but will move on and force us to react to the events themselves.

    The events, will determine this debate and not us.

    ciao

  24. Tilsim

    @ Feroz Khan

    The thing is that all the problems and attitudes that you may associate with Islam actually existed before fundamentalist Islam gathered muscle. No doubt fundamentalism, due to its focus on dogma, has exacerbated them. If the aim is to reform society, I have serious doubts that diminishing or eliminating the role of Islam (impossible in my view) will actually address those issues. For example, the role that our elites play are unlikely to change. Making organised religion a target (which is not a single target and has multiple and contradicting facets in Pakistan) stops a lot of much needed conservations about societal attitudes and priorities.

  25. Rashid Saleem

    The true tolerant principles of Islam must be advocated if we are to fight our ways out of this menace.

  26. AA Khalid

    I wholeheartedly agree with the article. Its Kantian style of separating religious authority and institutions from the existential core of Islam.

    I say no to ”State Islam” but yes to ”Public Islam”. I would stress the difference between the State and the public sphere (civil society etc.). Religion in the public sphere should enrich civil discussion.

    However, I do disagree with how to acheive reform. Just as in 17th/18th century Europe, ideas of rationalism, tolerance, pluralism and democracy emerged from philosophical movements within religion, by that I mean re-interpretations of Christianity from the likes of Locke and others like the Christian Platonists, and the movement of liberal Protestanism, so reform in Muslim societies will be instigated by reformist interpretations of Islam.

  27. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 11, 2010 at 7:57 pm)

    First of all, organized religion in Pakistan is a problem. Organized religion has meshed with politics to such an insidious level, that it terrorizes politics to such an extent that a political structure, terrified by a political religion in Pakistan, is incapable of reforming itself.

    If we admit religion needs to be reformed in Pakistan or society needs to become more secular, then we need to ask how?

    Your laws, starting from Objectives Resolution downwards, prevent religious reforms and prevent any attempts to arrest the situation. Those laws ensure inaction and inaction means that Pakistan and its society have no hope, but to continue on the path they are heading – towards the edge.

    As mentioned, the issue is no longer in our power but will be decided by the events.

    At the end of the day, organized religion will be a different entity in Pakistan and religion in Pakistan will diminish itself by its own acts.

    ciao

  28. Questor

    Q: How much of the European “abandonment” of religion is due to secularism (e.g, the ideologies of the French Revolution, Marxism, etc. ) and how much of it is due to the increasing knowledge of science amongst the general population, in particular the theory of evolution, genetics, etc?

    Reason for asking is that if and when Pakistan’s general population becomes literate and educated, and assuming that science is not censored, many of the same forces will be in play, regarding skepticism about religion because of science.

  29. Tilsim

    @ Feroz Khan

    “As mentioned, the issue is no longer in our power but will be decided by the events.

    At the end of the day, organized religion will be a different entity in Pakistan and religion in Pakistan will diminish itself by its own acts.”

    I am confused by what seems a contradiction in your stance. The above suggests that by just exposing Islam through debates and letting the inevitable events unfold will bring about your desired society. However you had earlier suggested some concrete and coercive actions:

    “Pakistan needs to look past the present crop of political leaders. The dynastic cycle of leadership rotation has to be broken and new leaders, atuned to the needs of a young, agiated, and confused population need to be elected and the present student leaders of nearly 40 years ago need to be shown the door to a permanent exile in Dubai or where ever their bank accounts are located.

    This will irk the vast majority of the self-centered morally superior self-arrogated guardians of piety, but they need to be stripped naked of their false hypocrisy. Pakistan needs a political party that exists on left of the center on the political spectrum and follows a staunch socialist outlook and is proudly athesist. This party party should inoculate a mindset, which views religion with skepticism and if possible, the idea of political communism as an anti-thesis to religious dogma in Pakistan needs to be strongly encouraged.

    The present parliament needs to torn down brick by brick and a new one created, on whose ediface there is no religious inscription. Pakistani political cutlure already has a tradition of local village councils and should seriously think of direct democracy instead of a representative democracy. The parliament should be more about legislating the final intents and purposes of the majority decisions, which should always be settled through a plebsicite.

    Political parties should be allowed to exist but severely regulated in all aspects of their conduct. Political parties need to be elected on their basis of their competence to solve the problems facing the nation and not on their political promises.

    Death penalites for miscarriage of offical duties in the present world may not be possible, but humilating punishments can still be meted out to officials who fail in their duties. Being tarred and feathered or being made to ride a pig naked through the streets are some good ideas and need to be implemented. Just to make sure that the message hits home, the wife and the children and members of the extended family can also be made to walk naked behind the person riding the pig.

    Media should be encouraged to cover such events and telecast it live so the greatest amount of people can see it. ”

    As a liberal, democrat and a muslim, I have difficulties with several of the points you raised above.

    I agree with you that top-down reform is not possible because the elites don’t have a consensual vision for Pakistan and therefore they fall back on Islam. Every government, whether more secularly or religious minded has used Islam to deflect from their failures of governance.

    Reform has to come bottom up as a demand of the people. Infact, we are going through a reform of sorts. This move towards a more conservative Islamic society where religion is seen as a panacea to our day to day problems is something that the majority of Pakistanis seem to want. Of course, some are now also seeing that perhaps the greater and greater focus on religion as a political construct is not solving their problems; in fact things are going from bad to worse. Is that religions fault or is that the fault of wrong thinking, priorities and attitudes when it comes to either religious or secular concerns? Indeed people may come to see it as the fault of religion but actually the problems will still be there with or without religion unless people understand what is actually going wrong. The reform has to be around the way we think, our priorities, our loss of hope and feeling of helplessness, our lack of practical action, our lack of ethics and morals, our short termism, our bigotry, intolerance, our violence – our societal culture.

    In a society such as Pakistan with poor standards of literacy, reformers will make little headway unless we are amongst the people and help them in a direct manner.

    The elites are generally not engaged, have never cared about poverty or illiteracy, live in exile or are despondent because our society is not Turkey, Canada, the USA or some neo-con construct. Their influence on the course of events is diminishing. It’s the squeezed middle classes’ attitudes towards the problems that effect us which will determine the future nature of Pakistani society. Middle class reformers will succeed by working as political party workers, as charity workers, as NGO workers, as teachers, as academics, as journalists, as lawyers. At the moment, many take inspiration from Islam and some from Wahabi Islam. I believe that many are not satisfied by the religion of the mullah and this is the environment which may usher in more reformist and enlightened thinking away from Wahabism. Religion has a strong hold and irreligion is mostly attractive to elites.

  30. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 11, 2010 at 11:50 pm)

    There is no contradiction. In both cases, there is an urgent need to take action because a lack of action, or a reform, is causing the events and the situations to get out of control.

    The question is, once we have lost control of the situation, can we regain it? This is what I meant by the issue not being in our power to decide but being decided by the events. If we lose the ability to control the events, we become reactive and if we wish to control the events, we must be proactive.

    As far as as issues are concerned in Pakistan, are we proactive or reactive in our policies? Do the people in Pakistan, who wish reform, have the legal means at their disposal to implement such reforms, when it might be clash with religion and religious sanctioned laws in Pakistan?

    Reforms are impossible in Pakistan and are a pipe dream. In the last 63 years, Pakistan could not carry out reform in agriculture; what makes one think that Pakistan can reform the malpractices of religion in its society?

    Once a law based on religion is made functional in Pakistan, it cannot be removed from the books.

    As long as religion based political injunctions exist and these injunctions legitimize religious influence in politics, reforms in Pakistan which challenge the laws based on religion cannot be allowed. Any law or act of parliament, which challenges any law deemed to have been enacted in the name of Islam, in Pakistan, cannot be revoked.

    A political religion prevents political reforms in Pakistan and it does not matter whether that religion is good, but its interpretations are bad, because that religion is still a problem.

    Sooner or later, the people in Pakistan will have to admit to this problem and do something about it.

    ciao

  31. Tilsim

    @ Feroz Khan

    I think a secular state and being a Muslim are not incompatible things. I also believe that is what Jinnah wanted. I have now seen two surveys quoted stating that perhaps around 30% of the population sees it this way too (personally I am surprised it is that high). If it is indeed 30%, then it’s time for greater public debate around this as this number could well get to over 50% as the failure of religious politics becomes self evident. However, I keep on saying that it is people like AA Khalid who are obviously sympathetic to Islam who have to be in the vanguard of the debate. It cannot be people who see religion (any religion) as a ludicrous human construct that is now past it’s sell by date. That won’t work and is not a pragmatic approach.

  32. Tilsim

    @ Feroz Khan

    Whilst obviously the Objective Resolution and a secular state are not compatible, I would caution against a simple focus on the laws too. One can have very secular laws but a deeply dysfunctional society such is the case amongst many African, Central American and Central Asian nations.

    Societal reform is an exercise in it’s own right.

  33. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 12, 2010 at 12:49 am and October 12, 2010 at 12:55 am)

    No; being a Muslim in a secular state not an incompatible idea. Believing Islam will cure its own created problems in Pakistan, under its own inspiration, is not a pragmatic approach either.

    Please provide one example of secular law in Pakistan and please provide one example of a religious based law that was recinded in Pakistan?

    ciao

  34. Tilsim

    @ Feroz Khan

    Secular:

    Our financial system was interest based (and is to all intents and purposes)

    Religious based laws recinded:

    The NWFP MMA government’s attempt to institute a Saudi style religious police was held as against the constitution by the Supreme Court.

    Musharraf did manage to push back some aspects of the rape law.

    The divorce laws in Pakistan have secular aspects relating to process. Attempts are made to get rid of this and they are pushed back.

    The situation is by no means static. More change and debate are possible. It depends on the balance of power and the attitudes of society.

    Take your views to the people.

  35. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim

    My intention is to light a fire under the soles of the Pakistanis and make them uncomfortable. I am quiet willing to play the devil’s advocate and posit some hard questions, in hopes of generating some debate on the tabooed issues; make people think; think outside of the box and hopefully, gain a better situational awareness of the issues, which impact them and will be influencing them in the future.

    People sympathic to Islam will remain apathetic until they are forced to act but I agree with you; they need to be in the vanguard of this debate.

    ciao

  36. azhar aslam

    Trying to breakdown, ‘organised religion’ through a Stalinistic approach recommended here …

    equating bad and misgovernance with silly religiosity….

    what a farce

  37. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim

    “Recinded” means to cancel or void something. A law that was suggested and never implemented by the NWFP government, cannot by defination be recinded.

    Musharraf pushing back aspects of the rape laws is better termed as amending them, but not recinding them.

    Divorce laws may have secular aspects, but if they have such said secular aspects, then they are not secular in the whole but only in part and this raises the automatic question, what aspects of the divorce law, which are not secular, are influenced by? Religion?

    Recind the Hudood Ordinances; recind the Blasphemy Laws; recind the ordinaces against the Ahmedis; recind the Objective Resolution and the parts where it states all the sovereignty is vested in God and no law against Islam or Sunna can be made in Pakistan.

    Can you do this? If not; then my earlier assertation stands that no religous based law in Pakistan can be recinded or revoked.

    ciao

  38. bciv

    “Musharraf did manage to push back some aspects of the rape law.”

    a relevant, interesting fact: the hudood ordinance as drafetd by zia (deliberately) flew in the face of recommendations and opinion of the CII.

    @Feroze Khan

    “Believing Islam will cure its own created problems in Pakistan, under its own inspiration, is not a pragmatic approach either.”

    absolutely. but that does not mean that the mullah cannot be beaten (back) at his own game. the idea is not to play by rules set by him, nor to make him more relevant than he already is through historical blunders by those who have been at the helm of affairs. but he can be countered without being made the sole focus and without his opponents falling into the trap of having an endless argument with him.

    sharp, precise blows can be delivered using his own domain (without allowing it to become the defining or even dominant domain) and tools without him being able to try and hit below the belt and try and make his opposition irrelevant (or worse) by terming them kafir. he might still do that but hitting back rather than ignoring will have greater resonance with the larger audience. hitting back does not and cannot mean basing the central argument within religion. that, of course, will compound and not cure the problem as you have rightly pointed out.

    yet, the field need not be left open for the mullah. exposing the mullah need not be missed out on just because that would mean temporarily delving into the religious domain. people want rid of the mullah but are not ready for religion to become irrelevant. it is, nevertheless, an opportunity for secularism. the ‘events’ that have been most effective in focusing the audience’s minds are the regular, murderous suicide bombings. almaas se adraak barrhta hai; pain has rendered them more receptive to better awareness.

  39. Feroz Khan

    @ bciv (October 12, 2010 at 1:38 am)

    Agreed; we need to be more proactive and not reactive to the mullah and his game plan. If we play according to his rules, we will lose. So, let change the rule and make him play according to our rules!

    Yes; experience is great teacher and Pakistanis are learning from their experience of living with suicide bombers et al.

    ciao

  40. bciv

    re. rescinding religious laws

    i doubt this is possible in any country that has had have such laws in the first place. short of a new constitution, a new beginning, what you can hope for and do is to amend the law and/or its procedure to the point of rendering it irrelevant and ineffective. even in india, with its secular constitution, babri masjid, once demolished, can never be rebuilt (not at the same location). just like once an idol was placed within it more than 60 years ago, it could never be removed. the best you can hope for is for society to move on. in any case, religion in politics can only ever have limited, if impressive, mileage. the BJP has had to quickly come to that realisation.

    acts like rescinding will be seen as red flags by people otherwise quite ready to simply move on and away from religiosity and prepared to acknowledge and avoid the dangers of mixing religion and politics. in the pak scenario, one certainly could amend the most obnoxious parts of the law to the point of rescinding. for example, ordinance XX may one day be ‘rescinded’ as being the work of a dictator and inhumane. will it ever be possible to do the same to similarly unfair 2nd amendment? short of a new constitution, i doubt it. similarly, the best we can hope for OR, is for 2A to be struck out as the work of a dictator and restored to its original place in teh ’73 constitution. after all, the 18th amendment did restore the word “free” to 2A. it will be less than ideal, even messy, but progress nevertheless.

  41. AA Khalid

    I find the reification of Islam by Feroz Khan quiet tedious. There is no such thing as an abstract ”Islam”. What we have in Pakistan is the interpretation and dissemination of this interpretation by clerics, televangelists and semi-literate mullahs.

    The point I am making is that citing, ”Islam” as a problem is vague. Anthropologically you are talking nonsense and sociologically you are being vague.

    Talk about human agency. Talk about the views of mullahs, clerics, etc. Talk about what they are preaching.

    I would say one thing, the rise of rationalism and pluralism in Europe was on the back of a tremendous effort of re-interpretation of Christian theology by brave Christian thinkers. Thinkers who were committed Christians but also thought highly of liberty and indeed grounded their notions of liberty in liberal theology.

    Religion continued strong in Europe till the 20th century. The Enlightenment was an event which was a transition for religion, a move from authoritarian religiosity towards an independent religiosity. In many respects it was a logical progression and extension of the Christian Reformation.

    I quote my article ”Religious Basis of the Enlightenment” in full:

    ”Religious Basis of the Enlightenment?”

    by A.A Khalid

    The calls of liberals and progressives in Pakistan in constructing a model of epistemology suitable for a modern nation state predicated on the notion of a reduced religiosity and a public conscience which adopts a minimalist understanding of religion is false. Historically it is false and from a positivistic point of view in terms of the ground reality in Pakistan in terms of religious observance it is impractical. Rationality need not be predicated on a lack of belief.

    The root of this illusion is the same as the illusion of the conservatives and the regressive forces. That there can only be one understanding of Islam and as far as all relevant constituencies are concerned this is an understanding devoid of rational and critical reflection. Liberals and progressives lament about the clerics, ulema and the static nature of the Islamic traditions and falsely equivocate it to Islam itself rather than analysing the humanly constructed parameters and contours of the very traditions the ulema have erected to guard their sphere of religious exclusivity whilst conservatives frequently lambast reason in what they see as a defence against the all sacred and all pure Quranic revelation. Both positions are false.

    Indeed one of the great Enlightenment thinkers John Locke was a devout Christian and although a pioneer of modern rationalism did have profound religious sensibilities. We remember Locke has a man who revolutionized the field of political philosophy but one his works was, ‘’A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity’’. This is indicative of his strong religious belief but also his trust in human reason.

    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 myopic 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. But unfortunately some liberals and progressives are unaware of this.

    Rationality is not predicated on a lack of religious belief; it is predicated on the utilisation of one’s own critical faculties to the best of their own potential. Professor Sorkin’s new book the ‘’Religious Enlightenment’’, challenges the grand atheistic narratives about the Enlightenment arguing there were many religious groups and thinkers who were hopeful in achieving a harmonious unison between faith and reason whilst proposing new ideas for political philosophy in relation to church-state relations.

    The central thesis of the book is that,

    ‘’ With the Enlightenment’s advent, religion lost neither its place nor its authority in European society and culture. If we trace modern culture to the Enlightenment, its foundations were decidedly religious.’’

    The Enlightenment too frequently cited by liberals superficially is a complex historical phenomenon, encompassing competing narratives and offering different and sometimes contradictory insights into the relation between faith and society and faith and reason. To try and achieve a sense of intellectual homogeneity about the Enlightenment is intellectually dishonest.

    If anything the Islamic tradition is multifarious, and diverse. There is no monolithic phenomenon civilizational, cultural or intellectual known as Islam. There are numerous traditions and numerous trends and tendencies. There is the mystic, the rationalist, the legalist (fuqaha and fiqhi understandings), the philosopher and the theologian, and numerous shades of grey in between. The Islamic traditions has its rationalists from the strong advocates of reason in the Mu’tazilites to philosophers such as Ibn Rushd to those offered a more cautious appropriation of human rationality in the Asharites and Al Ghazali.

    The point is that neither ‘’Islam’’ nor the ‘’Enlightenment’’ are homogenous phenomena, set in concrete forever destined to clash. If one is truly committed to the usage of reason one must appreciate the complexity and subtleties of these events and traditions. One must appreciate the subtle interplay of faith and reason and be prepared to live with a sense of uncertainty in terms of the relationship between the two.

    Secularity is not indicative of reasonableness and religiosity is not indicative of irrationality. For liberals to try and make crude and crass distinctions is to betray their own values and for conservatives to repress rationalism is to betray aspects of their own religious traditions they care so much about.

    To truly advance rationalism, tolerance and pluralism one has to speak the language of one’s constituency. The language of the Pakistani people is God-talk (theology). Hence a secular political ideology devoid of religious engagement and religious language is always going to fail but a synthesis in terms of creating a political theology in the style of John Locke could pave the way for challenging the conservatives’ monopoly on religious discourse and open a frank discussion on what type of religiosity Pakistan needs today. ”

    John Locke, Issac Newton, Roberty Boyle, Gottfried Leibniz Kierkegaard, Kant, Friedrich Schleiermacher etc.etc.

    The Royal Society of Science in the UK was initially set up by scientists who were rationalist (natural) theologians. Christian rationalism evident in the work of Locke.

    The point is that Feroz Khan’s point about quibbling with interpretations is woefully inadequate. What is Islam in the application of law, society and politics through the lens of history but a series of interpretations by human beings? We have nothing but a corpus of competing interpretations in Islamic law.

    Ian Barbour the distinguished historian of science argues that the conception of scientific reason came about through the re-interpretation of Christian theology towards appreciating the value of human reason. Many Enlightenment philosophers called reason, one of God’s great gifts.

    What we must do is to question religious authority, but historically speaking unlike the Catholic Church religious authority in Islam has been relatively decentralised, flexible and remained either independent or subordinated under political control.

    I submit to you a quotation from a great Muslim thinker that to:

    ”seek secular answers is simply to abandon the field to the fundamentalists,”

    Saying to the fundamentalist alright you are right ”Islam really is authoratarian and coercive, you win”, has been an epic failure of liberals in Pakistan. Its either been that or trying to compromise, there never has been a response of ”Actually I disagree with what you are saying about Islam, and I have a different idea about what this religion teaches”. Its either been, ”yes we agree with you”, or ”okay you are right, just leave us alone with our secular ideas”. Either way you forgo the challenge and allow the mullah to go unchecked.

    If you cannot even challenge the religious justification for oppression then you will not get far. What did Locke do? Locke cited hundreds of biblical verses against his opponents when he argued for his brand of liberal political theory. (see Jeremy Waldron’s work, Locke, God and Equality)

    Alexis de Tocqueville noticed once in his great book ”Democracy in America” that the common American citizen thought that the Biblical concept of Covenant was a greater moral justification for democracy than the abstract and dry ”social contract” theory. Whether this is true or not is besides the point, but the fact that American citizens developed a type of religiosity which actually provided strong moral foundations for their democracy is significant. Some quotes from his work:

    ”Religion sees in civil liberty a noble field for the exercise of human faculties. Free and powerful in her own sphere, and satisfied with the part reserved for her, she knows that her sovereignty is all the more securely established when she depends only on her own strength and is founded in the hearts of men. And liberty, on the other hand, recognises in religion the comrade of its struggles and triumphs, the cradle of its rights. It knows that religion is the safeguard of morals, and that morals are the safeguard of the laws, and the judge of the continuance of liberty itself.”

    ”Our first consideration is of great importance, and must never be lost sight of. The Anglo-American civilisation which we find in the United States is the product of two perfectly distinct elements, which elsewhere are often at war with one another, but have here been merged and combined in the most wonderful way; I mean the spirit of religion and the spirit of liberty.”

    As I have said elsewhere faith relies on freedom, with freedom faith ceases to be faith and it becomes coercive instead. As I have said before say no to ”State Islam” but welcome ”Public Islam”. Allow religion to be in the public sphere but keep it separate from the State.

    In God, Locke and Equality , Jeremy Waldron argues that Locke’s mature writings present an idea of basic human equality, [are] grounded in Christian theism, and that this idea is “a working premise of his whole political theory” whose influence can be detected in “his arguments about property, family, slavery, government, politics, and toleration” (taken from Notre Dame Philosophical reviews).

  42. bciv

    “So, let change the rule and make him play according to our rules!”

    if people are now more receptive to the relatively more right-minded view, then we can (strictly) occasionally play by the mullahs’ rule and wean people away from them to have critical mass on our side rather than the present inertia against us. people do not wish to go against their religion, but they are quite prepared to clutch at straws. throwing them one now and then won’t be so bad. they do not mind at all going against almost all the mullahs as long as there are one or two reasonably convincing religious arguments out there reassuring them that they are not committing kufr by doing the right thing ie separating state from religion. had they not been so handicapped, zia and JI would not have done their job as thoroughly as they in fact did do it. but the people might just be ready to limp and crawl out of the painful hole that the mullahs and their state sponsors have landed them in. if they are not ready, then nobody can help them.

  43. bciv

    indeed, it is hardly taking on the mullah by a liberal/secularist conceding to him, as one often sees, “i’m no scholar of islam” or “religion is not my field of expertise”. you do not have to be muslim in order to know enough about islam to be able to expose the mullah (in the name of tactics, unless you honestly believe him not to be lying). even though religious debate, (only) slightly unlike scientific debate, is endless, one can indulge in it for just and strictly long enough to expose the mullah to the point where the counter argument and view has been pushed out there in the public domain. then it is for the audience to decide which view they choose to follow.

    but the central argument must be based on purely rational grounds, and the centrality of it established through giving it the greater share of the focus, if nothing else. non-religious, agnostic or atheist liberals can see the moderate and liberal religious scholar and voice as friendly support even as they consider their basis for agreeing with them to be less rational and objective than the one they wish to not only establish as a foundation for (public) law but also the sole justification and inspiration for doing so. why not accept as partners those who believe in separation of state and religion but whose source of inspiration for doing so might be religion rather than science (for want of a better word)?

  44. T.S. Bokhari

    @Dr Jawad Khan
    October 11, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    “جلا لے پادشاہی کو کہ جمہوری تماشہ ہو
    جدا ہو دین سیاست سے تو رہ جاتی ہے چنگیزی”

    But the question here is what is meant by ‘Deen’ as every body has his own deen as deen meaning ‘social norm’, or culture is essential for existence of any society or what is called a ‘Tamaddan’. But the problem is the deen when it degenerates to bigoted religion, then sectarianism, it becomes anti-civilization and anti-human cult, a Changeziat in its worst form.

    They say when Kublai khan, a Mongol Emperor of Cina was told about Islam, he was surprised to know that they can kill people in the name of God by labeling them as ‘kuffaar’ and go to heaven, but when he came to know the Muslims treat Mongols as Kuffar ‘wajibul-qatl’ he got furious and called for the leader of the Muslims (a small minority then like Ahmadies) in China. They brought a bigoted Mullah to appear before the Khan. He asked the Mullah,”Does your religion enjoins you killing of people whom you consider kafir?” The Mullah said,” Yes, it does so.” “Then why don’t you kill me?” said the Khan. The Mullah said, “We shall do this when our time comes”. Upon hearing this, the Khan became furious, ordered the Mullah to be sent to heaven and to gather all the Muslims for a similar treatment before their time comes and they kill us.

    The matter when came to the notice of some sensible muslims who were conscious of the result of the Khan’s order, they went in the form of a delegation to Khan’s darbar and submitted to the khan that they do not treat mongols as kafir as they do believe in some super power like ‘Aasmaan’ (sky) which decides their destinies and thus saved the lives of the Muslim almost all over the world which was ruled by the Mongols then.

  45. Harbir

    A properly secular state must be so without the aquiescence, permission or approval of religious dogma and people’s interpretations of the dogma.

    If the state’s secularism depends upon convincing the public that it does not violate the tenets of the faith, then it cannot be secular. A properly secular state is not one in which the separation of church and state relies upon the faith allowing it.

    A secular state is secular regardless of any interpretation the might be on the dogma.

    The challenge facing Pakistani secularists is the difficulty of arguing to the faithful against those parts of the dogma that clearly contravene secularism.

    Unable to criticize the religious dogma and absent any enlightenment type social reformation, Pakistani secularists are confined to criticizing the mullah and whitewashing the dogma to make it seem secularism friendly.

    I appreciate the difficulty but I would contend that pakistan will not be a secular state till religion gets put in a bottle and kept there regardless of what it might have to say about it’s own role and place in society.

  46. Pingback: Global Voices in English » Pakistan: The Role Of Political Islam

  47. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (October 12, 2010 at 3:03 am)

    John Locke was not the father of modern rationalism. It was Rene Decartes, who came up with the idea of rationalism and in the process, laid the ground work for the emergence of modern philosophy. All the great thinkers of Enlightenment were Christians, but they were willing to put their faith aside as they looked at the problems spawned by religion. Enlightenment was a social and a political reaction to the Confessional Wars in Europe, fought from 1517 to 1648; from the start of the Reformation to the Treaty of Westphalia, which established peace and ended the role of religion in the state’s affairs.

    As your post makes clear, Muslims are not ready yet to step aside from their religion and look at it critically. Presently, the Muslim view in Pakistan, towards their religion, is still one of emotional attachement and it is very difficult for them to consider an identity outside of religion.

    In this sense you may have a point. Pakistan has nothing to offer its people, and has historically offered them nothing, except for religion. Islam has to be seen as holistic in Pakistan, because each neighborhood in Pakistan has its own interpretations of Islam and even if the interpretations are a problem; they still orginate from a particular religion. In the case of Pakistan, the failure to define Islam as a political religion has always been whose Islam will be paramount over others Islam in Pakistan?

    Pakistani state cannot even define the defination of a Muslim and no two people can agree on who is a Muslim and yet, the state can legally and constitutionally declare a group of people as non-Muslims.

    There are problems associated with the religion, and its interpretations in Pakistan. These problems will have to addressed and dealt with and to hope that the problem is one of interpretation is misleading, because you did not even defined what is political Islam before you imposed it on the state. Interpretations come from within the religion itself and in the case of Pakistan, it is not a sovereign state in any sense of the word, but is stage held hostage to the terror of a religion and that religion, Islam, is being used to breed a religious sanctioned killing in the rest of the world.

    To the outside world, watching Pakistan and its progressive decline into chaos and dysfunctionalism marked by increasing intolerance, the interpretations of Islam do not matter. What matters to the outside is the deeds committed in the name of Islam, as a political religion, and how political Islam encourages an exclusionist philosophy.

    This problem is not going to settled or solved by quoting examples of Christian enlightened thinkers. Those Christians, whom you quoted, were able to challenge the basis of their religion, because the Catholic Church was weakened over a period of years starting from the advent of the Black Death in 1347 to the Great Schism in the 1400s to Reformation in 1517 and the Confessional Wars fought from 1522-1650. They were able to challenge the doctrines of the church, because they were encouraged by the monarchs of Europe, who were eager to take advantage of the church’s diminished political role and create a role for themselves as a replacement to the church’s political role – leading to the establishment of the idea of Absolutism and the Divine Right of the Kings.

    The Pakistani state is not in a position, where “good minded Muslims” can challenge religion in Pakistan. The state does not allow such ideas to be debated regardless of what the good minded reformist Muslims might hope to achieve. The state has been steadily captured by a religious dogma and the only way your examples of inward looking reforms will happen, is when the religious ideal of the state is weakened and a space for debating the place of religion in the state is allowed.

    The end result is, the debate in Pakistan is censored and limited to the interpretations of Islam. As long as Islam exists in Pakistan, the ambitious and the Machiavellian will exploit it for their own ends and force upon a gullible public more injustices and misery. Islam is not a religion in Pakistan; it is a “free get out of jail card” for any one who wishes to misuse their authority and escape accountibility for their actions.

    The only way in which Islam can avoid being exploited is to remove it from the affairs of the state. There is papable fear, noticed, in the replies to this article, which imagines the fires of hell being visited upon the faithful for thinking of an existence outside of Islam.

    Removal of Islam as a political religion and its separation from the state does not mean one ceases to be a Muslim.

    This is true, unless, one imagines that a religion can only exist within a structure of a state and to remove a religion from a state, will cause the end of that state.

    If this is what the majority of the Pakistanis think and believe, then there is no point of reforms, because your state will be a failure and it will continue to be a failure. It will continue to be a mess of contradictions and a realm of injustices.
    You may wish to be judged by God’s law while you live on this earth, but the world will judge you by its laws.

    The soul of a person is immortal and their salvation is in the next world. The soul of a nation is mortal; its salvation is now in the present. There will be no re-birth for Pakistan in the next world and it will not exist in the Hereafter. Pakistan will live and die in the present world according to its acts, which will be judged by a secular world and not a Divine Authority.

    The choice is yours. If you wish to lose Pakistan and maybe live under a different flag, then do nothing because the state is doing a very good job of destroying itself in the name of religion. If you wish to save Pakistan, you will have to deal with the issue of religion and its influence in Pakistani politics and remove its role from the politics of the state.

    One caveat of caution: you may have the patience to wait till the “right time” when things will sort themselves out, but do not think that the world will have the patience to wait endlessly. Whether the Pakistanis like it or not; the world will act in its self-interests and self-interests of the world will outweigh the self-interests of Pakistan.

    The drone attacks will not cease but increase and as the world sees you and your inactions and inability to tackle the problems, it will take matters into its own hands. In the end, you and your nation, which came into existence on the basis of religion, will cease to exist because of religion.

    ciao

  48. Bin Ismail

    @ T.S. Bokhari (October 12, 2010 at 6:51 am)

    With respect to Iqbal’s famous misra “Juda ho Deen siyasat se to reh jaati hai Changezi”, there is an observation made by Nusrat Pasha, in an article of his, titled “Paradise Lost”. Let me quote the relevant paragraph. He writes:

    “There is an oft misquoted line of Iqbal, which , can actually open the doors to religious extremism. Iqbal said : ” juda ho deen siyasat say to reh jaati hai changezi “. People in search of justifications for bringing Religion into politics, keep quoting this line. Deen does not mean Clergy, because if it did, we would have to infer that contrary to Iqbal’s claim, by bringing deen into siyasat, we practically landed in the midst of Changezi. This Changezi in turn has cost us the lives of more about 3000 of our valiant soldiers and a similarly large number of innocent civilians.”

    For his complete article you may like to go to the following link:

    http://secularpakistan.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/paradise-lost/

    Regards.

  49. Subcontinental

    @Feroze Khan

    I haven’t written anything on this site for a long time, because every time I was here, I only heard a bird house, with every writer just trying to show his feathers, speaking a lot but saying very little.

    I write again only to say: Congratulations on your extremely good piece. Nice to know some minds still have their sharpness to make incisions into a mess of a society called Pakistan.

  50. AA Khalid

    ”John Locke was not the father of modern rationalism. It was Rene Decartes, who came up with the idea of rationalism and in the process, laid the ground work for the emergence of modern philosophy”

    Locke’s role is noticeable, along with Kant and many others. Descarte’s religiosity also points to a belief in the Divine, hence his Cartesian ontological argument for God.

    ”All the great thinkers of Enlightenment were Christians, but they were willing to put their faith aside ”

    That’s ridiculous. They re-interpreted traditional notions of faith, but this fairytale historiography that religion vanished from the European continent in the wake of the Enlightenment is a joke.

    I say religion is political because people rarely see religion as a body of existential truths. People see religion as identity and identity always plays a role in politics. Hence we should make it clear that the State should be kept separate from religious institutions, but that religion is allowed to have a constructive role in the public sphere. Hence my point about, ”Say no to State Islam but yes to Public Islam”.

    Public religion is inevitable but we can argue against State religion. That is my point that you keep the political institutions of a state free and independent from religious institutions. Stop religion being monopolised by the State and allow it to have a role in the public sphere.

    That I think is the most congenial solution.

    ”. Those Christians, whom you quoted, were able to challenge the basis of their religion, because the Catholic Church ”

    That is the issue just there. You say those Christian thinkers challenged the ”basis of their religion” because they attacked the Catholic Church. But those Christian thinkers only attacked the Catholic Church not because these thinkers were uncertain about the existenial truth of their religion (i.e. belief in God etc.) but because they wanted to critique religious authority in light of the ethical and moral teachings of their faith.

    The ”Catholic Church” is not the same as the ”basis of the Christian faith”. The former is an institution the latter a collection of existential statements and beliefs.

    I would urge you to separate ”politics”, ”civil society” and ”public sphere” from the ”State”. These terms are not interchangeable and do not mean the same thing. Hence say no to State Islam but yes to Public Islam.

  51. Humanity

    @ Feroz Khan October 12, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    You have grabbed the bull by its horn! The issue on the table could not have been articulated better.

    Now how to get this message to the masses? The least we can do is spread this article and the specific comment.

  52. krash

    @A A Khalid
    I say no to ”State Islam” but yes to ”Public Islam”

    Don’t you think this is ONLY possible by reducing the role of the State to a minimum, a la libertarianism.

  53. AA Khalid

    ”If the state’s secularism depends upon convincing the public that it does not violate the tenets of the faith, then it cannot be secular”

    Why don’t you read Locke’s ”Letter Concerning Toleration”….

    How do you justify secularism then? How was secularism justified? In Europe secularism was justified using liberal theology along with a theory of natural law. In many respects we can cite the roots of secular political theory in Protestant liberal theology.

    Modernity’s origins are theological, just read ”The Theological Origins of Modernity”:

    ”Exposing the religious roots of our ostensibly godless age, Michael Allen Gillespie reveals in this landmark study that modernity is much less secular than conventional wisdom suggests. Taking as his starting point the collapse of the medieval world, Gillespie argues that from the very beginning moderns sought not to eliminate religion but to support a new view of religion and its place in human life. He goes on to explore the ideas of such figures as William of Ockham, Petrarch, Erasmus, Luther, Descartes, and Hobbes, showing that modernity is best understood as a series of attempts to formulate a new and coherent metaphysics or theology. ”

    This sub-standard, homogenized and terribly woeful historiography practiced by many liberals is a whitewashing of history and counter-productive. This is the point I made clear in my article on the ”Religious Basis of the Enlightenment?”

    Indeed a popular view, favored by Eisenach, Reventlow, MacIntyre, and Mitchell , sees modern liberalism as a form of Christianity and of Protestantism in particular.

    The Enlightenment was premised on new forms and interpretations of religion being received not on the marginalization of religion. Professor Sorkin’s book which I quoted in my article, ”The Religious Basis of the Enlightenment” does indicate this.

    Jurgen Habermas who is not a religious thinker in the slightest but a firm defender of the Enlightenment Project has said:

    ”For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. ”

    The Enlightenment was a gift to religion. The re-interpretation of religion both influenced the Enlightenment and was produced as a result of it. It was a complex interaction, far more complex that Feroz Khan and others let on. Embrace complexity rather than shying away from it and hiding under the blankets of simplicity.

    So this simplistic notion that the Enlightenment was a movement devoid of religious underpinnings is one which is now seen as absolutely false in many scholarly and academic enquiries.

    .

  54. no-communal

    @Subcontinental

    Long time no see.

  55. AA Khalid

    ”Don’t you think this is ONLY possible by reducing the role of the State to a minimum, ”

    No. But I do see this possible in a country where the State does not control the media, civil society and denies the right to freedom of association and conscience.

    The problem was that for decades the civil and public sphere in Pakistan was dominated by the State itself. But now that is changing we are moving towards (very slowly) a more balanced relationship between the State and society. The State is distinct from society.

  56. AA Khalid

    ”There is papable fear, noticed, in the replies to this article, ”

    I do not think many have disagree with your central thesis that Islam should be separate from the State. I myself support this thesis consistently in my writings on PTH.

  57. AA Khalid

    I will quote a most illuminating example from Egypt from one of Brian Whitaker’s articles:

    ”Official discrimination against the Baha’is in Egypt is one example of a problem that cannot be tackled though secular arguments alone, because of the claims that it is sanctioned by Islam.

    “One scholar after another, one government official after another, would insist that under Islam only three religions are allowed – Islam, Christianity and Judaism,” Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights recalled when I spoke to him about this in Cairo last summer. He continued:

    *********When we started doing research we realised there is no basis in the Qur’an or the Sunna to support their claim that Muslims may only coexist with “people of the book” – and we started saying so. *********

    I was once in a televised debate with the former president of al-Azhar university who was one of the chief jurists of the Islamic Religious Council and we were talking about the Baha’i faith. He started stating the usual position that Islam only allows adherents to the three Abrahamic religions. So I challenged him on this and said: “What’s your evidence?”

    I think he was stunned … I cited all the evidence about how the Prophet Muhammad in Madina never discriminated between people of the Book and others who adhered to other faiths – like the Zoroastrians, for example. He couldn’t argue with my evidence because my evidence came not from fringe opinions but from major books that are selectively avoided by scholars because they don’t give them the cover they want for their bigotry.

    So immediately he shifted. He said: “Yes, but they [the Baha’is] have their headquarters in Haifa in Israel and they work against the fabric of our society, their presence is against national unity,” etc.
    ””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    This was an absolutely sensational article by Whitaker and I urge all to read it. Just google, ”Mutual friends: secularism and Islam”.

  58. AA Khalid

    I end with a wise quote from Abdullahi An Naim (his ”Islam and the Secular State his also worth a read):

    ”In order to be a Muslim by conviction and free choice, which is the only way one can be a Muslim, I need a secular state”

    My thoughts exactly. It is because I am a Muslim (or concerned about my existential position, hence one can be of any faith or no faith) that a I need a secular state. The religious case for secularism is indeed one of the strongest and most potent resources available to us.

  59. no-communal

    Congratulations to Harbir and Feroze Khan for coming from two different religious backgrounds but speaking the same truth.

  60. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (October 12, 2010 at 8:59 pm)

    How do you intend to separate, as you state, politics, civil society and public sphere from religion, when the state and its state sanctioned religious ideals consider them to be as one; when state proclaims “all sovereignty is vested in Allah”?

    Religion and religious ideas dominate the state, its politics, its civil society and its public sphere. Religion establishes a code of behavior for all these spheres and how they are to regulate themselves. This is where hypocrisy and its genesis in the Pakistani society resides. People in Pakistan routinely ignore Islam and its teachings, when those teachings clash with their more secular interests.

    This creates double-standards in everything. On one level, you have all the trappings of following the rituals of a religion and on another level, you engage in a behavior that trespasses what your religion forbids you from doing. People, in such situations, lead double lives; one private and one public.

    It is no wonder, as nation, we suffer from a national bi-polarism and like a victim of bi-polarism, we tend to be mentally imbalanced and unhinged, because there is huge amount of guilt in our consciences as we know that our public displays of our religion do not reflect our private religious lives.

    What you suggest as a remedy is reasonable, but it is also wishful thinking. The role of Islam in Pakistani politics will not allow for any such reformist movements in its society.

    There is a cancer growing in Pakistani body politic and it is called religion. If you think, that religion is not the problem and all is fine in the land of oz, which is Pakistan, then there is no need to change and there is no reason to complain at the present state of affairs in Pakistan.

    Everything is perfect in Pakistan and life is a pure bliss with out a single worry.

    To paraphrase the German writer Goethe, I feel a general sorrow for the Pakistani people, which is so estimable in the individual and so wretched in its generality.

    ciao

  61. AA Khalid

    ”How do you intend to separate, as you state, politics, civil society and public sphere from religion”’

    I did not say that read my post again.

    ”Religion and religious ideas dominate the state, its politics, its civil society and its public sphere”

    Go beyond the form and engage with the substance. What type of religiosity is it? What type of religious discourse is it?

    ”What you suggest as a remedy is reasonable, but it is also wishful thinking. The role of Islam in Pakistani politics will not allow for any such reformist movements in its society”

    I disagree. That is because the role of Islam has either been accepted as it is or is ignored and rejected out of hand. It actually hasn’t been challenged. That is the subtle point. There either has been a surrender of religious interpretation to the mullah or no engagement with religion at all. Both courses of action have proven to be disastrous. Because you have left the terrain of religious interpretation to fundamentalists. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that fundamentalists have control of religious discourse. After all fundamentalists rush in where liberals fear to tread.

    ” If you think, that religion is not the problem ”

    I did not say that.

    ”Everything is perfect in Pakistan and life is a pure bliss with out a single worry”

    Didn’t say that either.

    Unfortunately you have totally misread my views.

  62. AZW

    Feroz:

    Bravo. A brave piece and though it may make many people squirm, you have addressed quite a few relevant points in one single piece.

    What I found even more powerful were your subsequent comments that I am reposting below. They need to be repeated. The intellectual bankruptcy of the Pakistani masses is laid bare in the last six decades of the history of the state as they hopelessly try to continually redefine Pakistan as an Islamic or as a psuedo-Islamic state.

    There is no way a political Islam can be imposed upon a state (modern or ancient) without exposing the inadequacy of a religion to govern the state. And as you are pointing out, Pakistanis will take their time realizing the futility of their approach. They will beat around the bush, chase grand them-against-us conspiracy theories. Eventually Pakistan will retreat, one by one, from the failed policies that it pursued in the name of Islam. However, the pace of the modern world is too quick for the slumberous Pakistani introspection. The world will continue to coax and coerce us until we are no longer a threat to the outside world.

    A few points regarding expelling political Islam from the state of Pakistan:

    1) It cannot be enforced by an iron hand. It needs to have a critical mass acceptance before it can be constitutionally employed. This is not just a difference between the liberal ideology versus what the religious right practices. Any measure that is heavy handedly enforced will be temporary and will provoke backlash as population will remain suspicious of the motives.

    2) I think what AA Khalid is proposing is a gradual religiously tinged secularism, when he cites examples of secular ideals flowering from the bed of protestant Europe. There were no precedents for the earliest European philosophers. The natural evolution into separation of religion and state demanded that basis in religious thought.

    But in the twenty first century, why are we looking to repeat the initial phase of evolution is not clear to me. World has moved on quite a bit since then. The argument for secularism calls for separation of state from religion, without compromising any personal religious values. For me, this is a rather clear case of complete separation of religion from state.

    Khalid wants to grow secularism out of a toned down version of Islam that is palatable to the general masses. If last millennium is any guide, this strategy will be rebuffed again and again by the religious right wing only because most likely, there is no correct answer. Both sides will rehash their favorite ayahs, ahadith and religious precedents. Stalemate is an unequivocal victory for the right that thrives on confusion and indecisiveness.

    What intelligentsia ought to be doing is to challenge the futility of religion in the affairs of the state head on. It will make those confused souls frantic (who cannot follow their religion without ever recognizing its shortcomings in the political governance area), then this is what comes with this bargain. We cannot make all people happy all the time.

    Now, back to some of your comments in this thread that I believe need to be repeated here:

    Presently, the Muslim view in Pakistan, towards their religion, is still one of emotional attachment and it is very difficult for them to consider an identity outside of religion…….

    Pakistan has nothing to offer its people, and has historically offered them nothing, except for religion. Islam has to be seen as holistic in Pakistan, because each neighborhood in Pakistan has its own interpretations of Islam and even if the interpretations are a problem; they still orginate from a particular religion. In the case of Pakistan, the failure to define Islam as a political religion has always been whose Islam will be paramount over others Islam in Pakistan? ……………….

    The Pakistani state is not in a position, where “good minded Muslims” can challenge religion in Pakistan. The state does not allow such ideas to be debated regardless of what the good minded reformist Muslims might hope to achieve. The state has been steadily captured by a religious dogma and the only way your examples of inward looking reforms will happen, is when the religious ideal of the state is weakened and a space for debating the place of religion in the state is allowed.

    The end result is, the debate in Pakistan is censored and limited to the interpretations of Islam. As long as Islam exists in Pakistan, the ambitious and the Machiavellian will exploit it for their own ends and force upon a gullible public more injustices and misery. Islam is not a religion in Pakistan; it is a “free get out of jail card” for any one who wishes to misuse their authority and escape accountability for their actions.

    The only way in which Islam can avoid being exploited is to remove it from the affairs of the state. There is palpable fear, noticed, in the replies to this article, which imagines the fires of hell being visited upon the faithful for thinking of an existence outside of Islam.

    Removal of Islam as a political religion and its separation from the state does not mean one ceases to be a Muslim.

    This is true, unless, one imagines that a religion can only exist within a structure of a state and to remove a religion from a state, will cause the end of that state.

    If this is what the majority of the Pakistanis think and believe, then there is no point of reforms, because your state will be a failure and it will continue to be a failure. It will continue to be a mess of contradictions and a realm of injustices.

    You may wish to be judged by God’s law while you live on this earth, but the world will judge you by its laws.

    The soul of a person is immortal and their salvation is in the next world. The soul of a nation is mortal; its salvation is now in the present. There will be no re-birth for Pakistan in the next world and it will not exist in the Hereafter. Pakistan will live and die in the present world according to its acts, which will be judged by a secular world and not a Divine Authority.

    The choice is yours. If you wish to lose Pakistan and maybe live under a different flag, then do nothing because the state is doing a very good job of destroying itself in the name of religion. If you wish to save Pakistan, you will have to deal with the issue of religion and its influence in Pakistani politics and remove its role from the politics of the state.

    One caveat of caution: you may have the patience to wait till the “right time” when things will sort themselves out, but do not think that the world will have the patience to wait endlessly. Whether the Pakistanis like it or not; the world will act in its self-interests and self-interests of the world will outweigh the self-interests of Pakistan.
    The drone attacks will not cease but increase and as the world sees you and your inactions and inability to tackle the problems, it will take matters into its own hands. In the end, you and your nation, which came into existence on the basis of religion, will cease to exist because of religion.

  63. Raza Raja

    Ever since joining PTH, this is perhaps the best debate and extraordinary high quality of input is coming from Feroz, tilsim, AA Khalid, AZW and all the rest.
    I think the central issue is the modus operandi…
    Do you reintrepret Islam to make the existing Islamic laws in line with modern times or push religion away from the laws.
    I think the whole issue is of pragmatic vs eventual objective.
    Eventually religion has no business in state and there are extremely persuasive arguments for it. BUT pragmatically people in Pakistan wont give religion away due various cultural and political reasons. therefore pragmatically we can go for reintrepertation.
    On PTH, it is fine, you can argue that religion should be pushed away. But pragmatically it is a very tough task. Go and try talking to your average man in street…you will know the answer….if people were really that rational…we would not have been in this mess in the first place
    It is extremely tough and so is reinterpretation…but slightly less so…

  64. Raza Raja

    And yes…you can not leave religion to the clergy..whether you are religious or not…religion has to be debated..not only in the context of its role in state but in personal lives also.

    What do you think that mere removal from state will make the issues and problems disappear…have you ever thought that it is in laws PARTLY (not fully) because of it reverence in the personal lives..the way religion is understood will impact people even if it is not inculcated in law..we have to understand that

    We need to start a discourse on the nature of religious interpretations. On that I agree with AA Khalid…Eventually I have the vision which Feroz Khan has…but I think I agree with both of them in a particualr way

  65. Bilal Ahmad

    I think the author is very optimistic that prevailing environment will compel Pakistanis to think and question about their religion and its effects on State. I don’t hope that our nation is so capable to get rid of psychological sickness that mulla of our time has infected it with. I see common people discussing with utmost seriousness that floods are result of some US conspiracy or the pilot of air blue flight was extremely religious and patriotic to fail a plot to bomb kahota. I don’t feel our nation as society is mentally healthy enough to take such a critical evaluation of itself. But I do believe that barbaric religious fascism that we are witnessing will decline after attaining a peak, and I pray that peak to be least destructive to our nation.

  66. krash

    @A A Khalid
    “No. But I do see this possible in a country where the State does not control the media, civil society and denies the right to freedom of association and conscience”

    What about the control of education, curriculum, family laws (marriage, inheritance etc), social laws (drugs, alcohol, prostitution etc.) ?

    As long as the state spreads its tentacles into such areas it cannot pretend to be ‘value-neutral’ . You can strip a religion from it, only to replace it with something equivalent – even though it is not labeled religion as such.

    The only way for a state to be truly neutral is to limit itself to the sphere of consensus among all religions and ideologies. That is, the protection of life and property, and a common defense against outsiders.

  67. AA Khalid

    ”Khalid wants to grow secularism out of a toned down version of Islam that is palatable to the general masses. If last millennium is any guide, this strategy will be rebuffed again and again by the religious right wing only because most likely, there is no correct answer. ”

    Unfortunately AZW has failed to take note of my citations of the European experience. Secular political theory grew out of the Protestant ethic. That much is clear. Liberalism itself is merely a form of liberal political theology in its formative genesis and classical sense.

    I am only talking about secularism as a political theory. Some others are confusing this with philosophy, metaphysics and ethics. I think the secular model of political theory, the secular paradigm of separating political and religious institutions is perhaps the most attractive argument.

    We need to stress the advantages of living in such a State to religious citizens. You can practice your faith more freely, and most importantly according to the dictates of your conscience in such a State. That is a powerful message not only from a rational view point but spiritually it is potent aswell.

    I think Raza Raja hits the nail on the head:

    ”Do you reintrepret Islam to make the existing Islamic laws in line with modern times or push religion away from the laws”

    To which my reply is a form of natural law liberalism. For me ”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” (Islamic Natural Law Theories). Theories of ijtihad and maqasid al sharia can also be advanced to this effect.

    We have the example of Morocco. Ziauddin Sardar writes:

    ”This is where Morocco has provided an essential lead. Its new Islamic family law, introduced in February, sweeps away centuries of bigotry and bias against women. It was produced with the full co-operation of religious scholars as well as the active participation of women.

    Morocco retained much of the colonial legal system that France left behind, but, in family law, followed what is known locally as the Moudawana – the traditional Islamic rules on marriage, divorce, inheritance, polygamy and child custody. At first, King Mohammed VI had to abandon plans for change because, protesters claimed, he was trying to impose secular law and western culture on Morocco. In spring 2001, however, he set up a commission, which included women and was given the specific task of coming up with fresh legislation based on the principles of Islam. Given enormous impetus by 9/11 and its aftermath, it produced a report that many see as a revolutionary document. The resulting family code establishes that women are equal partners in marriage and family life. It throws out the notion that the husband is head of the family and that women are mere underlings in need of guidance and protection. It raises the minimum age for women’s marriage from 15 to 18, the same as for men.

    The new Moudawana allows a woman to contract a marriage without the legal approval of a guardian. Verbal divorce has been outlawed: men now require prior authorisation from a court, and women have exactly the same rights. Women can claim alimony and can be granted custody of their children even if they remarry. Husbands and wives must share property acquired during the marriage. The old custom of favouring male heirs in the sharing of inherited land has also been dropped, making it possible for grandchildren on the daughter’s side to inherit from their grandfather, just like grandchildren on the son’s side. As for polygamy, it has been all but abolished. Men can take second wives only with the full consent of the first wife and only if they can prove, in a court of law, that they can treat them both with absolute justice – an impossible condition.

    Every change in the law is justified – chapter and verse – from the Koran, and from the examples and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. And every change acquired the consent of the religious scholars. Even the Islamist political organisations have welcomed the change. The Party of Justice and Development described the law as “a pioneering reform” which is “in line with the prescriptions of Islam and with the aims of our religion”””’.

    So in Morroco’s case the ”Maqasid Al Sharia” philosophy was adopted. The ”higher aims of the Sharia” were considered and liberal legal reforms were instituted.

  68. AA Khalid

    ”I think I agree with both of them in a particualr way”

    That’s because I and FK both share the same diagnosis but come out with different (but not dynamically opposed or contradictory) views after the initial diagnosis.

  69. AA Khalid

    ”As long as the state spreads its tentacles into such areas it cannot pretend to be ‘value-neutral’ . You can strip a religion from it, only to replace it with something equivalent – even though it is not labeled religion as such”

    That is a perceptive point of course, but I feel that is a different topic to the one being discussed here (though it has relevance).

    Perhaps before talking about religion ,we need to talk about what type of State do we want. The libertarian conception of the State very much part of the classical liberal tradition is one I do not support. I think the more contemporary and modern forms of liberalism which accept government intervention to provide welfare and to correct the excesses of the free market etc. is more sensible.

    This is a separate debate and one perhaps which should deserve its own thread….

  70. harbir

    @ AA Khalid

    I said: ”If the state’s secularism depends upon convincing the public that it does not violate the tenets of the faith, then it cannot be secular”

    To which you responded: “How do you justify secularism then? How was secularism justified? ”

    Well, I was not looking to justify secularism. I was merely stating that secularism can exist only if certain aspects of the human experience are put outside the purview of religion.

    When a religion claims authority over those aspects, secularism requires religion to be defied, to be beaten back, to be disregarded, to be reduced from the social into the personal space.

    Secular government, secular education, secular science, etc must all by definition be immune to the authority of religious dogma and religious sentiment.

    Otherwise they are not secular.

    You have not shown this to be incorrect. The european enlightment may have had much in that was about making peace between religions and government, but it is mostly about the eviction of the church and its authority from whole swathes of the human existence.

    It is my opinion that it is impossible to truly appreciate the enlightenment by reading of only of the philosophers and their circumstances. It is essential to educate yourself on the development of science, the challenges it created to religious dogma and religious authority, and the ultimate defeat and expulsion of religion from the domains of science, ie method of acquiring new knowledge.

    Secularism REQUIRES that the domain of religion be reduced. Not necessarily eliminated but certainly reduced, and substantially so.

    If you have ideas about some radical new model about how muslim societies can be secular without the public accepting that some aspects of islamic dogma are inapplicable, that humans can choose to disregard them, regardless of whether they are the words of god as narrated to the final prophet, I’d be happy to hear about it.

  71. krash

    @A A Khalid,

    The reason I think this point is important is because the ideal that people aspire to is a NEUTRAL state. A secular state is promoted by its proponents as fulfilling this ideal. I strongly feel that, in actuality, the secular state falls short in this respect. It may be neutral between two traditional religions, but it will privilege its own secular ideology over other religious ideologies.

    The only way to be neutral between two points of view is to either limit oneself to the sphere where they both overlap or to stand outside both of them. The secular state chooses the latter path. Unfortunately, there is no ‘standing outside’ religion. Religion is a foundational worldview. When you stand outside a foundational worldview you are standing in another one. You end up privileging that one over the others.

    This is not a mere theoretical point. You are fond of quoting European history from the time of the birth of secularism. I am sure you are well aware of what happened afterward. Religion was gradually marginalized and has practically disappeared from European culture. Europe can hardly be called a Christian civilization today.

    This was no accident. Once secularism was accepted as a neutral and ‘objective’ worldview it gained state backing and was propagated with the resources of the state. Religion was prohibited from the domain of the state and that domain kept increasing. The result was a slippery slope to the complete disappearance of religion.

    I think this is the true reason for the fear of secularism in Islamic societies, although it has not been properly articulated as such. They know, instinctively, that a secular state is not going to be NEUTRAL. They fear meeting the same fate as Western Christianity. I think these fears are authentic and well founded and deserve to be addressed and not dismissed.

  72. AA Khalid

    ”Religion was gradually marginalized and has practically disappeared from European culture. Europe can hardly be called a Christian civilization today. ”

    That is true, but that is a separate issue not to be confused with the political paradigm of secularism. I think that is a debate to do with metaphysics, disenchantment, ethics and philosophy which is beyond the scope of what I am proposing. That is a different story altogether and one which I think does not have necessarily links with political theory.

    I am not proposing the State be ”neutral”, I am saying the State should allow its citizens to voice their opinions freely in the public sphere without fear of coercion.

    This is the ”procedural secularism” model proposed.

    To quote Jonathan Chaplain:

    ”Archbishop Rowan Williams has termed these two tendencies “programmatic” and “procedural” secularism.The former intentionally imposes a secularist faith on the public realm and works to privatise religious faith as much as possible, while the latter seeks to allow all faith perspectives equal access to the public realm but claims to confer no
    political privilege on any. The former has been called “secular fundamentalism”, and the
    latter “inclusive secularism”

    This is in essence what I argue for. We can see that many religious intellectuals are reaching these conclusions (independently it seems) ,which seem to be sensible.

  73. AA Khalid

    I think the ”secularization” thesis (which is a sociological phenomenon) is separate from the political secularism I am talking about.

    Jonathan Fox, in his book, ‘’ A World Survey of Religion and the State’’, and the two points Fox makes in the books are ground breaking:

    ‘’ These findings contradict the predictions of religion’s reduced public significance found in modernization and secularization theory.

    The findings also demonstrate that state religious monopolies are linked to reduced religious participation.’’

  74. AA Khalid

    @ Harbir

    You are talking in epistemological terms, I am only talking about political theory. The problem is that people can take the concept of secularism in all different directions and tangents.

    I am simply talking about the political paradigm which seeks to separate State and religious institutions but allows religion to have a voice in the public sphere, civic debate and democratic process.

    I am not talking about metaphysics, epistemology, ontology, ethics or anything else.

  75. harbir

    “seeks to allow all faith perspectives equal access to the public realm”

    This is nonsense. In a pluralistic country like India with hundreds of millions of minority religion adherents, it would be an absolute nightmare to formulate laws that are compliant with ALL the religions AND also don’t trample on non-religious.

    In countries with near complete majorities of one religion, it would have the effect of turning those states into theocracies since that religion would have total access to the public realm.

    its a very cute way to argue for the total domination of religion in a country like pakistan while dressing it up in pretences of “inclusive secularism”

  76. AA Khalid

    ”This is nonsense. In a pluralistic country like India with hundreds of millions of minority religion adherents, it would be an absolute nightmare to formulate laws that are compliant with ALL the religions AND also don’t trample on non-religious.”

    That’s not what the quote is talking about…There seems to exist a conceptual desert here, there is a difference between ”Public religion” and ”State religion”.

  77. AA Khalid

    What do people do in democracies? They deliberate, they discuss, they debate, they argue, there is give and talk involved. Instead of marginalising religious voices in this process of civic debate, allow them to take part. But there should be a realisation no one’s views are above criticism, this indeed is the unwritten agreement so to speak (a form of social contract) we all sign up to when we engage in civic debate.

  78. harbir

    “You are talking in epistemological terms,”

    on the contrary. I am talking in practical terms. there is no confusion about what secularism is, unless you are seeking to confuse it, or talking to people who don’t understand what it means.

    it simply means the exclusion of religion from things, such as government, education, science, laws, etc.

    And there is no way to have this kind of secularism if the religion in question has dogmatic pronouncements on those subjects that the adherents are unwilling to allow to be disregarded.

  79. AA Khalid

    In democracies people should be able to discuss and not have to repress their own convictions before entering the public sphere otherwise the whole process is futile and counter-productive.

    Anyway even in a non-religious society, what Harbir is talking about is nonsense. Does that mean we should only allow ”communists” to enter the public sphere and not allow ”liberals”? Should we ban the ”utilitarians”, but allow the ”free market capitalists”?

    After all if we let everyone with their different political beliefs to enter the public sphere it will be a nightmare…..or so the fallicious reasoning of Harbir goes…..We should do what Harbir says and only allow people with a particular type of political belief (”secularism” used in a vague and meaningless way by Harbir) to enter the public sphere……what folly…

  80. harbir

    “there is a difference between ”Public religion” and ”State religion”.

    what is a public religion? what aspects of hinduism, islam, jainism, christianity, sikhism, atheism, and everything else combine to form a public religion that satisfies the dogmas of all those religions, and would result in something more and better than simple secular humanism?

    What does such a public religion offer the people that a secular government in the style of the US does not?

    What do people and society get from a public religion vs many private individual ones?

  81. AA Khalid

    @ Harbib

    You just said you did not talk about epistemology but then in the very next line you said:

    ”it simply means the exclusion of religion from things, such as government, education, science, laws, etc.”

    By saying you exclude religion from science and education you are talking an epistemological view point. You are clearly saying that ”religious reasons” should have no place in the public sphere because of their metaphysical truth claims (which are meaningless and irrational if we take the logical positivistic view point).

    You are confusing secularism big time. There is are different dimensions to it. There is the:

    ”Secularization thesis” (which is basically the social phenomenon where people lose their belief)

    ”Secularism” (the political paradigm which fundamentally speaks about dividing the political and religious institutions).

    There are epistemic varieties of secularism, such as naturalism etc.etc., where metaphysics is deemed as irrelevant to intellectual inquiry. There is also the Popperian (even Kantian ) divison of cognitive labour that science and religion are fundamentally different pursuits so they are neither in concordance nor in conflict. Anyway you get the picture, the term ”secularism” is a diverse concept.

    Use it precisely and use it with meaning not as a political slogan. Its a shame that such sophisticated concepts are reduced to political slogans, and then people cannot understand anything beyond the slogans themselves.

  82. AA Khalid

    ”What does such a public religion offer the people that a secular government in the style of the US does not? ”

    You’re totally confused, they are not in conflict because a ”public religion” is not the same as the State. The ”private” vs ”public” debate is superficial.

    Do you leave your political beliefs at home when entering the public sphere? So why should a religious citizen whose political ideas are informed by a certain reading of religious teaching?

    It’s not about conflict, its about protecting the basic political rights of citizens. They should be able to express themselves freely in civic debate. They should not have to repress their beliefs or ideas.

    This is the most peculiar model of secularism. The militant French style secularism. Marginalise religion, drive it away. This is authoratarian.

  83. AA Khalid

    In this respect Krash’s defintion of a State is pretty helpful:

    ”That is, the protection of life and property, and a common defense against outsiders”

    I think this can be extended towards the model of the nation state in contemporary modern liberalism but this is a good working defintion.

  84. harbir

    “In democracies people should be able to discuss and not have to repress their own convictions”

    Private individuals are free to vote their conscience. and there is no end of politicians who pander to religious sentiment, even in the most secular of countries. nothing stops them from doing so. The only limits they face are constitutional ones, and even those are not inviolable for constitutions can be amended.

    The problem here is not that the will of the faithful is suppressed in secular countries. It is that in religiously guided countries, religion swamps everything. The only salvation is secularism, but not if the people reject it.

  85. AA Khalid

    @ Harbir

    That’s why the model of secularism I am talking about (passive,procedural and inclusive) works, because it imposes constitutional limits but does not seek authoratarian control of the public sphere. The institutional divide is established without trespassing into public forms of religiosity.

    It gives no political priveleges to religion but allows access to the public relam.

  86. harbir

    and please spare me the example of France. That country’s aggression against religious symbolism may be at the edge of what the secularist might defend, but france is a very long way away doing things like declaring people as non-muslims or having hudood laws.

    Your attacks on secularist sentiment are weak. Before you gain any traction, you first need to acknowledge that the problem of overt religiosity in the affairs of the state is a far far bigger problem than secularism in free democracies is.

    You have yet to make any progress in showing why american style secularism isn’t the very best known way to administer society.

  87. harbir

    “It gives no political priveleges to religion but allows access to the public relam.”

    what does that mean?

    Can you give me a concrete example so I can understand?

  88. krash

    @ AA Khalid
    “while the latter seeks to allow all faith perspectives equal access to the public realm but claims to confer no political privilege on any.”

    How is this practically possible in a non-minimalist state?

    Think about the issues such a state will confront.

    If it provides public education it will need to provide a state curriculum.
    It will need to determine laws governing marriage and sexuality. Is polygamy to be allowed? Is adultery to be criminalized? Is homosexuality to be allowed? homosexual marriage?
    It will need to legislate on other moral issues. Is abortion a crime? Is capital punishment moral?

    How can a state deal with such issues without ‘conferring political privilege’ on some ideology? Wouldn’t the majority ideology prevail in a democratic state? Wouldn’t the minorities be tempted to secede if they are in a local majority?

    This is why I think that the question of an impartial state cannot be separated from the question of the scope of the state.

  89. Salman Arshad

    @AA Khalid:

    All interpretations are equal.

    What you are betting on is some ‘decent’ interpretation of Islam somehow taking over the ‘not so decent’ ones.. you have your examples in European history (as you interpreted it !)

    But what you don’t see is that you are acknowledging that even the ‘not so decent’ interpretations have their own roots in “reasoning”… and you will yourself have to face the fact that any opposing interpretation cannot be thwarted by mere discussion..

    The only truth you can bet on is about how one kind of interpretation would physically alter matters in people’s lives.. you can never prove one interpretation against the other theologically.. that has been done and done and done again.. its a hopeless path..

    That is why the state MUST have a strong stance against any particular interpretation of religion.. and not partial to some “decent” interpretation of religion, like you envision.. it loses ground that way.. it will have to IMPOSE that certain interpretation on those who who have reasons against it.. and that would itself be against the notion of being “secular” .. a stance based on bigotry itself..

    I’ll give you an example.. The Taliban will ALWAYS understand Islam to not allow Bahais in Egypt.. They will always understand why there were instances where the Prophet and his companions lived peacefully with people of non-Abrahamic faiths .. and always understand why certain periods exist when he called for their killing !! And they will understand that based on their own emotional cues that depend on the circumstances of their lives and probably a myriad other matters that we could not fathom (and don’t really matter).. Emotions are key in matters of religion.. religion is “beyond” the scientific method..

    And you will probably always interpret the same contradictions in history concluding a different result..

    My question to you is: Why should the state be ‘secular’ because you think Islam asks it to be that way, and not thoroughly bigoted because someone else thinks Islam calls for bigotry ? What should the state’s “reason” be to be partial to one interpretation ??

    And I think that you will realise that since you cannot challenge that all interpretations are equally true.. the very act of HAVING a reason to be partial, undermines any “truth” about one interpretation.. giving the opposing group a moral right to fight against it..

    And this is precisely what has been happening in Pakistan.. and that is why Feroz Khan is right that EVERYTHING is very fine with Pakistan.. there is nothing to worry.. the present circumstances are precisely what you envision..

    To get out of the circle, the state MUST stand against any particular interpretation, and hence the religion itself..

  90. PMA

    Dear Feroz Khan:

    You have said above: “Pakistan has nothing to offer its people, and has historically offered them nothing, except for religion.”

    I tend to disagree with your this one point. I am a Pakistani and a Muslim. Pakistan did not “offer” me my religion. We were Muslim long before there was a Pakistan. And Pakistan did “offer” us something – an identity which is not subsequent to my religion, sect or ethnicity. Beyond that Pakistan need not “offer” me anything. From this point on, as JFK said: It is not what Pakistan can “offer” to me. It is what I can “offer” to Pakistan. Pakistan is and would be what ‘we the people’ make it. It is a beautiful country. Its people are strong and hardworking. Work for Pakistan. Collectively with a determined will we can make it a wonderful place. Have faith my brother.

  91. krash

    @Salman Arshad,
    “And I think that you will realise that since you cannot challenge that all interpretations are equally true.. the very act of HAVING a reason to be partial, undermines any “truth” about one interpretation.. giving the opposing group a moral right to fight against it..”

    Why don’t you extend this logic to all ideologies beyond religion. What about secular humanism? Is it not an interpretation of reality? Should the state also stand against it? What would the state stand for?

  92. AZW

    AA Khalid:

    That people in Pakistan are sceptical of the term secularism is understandable. For decades it has been drummed in their head that secularism equals “la-diniyat”. That Islam is close to the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan is also true. A whole generation is raised on the diet of Islam and Pakistan, encapsulated neatly in the Nazaria-e-Pakistan theory. No wonder, secularism in Pakistan is a fringe concept, where we liberals talk about it and a man on the street couldn’t gives two hoots about it.

    Your approach of igniting secularism from some sort of a mellowed religious interpretation will likely fail because your interpretation will at the end remain an interpretation. You are citing examples in Morocco for enlightened penal codes that are acceptable to the clergy as well as secularist. This sort of Islam-lite legislation has been tried in family laws codes in Pakistan by Ayub Khan’s regime. In fact, Pakistan for its whole existence has been trying to find an Islam-lite to justify Pakistan’s own existence.

    As Salman Arshad has put here succinctly as well (@ 1.40AM), justifying secularism by using a palatable version of religion will get hijacked some time in the future. You will run into the problems where the sacred texts would say one thing and you can quote your favourite ayahs and ahadith until eternity. The state will constantly remain paralyzed and a hotchpotch of religious laws mixed in with more secular penal code will result. You will run into these problems in marriage act, capital punishments, homosexuality etc. etc.

  93. Questor

    Salman Arshad wrote: And I think that you will realise that since you cannot challenge that all interpretations are equally true.. the very act of HAVING a reason to be partial, undermines any “truth” about one interpretation.. giving the opposing group a moral right to fight against it..

    The problem does not lie in the fact of opposition, it lies in what a group thinks it moral right to “fight” allows it to do.

    There are many forms this “fight” could take. The problematic one is violence, where one takes up weapons and fights.

    Even before becoming secular, etc., there has to be a common understanding that there are limits on what a majority can impose on a minority and there are also limits on the acceptable expressions of opposition. Call these the primary conditions of coexistence. Then further, the state and the people as a whole have to be **intolerant** of those who would breach the primary conditions of coexistence (sound paradoxical, but is necessary).

    Pakistan is in trouble because these conditions of coexistence are not accepted by powerful, armed and even violent groups; and the state is even supportive of some such groups.

  94. harbir

    @AZW
    “justifying secularism by using a palatable version of religion will get hijacked some time in the future.”

    Yes indeed. Which is why I said “A properly secular state must be so without the acquiescence, permission or approval of religious dogma and people’s interpretations of the dogma. “

  95. Tilsim

    Reading all these comments, it’s quite incredible how AA Khalid and even my earlier comments were misconstrued. Pakistan is being painted in a light which suggests that all problems begin and end with Islam. I have to believe that a form of secular zealotry and political inexperience has taken hold which is clouding sound analysis and judgement.

    Well gentlemen, I don’t know how many of you are actually living in Pakistan and understand the dynamics of that society. I am a liberal and a democrat (and probably like you a bit of an oddity in Pakistani society) but I am also a Muslim and I find your desire to totally push religion into a private cul de sac quite unrealistic and frankly a position that I cannot agree with – as a realist, liberal and a democrat. To my Indian friends who seem to be liberally commenting on the situation in Pakistan, I would pose the question – have you had any success in putting Hinduism in a box? I would contend not. The issue is not religion – it is that all citizen’s should be equal citizens of the State and that religious edicts which are invariably particular cannot be imposed on the several. In India, a concession has been made to religion where an idol is a legal person. Many states, including western ones, are beginning to realise that members of a religious community can agree to be bound contractually by a set of rules that they hold of value as a private arrangement as long as the secular courts interpret them and ensure they stay within the realms of the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution.

    I don’t want to comment further on this topic because as I have seen this discussion is quite far away from actually finding means to achieve secularism in Pakistan (which is a herculean task whether one is a Muslim or an atheist). I would also contend that muslim secularists and atheists perhaps cannot find a common path based on this discussion.

  96. bciv

    “I would also contend that muslim secularists and atheists perhaps cannot find a common path based on this discussion.”

    i’m sure there are muslim secularists who have no problem in arguing for secularism for its own sake, for entirely rational reasons, with no reference whatsoever to religion or this or that interpretation of religion which may happen to be for or against secularism.

    the question is whether ignoring the mullah is a practicable tactic. i believe it will prove almost as harmful as giving in to the mullah. rationalists ought to be able to play part-time rhetoricians and give the mullah a taste of his own medicine. showing him that he can be defeated even using his own rules of play is not saying that his rules of play are acceptable. they remain subjective and secularism must be argued on purely objective grounds. kicking the mullah in the teeth will only be a sideshow. if the main argument is always purely rational and areligious, there will be nothing for him to hijack even at any point in the future.

  97. Talha

    To the Author:

    Good Luck mate!

  98. no-communal

    In my view all approaches on this thread are necessary. There should be preachers and scholars preaching a moderate version of religion. There should be others, with or without the state, trying to push back on religion itself. The latter is more risky in Muslim majority countries. Speaking from the Indian experience, this is best done subtly, through popular entertainment, vernacular literature, poems, plays, etc., which depict the miseries, sorrows, of the persecuted. Also through satires which tickle the funny bones. In short, by appealing to everyone’s better angels and humanistic values, which generally supersede even the religious ones. The various views on this thread are not mutually exclusive. All forces need to be combined, anything that reduces the religious temperature in society.

    This is a debate more for the intelligentsia. Is the intelligentsia itself ready to put religion in a bottle? Tilsim mentioned India, a context I am well aware of. In India the intelligentsia has by and large succeeded in confining religion to home. In fact, for better or worse, a publicly religious person is generally not considered part of the intelligentsia. This does not mean people have overnight become less religious. But they read and watch the intelligentsia, read their stories, watch their plays, and watch television, which is firmly against the dogmas and bigotries of Hinduism. The end result is that they take their religion much less seriously. This is true even for the Muslim community. It is easy for a Hindu or a Muslim to be openly agnostic (at least three cabinet ministers did not take oath on any religious text). If you watch even the right wing Hindus, it’s not so much about the supremacy of their own religion, but rather their distaste for Islam. This is different from people killing each other based on different interpretations of the same religious text. Ayodhya was mentioned. If the majority of the people really took the spot to be the real birthplace of Ram, why would they want a division of the place? But that’s what they overwhelmingly want, mainly out of a distaste for renewed religious friction.

    The above has happened because the govt. but more importantly the intelligentsia took a firm stance against the expanding role of religion. This also created the required breathing space for the moderate interpretors to operate effectively. So no, in India religion is not entirely in the bottle, but what is outside people in general do not take very seriously. The situation in Bangladesh is gradually becoming similar. Already the high court banned religious political parties. The role of the authors, artists, playwrites are again undeniable.

    The goal is to reduce the religious euphoria in the society as well as the state. It’s a difficult goal. But it has to start somewhere. That somewhere must be the intelligentsia, who should be able to debate religious dogma without offending each other.

  99. bciv

    “In my view all approaches on this thread are necessary”

    diversity of opinion and of every other kind – the good, the bad, the ugly (but legal) – is any society’s real and enviable strength. it is the kind of strength that no narrow or vested interest can hope to withstand for too long.

  100. bciv

    … the debate and struggle here is for the state to do two things:

    1) regain the monopoly over means of violence

    2) allow all kinds of diversity to develop by refusing to and completely withdrawing from taking sides.

    and in that order.

    without 1, there can be little debate within society without someone being murdered or otherwise ‘made an example of’ sooner or later. without 2, there can be no debate since the state has chosen to become a protagonist and bring to that side the might of the state.

    not many in pakistan, no matter what their level of religiosity, will disagree with 1. that’s a start. the debate here is about the prospects for 2.

  101. bciv

    re. state monopoly over means of violence

    mufti e azam taqi usmani of wifaq al madaaras had said during the red mosque crisis that ‘of course, guns have no place in a madressah but they have the right to defend themselves against govt heavy handedness’.

    were enough people appalled, and for long enough, to see guns in a madrassah?

    this is where we are at on the ground, wherever we might be with this debate here.

  102. Tilsim

    @bciv

    On 2. “2) allow all kinds of diversity to develop by refusing to and completely withdrawing from taking sides.”

    That is not what Feroz and others are proposing from Feroz.

    I quote again:

    ” …present student leaders of nearly 40 years ago need to be shown the door to a permanent exile in Dubai or where ever their bank accounts are located.

    ….Political parties should be allowed to exist but severely regulated in all aspects of their conduct. Political parties need to be elected on their basis of their competence to solve the problems facing the nation and not on their political promises.

    …..Being tarred and feathered or being made to ride a pig naked through the streets are some good ideas and need to be implemented. Just to make sure that the message hits home, the wife and the children and members of the extended family can also be made to walk naked behind the person riding the pig.

    Media should be encouraged to cover such events and telecast it live so the greatest amount of people can see it.

    …Reforms are impossible in Pakistan and are a pipe dream.

    …Believing Islam will cure its own created problems in Pakistan, under its own inspiration, is not a pragmatic approach either.

    …Pakistan has nothing to offer its people, and has historically offered them nothing, except for religion.”

    Sounds like another totalitarian and absolutist construct, inspired by communism, and far away from humanism and liberalism. The ideas also betrays a love for authoritarianism and revolution -ideas of the far left and also of the religious far right. And then there are references and comments that seem more libertarian which sit at odds with the above.

  103. bciv

    @Tilsim

    how could you have diversity, let alone celebrate it, without accepting, even welcoming, those with views most opposed to your own? the same goes for choices of lifestyle too, not just opinions.

    1. Democracy: re. “” …present student leaders [..] greatest amount of people can see it.”

    as for what you have quoted from feroze (whose comments i’m afraid i’ve not read in full), from what i can see he has said nothing about whether he wants a democracy to do the above or some usurper. so i can only assume that he wants a democracy to democratically cure itself of what he sees as disease.

    2. Religion: re. “…Reforms are impossible in Pakistan [..] offered them nothing, except for religion.”

    now for anyone’s view that religion is bad, by definition (whether or not kept separate from the state), how can you have any kind of diversity if such views cannot be tolerated and have exactly the same right (to sink or float on its own merits) as any other view? regulating incitement to hatred and (therefore and especially) to violence does not necessarily require blasphemy laws of any kind. in any case, saying that religion is a bad idea is a case of disagreement rather than any kind of gratuitous ‘blasphemy’ (arguably a biased term in itself).

  104. bciv

    “Pakistani political cutlure already has a tradition of local village councils and should seriously think of direct democracy instead of a representative democracy. The parliament should be more about legislating the final intents and purposes of the majority decisions, which should always be settled through a plebsicite.”

    whether practical or not and regardless of the debatable wisdom of the scheme, this is not authoritarianism.

    “the wife and the children and members of the extended family can also be made to walk naked”

    i doubt such absurdities were meant or expected to be taken seriously.

  105. Tilsim

    @ bciv

    How can a liberal democrat advocate exile of opponents? Is that not a fundamental contradiction?

    Indeed I have no problem with anyone’s right to say religion is bad or to see if it sinks or floats on it’s own merits if that is the inference that you made. I am not sure where blasphemy comes in to this. My problem is with the absoluteness of some of the statements such as “Reforms in Pakistan are a pipedream”. This is hopelessly pessimistic and does not reflect the wide variety of interpretation and views amongst Muslims and the back and forth that even takes place over legislation inspired by Islamic tenets. The problems of Pakistan betray those of a weak state, violent intolerance amongst all strata of society and the attempt to grab state power by Islamists through undemocratic means.

    I do have a problem agreeing with people who think no compromise is possible or desirable with religion. Similarly, I have a problem with people who think that religion has all the answers.

    I also think that Pakistanis need to start thinking practically if they want change.

  106. Tilsim

    @”Political parties should be allowed to exist but severely regulated in all aspects of their conduct”

    What does this sound like? Indeed there are all sort of ideas at play here.

  107. bciv

    @Tilsim

    actually, my response was mostly redundant and the point about blasphemy was doubly redundant since we agree that diversity is good and to have both religious people and those opposed to religion is good for diversity.

    (re. sink/float: i meant any view’s right to freedom of expression and for it to then sink or float on merit.)

  108. bciv

    “What does this sound like?”

    i don’t know. but i don’t see why i should assume authoritarianism. after all, democracies do legitimately regulate political parties.

  109. Tilsim

    “how could you have diversity, let alone celebrate it, without accepting, even welcoming, those with views most opposed to your own? the same goes for choices of lifestyle too, not just opinions.”

    I hope that the word ‘you’ was used in a figurative sense as my personal views are in accordance with the above as I have commented here. I rationalise diversity as one of the gifts that help us to understand and make our own choices clearer. My disagreement to some of Feroz’s views should not be viewed beyond that. Why are such things so easily misconstrued? I think some pause for reflection is needed on that.

  110. bciv

    @Tilsim

    my apologies. the debate here is about merits and demerits of a view and not its right to exist. thats why my response was redundant at best. but it could certainly be seen as a result of misconstruing legitimate debate and disagreement and for that i apologise.

  111. Tilsim

    @ bciv
    “after all, democracies do legitimately regulate political parties.”

    political parties should be ‘allowed’ to exist….’severely regulated’?

  112. Tilsim

    @bciv

    My apologies because our posts crossed. I am relieved that we cleared this up!

  113. Bin Ismail

    @AZW (October 13, 2010 at 2:27 am)

    1: “…..That people in Pakistan are sceptical of the term secularism is understandable. For decades it has been drummed in their head that secularism equals “la-diniyat”…..”

    This disinformation campaign is not incidental. It’s very deliberate. After all, in an environment like ours, how does one get to make people despise Secularism? Spread the word that Secularism means la-deeniyat, and it gets equated with “kufr”. This trick always seems to work. An equally deliberate campaign of counter-drumming will be needed to inform people that Secularism simply means to separate Religion and State, that it does not mean to deprive the citizen of his religious rights and that it means to ensure that the religious practice of one citizen is not detrimental to another citizen. Since we evidently do not have the luxury of time, this counter-information campaign may require a degree of urgency.

    2: “…..That Islam is close to the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan is also true…..”

    True indeed, and it is precisely for this reason that our people need to be reminded again and again that mixing Islam with Politics is a huge disservice to Islam.

    3: “…..A whole generation is raised on the diet of Islam and Pakistan, encapsulated neatly in the Nazaria-e-Pakistan theory…..”

    The only remedy for a myth is the fact, however unpalatable it may be. Somebody would have to break this news to Pakistanis, and preferably at the earliest that this so-called “Nazaria-e Pakistan” is a nazaria that was not known to “Bani-e Pakistan”. This needs to be said again and again, in plain and blunt words.

    4: “…..You are citing examples in Morocco for enlightened penal codes that are acceptable to the clergy as well as secularist……”

    To begin with, Islam is not about penal codes, it’s about guiding man towards establishing a relationship of love with his Creator and his Creator’s creatures. As far as quote-worthy examples are concerned, an example truly worth citing would be of Bangla Desh, once part of us, once us; with special reference to the will they have shown in making a successful U-turn towards secular politics.

    5: “…..justifying secularism by using a palatable version of religion will get hijacked some time in the future…..”

    Very true. Nothing short of a complete segregation of Religion and Politics, will guarantee our survival.

    Regards.

  114. Salman Arshad

    @krash:

    The state stands for consensus.. not being partial to any “ism”.. simply protecting all people from divine “truths” of other people being imposed on them… non-coercive and non-violent consensus in individual matters is all that matters..

    whether its a religion, or an “ism”.. we ought to be wary of considering any interpretation of reality as “truth”.. individuals may have a right to do that, but the state must publicly acknowledge and express through proactive action, that it does NOT know what “truth” is..

    if by consensus, people agree that thieves should have their hands cut, not because it is divine “truth”, but because they think it is pragmatic, so be it.. instead of worrying why they reached such a “barbaric” consensus, the state should just stand for HUMAN consensus.. and what is not divine truth, evolves.. so there really isn’t much to worry.. I think Feroz Khan put this very nicely where he proposed to emphasise that on earth, humans will be judged by man-made law.. and that should be the state’s stance, EVEN if the law happens to be some divine law incidentally..

    if you had asked me for my personal “truth”, I don’t hold any “ism” sacred.. they are all interpretations of reality.. and subjective..

    @Questor:
    When its a matter of religion, the underlying argument is that it is the “truth”.. if the state sides with one interpretation officially, it will have to defend it as the “truth”.. and will have to remain in a perpetual fight against other “truths”..

    and when its about “truth” .. you cannot argue that only the state has the right to fight for it..

  115. Salman Arshad

    @Tilsim:

    “Reforms are impossible in Pakistan and are a pipe dream. ”

    this is true because of two important issues concerning Pakistan: 1) it does not have a homogeneous religious demography.. 2) it has a curse called nazriya e Pakistan

    you said: “I don’t want to comment further on this topic because as I have seen this discussion is quite far away from actually finding means to achieve secularism in Pakistan (which is a herculean task whether one is a Muslim or an atheist). I would also contend that muslim secularists and atheists perhaps cannot find a common path based on this discussion.”

    I think we should all refrain from “achieving” or “bringing” secularism.. on the same lines of those trying to achieve Shariah ..

    You are right about such ideology coming from the extreme far left and right and reeks of revolution of some kind..

    But we can emphasise to have put in place an environment where secularism could emerge by itself.. And I think almost everyone here is thinking along the same lines.. not about revolution..

    Its really about realising that we are no one to bring this or that “ism” .. we can only do what little we can.. “god” has his mysterious ways and history has hardly ever been shaped by idealism..

  116. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (& Tilsim)

    Hopefully, both of you will be able to discern my sarcasm in the future. The comment on everything being fine in Pakistan was meant sarcastically and so was the idea of family members waking behind the pig.

    What is a revelation, however, is how people are prone to accept the literalist word without actually thinking. It seems that we have given up the ability to think and are willing to accept anything that is written down.

    However, the regulation of political parties means that they should open their affairs and be transparent in their dealings; they should submit their financial records and document, where their donations are coming from. It means that there should be regular party elections to elect its leaders.

    AA Khalid, I will have to disagree with you on the idea of allowing the public sphere to debate the issues and the state withdrawing its control. This is not possible.

    In Pakistan, a person can be sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for saying negative things about Jinnah. Your media Goebbels ala PEMRA has laws that “protect” Pakistan’s culture, values and ideology and ban content, which is seen as anti-Pakistan. Who defines all these criteria?

    The problem is that once you base an idea on a religion, the question becomes whose interpretation you will favor? I have read and re-read your posts, but the vast majority of the people in Pakistan, as judging from your comments, seem to equate the state with religion.

    The state of Pakistan is failing because its reason for existence was flawed from the very start. Religion has, and should have, no role in the affairs of the state, because it cannot be fair to anyone’s views but its own world view and if religion is allowed the coercive powers of political authority, it becomes despotic. The despotism of a religion in politics comes from its policies of self-interest, which deny the political space to others in order for it (the religion) to be secured in its own political rights.

    When a religion becomes political, it ceases to be a religion devoted to the spirituality and uplift of the person and the spreading of the word of God, and instead becomes a political concern; more inclined towards the preservation of its earthly political powers and pursuit of secular priveleges of political power.

    This is what is happening to Islam in Pakistan. Islam is gradually, through its exposure to politics, losing its spirituality as a religion and is simply becoming another political party in Pakistan, which is using religion for its own political ends.

    The people of Pakistan will always be Muslims, but the real concern is whether a political Islam has the ability to address their questions and concerns about religion? When a religion becomes political, it will tailor the very message of its religion to suit its political views and in the case of Pakistan and its Muslims, Islam by being secularized, by its interests in politics, will be offering a politically motivated rationale to issues of the faith and over a period of time, the faithful will grow disenchanted and move away.

    The end results are logically raised questions wondering about the longevity of Islam as an organized religion in Pakistan. Political Islam, and its partiality towards specific interpretations of the religion, as a compromise with its political role, has raised doubts in the minds of the people, whose most visible sign of confusion and mental agiation is “Muslims do not kill Muslims”.

    When people ask such questions and their religion cannot provide them with credible answers, it challenges the very basis and raison d’ etre of a religion, which is supposed to be omniscient. Religion has always been an explanation and security to people promising the promise of a stable future when everything in their lives does not make any sense and is in a constant fluidity of chaos and instability.

    When religion itself loses its idea of offering stability in the lives of its followers and is seen as more interested in secular matter of politics and power than in saving the souls of the faithful, it suffers from a loss of legitimacy.

    Islam is facing a crisis of legitmacy in Pakistan and though, for reasons of doubts and not knowing where the red lines are that mark the difference between allowed and prohibited, the debate on the role of a political Islam is limited to its interpretations.

    If the present state of affairs continues, Islam will suffer. If Pakistan and Pakistanis honestly believe that the state’s identity is based on a religion, then the religion in Pakistan needs to be saved from shooting itself in the head. The only way to save it, in the present circumtances, is to reduce its brow-beating attitudes in all secular aspects and spheres of public life and in the process, still enable it to retain its resemblance as an organized religion.

    Consider the alternative. The failure of organized Islam in Pakistan will not mean an end to religion, but it will, and does suggest, increased levels of personalized piety. Once people of Pakistan, who will remain as Muslims despite this change, start to drift away from Islam as an organized religion and practice Islam as a private religion, what will happen to core belief of the state and its people that their identity comes from religion itself?

    Political Islam in Pakistan is doing itself no favors and Islam, as a religion and a way of life for the majority of the Pakistanis, will self immolate itself, if it does remove itself from the secular issues in Pakistan. Once the people of Pakistan see the handiwork of a political Islam and suffer its consequences and decide that this not what they had signed up for, and political Islam loses it ability to terrorize them into obedience, what happens to Islam a religion in Pakistan and what happens to the idea of Pakistan as state founded on the basis of religion?

    There is a Latin phrase, which is a question and also a saying, Quo Vadis, which means “where do we go from here?”

    Where will Pakistan go once the religion on which it based its entire existence and cannot think of an existence outside of that religion go, when that religion stands discredited by its own actions?

    ciao

  117. PMA

    I would refrain from using the term ‘secularism’ or phrases like ‘bringing secularism to Pakistan’. The word ‘secularism’ has a very negative connotation in Pakistan. In Pakistan ‘secularism’ means ‘atheism’, something no Pakistani would openly like to associate with. In my personal discourse with serious Pakistanis I have more luck by stressing the need of ‘separation of religion from state’. People are more receptive to that ‘idea’ as compared with ‘secularism’. Remote blogging at PTH is fine but the bottom line is that no change will take place without real work in the trenches. Those wishing for change eventually have to get their hands dirty like Islamists do. Otherwise it is all talk. And talk is cheap.

  118. Feroz Khan

    Correction:

    Political Islam in Pakistan is doing itself no favors and Islam, as a religion and a way of life for the majority of the Pakistanis, will self immolate itself, if it does NOT remove itself from the secular issues in Pakistan.

    The first line of the third last paragraph should be read as stated above.

    ciao

  119. Feroz Khan

    @ PMA (October 13, 2010 at 8:50 pm)

    How do you propose to separate the state from religion, when the state of Pakistan is based on religion?!?

    This was a gem of logic: “I would refrain from using the term ‘secularism’ or phrases like ‘bringing secularism to Pakistan’. The word ‘secularism’ has a very negative connotation in Pakistan”

    So does that mean anything that has a negative connotation in Pakistan cannot be discussed?!?

    So much for AA Khalid and his ideas of debating the issues without state control! (lol)

    I repeat – everything is fine in Pakistan and there is nothing wrong in Pakistan and life is a bliss in Pakistan and Pakistan is a nirvana of an utopia of a paradise on earth!

    ciao

  120. AA Khalid

    ”AA Khalid, I will have to disagree with you on the idea of allowing the public sphere to debate the issues and the state withdrawing its control. This is not possible”

    All credible democracies follow this process. The public sphere must remain independent of the State otherwise we become an authoratarian society.

    Feroz Khan anthropologically and sociologically still has not defined what is a ”private religion”. What is a ”private religion”. If religion is separated from the State and does have a coercive political role by having exclusive control over political authority then that should be enough. This talk of ”private religion” is misplaced.

    Do I ask socialists and those on the Left to keep their political beliefs ”private’? No I do not. As I have mentioned elsewhere:

    ”’I say religion is political because people rarely see religion as a body of existential truths. People see religion as identity and identity always plays a role in politics. Hence we should make it clear that the State should be kept separate from religious institutions, but that religion is allowed to have a constructive role in the public sphere. Hence my point about, ”Say no to State Islam but yes to Public Islam”. ””

    Please learn to distinguish between the ”State” and the ”public sqaure/sphere”. The two are entirely different, the former is an institution a form of coercive political authority (agreed upon through democratic reasoning no doubt) whilst the latter is a meeting place of ideas. The public sphere should remain free, inclusive and open to the citizens of the State to fully express their beliefs. This is civic reasoning. This is what is lacking in the model of Feroz Khan and others. They want to limit civic reasoning aswell which is peculiar and odd.

    A credible democracy needs an independent public sphere, such as a free media, freedom to association and freedom of conscience. These freedoms must be allowed in civic debate aswell.

    It is interesting how Tilsim and I are very open towards an inclusive model of democratic reasoning whilst others are bent upon excluding religion from moral reasoning in the public square. Tilism and I both say religious and political institutious should be separate but we maintain religion can have a constructive role in the process of moral and civic reasoning.

    To the astute comments of Krash, your thoughts deserve more attention and more time to reply to but I am glad you have shifted the debate towards another idea. I will try and respond to them as soon as possible. (just very busy).

    What type of State must Pakistan adopt? That is the reasoning implicity in Krash’s comments, and they are well worth a read.

    Which is why authoratarianism is authoratarianism whether its religious or secular.

    This issue of interpretation as ”just an interpretation” is ludricous. People have misunderstood my Kantian epistemic scheme.

    What about unaided human reason? Why not just be a communist State, after all that too is a State grounded in a cogently (note the word cogent) and coherent logic. The difference is merely in the premise.

    What rational reason is there to be a liberal rather than a Communist (note liberal not utilitarian reasons like economics or etc.etc.).

    At the end of the day I have always said there are no universal laws of human reason and no universal laws of religious interpretation. Feroz Khan and others seem to suggest that there will be an inexorable rise towards liberty with religion out of the picture.

    There are many secular ideologies but which one do you pick, and what are your rational grounds for doing so? It is the same case when judging between religious interpretations. We have to debate, discuss and synthesize to reach conclusions. That is part of the process.

    Just as there are many religious interpretations there are many varying shades of ”secular” ideologies. The key is to maintain a critical distance.

    As I have pointed out several times historically religious re-interpretation has provided the basis for rationalism, pluralism and reform in societies.

    Feroz Khan has made the classic fallacy that all advocates of secularism have made in Pakistan:

    ”The goal is to reduce the religious euphoria in the society as well as the state”

    They have confused political secularism with secuarization. Political secularism which is just the separation of religious and political institutions is an idea I think which can be popular provided it is articulated well. The latter is a sociological phenomenon, and Feroz Khan seems to speaking of social engineering. That should not be the role of the State, the State should not try and marginalise religion from the public sphere nor try and promote it. Why? Because in doing so the State infringes upon our rights to freedom of conscience.

    Why should the State have to take an epistemological and metaphysical view point? Why should it programme itself to promote one world view?

    Feroz Khan has confused a political paradigm with a sociological thesis. Secularism and ”secularization” are two different things. The former is a political paradigm (with a diversity of models) the latter is a sociological phenomenon where people lose their religious belief. (which by the way has either been rejected by sociologists or modified greatly, so in this respect Feroz Khan’s view points characteristic of Pakistani secularists is out of touch and outdated as seen in Fox’s empirical study).

    As I pointed out earlier:

    ”Jonathan Fox, in his book, ‘’ A World Survey of Religion and the State’’, and the two points Fox makes in the books are ground breaking:

    ‘’ These findings contradict the predictions of religion’s reduced public significance found in modernization and secularization theory.

    The findings also demonstrate that state religious monopolies are linked to reduced religious participation.’’

  121. AA Khalid

    ”So much for AA Khalid and his ideas of debating the issues without state control”

    No Feroz Khan. This is what I find depressing about secularists in Pakistan. They feel they are above the process of community reasoning, they don’t feel the need to interact and engage with people.

    Justify an idea by talking in the local idiom. Indigenize so to speak the concept of secularism. Inevitably, the failure of Pakistan with its religious discourse is not because of the fundamentalists.

    We give too much credit to their terribly illogical and ridiculous ideas. The failure of the religious discourse lies squarely in the court of liberals and secularists who abdicate religious interpretation to the clerics and refuse to engage in religious reasoning.

    Fundamentalists rush in where liberals fear to tread. And the liberal and secular advocates of Pakistan have ignored the rich and intellectual legacy of the Muslim tradition. The fundamentalists haven’t succeeded, its just that the liberals have feared, because people like Feroz Khan cannot even enter the debate in the first place!

    They say, ”oh no I will not talk to you unless you ”privatise” your religion”, and somehow just magically expect secularism to pop out! How ridiculous….

    I think this stems from an inaccurate and impoverished historiography. Many think the Enlightenment was just a bunch of atheists slamming God with science and that’s about it. How depressingly wrong, childish and futile…..

    Read:

    ”The Theological Origins of Modernity” Michael Allen Gillespie
    ”Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues ”Ian Barbour

    Jonathan’s Israel’s work on the ”Radical Enlightenment” is also interesting.

    These historical inquires reveal that the Enlightenment was an incredibly complex event and religious re-interpretation was at the heart of the liberal tradition.

    Away with this crass and hopeless distorted historiography (”liberals are all atheists”., etc. etc). One can be a democrat, a liberal and hold a religious faith.

    Its bad enough that Pakistani history is distorted beyond belief, we do not need the same with European history…….

  122. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid

    If what you say is true and I am wrong, then why is your country a failure and cannot do anything to solve its problems?

    What is the reason or the reasons why you are being seen by the rest of the world as a failure?

    What is preventing you and your country from doing everything you claim?

    Pakistan is not a democracy; its a theocracy.

    Are you making up what I said now to prove your point? Where did I make the classical fallacy by stating “The goal is to reduce the religious euphoria in the society as well as the state”?

    Can you please reference this quotation attributed to me and tell where I said this?

    ciao

  123. AA Khalid

    @FK

    Sorry I confused you and no-communal. The first part of the post was meant for no-communal. My apologies.

    The second part was more for you.

    ”If what you say is true and I am wrong, then why is your country a failure and cannot do anything to solve its problems? ”

    We are reaching the same conclusions but we have different ideas about the causes and factors involved. That is what I have been saying throughout, our differences have been overshadowing our similarities.

  124. no-communal

    AA Khalid
    “… has made the classic fallacy that all advocates of secularism have made in Pakistan:

    ”The goal is to reduce the religious euphoria in the society as well as the state””

    Politically motivated religion is like riding a tiger. One may ride it for a while, but eventually it will devour you. If history is any guide, too much of religion in the public domain leads to political ambition. You said, “People see religion as identity and identity always plays a role in politics.”. This is precisely why it needs to be deemphasized in the public sphere, not through coercion, but by the intelligentsia using other available means.

    It is only then the moderate interpreters, without catchy slogans and one word solutions, can effectively compete. The alternative is painful, because a religious state is totalitarian by definition.

    Anyway, I see no point discussing this “classic fallacy” with quotes from heavy philosophical tomes. It’s a simple home truth for me, and it’s serving India well.

  125. bciv

    “This is precisely why it needs to be deemphasized in the public sphere, not through coercion, but by the intelligentsia using other available means.”

    so it is not for the state to decide which religion but not even how much religion must be allowed in the non-state, public domain. if the state is going to be blind to religion then why not truly and totally blind? isn’t that what AAK has been arguing for?

  126. no-communal

    Then what was the “classic fallacy”?

  127. no-communal

    BTW, I support Bangladesh’s decision of banning Maududi’s work, just like I would support Germany and India banning Hitler’s book and Godse’s court statement. The state has to be practical, at least temporarily, and protect its citizens from all forms of extremities (and no, I don’t think it’s an extremity in itself by some garbled circular reasoning).

  128. AA Khalid

    ”Politically motivated religion is like riding a tiger.”

    I do not understand what you mean by ”politically motivated religion”. If you mean authoratarian religiosity then yes its harmful, but if you are talking about a democratic and pluralistic religiosity then what’s the problem?

    You have to engage in the substance rather than essentialise and use meaningless generalizations such as ”politically motivated religion”.

    ”’This is precisely why it needs to be deemphasized in the public sphere, not through coercion, but by the intelligentsia using other available means. ”

    I do not agree with you but I would welcome any form of constructive debate in the public sphere and even though I disagree with you I feel your points can make for a constructive discussion.

    ”a religious state ”

    I haven’t argued for a ”religious state” at all ever in any of my writings. Read my posts carefully again and notice the difference between the ”State” and ”public sphere”.

    Religious euphoria in society is still strong in India. If you did not know no-communal most social scientists are in agreement that religion is making a revival across the globe. The ”secularization thesis” has been proven wrong (as conceived by 19th and 29th century social thinkers).

    Read the work, ”God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World ” and ”Public Religions in the Modern World ” by Jose Cassanova.

    The sociological research combined with stastical analysis makes for a conclusion that religion and modernity are not incompatible. Indeed as I have argued elsewhere religious re-interpretation is at the heart of the liberal tradition and the genesis of modernity.

    The secularization thesis has been proven false, but that does not mean secularism as in the political ideal does not work.

    Read my posts no-communal on this thread, before commenting back.

  129. Tilsim

    @ Feroz Khan

    Sarcasm does n’t work well in written form unfortunately. My humble suggestion would be that it’s best to avoid unless you tell your audience that it is meant to be explicitly so. In this instance, thank you for clarifying and I take you for your word.

    You talk about organised religion being a problem. A couple of quotes below:

    – “Pakistanis will move away from the practice of organized religion and will practice more varied and individual forms of devotion. ”

    – “Once this happens, organized religion or political Islam will lose its hold over the average Pakistani ”

    Could you kindly elaborate here as I am not sure where the boundaries lie. Where would you would like to see personal religion stop and not be ‘organised religion’ and then not get mixed up with politics?

    You see this view appears to have many practical considerations. Does the State ban, religious gatherings? Does it ban religious parties or organisations? Does it put restrictions on mosques and khutbas? Does it ban the teaching of religion in schools? I also think there is a problem with mullahs and self-proclaimed jihadists having a free run at propogating their views. I am interested to know where you would have the State draw the line.

    You refer to Pakistan in an impersonal way. For example you say: “What is preventing you and your country from doing everything you claim?” Is this a form of speech or are you not a Pakistani or no longer a Pakistani? I ask this because I have also at times struggled with my identity because I have been repulsed by the society around us but I am coming to the realisation that at a certain level, a child cannot disown it’s parent. For better or worse, it’s family and we have to find accomodation.

  130. AA Khalid

    ”Anyway, I see no point discussing this “classic fallacy” with quotes from heavy philosophical tomes. ”

    Do not be so dogmatic no-communal, its easy to explain and an important discussion. Just because you are not aware of something doesn’t make said discussion useless.

    Secularism is a political paradigm. Secular political theorists argue at the basic level that religious and political institutions should remain separate. After this basic premise there is a wide diversity and range of opinions, in terms of whether religious voices should be allowed in the public sphere, actively marginalised etc.etc. (again note the difference between the ”State” and public sphere (use civil society if you wish, I think it makes the division clearer).

    The idea of secularization, by contrast, is a suggestion that there is a trend. It is a trend
    that has been expected in sociological studies . This is often simply the prediction of a long-term, continuous decline in religious practice and diminution in the number of believers.

    Secularism as we are discussing on this thread is a political paradigm of the relations between religious and political institutions.

    Secularization is something completely different, its about the social phenomenon of religious belief.

    The two are not the same, there is no causal link between the two and hence they are different discussions.

    But unfortunately many on this thread cannot tell the difference which distracts from the main discussion. They get confused and use ”secularism” without thought, clarity or precision.

  131. AA Khalid

    When people say, ”religion is declining” I doubt they understand what they themselves are saying.

    Yes fundamentalist religiosity declines in societies which are free, open, democratic and have a secular political paradigm. That’s because tolerant, pluralistic, democratic and rational religiosities take their place. So to speak of just ”religion” is pointless.

    The Enlightenment was not about religion being shoved aside, it was about a liberal and progressive form of religion replacing an authoratarian religiosity. The Enlightenment was a period where one set of religious ideas replaced another set of religious ideas.

    Which is why we must speak of religiosities, or religious interpretations because it makes more sense, sociologically and politically. Speaking of just ”religion” is pointeless because its so unspecific and vague.

  132. Tilsim

    @ Feroz Khan

    “Religion then becomes a part of the diversity and the plurality of a person’s experience instead of being the centrality of their existence.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that religion should be a part of the diversity and plurality of a person’s expience. It’s imbalance and absolutism that create the problems. Pakistani society has become too one dimensional as a result of the State’s concerted efforts to mould a national identity that is focussed on religion – in particular one version of it. I believe that pluralism is a sign of strength, not weakness.

  133. AA Khalid

    Hence even the title of this article itself is meaningless.

    Reducing the role of ”Political Islam”? What is ”political Islam”? Is it an authoratarian and anti-democratic form of political theology, or is it a democratic form of political theology. If its the former then yes we must reduce it, but if you have a religiosity which can be democratic why reduce its role?

    It is this precision, nuance and complexity which is lacking in many respects.

  134. no-communal

    I don’t think anybody here is seriously arguing for a revert back to Stalin. All agree religion has its role as a moral compass for many. That, in my definition, is a “private religion”; it’s a moral compass in my private life. However, too much of it in the public domain also has a pernicious effect. This is because of its close association with identity. If you believe that a population of hundreds of millions will only engage in moderate religiosity, that’s mere daydreaming. The vested interests will inevitably exploit the simple rule of variance: too big a sample size produces a very wide variance. The attempts at moderate interpretations won’t matter. At that point there will be politically motivated religiosity. Too often that has ended in a religious state. That explains all the terms used in my post.

    Let me repeat, this is why overt religiosity needs to be deemphasized in the public sphere, not through coercion, but by the intelligentsia using other available means.

    That does not mean moderate interpreters have no role. They are indeed compatriots in this struggle, and will have to replace the bigoted ones. However, in an environment of too much religiosity in hundreds of millions, the saner voices, devoid of one word catchphrases, cannot have a level playing field.

  135. AA Khalid

    @no-communal:

    ”That, in my definition, is a “private religion”; it’s a moral compass in my private life”

    No a moral compass means a form of religiosity informs your ethical, political and social beliefs. Hence there is nothing ”private” about a moral compass. What you believe to be the ethically right decision in matters of say bioethics will not cease to be the case if you step into the public sphere.

    Keep religious institutions separate from political institutions. That would involve scrapping a ”State religion” and an end to coercive forms of State sponsored religiosities.

    By all means contest the viewpoints of religious citizens in the public sphere by other means independent of the State. That’s part of the democratic process and is what I have been arguing for.

  136. Tilsim

    @ Salman Arshad

    ““Reforms are impossible in Pakistan and are a pipe dream. ”

    this is true because of two important issues concerning Pakistan: 1) it does not have a homogeneous religious demography.. 2) it has a curse called nazriya e Pakistan ”

    I have a problem with the inherent pessimism. Pessimism is useful as a stance if it helps us see the obstacles. You have very helpful highlighted these. However pessimism just like optimism can cloud judgement. It’s evident that Pakistan is an ideological state and there are persons wedded to making it more so come hell or high water. However it is also evident that there are many Pakistanis who don’t agree with this and they are (and have always been) pushing back against this. Even when it comes to legislation, the islamists and Nazariya-e-Pakistan guys don’t have a straight run. I agree with AA Khalid, that because our self-serving and capricious elites abdicated the public space to these guys by not understanding or engaging with religion, it’s given them many successes in turning Pakistan into a religious state along the vision of Maududi. In fact, if you ask them, the work is not even half done! So there is everything still to play for people who don’t agree and pessimism is the wrong stance (unless one wants to argue for crushing religion).

    Terrorism presents a serious challenge to Islamists too because it is waking up the self-centred, politically unengaged Pakistani. Feroz is right in that Pakistanis are beginning to ask the right sort of questions of their religion as proposed by Islamists and the State.

  137. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (October 13, 2010 at 11:42 pm)

    The beauty of a religion lies in the simplicity of its message. Nuance and complexity is what ruins a religion. When religion starts to compromise with its message by meddling in areas where it does not belong, it becomes confused and its own worst enemy.

    Political Islam is a term used to describe Islam’s role, influence and interests in politics.

    To reduce it to a simple statement: I see religion as a problem in Pakistan and given the past huffing and puffing of the Pakistani state and its people, I do not see Pakistan as capable of dealing with this problem. Pakistan refuses to acknowledge that Islam, to be precise, is a problem and as long as it quibbles over nuances and creates complex reasons and rationales, which hide the real problem, it will remain a brilliant failure in solving its problems, whose root causes invaribly lead towards religion.

    @ Tilsim

    I will answer your questions when time permits.

    ciao

  138. PMA

    Feroz Khan (October 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm):

    Sir, you seem to have bought the Islamist’s argument that Pakistan was created on the basis of religion. If that is your position then I am afraid there is nothing left to argue about. Under your premises argument can not be made on the need of ‘separation of state and church’. That is what Islamist says. And about my “gem of logic”. Well, if you want to bring about a change you have to work with the ground realities. Pakistan is a living thriving country with real people walking its streets. It is not a some university campus of students and professors. Discuss all you want. But if you want change. You have to work on the ground with the people. Real people. Tell them you want to ‘bring secularism to Pakistan’. You will hit a wall. Try to reason on merits of ‘separation of state and church’. You will have some luck. Choice is yours. Sarcasm aside.

  139. Tilsim

    Mushahid Hussein is on the Board of Governors for the think tank: Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust. Hopefully he exercises a moderating influence. They have a website:

    nazariapak.info

  140. no-communal

    AA Khalid

    Then we agree. If religion can be debated (not just the interpretations, but the whole nine yards), there is no disagreement. However, one has to make sure that the state allows that debate. That, I believe, was Feroze Khan’s point too, if I understood him correctly.

  141. AA Khalid

    ”Nuance and complexity is what ruins a religion”

    Rubbish. It enriches our experience. Fundamentalism works on the premise of utter simplicity.

    Casting aside complexity, nuance and reason in favour of simplistic slogans on the basis that human reality is simple and the answers to our problems are simple requiring no process of reasoning is very much a fundamentalist ploy.

    ”Political Islam is a term used to describe Islam’s role, influence and interests in politics”

    Vague and utterly meaningless…..who is this ”Islam” you keep speaking of?

  142. Raza Raja

    @ AA Khalid

    “Vague and utterly meaningless…..who is this ”Islam” you keep speaking of?”

    Sir do have a better definition of political Islam? How do you even define vague…

    I think in social sciences the room for disagreement is quite broad. Just because your definition does not match Feroz Khan’s definition does not mean his is utterly meaningless.

    It

  143. Salman Arshad

    @AA Khalid:

    The way I understand, what you are proposing has been happening in Pakistan since the very first day.

    It started off just as you proposed.. and one day (and that day came very quickly) the “public sphere” decided that Islam should be the State’s religion !!!

    .. and what followed was also perfectly according to what you propose: The state did not take sides with any particular interpretation, and the “public sphere” was open to debate who was more “holy” than the other.. And now each faction is totally frustrated for the state not taking to task the opposing faction !!

    On top of that you realize yourself that religion influences identity, and so it automatically interferes with politics… Again that explains Pakistan’s current condition.

    I am just in need of an answer from you:

    Given the current situation of Pakistan, what exactly will be different if your vision was to come about practically ??

    what will be your argument to keep the religion “confined” to the public sphere: precisely, under what argument will all the public sphere factions NOT want to use the State’s powers to legitimise their version over some other faction’s ??

    Same question again: According to you, the state seems to at least acknowledge the exceptional “importance” of religion, what argument will it have to not take sides with a certain interpretation, when deciding on education, culture, etc. ??

    I would like you to explain with an example. Take music. Will it be banned or not ?? In both cases, it will be taking sides with one of the interpretations !!!

  144. Raza Raja

    And further religion was supposed to be for masses and has to be simple. Fundamentalism is more to do with literal intrepretation and time trapped practices.
    How does “complexity” of religion enrich our experience?

  145. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    “Reification”… thank you for introducing this term. I did not previously know what it meant. Fascinating.

    Re: ”Nuance and complexity is what ruins a religion”

    The Wahabis would indeed be delighted to have been understood. I feel like an interloper in these carefully constructed realities.

  146. Salman Arshad

    @Tilsim:

    “Terrorism presents a serious challenge to Islamists too because it is waking up the self-centred, politically unengaged Pakistani.”

    It is happening, but not in a positive way.. Take the case of Lal Masjid.. how many do you think are strongly against the tactics Abdul Rashid Ghazi used before the last week of fighting ?? I heard him in one of his last interviews responding to the suggestion of using the parliament to raise his concerns, and he argued that that was a futile exercise.. that it was an extremely slow process.. may take many decades .. all to simply enforce the fundamental right of a Muslim, which is Shariah law !!

    In my opinion, that was a very valid concern and I can fully understand his frustration with the Pakistani state .. He was from the “public sphere” .. had spent years and years debating on the public sphere.. had tried to raise voice in every “peaceful” manner, until the last week.. and yet .. no result !! no Shariah !!

    How should have our ideological state, fully acknowledging the role of Islam (only!) in the public sphere, answered him, keeping in mind that according to him he is holding the “truth”, and has no doubt about it ??

    Isn’t using force his only option left ?? This is about the fundamental right of a Muslim, according his respective interpretation .. How should Pakistan convince him that “no, Islam is only important in the public sphere, keep debating”, according to your (and perhaps AA Khalid’s) proposal ??

  147. AA Khalid

    What was vague with Feroz Khan’s defintion was that he gave half an answer. He did not specify what type of ”Islam”, what type of religiosity was contesting in political discourse. He used a very generalised term. The social sciences are broad but not to the point of admitting half baked definitions.

    If its a democratic and pluralistic type of religious theology I would welcome such a movement. If its authoratarian and limits freedom I would oppose it. Feroz never engages with the substance, he just sticks with the form and keeps using this vague label of ”Islam”.

    ”Given the current situation of Pakistan, what exactly will be different if your vision was to come about practically ?? ”

    For example:

    No State Religion. (the concept of a ”State religion” is theologically meaningless).

    Repealing draconian laws which actually have no precedent in being applied in a nation state.

    Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

    Equal citizenship regardless of faith.

    No clergy having the right to interpret Islamic Law in a codified and centralised fashion.

    In regards to Sharia, Sharia until the 19th century was never codified, never posited as a positivist law and never constitutionalised so to speak. It was never centralised. After the late experiences of the Ottomon Empire, this drive towards the ”Islamic State” became more widespread. This is a modern phenomenon.

    Basically put an end to religious law as interpreted by clergy since it makes no sense in context of Muslim legal theory. The State should not impose religious law.

    As Iqbal adviced us, we should modernize our legal jurisprudence, and use modern knowledge and modern jurisprudence to reform it. Ijtihad is the key. Iqbal grounded religion in ethical and moral reasoning, not in clerical authority.

    These are some of the practical changes.

    ”precisely, under what argument will all the public sphere factions NOT want to use the State’s powers to legitimise their version over some other faction’s ”’

    Constitutional limits. No State Religion as I have talked about.

    ”the “public sphere” decided that Islam should be the State’s religion !!!”

    That’s wrong. It was imposed and coercive.

    I find it disturbing that many of the ”secularist” advocates on this thread have such little confidence in their ideas they are actually positing autocratic measuers like controlloing the public sphere via State control.

    This is what happened in the Arab autocracies in Syria and Egypt to name a few, they were secular but they were brutal because whooops they forgot the ”democratic” bit with their obsession with the ”secular” bit.

    I still think democracy is the most important priority. Let democracy take it’s course without interference, whether via coercive State action or similiar actions from clerical authority and religious institutions.

  148. AA Khalid

    ”According to you, the state seems to at least acknowledge the exceptional “importance” of religion, what argument will it have to not take sides with a certain interpretation, when deciding on education, culture, etc. ??”

    I did not say ”exceptional” importance. I just said keep the State secular but allow religious voices to take their position in the marketplace of ideas in the public sphere.

    Democracy is about consensus building and problem solving. You are talking ”ideology” .

    The State should never predetermine the conclusions of important debates such as education. There should be a process of civic reasoning and debate.

    We have lost that in Pakistan. We are obsessed with finding simple and quick answers (whether secular or religious), hence we are quick to bulldoze any opposition.

    I am sorry that’s not how democracies work. It’s about compromise, reasoning together, dialogue and talking to each other. I have not heard many ”secularist” advocates talk about this crucial notion of civic reasoning and debate. That is depressing.

    It seem we are losing the meaning of democracy in this obsession with the secular.

  149. AA Khalid

    ”Fundamentalism is more to do with literal intrepretation and time trapped practices”

    No not necessarily, but on a more basic level its about simplicity. The ”Islamic State” for instance is a modern idea born out of colonial experience. The Wahabbis used a form of conservative ijtihad to advance their regressive jurisprudence.

    There is no need to think, no need to discuss, no need to read philosophy, sciences or literature. There is no need to engage in discussion and debate because we have all the answers. So the fundamentalists say.

    They offer ”simplicity”.

  150. AA Khalid

    Feroz was guilty of the ”reification” fallacy in his defintion.

    He turned an abstract idea into a concrete thing, an actual physical entity. Like there is a tangible entity as ”Islam”, when really as I have been saying there is no ”Islam”, just human beings thinking what ”Islam” is.

    This is a common fallacy ,we do it with ”democracy”, ”secularism” and other concepts. We turn abstract concepts into actual physical entities, in the process losing diversity, pluralism, complexity and the role of human beings in interpreting, positing and discussing these ideas and distorting the concepts themselves partly because of intellectua laziness and our desire to keep things simple without going through the full details.

  151. bciv

    @salman arshad

    re. the lal masjid bros

    as long as the state had evicted him from the land he was illegally occupying (zia had ‘gifted’ it to the brothers’ father), enforced the writ of the law when it came to actions like the children’s library and ensured that he did not have illegal weapons, let alone being allowed to use them to challenge the writ of the state, there would have been little problem in him and his ugly views being part of the public sphere or debate.

    when mufti e azam taqi usmani of wifaq ul madaaris casually said that ‘of course madressahs are no place for weapons but given the govt’s heavy handedness don’t they have the right to defend themselves?’ he should have been investigated and charged for at least conspiring to disturb public peace and order, if not actually inciting violence and rebellion against the state. hanif jallandhri, sec gen wifaq al madaaris at the time, said on live tv that both those who were fighting for the establishment of sharia and the soldiers fighting them were shaheed. he should have been similarly charged.

    and this is how the state should act regardless of the religious identity of the actors and entities involved. this is how the state remains blind to and separate from all religion and by dutifully guarding its writ and monopoly over means of violence it allows full freedom of relgion, opposition to religion and all other views and legal (read non-violent) activities in the public sphere.

    and this is what AAK has been saying.

    btw, the fact is that none of the religion-tainted laws in pakistan have been a result of any real popular demand. the more despicable the law, the more true this fact is. other than OR and 2nd amendment, their enactment is of dubious legality even in terms of procedure eg zia’s dictatorship (before which the OR was not a substantive part of the constitution). we are in this mess bacause of fools and scoundrels who happened to rule us, legitimately or illegitimately.

  152. bciv

    @non-communal

    the fallacy, as AAK has explained, was to confuse the state’s duty to be secular with its duty not to secularise or oppose secularisation.

  153. Tilsim

    @ Salman Arshad

    Abdul Rashid Ghazi was not a democrat. If the State was secular and consistently democratic, he would have known that he will get clubbed if he seeks to impose his views outside the ballot box or through public advocacy.

    That is what I am talking about. Pakistan is not a secular state. It provides the illusory promise to the common man that one’s version of Islam will be accepted and that Shariah law is a panacea without any efforts at the reform of societal attitudes. Democracy is also not a consistent feature of Pakistan’s governance so there is no constant. On the other hand, having one’s way through violence and taking the law into one’s own hands is a regular feature. Abdul Rashid Ghazi decided that was the way that it works in Pakistan. He and his followers believed their actions were for a higher purpose just like Sophocles’ Antigone and hence the law and consensus were irrelevant. In this I can understand his veneer of rationality otherwise he was a scoundrel.

    The State after covertly supporting him and his militancy, belatedly decided that the man and his followers had crossed all bounds in his quest to usurp the State’s power, reasoned with him (which failed) and ultimately exercised the State’s perogative and killed him and his followers. I can understand people having quite some distate for this course of events and the State’s culpability but the State ofcourse ultimately had to act.

    The earliest wars of Islam were between Muslims. Interpretation of law and exercise of power was rested in the tribal state not individuals. However it took a lot of bloodshed before that principle got established – Kharijis is one example. The principle is being challenged again by Bin Laden and a whole host of others.

    I am arguing that things people can have disagreements and these can be resolved in a peaceful manner. Debate and discussion is the way not blowing people up. Democracy is the way forward. Religion and religious principles should be there for discussion and debate. It’s clear that there is great diversity in opinion around Islam and even the implementation of Islamic laws. The ideological State papers over these differences but a Secular State would have no stance. The State’s role is not to discriminate between it’s citizens or have an apriori stance on the law.

    I don’t believe the majority of Pakistanis supported Abdul Rashid Ghazi’s stance to impose his views by force. They were against the violent resolution of the situation by the State because the State did an appalling job of communicating it’s stance. Pakistanis also rightly feared that such a resolution would multiply terrorists. Alongwith that came the usual conspiracy and irrational reasons about hidden hands etc.

    Now, perhaps I take optimism as my stance, I think people are beginning to at least hear about the nuances and there is more of a public debate. I want to encourage this.

  154. Salman Arshad

    @ AA Khalid:

    So you have one interpretation, of the many possible:
    “…Sharia until the 19th century was never codified, …the ”Islamic State” … is a modern phenomenon.”

    This does not imply that Shariah should not be codified .. the public sphere can certainly have people with their own reasons to argue why it should be codified in the context of nation states.. Have you committed to EQUAL status of all interpretations ?

    “Basically put an end to religious law as interpreted by clergy … ”

    That’s autocratic.. you are just a part of the public sphere when you cite your analysis on Islamic law.. That is just YOUR point of view.. We have Taliban, Tahir ul Qadri, Ghamidi, Qazi Hussain, Maududi … you are part of the debate..

    And you want the State to take sides with YOUR point of view ??

    Isn’t that contradictory to what you propose ?? Why should the “secular” point of view hold for the state ?? why not Maududi’s ??

    In other words.. how will the state convince the other guys that your point of view is the right one for the state.. remember that some guys in the list won’t be satisfied without Quranic verses and hadiths.. they will reject “mantaq” (logic) ..

    I think we’re just, back to square one..

  155. bciv

    it was a bit amusing to see an attempt to stand the very definition of fundamentalism and extremism on its head. it is always about reductionism, otherwise it naturally self-moderates and defeats the whole purpose.

  156. bciv

    @Salman Arshad

    sorry for jumping into your conversation with AAK. the state is what the majority wants it to be. and the majority may be wrong. being wrong renders it deserving of criticism, even condemnation, but it does not deprive it of its legitimacy as far as the democratic principle is concerned. maudoodism, horrible and condemnable as it is, might well be the legitimate arbiter of the state of pakistan, for a parliamentary term, provided it wins the majority over to its side, without any coercion, in a free and fair election.

  157. Tilsim

    @bciv
    “the state is what the majority wants it to be. and the majority may be wrong. being wrong renders it deserving of criticism, even condemnation, but it does not deprive it of its legitimacy”

    I agree and I like that although I like the concept that certain central features that cannot be changed. Such as the majority cannot simply decide that democracy is out. Some basic features akin to fundamental rights??

    The constitution of Pakistan is set around the Objectives Resolution and what followed so perhaps we are talking in a very abstract way although the discussion has been indeed fascinating. Is one a fool to dream that Pakistanis will one day see that being a muslim in a secular state is not a contradiction just like the Bangladeshis realised?

  158. Salman Arshad

    @ bciv and Tilsim:

    I can certainly agree that all that “should” have been.. But ONLY if the state was secular .. blatantly.. constitutionally.. not with the OR in place..

    If not, then it cannot take that stance.. the brothers could be charged of many “illegalities” but how will you charge them of asking for Shariah, if they, along with a very large majority understand it to be their right ??

    The state will have to declare itself to be impartial to any one interpretation.. not because Islam calls for secularism (which is just a topic in the public sphere).. but because of *some secular purpose* that may have only very weak counter arguments ..

    @ bciv: to your last post.. the Jamaat e Islami is one democratic party that wants to come into power democratically in order to put a stop to this whole unislamic “demoncracy” mess .. Do you think a democratic state can stay alive if it allowed such a party to contest elections ?

    @ Tilsim: I am not aware myself, but does Bangladesh consider “sovereignty” to be vested in the Almighty ?? Bangladesh recently banned Maududi’s books.. they banned religious organizations from contesting elections.. although I don’t know the exact legalities of that..

  159. bciv

    “Is one a fool to dream that Pakistanis will one day see that being a muslim in a secular state is not a contradiction [..]?”

    my lay person’s view: if the state remains non-secular and it becomes evident (yet to happen) that it is so as per popular demand freely and fairly expressed, one can carry on with the criticism and condemnation. if it becomes even more unjust by becoming authoritarian as well then one can have two further choices: either wash one’s hands of it and emigrate, or consider taking more profound (but always conscientious) action than mere criticism and condemnation.

  160. bciv

    @Salman Arshad

    but how will you charge them of asking for Shariah, if they, along with a very large majority understand it to be their right ??

    you cannot charge them for asking for sharia, not even in a secular state. you charge them for using violence and the threat of violence; for hijacking persons and property etc. they broke the law as per the present, disease-ridden constitution and laws of pakistan. it was the state’s responsibility to enforce these laws, as enacted.

    The state will have to declare itself to be impartial to any one interpretation.. not because Islam calls for secularism (which is just a topic in the public sphere).. but because of *some secular purpose* that may have only very weak counter arguments ..

    your point here is not entirely clear to me. however, lets take the ’73 constitution in its present form ie with article 2A. the constitution makes Allah sovereign over pakistan and quran and sunnah have (a negative) supremacy over parliament. yet, parliament remains supreme in deciding what is and is not against the quran and sunnah. the CII may give its opinion and recommendation, but parliament is under no legal obligation to follow them.

    so, even in this non-secular bad constitution that we have, parliament is the only means of not only enacting law but deciding whether any law is ‘repugnant’ to the quran and sunnah or not. even the shariat court can do no more than give opinion. the supreme court might clip parliament’s wings as far as its supremacy is concerned depending on what it decides on the 18th amendment case.

    Do you think a democratic state can stay alive if it allowed such a party to contest elections ?

    that is why i used the phrase “for a parliamentary term”. after that, it becomes an illegitimate regime like any dictator’s or despot’s. you can ban parties who openly declare less than full commitment to democracy and its principles from contesting elections. i agree, you must. prevention is the only cure.

    if the majority wishes to jump over the cliff, there is no democratically legitimate way of saving them from themselves or of stopping them from taking the minority along with them. but that does not mean that there aren’t other legitimate means. self-defense, with its usual requirements, is one example of a legitimate cause as far as the minority is concerned. the int’l community and its collective conscience and consensus can be another legitimate basis for action.

  161. no-communal

    @bciv

    “the fallacy, as AAK has explained, was to confuse the state’s duty to be secular with its duty not to secularise or oppose secularisation.”

    I cannot see any fallacy. This is what I have consistently said:

    If you believe that a population of hundreds of millions will only engage in moderate religiosity, that’s mere daydreaming. The vested interests will inevitably exploit the simple rule of variance: too big a sample size produces a very wide variance. The attempts at moderate interpretations won’t matter. At that point there will be politically motivated religiosity. Too often that has ended in a religious state…..this is why overt religiosity needs to be deemphasized in the public sphere, not through coercion, but by the intelligentsia using other available means.

    That does not mean moderate interpreters have no role. They are indeed compatriots in this struggle, and will have to replace the bigoted ones.

    The state, on the other hand, will protect its citizens from all forms of extremities. It will also see the majority cannot impose its will on the minority if the latter perceive it to be unjust.

    I am yet to see any fallacy. But then I am not a political scientist, what I have said is more common sense type logic.

    BTW, AA Khalid and I have already agreed: Religion, like everything else, should be open to debate. And not just interpretations, but the whole nine yards. Ideally the state should see that such debate is allowed, which it presently isn’t. My additional point is that the less of it in the “public sphere”, the better it is, and the intelligentsia should strive for it.

  162. T.S. Bokhari

    An interesting and illuminating discussion is going on in full swing. Will it end somewhere, inshaallah.

    Why not end it with a line from Allama Iqbal:

    “Deen-e-Mullah fi-sabilillah fassaad”

    But I could not find it in his ‘KLuliaat’.

    Will some friend kindly refer me to it?

  163. T.S. Bokhari

    Sorry! I meant ‘Kulliaat-Iqbal’, a collection of Iqbal’s poetry, printed by Services Book Club does not seem to contain this line. Intriguing isn’t it?

  164. Salman Arshad

    @ bciv:

    my point there was that if the state, like the present constitution, or even with the bare Objectives Resolution, keeps a stance of remaining democratic and secular, it will have to defend its stance on religious grounds..

    Because:

    it has already vested sovereignty in the hands of Allah Mian. So it has to be somehow declare that it was through Allah’s will that the parliamentary democratic setup has been established. By dispensing itself of sovereignty, it has already taken a religious stance. Now it can’t look the other way.

    There are people I suppose who have “discovered” this version of Islam.. many I have come accross attribute this version to Jinnah as well.. but till now .. we don’t have a religious personality of the stature of lets say Maududi to emphasize that this version of Islam was also divine “truth”. With complete documentary evidence from Islamic history and literature, and material evidence of material benefit to Muslims in this world and the hereafter.

    And the state has to commit to keep on debating and make sure it always closes the argument strongly, perhaps every day!

    And the state will fail miserably in such circumstances.. for lack of religious ground to defend itself.. right now the Govt. doesn’t have to defend itself everyday simply because the Military has taken this responsibility on itself.. In a level playing field.. it will fail..

    The solution:

    The state declares itself impartial to any interpretation. Simply because it would be unfair to other interpretations. And everyone having any point of view could then be forced to build consensus rather than use force to issue their point of view. The state will then have moral standing to enforce consensus.

  165. Salman Arshad

    @ T S Bokhari:

    I think that is “Kar e Mullah fi sabilillah fasaad” .. it starts with “Deen e Kafir, fiqr to tadbeer e jihad” ..

    But I myself am not sure where it was included in..

  166. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid

    Since I am always wrong and you are always right, why don’t you define political Islam?🙂

    ciao

  167. Raza Raja

    @ AA Khalid

    Sir as i have already pointed out definitions in social sciences are a matter of contention. Just because Feroz Kahn’s definition does not identically match your perception does not mean it is vague.
    Secondly how do you even define state? Even State is difficult to define? And what makes you think that “public sphere” is some how or the other completely insulated from state?
    Plus I would also make a request here that we should avoid making sweeping counter arguments such as ” this is rubbish”

  168. Raza Raja

    Moreover while quoting philosophers one should bear in mind that HELL lot of disagreement exists between them over almost everythign ranging from metaphysics to ethics.
    Just because Locke has said something does not mean the opposing opinion is “rubbish”
    In social sciences all opinions are to be given weightage and under particular context those may assume more validity.

  169. Harbir

    i may have missed it in the flurry of posts since my last comment, but I don’t think that AA Khalid bothered to lay out for us what this “public religion” is, what it would look like practically, what advantages it would confer upon a society that the society in question would not get from a secular setup as found in the US or Canada (for example)

    I am left with the conclusion that AA Khalid is arguing against secularism merely to resist the expulsion of religion from government and other public spheres because of his religious allegiances, and not because he has some profound vision of a “public religion” that is truly a better form of societal norms than secularism.

  170. bciv

    @no-communal

    I cannot see any fallacy

    if you use “intelligentsia” and “state” interchangeably, then indeed there has been no fallacy.

  171. bciv

    @Salman Arshad

    it will have to defend its stance on religious grounds..

    as far as the legal position is concerned, not necessarily. the ’73 constitution is not secular, even less so than all previous constitutions. but it stops parliament from declaring that they are going to do something that they believe or agree goes against ‘quran and sunna’ and they are still going ahead and doing it. the law does not give parliament that freedom. but the converse is not true, ie parliament is under no legal obligation to find and provide religious grounds for any law it enacts.

    however, the weakness of the constitution means that one could try and force parliament to do that. ignoring political realities and imperatives, one could challenge enacted law in the courts on the grounds that it is “repugnant to quran and sunna”. then if the court agrees with the challenge parliament will have to accept defeat and amend the law in line with the court’s views.

    There are people I suppose who have “discovered” this version of Islam..

    when they ‘discovered’, published in an old and famous compilation, ali’s letter to his newly appointed governor in egypt, for example. or muhammad’s letters to the christians. or the text of the charter of medina (meethaq), the first constitution of the state of medina in writing.

    that is your view held and expressed with the same right to hold and express it as anybody else’s. there are other views which wholly contradict yours. but at this point in time, the anti-secular view is popular or noisier. in any case, this was just an aside. it does not make any difference what this or that interpretation of religion says or does not say. secularism is about ignoring them all.

    re. maudoodi’s stature: what is his stature? he was a self-taught man with several fatwas against him from deoband. deoband – school of rhetoricians stuck in the 16th century- otoh, was totally opposed to jinnah (the other name you mentioned). maudoodi has a following. does JI get more votes in pak than JUI and JUP and other non-maudoodists combined? what about the vote share of so-called secular parties?

  172. no-communal

    @bciv

    “if you use “intelligentsia” and “state” interchangeably, then indeed there has been no fallacy.”

    Show me where I have used them interchangeably.

    I have noticed you have other important things to say too. But I am puzzled by your insistence on playing someone else’s lawyer.

  173. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim

    In response to your comments about my identity and location, they are not material to this debate. My identity is that of an oprhan; I belong neither to Pakistan, geographically speaking, and neither do I belong any where outside of it.

    As to a possible identity issue, I have never experienced an identity issue. The problems of Pakistan do not depress me, because I have no expectations from Pakistan. Pakistan will always exist as a yo-yo, swinging between the ends of worse and awful and the only change in Pakistan will be for the bad. Jinnah once said to a Parsi friend, the father of Cowasjee of Dawn fame, that every successive government in Pakistan will be worse than the last.

    Pakistan is a society based on the idea of avoiding a sense of personal responsibility. Nothing can be created for the collective good in Pakistan, because such an idea pre-supposes accountibility and Pakistanis believe that they are accountable to only to Allah in the Hereafter and not to anyone on this planet. No system, be it democracy or anything else for that matter is allowed to function in Pakistan, because Pakistanis are, generally speaking, “free agents” and do not like to be beholden to any form of limitation on their personal actions and instead, prefer exception over the norm in their daily lives.

    The reason that the circumtances are so awful in Pakistan is that there is a national feeling of apathy, which exists in Pakistan and Pakistanis do not feel responsible for their nation. The reason is that, from experience and memory, Pakistan has never belonged to the people and has always been the playground of the rich, famous and the deceitful.

    Pakistanis have no ownership in their country. Let me share an observation with you. Pakistanis litter on the streets without even realizing what they are doing and people in expensive cars, with good incomes and good education, will throw out their garbage on the street. Yet you go to their homes, and you will find them neat, clean, well kept and inviting.

    Why?

    They care about their homes because they “own” it; there is a sense of pride that comes from beloning and ownership of that home and it is personal and immediate but they have no such stake in Pakistan, so they litter Pakistan and would care less about it.

    In their homes, they have rules and those rules are inforced and every member of the household knows their duties, responsibilities and obligations to others. There is a system and a way of doing things. On the other hand, once they step outside of their homes, everything is based on chance and they have to fight like Hobbesian animals for their rights as they navigate the Hobbesian jungle, which is Pakistan.

    The state of Pakistan is failure, because the main function of a state is to provide hope to its people and to reassure them as to the certainty of tomorrow and it does all this, by securing their lives and property from harm. Pakistani state is incapable of giving hope to its citizens and it cannot protect their lives or property and in doing so, has failed its foremost duty towards its people and that too, a duty from whence originates the legitimacy of the state itself.

    This raises the question of what is the purpose of the state?

    Jinnah had it right, when he said to the gathered potential future potentates of Pakistan in Karachi on August 11, 1947 that their first duty was to ensure that law and order existed in Pakistan and that the lives and the property of its people was safe. Z. A. Bhutto, despite his historic legacy, was also right in saying Roti, Kapra aur Makhan, because that is the very least a state can do; provide its people with the basic requirements of an existence.

    Hope in Pakistan should be avoided and it is hope, which leads to disappointment in Pakistan. Once you accept that nothing can change in Pakistan for the better and there is nothing you can do for the better in Pakistan, because the present prevailing system will not allow it, you understand your limitations and once you have compromised between your limitations and your hopes, you will finally find a piece of mind in Pakistan and things will make sense to you.

    Regards

  174. PMA

    Feroz Khan (October 14, 2010 at 7:53 pm):

    Feroz Khan you are so down on Pakistan. You come across as a depressed man and your defeatism boggles the mind. Listen to yourself:

    “I have no expectations from Pakistan. Nothing can be created for the collective good in Pakistan. Pakistan will always exist as a yo-yo, swinging between the ends of worse and awful and the only change in Pakistan will be for the bad.”

    If you have already given up on Pakistan then why the hell you bother about it. Go on with your life. Here are your words:

    “Hope in Pakistan should be avoided and it is hope, which leads to disappointment in Pakistan. Once you accept that nothing can change in Pakistan for the better and there is nothing you can do for the better in Pakistan, because the present prevailing system will not allow it, you understand your limitations and once you have compromised between your limitations and your hopes, you will finally find a piece of mind in Pakistan and things will make sense to you.”

    A man who has given up hope is a dead man. Mark of a living man is that he sees wrong and tries to correct it. He sees a problem and tries to solve it. Things are not right in Pakistan. That is a challenge for all of us who identify ourselves with this country. Work for Pakistan. One life at a time. Make it a better place. Don’t give up hope. Ever.

  175. AA Khalid

    As much as I enjoy Raza Raja’s idle postmodern talk I have to disagree. I am not going to credit a defintion just because its an ”opinion”. I made a valid point about reification which has not been sufficiently dealt with.

    Instead of engaging with my critique Raza Raja is beating the drum of postmodernism. How depressing and futile….

  176. AA Khalid

    ”AA Khalid is arguing against secularism ”

    Rubbish. Can you show were I have argued against a secular state?

    Its because Harbir has made no effort to understand political theory and is ploughing his confused jumble of slogans and conflated ideas, confusing epistemology with political institutions.

  177. AA Khalid

    ”political Islam?”

    I would define religion as a life experience, encompassing a sense of community and tradition. We can see this with Roman Catholicism for instance. Religions are not really abstract entities. Sociologically a religion is a corpus of competing traditions, spreading across some of the existential questions of the human condition. Hence there is no one ”Islam”, just a corpus and discursive tradition of interpretations being constantly revised. I speak of religiosities rather than religion.

    Hence Feroz Khan if there is an open pluralistic and tolerant religiosity in the public sphere why marginalise it? Why? That is the question. You speak of ”political Islam” with so many assumptions. You assume Islam whenever used for a political and social cause is evil. You do not take into account religious citizens who have a sense of democracy, liberty and pluralism. That is your problem, you cannot be bothered to engage in complexity instead you stick in your comfort zone.

    For many this existential dimension of religion is part of their identity. Indeed religion is a form of identity. Ideally, our identities should be open, pluralistic and multi-layered. Race or religion should not excessively dominate our view of identity.

    However, religion is part of an identity. Politics inevitably runs on the premise of identity, it tries to answer the first question of the human condition. Who are we and what do we stand for?

    Hence ”political Islam”, is not when ”Islam” has political interests. It’s a totally meaningless concept. We should merely speak of religious citizens who actively participate in the political or democratic process (ideally). There can be many types of religious citizens, (just like secular citizens). You can have dogmatists, democrats, liberals, socialists and etc.etc. But Feroz Khan does not allow for this.

    Deal with the substance do not be obsessed with the form. That was my point.

    If a religious citizen speaks highly of democracy, liberty and pluralism will you deride him/her just on the basis of their faith? Will you marginalise them from the public sphere? Will you label them as ”political islam” aswell?

    That’s why Feroz Khan’s defintion falls apart, its too vague, and is guilty of essentialisation and reification.

  178. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid

    Can you please define political Islam? Just curious to know your defination.

    ciao

  179. krash

    @A A Khalid
    Regarding secularism and secularization;
    it is a noble goal of yours to separate secularism from secularization. I wholeheartedly support that. Unfortunately, I think the historical bonds between them are too strong – perhaps not at the birth of secularism but certainly in later development. Secularism and secularization have gone together in all societies that have adopted secularism. To a certain extent, you can see this fascinating process unfolding right now in India (especially the large metropolitan areas). It is indeed noble of you to try to restore the link of secularism to its religious foundations. I think, however, that it may be a lost cause. It is more practical to reformulate the original secularism as ‘neutrality of the state’ or ‘impartiality of the state’ .

    @Salman Arshad
    “The state stands for consensus..”
    Consensus is a nice ideal. What we end up getting is decision-making by majority. The majority religion or ideology ends up getting privileged. Secular humanism is certainly the privileged ‘religion’ in western democracies. Please see my earlier posts to AA Khalid on this issue and my suggestion that the only solution is to reduce the role of the state to a minimum.

    You guys are all missing the elephant in the room, i.e, the scope the state. Why should the state be so pervasive that it should end up necessarily acquiring an ideological character. Impartiality is not possible with such a state.

  180. AA Khalid

    Its not autocratic to not give political priveleges to a specific group of people. I am arguing for equality of citizens. The point is not to give any select group of people the privelege to dictate the legislation of this country. That was the point of my post. You seemed to have missed this.

    No one group of people should have the divine right to rule or to make laws. That is the fundamental point.

  181. AA Khalid

    @ Arshad

    Its not autocratic to not give political priveleges to a specific group of people. I am arguing for equality of citizens. The point is not to give any select group of people the privelege to dictate the legislation of this country. That was the point of my post. You seemed to have missed this.

    No one group of people should have the divine right to rule or to make laws. That is the fundamental point.

  182. AA Khalid

    @ Arshad

    For instance you will always have racists and supremacists in your society arguing the State should give priveleges to a particular race. What will you do then? After then we are reduced ”human reason” have several different view points?

    You are missing the point of civic and democratic debate. That is at the heart of my view point about separating the State and the public sphere.

  183. AA Khalid

    @ Harbir

    ”Public religion” is not an alternative to the State. Its a sociological phenomenon. Its when religious citizens enter the public sphere.

    A public religion is a prescriptive assessement of world religions. We have religious citizens entering the public sphere and debate. In a way this is public religion in action. Public religion is meant to be spontaneous and voluntary.

    Public religion should not conflict with the State but merely takes part in the democratic process. That’s all……

    Harbir you need to read ALL my posts again carefully. You have too confused a mind…..Try and understand the differences I am making.

    When I speak of public religion I do not use it as an alternative to the secular state ( I support the secular state and always have) but as a force which can play a constructive role in the democratic process whilst allowing religious citizens to exercise freedom of association and conscience by allowing them into the public square as equals in this great problem solving and consensus building model we call democracy….

  184. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid

    Interesting defination. Couple of things, before I fully answer your comments. Never personalize your comments as it lessens its impact and secondly, personally attacking me is not going to solve the problems of Pakistan. Since you mentioned that I lacked substance over form in my comments and they were rubbish, when you personalize a debate, your agruments also suffer from form over substance and become rubbish.

    Rest assured, I will answer your comments when I have some time to frame a proper reply.

    @ PMA

    LOL

    ciao

  185. AA Khalid

    ”Can you please define political Islam? Just curious to know your defination”

    I did, read it again.

    This is not science Feroz Khan, I am not giving the defintion of the Haber Process or dynamic equilibrium.

    I am talking about a complex social phemonenon, hence you have to allow for diversity and nuance. By trying to define something in a line which you tried to do you actually failed to understand the complex social phenomenon of religiosities operating in the public sphere.

    That is the problem in Pakistan, because of this mantra of rote learning many think there’s a one line answer to everything. That’s not the case.

  186. AA Khalid

    ”Interesting defination. Couple of things, before I fully answer your comments. Never personalize your comments as it lessens its impact and secondly, personally attacking me is not going to solve the problems of Pakistan. Since you mentioned that I lacked substance over form in my comments and they were rubbish, when you personalize a debate, your agruments also suffer from form over substance and become rubbish.”

    Please read my comments again. I have said you seem obsessed with this difference between religion and secular (forms) that you forget to engage with the substance (what do religious people actually say, what do they think about democracy etc.etc. for example can religious people be democrats aswell).

    That was a valid epistemic point I made not an ”attack”. I did not say you lacked substance I said the way you approach the whole issue of secularism seems to me to be obsessed with labels and what people’s identities are.

    You assume that a religion is inherently anti-democratic and secularism is inherently democratic. This was my criticism.

    Apart from that I did not use grand sweeping statements about your comments. It’s been a pleasure debating with you and very constructive. I have learnt alot and I hope you have aswell.

    I used rubbish in according to your definition of political Islam because that’s what I actually thought. I thought THAT PARTICULAR point you made was rubbish. Not your whole way of thinking which I think is genuine and mature.

  187. AA Khalid

    @ Krash

    ”You guys are all missing the elephant in the room, i.e, the scope the state”

    I think Krash gets the award for the wisest comment on this thread. This is a gem of a comment and really sums up our discussion.

    We have been working with hidden and unexamined assumptions about the State. We have never fully discussed what our view point of the State should be. That is partly why even when Feroz Khan and I agree on a lot things seem to disagree. We work with different conceptions of the State. That should be the next thread…..

    We have (myself included) totally taken for granted what we think the scope of the State should be without even discussing it! Kudos to Krash for spotting this.

    I must admit I have been thinking very hard about Krash’s comments, they have been the most thought provoking and forced me to rethink on a lot of issues.

    We forgot about the State!

    Amazing work Krash, great insight….

  188. AA Khalid

    This issue about form and substance can be set out like this.

    I agree more with other people in other faiths (or no faiths), than with some people in my own faith. Why? Professor Hans Kung, one of the most able theologians alive in the world today and one of my favourite religious thinkers lays out well:

    ”liberal Jews, Christians and Muslims often get on better with each other than they do with fellow Jews, Christians and Muslims from the traditionalist wings of those religions.

    A Roman Catholic “imprisoned in the Middle Ages” will find himself closer to the “medieval element” of Islam and Judaism than with liberal Catholic believers. ”

    That is the issue of form and substance, in a nutshell. Allow for diversity of opinion. Do not strait jacket people without giving them a fair hearing….

  189. AA Khalid

    ”Secularism and secularization have gone together in all societies that have adopted secularism”

    That’s not true. See the study I quoted by Jonathan Fox:

    ”Jonathan Fox, in his book, ‘’ A World Survey of Religion and the State’’, and the two points Fox makes in the books are ground breaking:

    ‘’ These findings contradict the predictions of religion’s reduced public significance found in modernization and secularization theory.

    The findings also demonstrate that state religious monopolies are linked to reduced religious participation.’’
    ”’

  190. Salman Arshad

    @ bciv:

    The vote share of so called secular parties is not because of their secularism.. They have it because of a lot of other factors.. the same factors due to which Musharraf, Imran Khan or any individual starting a political career in Pakistan will not have.. Only a feudal can have that vote share.. Sorry but that was a very weak argument ..

    Maududi had a stature to bring forward his concept of Islam without fear of reprisal.. no matter how much his rivals threw scorned fatwas at him..

    Deoband without Maududi is another strong faction.. they know that being stuck in the 16th century brings more “holy power” to them..

    Shias are another ideology .. centuries old.. and no one can shake them..

    Where are the reformists of the “public sphere” ?

    Did anybody, even “Maulana” Jinnah had the stature to bring forward a version of Islam that will only have a growing following, with the typical no-fear attitude of the TYPE of people like Maududi, because he had a guaranteed following ??

    Where are books in the URDU language about the Islam that praises a secular parliamentary system.. where Hindus and Muslims cease to exist in the eyes of the state ??

    All ‘reformists’ in Muslim history have mostly been chickens.. Each and every one of them resorted to write a Jawab e shikwa after the Shikwa .. And you are counting on these to “debate in the public sphere” !!!

    And the state will defend these weaklings against all the Alpha-Muslims without strong religious grounds ONLY because the constitution of 1973 gives them the power !!! Amazing.

    I do rest my case here..

    The discussion I think has ended where it always does..

  191. Tilsim

    @ Feroz

    Thanks for your response. The State has indeed been a failure for it’s citizens in many ways and as citizens we are all sadly culpable in this to various degrees (even you who no longer lives in Pakistan but clearly have a very close connection with it). Our day to day attitudes towards our neighbourhood, our community and our country are of course also a source of pain to many of us. You hear this from Pakistanis virtually unanimously.

    I did have one observation from your comment that I thought it worth picking up “Nothing can be created for the collective good in Pakistan, because such an idea pre-supposes accountibility and Pakistanis believe that they are accountable to only to Allah in the Hereafter and not to anyone on this planet. ”

    I wonder why you feel that the problems of society inevitably lead to the cause being a belief in God? Most of our elites are not particularly religious. Do they behave any differently to other Pakistanis? My sense is that these self centred attitudes run across society and indeed the common environment in India is no better, despite it being a more mixed society. My sense is that it’s to do with the culture. Blaming it all on the belief in God or fatalism is not really studying the phenomenon in detail. Certainly certain issues such as family planning are hindered by a particular interpretation of religious belief in Pakistan. However many other areas cannot be the mere fault of religion.

    We do lack a sense of collective accountability in our day to day lives although interestingly society does yearn for accountability of the State and feels helpless at the same time. The State is just a reflection of the society at large. That is why I have talked about the need for education reforms of our society so that there is greater awareness of dysfunctional attitudes. We don’t have to rely on the State. This work can be done through NGOs in partnership with the media and schools.

    I do believe in devolution of power down to the local level to help create a sense of empowerment. Without empowerment, there is little motivation. One of the good things that Musharraf did was to make a start here with the Nazim system which sadly is being sidelined (rather than improved). I saw the immense impact on Karachi, in particular in the MQM neighbourhoods such as FB Area, North Nazimabad, Azizabad but infact in many other areas of the city.

    The crisis in ethics and morality you would have thought cannot be blamed on belief in Allah. Or can it? Is n’t it curious despite all the focus on accountability in the hereafter it has no impact on our behaviour to our fellow humans? This is a phenomenon that needs to be studied closely and understood better. Even Pakistanis abroad do seem to have a greater than their fair share of involvement with criminal activity (including white collar crime). The schools should play a much greater part than they do and these teachings should come from a wider variety of sources including the teachings of the various religions in Pakistan. It’s not an easy one.

    You emphasised the problems of organised religion. I had various questions that I put to you in the same comment. If you have a chance, I would be interested to hear your views. For ease of reference I have repasted them below:

    “You talk about organised religion being a problem. A couple of quotes below:

    – “Pakistanis will move away from the practice of organized religion and will practice more varied and individual forms of devotion. ”

    – “Once this happens, organized religion or political Islam will lose its hold over the average Pakistani ”

    Could you kindly elaborate here as I am not sure where the boundaries lie. Where would you would like to see personal religion stop and not be ‘organised religion’ and then not get mixed up with politics?

    You see this view appears to have many practical considerations. Does the State ban, religious gatherings? Does it ban religious parties or organisations? Does it put restrictions on mosques and khutbas? Does it ban the teaching of religion in schools? I also think there is a problem with mullahs and self-proclaimed jihadists having a free run at propogating their views. I am interested to know where you would have the State draw the line. “

  192. Salman Arshad

    @ AA Khalid:

    “Its not autocratic to not give political priveleges to a specific group of people. I am arguing for equality of citizens. …
    No one group of people should have the divine right to rule or to make laws. That is the fundamental point.”

    I don’t disagree with that as a principle the state should stand for.

    I disagree with the underlying assumption, that a state that has given up its right to sovereignty to the Almighty, can stand for this principle without being held accountable for it on religious grounds.

    So my question still remains unanswered🙂

    Such a state is by its own definition tilted to one of the many interpretations of the religion. How can it have the moral standing of claiming to be equal to all citizens ??

    Such a state is already holding the Almighty to be supreme. Fine. I totally agree with you that this does not necessarily mean that the state cannot be secular.

    It can. But only based on religious grounds. Theological arguments. Not as an unbiased decision seen by all stake holders as being equal to them.

    By its own constitution it has decided to side with the “Jinnah/Ghamidi/Iqbal/Soroush/Sufi/Syed Ahmed” group, and against the “Deoband/Maududi/Maulana this and that” group ..

    This will cause resentment. And rightly so. Just like you said the state should not give privileges to one group. The group that doesn’t hold your opinions has had the same grievances since 1947. And its a very large very strong group.

    I’ll try to rephrase the question, hoping that this time I am clear explained my concern over your argument.

    Can you argue that the state can somehow disassociate with the “secularists” of the public sphere and prove that they are equal citizens to the “non-secularists” of the public sphere, WHILE remaining secular on religious grounds in its constitution ??

  193. Raza Raja

    @ Salman Arshad…

    Extremely incisive post…..

    Points out the actual grass root problems….

    Yes…where are the URDU publications..

    When we drum so much about dialogue, we have to understand that in real life and with real people it is going to very very very very tough…We cant even say things which we are saying on PTH in urdu…

    you are spot on…

  194. AA Khalid

    I understand your question, but I do not believe in relativism or postmodern nonsense.

    When I speak of equality, I mean of rights. We all should have the same political rights. You are speaking of the Constitution taking sides. Yes ALL CONSTITUTIONS TAKE sides.

    Why did post-apartheid South Africa not allow racists to draw up its Constitution? After all that is unfair, according to your logic.

    When I speak of grounding the secular state in a particular religiosity this is just one part of it. I speak of a comprehensive justification grounded in religious theology, reason and historical experience. I just add that that engaging the religious reasoning of the Muslim tradition is a strong way of supporting the secular state.

    Read Brian Whitaker’s article ”Islam and Secularism – Mutual Friends”. In fact I will post it in full for you, so you can understand where I am coming from:

    ”Mutual friends: secularism and Islam

    The Middle East will only be convinced by Islamic arguments for a secular state

    On the first page of his book, Islam and the Secular State, Abdullahi an-Na’im writes: “In order to be a Muslim by conviction and free choice, which is the only way one can be a Muslim, I need a secular state.”

    He explains that he is not advocating a secular society but a state which is neutral with regard to religion – a state whose institutions “neither favour nor disfavour any religious doctrine or principle”, a state that has no enforcing role in religious matters.

    The object of state neutrality, an-Na’im says, is to facilitate “the possibility of religious piety out of honest conviction” and allow individuals in their communities the freedom “to accept, object to, or modify any view of religious doctrine or principle”. States that take sides in such matters become an obstacle to religious freedom.

    To some readers, this may be little more than a statement of the obvious. But to many Muslims, especially in countries where the state poses as a “defender of Islam” and an enforcer of “Islamic values”, it is not only an unfamiliar argument but one that sounds dangerously mad, even heretical.

    Last week, in an article for Cif, I discussed the shutting-down of debate about Islamic secularism in most of the Arab countries and posed the question: how can it be re-opened? I’d now like to suggest an answer.

    The idea of states enforcing correct “Islamic” behaviour is based on a presumption that such behaviour can be clearly and indisputably defined. But we have only to look at an issue such as female circumcision, where scholarly opinions range from saying it is obligatory to forbidden, to see that this is anything but the case.

    In practice, the “Islam” they are seeking to enforce is nothing more than the prevailing local orthodoxy – modified, where necessary, to suit the political needs of the regime. Conveniently, this allows them to invoke religion to justify all manner of abuses that cannot be defended by rational argument.

    In 2000 Saudi Arabia, which is probably the world leader in institutionalised discrimination, signed up to the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) but added a reservation saying it did not consider itself bound by any part of the convention that conflicts with “the norms of Islamic law”. In effect, it was claiming the right to choose which bits of the treaty, if any, it would implement. As Denmark noted in an objection at the time, the Saudis’ references to the provisions of Islamic law were “of unlimited scope and undefined character”.

    Abuses of power are often dressed in a religious gloss which helps to win acceptance from Muslims but doesn’t stand up to much serious scrutiny. Saudi Arabia, besides its achievements in the field of discrimination, also has the most comprehensive system of internet censorship in the Middle East and it cites verses from the Qur’an in support of this practice. The passage it quotes is about resisting sexual temptation and the verses (12: 33-34) imply that God will protect those who seek His help. If this has any relevance to internet use its point, surely, is that the temptations of the internet are a matter for users to sort out between themselves and God. So there is no reason for the state to become involved – unless the Saudi authorities are saying they don’t trust God to do His job properly.

    The central illusion here is that states can determine the one “true” voice of Islam, regardless of the diversity of Islamic thought through the ages, and also have the right to impose it on the public.

    The question “How do they know their version is correct?” is what starts to undermine this edifice. Of course, they don’t really know but they have power on their side, and might is right. The need here is not to categorically refute their religious arguments but to neutralise them by pointing out that other interpretations are possible. In that way a space is created where people can confront the underlying moral issues themselves and feel free enough to make their own choices.

    To begin the process of separating states from religion, secularists have to be prepared to engage with religious arguments – something they are often reluctant to do. Human rights activists, for example (even those in Muslim countries) often fail to address the religious dimension, with the result that their arguments cut little ice among the public. Kecia Ali writes:

    For the vast majority of Muslims worldwide – not only extremists or conservatives, but also those who consider themselves moderate or progressive – determining whether a particular belief or practice is acceptable largely hinges on deciding whether or not it is legitimately “Islamic”.

    Increasingly, feminists and others in Muslim countries are finding that if they want to make headway they have to present their case in terms that people can perceive as compatible with Islam. That means studying the scripture and exploring its various interpretations. Once the possibility of multiple “Islamic” interpretations is acknowledged, rational debate can begin.

    Official discrimination against the Baha’is in Egypt is one example of a problem that cannot be tackled though secular arguments alone, because of the claims that it is sanctioned by Islam.

    “One scholar after another, one government official after another, would insist that under Islam only three religions are allowed – Islam, Christianity and Judaism,” Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights recalled when I spoke to him about this in Cairo last summer. He continued:

    When we started doing research we realised there is no basis in the Qur’an or the Sunna to support their claim that Muslims may only coexist with “people of the book” – and we started saying so.

    I was once in a televised debate with the former president of al-Azhar university who was one of the chief jurists of the Islamic Religious Council and we were talking about the Baha’i faith. He started stating the usual position that Islam only allows adherents to the three Abrahamic religions. So I challenged him on this and said: “What’s your evidence?”

    I think he was stunned … I cited all the evidence about how the Prophet Muhammad in Madina never discriminated between people of the Book and others who adhered to other faiths – like the Zoroastrians, for example. He couldn’t argue with my evidence because my evidence came not from fringe opinions but from major books that are selectively avoided by scholars because they don’t give them the cover they want for their bigotry.

    So immediately he shifted. He said: “Yes, but they [the Baha’is] have their headquarters in Haifa in Israel and they work against the fabric of our society, their presence is against national unity,” etc.

    Once the religious cover has been blown or neutralised, the way is open for a reasoned debate based on facts and logic rather than what someone in authority claims to have been told by God.””””

    Hopefully you now understand. Constitutions cannot be value-free they are influenced by certain political traditions. The American Constitution has overwhelmingly classical liberal and natural law over tones. You cannot help it. You cannot have a neutral constitution, but you can have a humane and just constitution. That is what I am arguing for.

  195. Tilsim

    @ Salman Arshad

    On the day that the US Congress finished its work on the First Amendment, it called on President George Washington to issue a Proclamation to the people of the United States to thank God for the freedoms we enjoy.

    This is the text of the proclamation:

    “WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houfes of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

    NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and affign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of thefe States to the fervice of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our fincere and humble thanksfor His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the fignal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpofitions of His providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to eftablish Conftitutions of government for our fafety and happinefs, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are bleffed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffufing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleafed to confer upon us.

    And also, that we may then unite in moft humbly offering our prayers and fupplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and befeech Him to pardon our national and other tranfgreffions;– to enable us all, whether in publick or private ftations, to perform our feveral and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a bleffing to all the people by conftantly being a Government of wife, juft, and conftitutional laws, difcreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all fovereigns and nations (especially fuch as have shewn kindnefs unto us); and to blefs them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increafe of fcience among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind fuch a degree of temporal profperity as he alone knows to be beft.

    GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand feven hundred and eighty-nine.

    (signed) G. Washington “

  196. Tilsim

    From the New Stateman (19.7.2010)

    “The French writer André Malraux once asked Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, what his greatest challenge had been since independence. “Creating a just state by just means,” he replied. Then, after a pause, he added: “Perhaps, too, creating a secular state in a religious country.””

  197. Tilsim

    @ Salman Arshad

    “And the state will defend these weaklings against all the Alpha-Muslims without strong religious grounds ONLY because the constitution of 1973 gives them the power !!! Amazing.

    I do rest my case here..

    The discussion I think has ended where it always does..”

    You are of course right here about the balance of power but this is correct if the course of history has ended.

    Feroz wants to light a fire under Pakistan’s proverbials. He is not the only one. Have faith, be politically active, engage with the public and change things. The fact that you are righting here is having an impact on those who read you.

    Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) preached for around 20 years to the people of Mecca and Medina- see the impact of those 20 years.

    The idea of Pakistan really did n’t get going until after 1937. 10 years later there was a new country.

  198. bciv

    @salman arshad

    you are counting on these to “debate in the public sphere”

    regardless of your assumptions about me instead of reading what i write, in the context of this debate, i don’t care whether they do or not.

    this is about freedom of conscience as a fundamental human right. it is about what the state should or should not be, not society or position or lack of position of religion within it since that can be no business of the state.

    And the state will defend these weaklings against all the Alpha-Muslims without strong religious grounds ONLY because the constitution of 1973 gives them the power !!!

    now you have gone beyond assuming things without reading what i wrote. the ’73 constitution is a joke.i gave examples of how in terms of its legal implications and details.

  199. bciv

    @no-communal

    if you use “intelligentsia” and “state” interchangeably, then indeed there has been no fallacy.”

    Show me where I have used them interchangeably.

    ??? are you asking me to find evidence for you from your posts and confirm to you that indeed there has been no fallacy? sounds like you want me to be your lawyer too.

  200. bciv

    @salman arshad

    The vote share of so called secular parties is not because of their secularism.. They have it because of a lot of other factors.. the same factors due to which Musharraf, Imran Khan or any individual starting a political career in Pakistan will not have.. Only a feudal can have that vote share.. Sorry but that was a very weak argument ..

    and now if you would kindly also tell me what is the position that you have assumed i was taking. of course election data is flawed, but it’s the best we have. it can tell us a fair bit. we can do a rural/urban divide and then compare like with like, north nazimabad with ichhra in lahore. it’s not like JI sweeps the cities. or that JUI does not win in the rural areas. ANP wins in a mixture of rural and urban too. MQM kicked JI out of karachi. and so on.

    we do have opinion polls and the dangerously high levels of religiosity in pak society is no news. why do you think i called them “so-called” secular parties.

  201. no-communal

    @bciv

    Please ignore my last comment, especially the lawyer part.

    Based on the Indian experience, roughly the following is what I meant the role of the state and the intelligentsia should be. Pakistan’s own dynamics may be different because it is a near absolute Muslim country. But there are various warring sects in Islam itself, so I guess the Indian example will roughly apply.

    I don’t think all hope is lost for Pakistan. India went through similar bleak periods, most recently after the Babri Masjid demolition. Bomb blasts were everywhere, riots were commonplace, which extended all the way to Gujarat. However, what happened after this is very important. The intellectuals – social activists, authors, newspaper editors, playwrites, moviemakers, artists, and most importantly the television anchors – basically revolted. Communal talk was demonized, needless religious symbolism was abhorred, and revivalist Hinduism was pushed back. It may be hard to believe, but Indian TV channles are actually considered left of center on religion, and the conservatives routinely resent it. The effect of all this is that the revival of “pure” assertive Hinduism is now a remote possibility (let’s not bring Ayodhya here, that’s a festering wound from an earlier period).

    The above was achieved by the intellegentsia without any state help. Now, in a much calmer environment sans religious emotions, the state can seriously mull over special job quotas for Muslims (which I think is a flawed idea), many Gujarat rioters are in jail or being prosecuted, Babri demolition trial (in which even Advani is an accused) is in full swing. All of this may not be successful, but that the state can even try these is an achievement of the civil society, which has slowly but surely pushed back on the expanding role of religion in public life.

    Something similar has to happen in Pakistan. It will not happen today, in the politically and religiously charged atmosphere with the Afghan war and the drone strikes. But when you have control of both Waziristans (the monopoly of violence by the state, as you said), the dust in Afghanistan settles down, the Pakistani intellectuals will have to push back on religion big time. Initially the state can’t be and won’t be of any help. Therefore, everything has to be done subtly, with tact, and staying withing limits. Religion of course cannot and should not be banished, but in the war of ideas those who oppose its expanding role in the public sphere will have to win. Once that happens, the state has a breathing and an operating space. Only then it can initiate processes to repeal the discriminatory laws, can erect laws separating state and church, repeal blahphemy laws (which will in turn help the intelligentsia) and so on. At that point the state and the intelligentsia can work in tandem to make Pakistan a pluralistic society.

    For all this to happen, the first requirement is a push back by the educated class, the civil society, on too much of religion in the public sphere.
    The problem for Pakistan, as I see it, is that even its educated class is not too kind on pushing religion back. They prefer only moderate interpretations. But that by itself will surely not work, because in a country as populous as Pakistan and in a democratic set up, all that will acheive is some muddying of waters.

    Religion in India is not dead. Most everybody practise it at home. There are also annual festivals. But religion in the public sphere pretty much lives and dies with these festivals.

  202. Tilsim

    @ no-communal

    I agree with you the picture you present is certainly one reality of India and one that Indians should congratulate themselves for. However, I also see a very different India too through it’s press, commentators, blogger. Even the sheer numbers and consistency of the trolls that post here and on other blogs where Islam or Pakistan is mentioned. It leaves a certain impression. If I may say, the situation seems far from settled for those who see value in secular ideals.

  203. AA Khalid

    John Rawls arguably the most influential political theorist of our time once said in an interview:

    ”rawls: Peace surely is a good reason, yes. But there are other reasons too. I already mentioned the good of political life: the good of free and equal citizens recognizing the duty of civility to one another and supporting the institutions of a constitutional regime. I assume that, in line with Vatican II, Roman Catholics affirm these political institutions. So do many Protestants, Jews, and Muslims.

    prusak: It sounds as if you’re really arguing for the dignity of the individual. I’ll turn it back: it almost sounds like, in another way, a religious argument.

    rawls: All right. Why should I deny that? If you want to say that comes down from the sacredness of the individual in the Bible, fine, I don’t have to deny that.

    ””’

    My point is that those citizens who do not think highly of faith should be open to religiously grounded arguments for democracy, secularism and pluralism. And vice versa.

    At the end of the day we have similar ideas but we justify these ideas in different ways. Hence we should not be so antagonistic over the basis of justification because at least we share a lot of common ground.

  204. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    I think Raza Raja and Salman Arshad were pointing to an important aspect of the issue. Because the religious sphere in Pakistan is so distorted, the efforts and means required to create a liberal religious environment feels like an impossibility; hence the fear of giving this sort of religion any space. As Muslims it’s our responsibility to reclaim this ground.

    You write wonderfully and I hope that you will be able to engage more and more people with your ideas even if they sound alien to a typical Pakistani’s ears.

  205. bciv

    @no-communal

    “At that point the state and the intelligentsia can work in tandem to make Pakistan a pluralistic society.”

    if by the “state” you mean the politicians, they would do what they think people want to hear at any point in time (remember rajiv gandhi 1985?). if you mean the constitution, then that was never anything but staunchly secular. that is a gift of the founding fathers that even the BJP and those to its right can ignore or run away from. they must pay it its due, whether they mean it or not.

    in india tolerance is pragmatism even before it is an ideal. intelligentsia can shout as much as they like about an ideal, it will not catch the people’s imagination until it has a practical manifestation for them in their own lives. tv anchors and your standard journalist i would hesitate to describe as being part of the intelligentsia. but the reality of india is part of their lives too. how many of them are married across religious identities, etc. the change in mood really took place after 2002. and long and strong may it live.

    (it is an interesting mix of religion and secularism indeed. the latest court (very much part of the state) verdict is a good example. even as it endeavours to do the tolerant, that is fair, thing by two separate religious communities, it – without any legal need to do so – accepts the existence of a religious deity as legal fact.)

    pakistan’s need for secularism is no less great, regardless of how ‘absolute’ a seemingly single religious identity it is. that increases the difficulties and hurdles, not decrease the need for secularism. but, of course, the picture in pak and the story behind it is very different than it has been in india.

  206. bciv

    @no-communal

    BTW, I support Bangladesh’s decision of banning Maududi’s work, just like I would support Germany and India banning Hitler’s book and Godse’s court statement. The state has to be practical, at least temporarily, and protect its citizens from all forms of extremities (and no, I don’t think it’s an extremity in itself by some garbled circular reasoning).

    protecting the citizens from “extremities”, or not allowing incitement to hatred and violence is a basic duty of the state. hatemongers cannot be allowed to hide behind the right to freedom of speech etc. so this has nothing to do whatsoever with the state making religion any of its business, one way or the other. the law (ie standard criminal law) is reasonably clear there so there is no need for any circular logic etc.

    but you will acknowledge that freedom of expression is a very important freedom and any actions in relation to it must never be taken lightly. that book that ‘inspired’ timothy mcveigh and many other christian white supremacists in the US is not banned there, for example.

  207. androidguy

    @Tilsim,

    “However, I also see a very different India too through it’s press, commentators, blogger.”

    You choose to read those that fit your view (and you are one of the more open minded ones that I see on PTH). There will always be communal tension somewhere in India, there will always be muslims tenants being denied in apartment complexes, for example. India will remain a Hinduized Secular country, and non-Hindus will have about as much trouble living in India as I have in trying to watch a European soccer match on TV when a Indo-Pak cricket match is going on at the same time.

  208. Salman Arshad

    @ AA Khalid:

    I think I now understand your point of view clearly.

    Just that I feel your thesis is based on an assumption, that might trip you.

    And what I am afraid your assumption is, that the centuries of traditional Islam has weak documentary/scientific/logical grounds.

    I can fully agree that the path you are trying to describe given by that article you put here, is workable, but the writer was a little over confident when he committed a huge mistake of thinking that the Al-Azhar guy failed to give an Islamic stance to the Bahai issue. Their headquarters being in Haifa was a very valid thoroughly Islamic reason. He could have easily built a very strong argument up with relevant hadith and Quranic verses. The writer was wrong in assuming that the Al-Azhar guy was stunned. It was a slightly complex matter.. not a one-ayat solution.

    I’m not sure if you picked it up or not. Please don’t underestimate how grounded in logic traditional Islam is. It is equally vulnerable too. You try to shake it at a minor problem, and the whole foundation comes down. And that is the ONLY place you can strike it. You can’t play safe and argue over what they call “masayl” in urdu. You will lose in those arguments.

    You can shake the foundation. But this time be prepared for another Ghazali coming to the rescue of the foundation.

    Even using logic to explain Islam could be proved haram without much fuss, in traditional Islam. And you are not new. Logic is older than Socrates.

    Fight them but have respect for the forces of evil😛
    And kehtay hain ke you yourself get burned fighting them !! Oh well..

  209. no-communal

    @Tilsim

    Tilsim, my purpose here is not to flaunt India’s success when Pakistan is in a dire state. We passed through similar phases and know how it feels. India is relevant here only as an example framework in which Pakistan can try to sort itself out.

    “However, I also see a very different India too through it’s press, commentators, blogger…”

    I don’t know which side you point at here. I am assuming it’s the side that’s always critical of the bigotries, narrowness, problems with minority accommodation etc. If that’s what you mean, you prove my point. That’s what I meant by intellectuals pushing back…

    “Even the sheer numbers and consistency of the trolls that post here and on other blogs where Islam or Pakistan is mentioned.”

    I said earlier that even the right wing Hindus today are not so much about the supremacy or purity of their own religion. Rather, they are defined by their distaste for Pakistan, and by extension, Islam. While the latter is equally distasteful, it’s very different from them killing each other off based on diffrent interpretations of the same text.

    About Hinduism itself, the religion is free for all in India. People can make fun of the gods, may wish to believe/disbelieve and freely propagate these views, and point out/criticize the myriad discrepancies. Just as an example, I am pasting below an article from Hindustan Times that appeared right after the Ayodhya verdict. It’s one among many. This one is a mean satire on Lord Ram himself and the dispute. For good measure, it includes another revered deity, Lord Jagannath (Vishnu), who comes without hands (for reasons not relevant here). Many didn’t like it, but they’ve got used to it.

    The point I am making is that Indians – Hindus and Muslims – have got used to not taking religion so seriously. Obviously there are exceptions, but they are irrelevant to this discussion. Something similar, less serious religiosity, is the need of the hour in Pakistan.

    Shaving grace?

    Indrajit Hazra
    Hindustan Times, Oct. 02, 2010

    Did Ram sport a beard? If an overwhelming number of Hindus believe that he was clean-shaven, is that enough for us to consider it settled that the deity-king was as smooth on the chin as Lord Salman is on the chest? Since moving on from the fractious, violent, complex-ridden years of the communalised 90s (remember the intra-Parsi community mayhem played out between Russi Mody and Ratan Tata?), this fundamental and unsettled question has replaced the banal, life-destroying ones about ‘Masjid or Mandir?’, ‘Muslim or Hindu?’, ‘Maruti or Contessa?’, ‘Low cut or hip-hugging?’.

    The ‘beard’ issue has been festering for quite some time now. The media may not have picked up on it yet, but if it isn’t addressed soon through rational avenues, the matter may spill out in unsavoury ways when the nation — that as a whole doesn’t really care about whether Ram was bearded or not — is least prepared.

    All standard depictions of Ram show him without a trace of facial hair. It was in the late 19th-early 20th century that the ‘modern’ depiction of Ram — not podgy, not lanky, but just right and with the air of benevolence that many IIM toppers have — ‘solidified’ with the mass market production of affordable prints rolling out of the Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press from 1894. For the first time, thanks to master of pop art Raja Ravi Varma, anyone and everyone could afford ‘god’ in his home.

    This clean-shaven Ram, ubiquitous in millions of Hindu households by the early-mid 20th century, became the popular choice for Indian idol. But Ram was not always the chikna that you know him so well as today. I’m not much into sculptures, but I would think it to be easier to bang out a stone idol without going through all that extra chiselling to show facial hair. (The early Christians stuck to two-dimensional iconography and the Muslims, well, took the easy way out.)

    The ancient and the medieval equivalents of today’s TV producers in the Hindu programming schedule certainly preferred the ‘clean Ram’ look when it came to depictions in stone and other materials. But the painter, coming in later, didn’t have such restrictions. The artists commissioned by Rana Jagat Singh of Mewar in the mid-17th century to create an illustrated Ramayan certainly didn’t mind putting a thick twirl of a moustache on a blue-skinned, Ram. To modern eyes, this ‘version’ of Ram looks more like Indrajit (Ravan’s fine-looking and brilliantly named son) than Ravi Varma’s mama’s boy.

    But as some contending akhada or other will point out sooner than later, the Mewar Ramayan isn’t the only one to describe Big Boy Ram with facial hair. The Pothi (sacred text) traditions in Kannada of the 17th century, to give one example, describe a bearded Ram. In her history of the comic book series Amar Chitra Katha, The Classic Popular (Yoda Press) Nandini Chandra writes about how Ram Waeerkar, one of the major illustrators in the Amar Chitra Katha team, had first drawn Ram with a beard based on the Pothi texts. “He was asked to redraw his Ram according to the Ravi Varma style,” writes Chandra, going on to quote art historian Christopher Pinney on how Varma transformed “the Indian imaginary from a realm of fantasy to a historicised realised chronotope” (adult-speak for ‘grounded in time and location’).

    Interestingly, because of Amar Chitra Katha artist Waeerkar’s personal fondness for Tarzan comics — especially the artwork in the 60s-70s by Russ Manning, the Ram with the top-knot that we see in the 1970 published comic book (Rama, Amar Chitra Katha Vol. 504), later picked up by those going for a more virile, bow-wielding, sinewy-muscled chap, has become our template for Ram. For those with more pacifist leanings have the option of the closer-to-Ravi Varma version transmitted by Ramanand Sagar, in his 1986 78-episode TV serial with Arun Govil as a podgier, softer-at-the-edges Ram.

    But the matter of the beard remains open-ended and needs to be closed. One just hopes that other contentious issue — of where the real Ramgarh is, the place where Gabbar Singh’s khaki-clad bones are buried — doesn’t crop up in between. The Archaeological Survey of India, after all, can’t be trusted to determine whether the two skeletal arms found at a site in a small town near Bangalore are that of Lord Jagannath or that of Thakur Baldev Singh. I sincerely hope, for the sake of national harmony, a court will decide the matter on what countless Sholay fans believe in.

  210. no-communal

    @bciv

    I agree with you. Indeed in India the tolerance is pragmatism. That’s why the civil society pushed back. Pakistan needs to do the same, when the dust settles down on its borders.

  211. krash

    I think it is tragic for Pakistan that secularists are not willing to make an alliance with religious liberals on a single point agenda of NON-COERCION. They believe that religion in the public sphere is necessarily coercive and needs to be pushed back into the private domain. This has the unfortunate consequence of, on the one hand, weakening the opposition to religious authoritarianism, and on the other hand, providing cover to secular authoritarianism.

    The real battle for the future is between authoritarian and non-authoritarian politics. There are religious and secular people on both sides of the divide. In a country like Pakistan the authoritarians dominate among both the religious and the secular factions. The secular liberals (i.e non-authoritarians) need to recognize that a liberal (i.e. non-authoritarian) constituency also exists on the religious side and can be partners in a common struggle.

  212. Salman Arshad

    @ Tilsim:

    I can agree that the path you propose is possible.

    But I don’t see how it is practical, Right Now. And so must be tweaked .. for Right Now.

    The Islam you put forward has to bring real material benefit to Muslims MORE than the Ultra-Fine-All-Encompassing-Guide-To-Every-Step-You-Take-Solution-To-All-Problems Islam of the Deobandi or Saudi type. Your Islam has to be more appealing than 72 hoors combined. For the common man, not just the English speaking blog reader.

    George Washington did not make that speech about God while standing besides the Pope in Spain during the Inquisition. We are in the inquisition. That speech doesn’t make sense right now, to anyone, not just the popes.

    And reformist “heroes” of today have really weak arguments. The traditionalists still win.

    It is appreciable that you are hopeful. But have you ever been in debate with a really learned Deobandian for example? Someone who has spent at least 15+ years after an aalim course or something ? Someone “drenched” in hadiths, and all the fiqh .. The kind of Dr. Israr.

    Reformists who are famous are really only taking the advantage of the really learned traditionalists not coming up in popular media. Ghamidi seems to be doing something productive in that respect. But we need a Ghamidi type madrasa in every mohalla. Just for this you might need another 150 years, given what is going on Right Now.

    You know what has been happening all along.. you guys shy away from “jihad”.. you don’t fight for the “truth” you believe in. The traditionalists never tire of it. They sponsor themselves even if they have to go ask for chanda to everyone. They spend on strengthening themselves. They leave their jobs and homes to spread their message. They believe in it. I just don’t see how you could compete with them.

  213. Salman Arshad

    @ krash:

    I think you have brought a very valid point.

    We are all “too pure” to be partners with the other. The identity crisis comes up, that is typical of any minority.

    The religious liberals are not a minority, and their real concern is not the same as that of the secularists. They are more in wanting of a better alternative, to provide them better living, but they have access to authoritative people who belong to the same family as them. At worst, they might just be the disliked non-conformists in the family.

    The secularists are the excluded ones, the outcasts. Once socialism or even communism was a cause to be part of a family. Even that is not a binding force any more. Now its only about saving your own a**.

    It is true that we need to rethink ourselves.

  214. T.S. Bokhari

    @Salman Rashid

    I think that is “Kar e Mullah fi sabilillah fasaad” .. it starts with “Deen e Kafir, fiqr to tadbeer e jihad” ..

    Thank you dear!
    You seem to be right. I will try to trace the relevant poem again now. But ‘kaare mullah…’ is no less telling as it means that while kafir has a deen mullah is just a practitioner of a deen like a lawyer is a practitioner of law.

  215. Salman Arshad

    @ bciv:

    You said:
    “this is about freedom of conscience as a fundamental human right. it is about what the state should or should not be, not society or position or lack of position of religion within it since that can be no business of the state.”

    My argument was based on a point of view different from what you hold. I was assuming that a Religiously ideological state will (according to you, and AA khalid, and Tilsim for the matter of this discussion) be defending a secular point of view for itself, in a country where Freedom of conscience is not a fundamental right in (prevalent) Islam. What the state’s position should be is also (the prevalent) Islam’s domain, not something to be decided about by “mortals”. Because of this, the state will have to defend its stance on solid religious grounds, proving that even freedom of conscience is a right provided BY Islam, and if not that it will have to prove that Islam, recognized the fundamental human right of freedom of conscience, and could not take that away, again through Islamic references.

    Prevalent Islam is not some minority of racists. This Islam is solid documentary evidence, which has enjoyed the status of being “irrefutable” for almost a century, since it got the most institutionalised, assuming since the period after the fall of the Ottoman empire, and is now practised by each and every Islamic country. At least freedom of conscience is not practised by ANY Islamic country today. How will Pakistan remain an Islamic country, but practise a constitution based on “human rights” instead of Islamic rights, is an argument I could not make sense of.

    The past discussion has cleared up some points. The case for the argument is not strong enough in a historical context, or having hard-to-refute documentary evidence, and is very idealistic, but I could make some meaning out of it now.

    From previously being entirely impossible to exist, I can agree that it is possible for such an Islam to start becoming a recognised version of Islam, in about 50 – 80 years from now, given the current rate of “reform” in Islam. To take hold in Pakistan, I’m not sure since most reform is occurring in the West.

    Sorry about misunderstanding your posts in a few other contexts.

  216. Bin Ismail

    “deen-e kaafir fikr-o tadbeer-e jihad
    deen-e mullah fee sabeelillah fasaad”

    Translation:
    Reflective contemplation and meticulous toil has become the way of the kaafir
    Spreading disorder in the name of Allah, is the way of the mullah

  217. Raza Raja

    @Salman Arshad

    “Your Islam has to be more appealing than 72 hoors combined. For the common man, not just the English speaking blog reader.

    George Washington did not make that speech about God while standing besides the Pope in Spain during the Inquisition”

    This is brilliant…I am really beginning to be impressed by you..
    I think all those reintrepretation lobby has to understand that for even a dialogue to take place, you need to have a very conducive environment. and yes A Javed Ghamdi (who by the way has been forced to relocate to Malaysia) every mohalla.

    It is a tall task…though argument can be made that everything has to start from somewhere…

    The schism between these liberal blogs, where we can write beautifully about reinterpretation to make religion in tune with modern ideals, and the real world is just too wide…

  218. tilsim1

    @ Raza Raja

    The schism is indeed wide. As Salman Arshad pointed out it’s still narrower than that with atheism or hard secularism.

  219. tilsim1

    @ Salman Arshad

    I think you misunderstood why I posted the George Washington speech. My point simply was that the US constitution does not refer to God but George Washington and Congress referred to Him liberally. My understanding from the debate so far is that some secularists would prefer that politicians and leaders not refer to the religious sentiment of people at all and religion be restricted to the private domain. To me that seems even more impracticable in a society where the propoganda has lead to people believing (quite firmly) that Islam does not make a separation between politics and religion.

    First task for me it seems is to get people to see the corruption that arises from that view and to argue for examples from within Islam that this is not the absolute truth to be obeyed come what may. I therefore appreciate it when people put that viewpoint across. It needs to reach a wider audience, no doubt.

  220. tilsim1

    @ Salman Arshad

    It is true what Feroz says, people can become less doctrinaire in matters of religion or question the reliability of the doctrine. They are then more open to other ideas. I would just approach this whole topic quite differently when talking to Muslims because most of them equate secularism with atheism. As George Washington and others have proven and is evidenced by religious and secular societies around the world that is not necessarily the way it has to go. Obama apparently prays every day.

  221. tilsim1

    @ No-communal

    I don’t want the discussion to get side-tracked here. I do agree with you that fundamentalisms or hatred towards other need to be vigorously challenged. I am however not convinced that India has got over this challenge – I don’t think any society has. It’s heartening to see where it’s fought back; it’s saddening to see where people have adopted silence or moved on thinking all is well.

  222. bciv

    @Salman Arshad

    there are at least four different aspects to this debate or debates to be had:

    – what the state ought to be?
    – what society ought to be like?

    and then:

    – the society being what it is, what prospects for progress?
    – given these prospects, what is the likelihood that the state could ever be what it ought to be?

    but when you mix all of these up in an argument, any response has to first unpick the jumble.

    in developing, religious, thinly literate societies, secularism is introduced top down.

    ghamidi was around even before mush. but the establishment didn’t need or want him on tv and other media (even as he was, at various times starting from zia’s, a member of CII and an instructor at the civil services academy). mush and his ‘enlightened moderation’ needed him, so he became ubiquitous. now he has had to leave the country.

    but ghamidis, maudoodis, tahir al qadris, nadeem pirachas, hoodbhoys, aa khalid, feroze khan and all the rest are part of society and nothing to do with the state and the state cannot have anything to do with them directly. but our state already encroaches deep into society (for all the wrong reasons, from a rights point of view).

    a couple of outcast (as per the results of the ’46 elections) maulvis – the likes of maudoodi, islahi etc – reacted against jinnah’s aug 11 speech. who noticed? yet, the OR uses maudoodist terminology. some argue it is a summary of his speech at lahore law college some months earlier. maudoodi was sentenced to death by this same state. did the heavens fall? there was hardly an agitation that could have caused the state any worry. yet, not only did he have his sentence commuted to life, but, mysteriously, was later able to walk free. ayub resurrected him when he needed him on-side for the ’65 misadventure. maudoodi was only too happy to oblige. fazlurrehman emigrated. what great and menacing nationwide agitation demanded that bhutto make the 2nd amendment? ordinance XX, 2A, hudood ordinance etc all came from a dictator. in case of the hudood ordinance, the dictator did the opposite of what was the CII’s opinion and recommendation. so he ignored even the ’73 constitution, sick as it is.

    some of us who do not know pakistani society of before 1979 think this is how it always was. maulvis were not armed before 1979 (even though the military shamelessly used al-shams and al-badr in e.pak). the IJT’s martial rule over so many pakistani campuses was only possible because zia banned student unions and turned a blind eye to the IJT being armed (the JI also providing ‘mujahideen’ for a’stan). lets not go into examples like Let, SeS, (let alone speak of the likes of masood azhar) except to say when the state wished to push out of the public discourse names ranging from the likes of faiz to abdus salam, it successfully did so. similarly, it was not society asking and arranging for LeT collection boxes to be put on most shop counters in urban punjab.

    we have become a society with these hideous levels of religiosity not without much unsolicited help from the state. just because it seems impossible now does not mean that we were was always quite this bad.

    pak has to be a secular state not because any such interpretation of islam exists or does not exist, but because pak is a member of and signatory to the UNCHR. because equality and freedom have been long and universally cherished ideals and are not possible without a secular state in this age of the nation state.

    whether such a state will be achieved by a rejection of this or that version of religion, or of religion in totality, or by swapping religions, is not my concern here. what i am saying is that that is a process that society must go through and a state that respects the freedom of conscience cannot have anything to do with that social process.

    of course the state cannot remain afloat if society sinks (and stinks). the future shall either confirm feroze’s despondency or tilsim’s hope (no matter how ‘audacious’). i have no crystal ball, except to repeat that

    1- secularism has to be a top-down process (whether done in nehru’s democratic style or ataturk’s autocratic. as a democrat, i would always oppose anything contrary to rule of law.)

    2- the evidence that any of the perversion of pakistani constitution and laws was a result of popular demand is paltry. the relative/commensurate perversion of society happened after the event, not before it.

  223. Tilsim

    @ Bciv

    I respect the excellent analysis that you have done here, it provides rich food for thought and I agree with it in large measure. My optimism repeatedly has set backs about Pakistan but I remain optimistic because first of all good things happen too (even if somehow we place less importance on them) and intellectually I find the possibility for creating the momentum for change an impossibility with a pessimistic stance.

    You have provided excellent arguments for secularism happening top-down. That said, if bringing about a secular state indeed ‘has to be a top-down process’ then I am disheartened. I said t0 Feroz earlier: “I agree with you that top-down reform is not possible because the elites don’t have a consensual vision for Pakistan and therefore they fall back on Islam. Every government, whether more secularly or religious minded has used Islam to deflect from their failures of governance. ”

    However, with the added menace of terror, I think Pakistanis are extremely unhappy with this state of affairs. There is a lot of discussion and turmoil. I see an atmosphere where there is a lot of pent-up energy. Lots of different forces are trying to channel this energy in different directions. The TV anchors seem to be pushing for a bloody ‘Islamic’ revolution. There is no perfect democratic vehicle to channel the more rational and secular thought (which certainly exists in good measure too) to help bring about political change. Should we give up or think about the alternatives available at hand?

  224. Tilsim

    correction…’democratic alternatives available at hand.’

    Dawn reporting high drama at the Supreme Court… The Hon. Justices in a frenzy over potential dismissal.

  225. bciv

    @tilsim

    i share your optimism and not just because of the principle that in life ‘hope dies last’. as long as we are all looking at a sufficiently full and correct set of facts, it doesn’t really matter what conclusions we reach as long as it is as a result of decent analysis. it should come as no surprise to anyone that a country is an enormously complex entity (ayub khan thought the answer to all pakistan’s problems ‘came to him as he was having a stroll outside the waldorf astoria, NYC’.)

    the following is from the pov of a lay person with no training in these matters. the elite most capable of maintaining the most exclusive (ie impervious to all other inputs) and durable monopoly over power is the military. and we have seen how limited that is too, in some ways. the so-called feudals throughout their (subcontinental) history have had to adapt to changing times in order to survive and the faces and identities have changed despite that. we have the urban elites and how they perpetuate their power is an entirely different equation. these facts don’t change by the simple fact that some of the members of these different institutions may be part of the same family. that little fact that some people think important is actually irrelevant.

    i am not talking crazy revolution talk or anything of the sort here. not at all. it is about empowerment – no matter how little and slow in progress – of the non-elites (and they too are no great ocean of homogeneity; in some cases it would be just a case of social mobility), and, more importantly, of competition within the elites and from newcomers trying to join the club. and when i say ‘competition’, i mean nothing more than the kind of possibility of competition that even a monopoly has to keep in mind.

    all one can see and say about the slightest of change in attitude towards religiosity within society is that times of crisis and pain always also present an opportunity. just because there is an opportunity does not mean it will not simply be missed.

    but if you put these forces, tendencies and possibilities together, there could be change but it won’t happen overnight. wholesale rescinding of laws might not be the route taken. but bad laws could be made more difficult to enforce through procedural changes that don’t need legislation. they might become less and less relevant as a result. short of an ataturk equivalent, society;s attitudes must change for this to happen in a democracy (even a sham one). people will see rescinding a relgious law as an attack on religion, but will agree to ‘tightening it’ (play with procedure) or reforming it (eg mush and hudood). ch shujaat hussain’s political insecurities aside, there wasn’t much of a public backlash against talk of removing the religion column in the pakistani passport. it was almost a done deal, at one point. for significant things like OR/2A and other silly clauses within the constitution itself that follow from it, we will just have to hope that if society changes in the right direction then these things will become less pungently relevant.

    feroze khan talks of the impossibility of rescinding religious disfigurement of our laws. i can think of only two desperately insignificant examples of that happening: one, sharif moving the weekend back to sunday without much of a whimper, and two, mush’s partial reform of hudood laws. however there was public debate in the latter case. it makes an interesting example for salman arshad to revisit. the majority of the ulema in the public debates were for zia’s laws. it was the same one or two faces, mainly ghamidi only really, who spoke for complete reform. yet, at every poll taken after these public meetings/tv debates the audience overwhelmingly agreed with and supported the minority opinion (despite the agression and open fatwas of apostasy and being agents of ‘islam dushman’ int’l powers against them). mush went ahead with at least a partial reform, and the likes of mufti muneeb ur rehman didn’t even think of resigning their comfortable govt positions. the 18th amendment did restore the word “free” to 2A, but that was just adressing a mere slight of hand rather than enacted law.

    in my previous post i tried to point out that many of these controversial laws and characterisation of the constitution were a result of opportunistic scoundrels being our leaders or the whims and interests of the “security state”. there is another curious example from mush’s time. the 17th amendment supporting MMA did present the apostasy bill in mush’s rubber-stamp parliament, in 2006, but the thing never went any further.

    other than a committed secularist leader – elected or unelected – cleaning things up ignoring the politcal risks, society itself changing and moving on is the only possible way forward. the US president still has to ensure that he slips through somewhere along the line the fact that he is a believing christian. there is a good number of rightwingers in the US who are not at all mistaken in their belief that if they can somehow make americans believe that obama is actually a muslim, he will be history. the founding fathers were no different to their contemporaries in europe in terms of internalising eurpoe’s experience with religious intolerance (given its vintage, the constitution was hardly likely to cater for atheists). otoh, the constitution’s declaration that ‘all men were created equal’ (before God) did not apply to those of a different skin colour until a full 200 years later. the US supreme court unequivocally declared in 1897 – not that long after the civil war ‘to end slavery’ and the defeated south being allowed to return to, effectively, its old ways – that the founding fathers couldn’t possibly have meant equality to include blacks.

    the immense power of the nation state is such that a lot of both good and bad can be achieved top-down, including social engineering itself. it is precisely to establish people’s – individual and society – sovereignty that we talk of and strive for democracy and civil rights including a universal, irreducible set of human rights.

  226. bciv

    re. the frenzied SC

    the higher judiciary has acted suo moto on media reports in the past but here it has done so in its own cause. more bizarrely, this is not about suspected wrongdoing on anyone’s part. this is the futuristic “minority report” here and now – the court acting on suspicion of intention to commit (suspected) wrongdoing. and they have denied a party the right to be legally represented in court by insisting that they address the court directly!

  227. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim

    When, I mentioned that nothing good can be created in Pakistan for the common good, it was meant to suggest that the Pakistani society, because there are so many self-interested interests in Pakistan, will resist. Pakistani society has always operated on the principle of exclusivity and this can be seen from the fact that Pakistanis pride themselves over breaking the law and boasting how the law does not apply to them. There is a feeling in Pakistan, based on the concepts of our religion, which teaches that life on this planet is a mere transitory existence to the next life; where we enjoy our real existence. Therefore, in this sense, we are preparing to live in Hereafter and we believe that this life and its actions do not matter.
    We are all accountable to Allah and not anyone on earth.

    When a nation’s preamble to its constitution speaks and proclaims that all sovereignty is vested in the hands of Allah, what is the function of the state then, when its very existence has been undermined by a theological rationale? Our religious convictions have taught us to ignore the state and its laws. This is what was meant by Pakistanis living in the Hereafter and not in the present world.

    The problems of a society based on religion have nothing to do with a belief in God per se, but everything with the divisive nature of a religion, any religion, which does not tolerate pluralistic views, which are contrary to its own and challenges its basic assumptions.

    The fact of the matter is that Abrahamic religions, also identified as organized religions because they have codified set of rituals, traditions, organized bureaucracies which administer them and their own hierarchies of power which govern them, are at odds with the present times. Religion and in the case of Pakistan, Islam as its state sanctioned religion, needs to account for itself. A religion, which exists in the present world can no longer assume the monopoly and universality of its message, but has to exist as one of many and when it tries to superimpose its views on others, it will be resisted. Therefore, in societies where there is a diversity of religious practices and believes, a state founded on the basis of holding one religion supreme over others will not work.

    As to accountability and our behavior here in this world, as I said Islam is not a religion in Pakistan as much as it is an excuse to escape accountability for one’s actions. Pakistanis believe that nothing happens without Allah’s will. If a doctor kills a patient through malpractice, all he has to say “Allah ki marzi”. How will you argue against the God’s will in Pakistan and if you do; the state will jail you and even kill for committing blasphemy. All Asif Ali Zardari has to say to his critics who accuse him of bilking billions into Swiss banks, “Allah ki marzi” and if they refuse to accept this reason, he can legally have them killed for committing blasphemy.

    For the matter, why are the people of Pakistan so upset at the American drone attacks? Do they not know that it is “Allah ki marzi”.

    Do you see the problem?

    Organized religion only means and refers to the bureaucracy of a religion, which controls, administers and defends its interests in the secular realm. Pakistanis are moving away from the mullah-clergy dominated religion and are seeking their own inspiration from Islam through private acts of philanthropy, for example, and not through the state as could be seen in the massive public reaction to the floods and earthquake of 2005 and are starting to interpret Islam in the light of their own experiences and understands and not through a centralized plan of action as the clergy demands. Once this happens, organized religion and its singular dominated variant, as sanctioned by the state, will lose its influence over the average Pakistani but this does not mean that the average Pakistani will become an atheist. It only means that they will be intellectually free to decide for themselves what is the message of Islam and its meaning instead of having a state appointed mullah inform them as to its message; they will start to think for themselves.

    A religion is a bureaucracy by its nature and it will always be organized as such to survive and to be administered. Religion has no role in politics and likewise, a state has no role in banning religious parties, supporting one religion over another; teaching religion in schools, but this does not mean that there cannot be private religious schools as long as they seek no support from the state for their functioning. The only time, when a state can put restrictions on a mosque and its sermons is when they seek, or cause to seek harm to society and it must do so to protect the law and order from breaking down and to protect the lives and property of its citizens.

    No mosque or a religious sermon should have a license to violate and break the law of the land. Period.

    ciao

  228. bciv

    but this does not mean that there cannot be private religious schools as long as they seek no support from the state for their functioning.[..]

    No mosque or a religious sermon should have a license to violate and break the law of the land. Period.

    i might not have read all comments here, nor do i read perfectly well. but i don’t recall reading anything here that contradicted the above when it comes to views about the state maintaining strict secularism and equally strict neutrality towards religion, whether in law, policy etc or when fulfilling its foremost duty of maintaining law and order. ‘state’ and ‘public’ are two strictly separate domains in the sense of the first quote, which incidentally uses the word ‘private’ for a public activity. i wonder what much of the disagreement here was about then. could it have been a misunderstanding about ‘public’ and ‘private’, and ‘public’ and ‘state’? perhaps ‘social (non-state) public’ and ‘state public’ would further confuse than clarify.

  229. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (October 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm)

    Religiosity?

    Religion and its interpretations assume an infallibility of their message and believe that their own peculiar interpretation is right and other are wrong. Such religiosity cannot exist in harmony with any other “religiosity” in the public sphere.

    I am not assuming anything; Islam used for a political purpose and for reasons of social engineering is evil. It breeds injustices; and it condones intolerance.

    I believe that it is you; not me, who is sticking to a comfort zone. From your arguments, I have understood that you wish to retain religion as the levithan of an person’s existence and your arguments; your references in support of your views is merely an attempt to convince yourself that the problem of religion in Pakistan is a solution to the issue of religion in Pakistan.

    The job of a religion is to answer the questions of who we are and not politics. Politics is only concerned, and should be concerned, about the organization of a society and issues of goverance and not about the nature of saving human souls.

    The world, where you discuss religious citizens interacting ideally does not exist. It may happen in the Hereafter but not in this world and that would suggest that your world view is based on an ideal understanding of the situation and has a problem reconciling its idealism with the reality of the situation as it really exists. This would explain your valiant attempts to circle a square and argue for the existence of a religion or even religiosity.

    My arguments have never been intended to erdicate religion as you have assumed. Religion can only be tolerant and pluralistic if it accepts the relativism of its message, but it does not; then it will incite violence and hatred and intolerance in supressing the differing views and therefore, cannot exist in a state or even in a public sphere as you may define it. Religion can only and should only exist as a personalized, private matter, which has no business with the state or any public sphere.

    In my view, religion has no business in the affairs of the state and if there are religious citizens imbued with the holy grail of religiosity, it is a matter of their own individual private concerns and has nothing to with the public sphere, which is for the benefit of all and not a few, no matter how much religiosity they profess.

    The point is, and if I understood you correctly, that you seek a continued role of religion and religious citizens blessed with aura of a divine religiosity. In my understanding based on the history of Pakistan and its experience with religion, such a possibility is wishful thinking.

    I have nothing against religion as long as it minds its own business and stops poking its nose, where it is not wanted. Your religiosity ends when my religiosity begins and when you push your religiosity based your views on me, I will push back.

    You and your religiosity can exist in the public sphere as long as you are willing to accept the relativism of your religiosity with other other expressions of religiosity in the public sphere and not think yours religiosity is first among equal in the public sphere.

    The only manner in which such a situation can exist is if the state ensures the fairness of this proposition by treating all religions and forms of religiosity as alike without favor or exception. A state can do this by making laws, which treat all religions and their forms of religiosity as the same. However for a state to do this, it will have to give up its support of a particular religion and its religiosity, which is why a religion or its blessed religiosity cannot exist in the public sphere if, as in the case of Pakistan, it has enjoyed the patronage of the state for its brand of a particular religiosity.

    ciao

  230. AA Khalid

    @ Salman Arshad and Feroz Khan

    We may have disagreements but we can agree on some fundamental points. We may justify these points in a different manner, myself I look to ”religious reason” and you may look to a ”secular reason”. But in the end we agree on some key points.

    We have our disagreements and these disagreements I feel are constructive not destructive.

    But now I feel we must realise that we are on the same side, that we are in effect in favour of the same ideals.

    I feel the developments in Iran with the Green Movement are a testament to the alliance that religious liberals/reformists and secularists can construct.

    Secular and religious intellectuals came together in Iran to issue their manifesto for change (just type in Green Manifesto Iran on google).

    AbdolKarim Soroush one of the intellectual archeitects of the movement said fittingly the Green Movement was:

    ” Pluralistic movement, including believers and non-believers, socialists and liberals. There are all walks of life in the Green Movement. We tried to come up with the common points for all. We know there are many more demands, many more than these.”

    That is the way to go. To come to common terms and to realise that we share a great deal.

    As I say people who value freedom of conscience, human rights and liberty whether as precious gifts of God Almighty or as innovations of secular reason should be able to get on together.

  231. Tilsim

    @ Feroz

    I don’t share this particular perspective of Islam but certainly I realise that the religious parties in Pakistan say and do things that fit with this construction of what happens at the State level. I think it’s stretching it to the point of breaking to think that all of society’s behaviour arises from this type of thinking. I think ‘Allah ki Marzi’ is an excuse not the cause for the problem.

    You say that religion has no role in politics but then you also say religious parties can exist? Surely in such a pure secular state as you envisage (which is not too common at present), they would be a redundant concept and inimical to the interests of the secular state.

  232. AA Khalid

    ”Such religiosity cannot exist in harmony with any other “religiosity” in the public sphere”

    If not pluralism then the least we can expect is tolerance. Tolerance is not a form of relativism, it merely speaks of tolerating people with differing opinions. This is a humanitarian teaching imbued in religious teachings. Tolerance and pluralism are two different things. If we are realistic the most we can expect is tolerance.

    You make a major assumption that only relativists are peaceful people, and that citizens with convictions are naturally violent. This is a fallacy.

    I am just saying let us not bring authoratarianism under the guise of some ”enlightened secular reason”. Make the public sphere (which is distinct from the State) inclusive and open to all citizens.

    ”Islam used for a political purpose and for reasons of social engineering is evil. ”

    That was the problem of your defintion, it had so many unexamined (and in my opinion unjustified) assertions and assumptions.

    The AKP a party with many religious constituents are liberals who have instituted some of the most daring democratic reforms in the Muslim World. Democratization under the AKP is unparalleled in the Muslim World. That is perhaps the greatest indication that religious citizens can be liberals aswell.

    I no have no other party who have enacted such wide democratic reforms in the Muslim World. A senior MP, Burhan Kuzu in the AKP Party boldly said:

    ”Turkey’s new constitution should focus on democratic values and individual rights”.

    I am interested in liberty and in your conception of secularism I am unimpressed by the distinct autocratic approach you take to the public sphere.

    I think the AKP has it right, that the State should be secular but citizens cannot be forced to be secular. The only way this can happen is if the public sphere is open, free and accessible to ALL citizens wishing to participate in civic debate.

    Your conception of the public sphere lacks any sense of:

    Democratic civic debate
    Freedom of Conscience

    That is why I disagree with you. I am not just saying that only religious citizens should be allowed in the public sphere to debate, I am saying all citizens should be allowed. Otherwise it’s a slippery slope towards dictatorship.

    Let us not be so obsessed with secularism that we forget about democracy, liberty and pluralism.

    To me liberty, pluralism and democracy are far more important and worthy ideals that secularism.

  233. Tilsim

    I disagree with Feroz that religion in the public sphere must be necessarily coercive. It is not so in many secular countries. I don’t believe it will necessarily be so in Pakistan either unless we cannot defeat the Wahabi/Deobandi/Salafi thinking.

  234. AA Khalid

    Once the State decides to pick and choose who to allow into the public sphere purely on their religious beliefs and arguments (not actually on the substance of their arguments), democracy dies and that is why I totally disagree with Feroz Khan.

    All citizens should be equal and all citizens should have equal opportunity to debate key issues of public policy according to their worldview within the public sphere, in a tolerant and civil manner.

    Feroz Khan puts a higher priority on ”secularism” than democracy, inevitably starting out with democratic intentions but producing an autocratic scheme.

  235. bciv

    @AA Khalid

    could you please clarify what do you mean by “public space” and how do you differentiate between “state” and “public”, and “private”?

    even from feroze’s last post, it seems there’s confusion here. he has no objection to a privately funded religious education institution, for example. so by “private” he obviously does not mean the private home of an individual.

    you did clarify that you stood for complete separation of state and religion for any kind of meaningful freedom of conscience to be possible, and saw the state not interfering in the public life of religion as the other side of the same coin. i think now you can explain “public” further.

    thanks

  236. AA Khalid

    @ Feroz Khan

    Only tolerance is a requirement for peace, not relativism. That is a major flaw in your discussion.

    We should be open minded and welcome intellectual freedom with open arms but not by being relativists. I disagree with that.

  237. Tilsim

    Feroz

    “Religion and its interpretations assume an infallibility of their message and believe that their own peculiar interpretation is right and other are wrong. ”

    That is a fallacy and the assumption of fundamentalists.

  238. bciv

    re. coercion

    as long as the secular state does not abdicate its duty to monopolise means of violence and upholds law and order at all cost, you can only have ‘non-violent coercion’. criminal law is and ought to be capable of dealing with incitement to violence. if the non-violent coercion is intrusive of privacy and the citizen’s right to enjoyment of property, again adequate laws exist to deal with that too. so what form does this coercion associated with religion in the public sphere take in a secular state willing to enforce the law and its writ?

  239. AA Khalid

    ”could you please clarify what do you mean by “public space” and how do you differentiate between “state” and “public”, and “private”?”

    I think when talking about politics there is nothing private, except the sanctity of your home and property. Politics is naturally a public affair, indeed our lives are a public affair, we constantly interact and engage with people in our daily lives.

    Hence the concept of the ”private citizen” is misleading. We are all public citizens. In economics we can certainly speak of private and public spheres, but in politics it does not make sense.

    Jurgen Habermas who is the most influential political thinker on the nature of the public sphere describes it as a counter balance to the authority of the State. Civil society, civic institution which are independent of the State.

    Habermas who is a defender of Enlightenment rationalism says the State should not prevent religious citizens in entering the public sphere because that is fundamentally autocratic. I would advise everyone who has been following this discusison to read Habermas’s ”Religion In The Public Sphere” (just google and its free to download).

    Hence for me the State is the coercive authority with its bureacratic institutions and legislative infrastructure. These should be separate from religious institutions so that they can remain open to all citizens. But how do you acheive this?

    By the public sphere of course, which must be inclusive, open and tolerant of all citizens and must welcome the exchange of worldviews, opinions and theories. The public sphere is the market place of ideas, its meant to serve as an independent sphere of discussion.

    Think of my separation between the ”State” and ”public sphere’ as the difference between the State and civil society. It is the same rationale. You would like to see a free media and free civil society so why impose restrictions on it by penalising people of religious belief (or any belief)?

    I think this defintion distinguishing between the State and public sphere is key:

    The public sphere is a :

    ”discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment”

    (Vernacular Dialogue and the Rhetoricality of Public Opinion)

    A free, open and inclusive public sphere is crucial for a working democracy. But Feroz Khan in his insistence on driving religion out from the public sphere has lost the key concepts of civic debate, moral reasoning, freedom of conscience and most importantly the notion of a democratic process and discourse.

    We do not enter discussion as relativists, all of us enter discussion like we are doing right now with certain convictions.

  240. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm)

    I am not sure, where the confusion is.

    I have nothing against the existence of religious parties and they can exist in a secular state and they may have a role, as long as they do not try to impose their views on the state and make the state favor their views over the political interests or other stake holders that exist in the state.

    The state support of a particular religion or its view is a threat to the secular state and not existence of a religious party as long as such a party exists within the laws and does not try to subvert the law for its own ends. : )

    Tilsim, you said and I quote, “I disagree with Feroz that religion in the public sphere must be necessarily coercive…”

    What gurantee do you have that it will remain non-coercive? What methods will you employ to keep it non-coercive?

    In Pakistan, the state has no means to enforce its writ, what makes one think that it will be able to keep the public sphere non-coercive, if religion, religious interpretations and even religiosity is allowed into the public sphere?

    Are the problems in Pakistan not stemming from the factual reality that the state has failed to maintain the non-coercive nature of the public sphere and allowed it to become coercive in favor of one religion, one particular religious interpretation and one expression of religiosity?

    ciao

  241. AA Khalid

    Furthermore, from the paper, ”Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy” (just google, free to download and read), the public sphere is:

    ”a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the
    medium of talk. It is the space in which citizens deliberate about their common affairs, hence, an institutionalized arena of discursive interaction. This arena is conceptually distinct from the state; it a site for the production and circulation of discourses that can in principle be critical of the state.”

  242. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm)

    “Religion and its interpretations assume an infallibility of their message and believe that their own peculiar interpretation is right and other are wrong. ”

    That is a fallacy and the assumption of fundamentalists.

    The above is your post, as dated and timed above.

    My response is: This is not a fallacy; this is the reality of Pakistan as it exists today and we are moving towards a fundlemantalist interpretation of Islam.

    ciao

  243. AA Khalid

    ”The state support of a particular religion or its view is a threat to the secular state ”

    But I have already said and laid out that in my model of secularism there would be:

    ”No State Religion. (the concept of a ”State religion” is theologically meaningless). ”

    I agree with FK that the ”State” should be independent of religious institutions. But I disagree that this also means we must drive out and marginalise religion from the ”public sphere”.

    That is our difference, neither Tilsim or I have ever endorsed State religion.

  244. AA Khalid

    The key fallacy being made by FK and others is that the Constitution can be ”value-free” independent of a particular world view but that is just plain wrong.

    Constitutions are reflective of a nation’s moral and ethical tradition. It is reflective of our values and political theory. America’s constitution is unashamedly (and rightly so) liberal, premised on a form of religious/moral reasoning with its emphasis on God given rights and natural law.

    So to say it is wrong that the Constitution reflects a particular world view is bad is naive. All constitutions reflect a world view of some sort.

  245. krash

    “Only tolerance is a requirement for peace, not relativism. That is a major flaw in your discussion. ”

    Absolutely!
    Tolerance is NOT incompatible with claims of exclusivity, finality or even infallibility. You don’t have to believe that the other person’s belief is equally valid. You just have to believe that the other person has an equal right to hold and practice his beliefs – even if you believe them to be completely wrong.

    On the contrary, it is the insistence on relativistic interpretations that can lead to intolerance of religions.

  246. AA Khalid

    @ Krash

    Of course you hit the nail on the head, after all why else did Voltaire say:

    ”I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    I can defend the right of other people to express themselves but not at the cost of abandoning my own beliefs….

    In Feroz Khan’s reasoning the concept of rights is not given due attention….

  247. AA Khalid

    I feel Feroz Khan and others have focused on their interpretation of secularism (which is a hard, assertive and aggressive secularism) so much that they have ignored the following:

    Notions of Rights
    The democratic process
    Democratic and civic reasoning
    The ”give and take” nature of democratic reasoning
    The consensus building and problem solving nature of democratic discourse.

    For all of the above to happen, we need a free, independent, open and inclusive public sphere. Hence we need an inclusive, democratic, soft and passive secularism, where the State is secular but citizens are allowed to come to their own conclusions on the pressing public issues of the day. This means to allow religious citizens to come to the public sphere.

  248. Raza Raja

    @ A A kahlid

    Sir can you explain HOW public sphere is insulated from state?

    What exactly is state in your opinion and what constitutes public sphere

  249. AA Khalid

    @ Raza Raja

    I think we need another thread on the nature of the State, so we can have a robust discussion on the nature of the State. Krash has already pointed this out.

    ”can you explain HOW public sphere is insulated from state”

    Let us take the example of the media (which is part of the public sphere). Would you like to see all media publications and outlets controlled by the State? Would you like all media outlets to be banned and repressed because they do not toe the line of the State?

    Constitutional limits and a constitution which emphasizes rights and limits the coercive authority of the State can ensure a public space for discusison. Constitutional liberalism and democracy which Mr Jinnah was a great advocate of is necessary I feel for the emergence of a mature democracy.

    The public sphere is a necessary ingredient for democracy. Without it we sink into autocracy.

  250. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (October 15, 2010 at 10:04 pm)

    Such an ideal as you suggest will not work in an imperfect society as Pakistan. Religion in the public sphere, even as you defined, cannot exist because it because it cannot be be fair and it will only be fair if the state stays out of religion and since the state cannot be fair in matters of religion, and we are taking about Pakistan and not some utopia, it makes sense to remove religion from the public sphere till the state is able to recover its writ and impose and gurantee an equality of religious views in the public sphere.

    Again, if you think I am wrong and you are right; why is the system as you envisaged not working in Pakistan? If I am wrong and you are right, why is religion or even a form of religiosity an issue in Pakistan? If I am wrong and you are right, what makes you think that there will be peace in Pakistan without relativism when it comes to matters of faith and religion?

    Disagree all you wish, but the relativism of a religion in a pluralistic society has to be accepted.

    Your post said and I quote, “civic debate, moral reasoning, freedom of conscience and most importantly the notion of a democratic process…”

    Isn’t religion and religiosity in Pakistan crowding out the civic debate, threatening moral reasoning which does not agree with a majority view; bans freedom of conscience if it deviates from the morality of the majority view and holds the democratic process hostate to a theological world view?

    I am not confused about the nature of democracy and secularism.

    ciao

  251. AA Khalid

    ” why is the system as you envisaged not working in Pakistan? ”

    Because the system and framework I have described simply does not exist in Pakistan.

    Let us not forget the role of the military in the Pakistan which has plagued the democratic experiment. The military has wrecked single handedly the democratic process in Pakistan after all.

    Your insistence on relativism is shallow and superificial, tolerance is not predicated on abaonding our beliefs. Do I have to abandon my political beliefs just to tolerate a socialist? Of course not…..its just riduculous. Here you miss the concept of rights…..

    I agree with you Feroz Khan on the nature of the State, it must be secular. I just feel that taking autocratic measure in the public sphere is counter-productive, while you see it as necessary for the greater good. For me that’s just wrong and will make the situation even worse.

    But once you go down the road of picking and choosing democracy, like you have done in regards to the public sphere we end up in autocracy.

    Also do not dehumanize the issue by speaking of ”religion” in the public sphere. Speak about religious citizens so you actually realise the full implications of what you are saying……

  252. AA Khalid

    Feroz Khan what is the difference between a non-religous autocrat and a religious autocrat? Absolutely none except in their justification.

    That is the point of form and substance, while two people in ”form” are religious and non religious, in ”substance” they are authoratarian.

    You miss this nuance, by insisting the inherent hostility towards democracy in religious citizens. That is unfair.

  253. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    I think the disagreement is arising because Feroz has a particular disdain and pessimistic view for religion (I would say for very good reason based on what’s happening in Pakistan and I sympathise with him in this regard). However I would say to Feroz that religious belief and expression in Pakistan is a continuum and not an absolute thing. Religion continues to be a huge driving force for mankind and one cannot easily rub it out of the public sphere because some people view it with an aura of infallibility.

    Certainly people are big on infallibility in Pakistan and taking the disputation with co-religionists much beyond ‘There is no God but God and Mohammad is his messenger’. The orgy of religious intolerance is a new thing and in particular it being practised by the adherents of certain particular sects of Islam. Their dynamism, fundamentalism and purist views provides a haven for those who feel powerless against Western cultural, economic and military power. They hark to go back to a mythical time they feel Islam was ‘pure’, faith was certain, the culture was indigenous and Islam was the emerging dominant power in many respects. Then they call it submission to God’s will but the psychology that drives their behaviour and understanding is entirely worldly. Before we had this way of thinking, Muslims used to be criticised for being fatalistic and overly disengaged from progress. Before that they were at the vanguard of progress in thought and worldly matters. So you see it’s not religion per se, it’s the society’s overall attitudes (which do change) and yes, religious expression and understanding reflects that society’s timebound attitude.

  254. AA Khalid

    @ Feroz Khan

    ” makes sense to remove religion from the public sphere”

    So you are actually saying the State should actively remove/censor/control/repress/prevent religious citizens from entering the public sphere? Otherwise what else do you mean when you speak of ”removing religion from the public sphere”?

    You would trample on human rights to acheive your ”secular goal”? That is depressing.

    Do not dehumanize the issue by saying removing ”religion from the public sphere” because what you actually mean is to remove ”religious citizens from the public sphere”.

    You are guilty of reification of turning an abstract entity like ”religion” into an actual human being without realising the human dimension of the discussion. There is no ”religion”, just ”religious citizens” with different ideas about faith.

    But you have dogmatically refused to accept this distinction which means you run into serious problems….

  255. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid

    I have noted that you are making a lot of wild allegations and assumptions as to what I said. I have also noted that you keep asking questions but have not yet fully answered the questions, which I asked of you.

    I asked you, “isn’t religion and religiosity in Pakistan crowding out the civic debate, threatening moral reasoning which does not agree with a majority view; bans freedom of conscience if it deviates from the morality of the majority view and holds the democratic process hostate to a theological world view…”

    I see you have not answered this question but expect me to answer all your questions and then call my anwers rubbish and accuse me of all sorts of fallacy and proclaim that Feroz Khan is wrong!

    If this is your idea of a tolerant, free debate in the public sphere, then all your arguments do make sense, because they are designed to make your argument seem as right and all others that disagree with you as wrong and full of fallacies and nothing but rubbish.

    I do not have the time right now, but there is another comment which I wish to make, but when I have some time.

    ciao

  256. AA Khalid

    ”isn’t religion and religiosity in Pakistan crowding out the civic debate, threatening moral reasoning which does not agree with a majority view; bans freedom of conscience if it deviates from the morality of the majority view and holds the democratic process hostate to a theological world view”’

    Feroz just because I disagree with you, does not mean you start feeling vicitimised.

    I thought that was a rhetorical question. You obviously think religion is the problem in Pakistan, and I do agree with you that a particular religiosity of the Pakistani people is counter-productive. but I have to say there are so many other factors such as the army, the feudal and tribal structures of Pakistani society. You seem to take a myopic view that only the contemporary religiosity of Pakistan is the problem.

    I think the democratic process has been hostage to dynastic political clans and the military, these factors perhaps have a far more greater impact.

    I asked you very serious questions but you have not answered it at all. How do you intend to get rid of religious citizens in the public sphere? Will you throw them in prison?

  257. AA Khalid

    it’s interesting (but depressing) to see the issues of human rights, freedom of conscience and so on have been dodged by the ”secularist”advocates. I wonder why…..

    May I ask what do people mean when they see they want to ”drive out religion from the public sphere” via the State? ( I know no-communal wishes to see the eradication of belief via intellectual discourse, which even though I do not agree with, is a constructive, democratic and valid approach).

    Doesn’t that mean, the State should actively remove/censor/control/repress/prevent religious citizens from entering the public sphere? Otherwise what else do you mean when you speak of ”removing religion from the public sphere”?

    Because there is no such thing as ”religion”, there are only citizens and human beings who have particular ideas about faith.

  258. krash

    @Feroz Khan
    ““isn’t religion and religiosity in Pakistan crowding out the civic debate, threatening moral reasoning which does not agree with a majority view; bans freedom of conscience if it deviates from the morality of the majority view and holds the democratic process hostage to a theological world view…”

    All these are examples of coercion in the name of religion. Indeed, we should all be united against all forms of coercion (whether in the name of religion or secular ideals).

    But, is this the only for of religion or religiosity that you think is possible?
    How about religious citizens who do not engage in”threatening moral reasoning which does not agree with a majority view.” ?
    How about the religious citizens who do not “ban freedom of conscience if it deviates from the morality of the majority view.” ?

    You think such people don’t exist?

  259. krash

    One strange thing about the secularists discourse is that every act of state that can be traced to religious beliefs is considered coercive while all other acts of the state get a free pass.
    For example, a law banning alcohol in Pakistan is considered coercive while a law banning cocaine in the US is not. Both laws were passed by democratic processes.
    In fact, any state act that violates or restricts someone’s basic rights is coercive. Religion has nothing to do with that. Yes, there are many coercive state acts that have been done in the name of religion. But, there are many that have been done for secular reasons.

    Religion vs secularism is not the issue. Coercion vs liberty is the issue.

  260. no-communal

    Law banning alcohol and law banning cocaine are very different laws in ‘spirit’. For instance, in most Muslim countries the law banning alcohol applies only to Muslims (I guess this is the case in Pakistan too, but I could be wrong). The law banning cocaine in the US applies to everybody. Plus, for obvious medical reasons cocaine is banned worldwide and alcohol is certainly not.

  261. krash

    The point was that states pass coercive laws all the time. Sometimes a religious justification is used and sometimes a secular one. But, coercion is coercion no matter what the justification. All laws that are coercive are equally illegitimate and all laws that are non-coercive are equally legitimate. That’s how a law should be judged and not on religious/secular basis.

  262. AA Khalid

    The issue is very much like Krash says about liberty, individual rights in the public sphere. Which is why I think the ”hard secularist” advocates have completely ignored issues of human rights, liberty, pluralism etc.etc.

  263. no-communal

    @krash
    “…states pass coercive laws all the time. Sometimes a religious justification is used and sometimes a secular one. But, coercion is coercion no matter what the justification.”

    krash, I don’t know why you are assuming this line of argument. Religious justification is grounded on faith. And frankly, these are really values of thousands of years ago, unless, of course, you take them as God’s own words and absolute truth. Moreover, they cannot be altered. Secular justification, in most cases, is based on science. And they can be evolved, as knowledge and science evolve. So no, I don’t see how both are equal degrees of coercion.

  264. Tilsim

    oil and water. both liquids but can’t mix.

  265. bciv

    apologies for repeating myself but…
    regardless of whether we want a secular state that actively secularises or one that stops at being secular and remains democratic, we need a state with a realistic ability to do whatever it is that we want it to do. for that it would need to have the will to enforce the law. allow no one to challenge its writ. once we have a state which will uphold its own laws, whose private army will do the coercing? without facing the full legal consequences? without the ability to use violence with impunity, how do you coerce someone??

  266. bciv

    @krash

    “states pass coercive laws all the time”

    as long as it enjoys democratic legitimacy, the state has the exclusive right to coerce, if required, the citizens to follow democratically enacted law. that’s the contract. so coercion is not the right word. for those who no longer wish to be bound by the contract, they must follow whatever procedure the contract stipulates for getting out of it. if there is no such option then they will have to face the consequences if they choose to act in any way that breaches of the law (ie contract). otherwise, they will have to work to build democratic consensus around their own position and bring the changes they seek through the legitimate democratic process.

    typically, there can be difficulties around issues of different identities and regions. the more mature democracies tend to take into account the democratic legitimacy and mandate of intra-group majorities. what forms a legitimate identity is a separate, difficult subject. similarly, what democratic options are available to sub-groups or regions within a democratic state is not something that can be set out a priori. but if the democratic spirit prevails, then most difficulties can be negotiated and mutually acceptable compromises reached.

  267. krash

    @no-communal,
    I disagree that religious values are outdated. I also disagree that they are unalterable. Nor I do I agree that secular values have greater validity because they are scientific. However, this is all a separate discussion and not the point that I am making.

    The point I am making is that in the political realm it does not matter if your values are scientific or unscientific, modern or ancient. You do not have the right to impose them on anyone.

    Your POV is exactly the justification that is sometimes used for secular authoritarianism.

  268. krash

    @bciv,

    “as long as it enjoys democratic legitimacy, the state has the exclusive right to coerce, if required, the citizens to follow democratically enacted law. that’s the contract.”
    To this I would add, “as long as it does not violate basic rights agreed upon by a prior consensus” .

    Now, within these parameters does it matter if the law has a religious or a secular foundation? All such laws will be equally legitimate.

    By coercion, I meant cases where the state oversteps its authority and enacts laws that do violate or restrict basic rights. States do that all the time. Sometimes the justification is religious and sometimes it is secular. All such laws are equally illegitimate.

    Again, Religion vs secularism is not the issue. Coercion vs liberty is the issue

  269. Salman Arshad

    @ Tilsim:

    “My understanding from the debate so far is that some secularists would prefer that politicians and leaders not refer to the religious sentiment of people at all and religion be restricted to the private domain.”

    To me that seems even more impracticable in a society where the propoganda has lead to people believing (quite firmly) that Islam does not make a separation between politics and religion. ”

    Understood. But I have my doubts, although I wish you succeed. Let me put your argument in a simpler way:

    1. The society firmly believes politics is Islam’s domain.
    2. Therefore, I have to prove that Islam itself proposes that politics is a non-theological issue.

    I disagree with (2) as the solution to (1). Because if you go that way, your position will only be of an alternative point of view, which in practice would show that Islam is a weak religion according to the current thinking of the person you are engaged with. This is typical of reformist Islam.

    For the gullible common man, it is much more easier to understand that “coercion is wrong” .. You don’t even have to bring Islam in.. but simply as an idea on its own. Or the idea that the Prophet himself supported the punishment for blasphemy (as many hadiths explain) nullifies his grand stature is a much simpler idea that is stronger than any proofs from hadiths against it. Or the idea that punishment for apostasy would create a society of hypocrites, so Islam could not support such a law to its own detriment, is a much simpler and understandable argument than any proofs of the proposition of “islam is peaceful” or “islam is for all mankind” and similar rhetoric. The idea that a secular state was a “requirement” for being a Muslim, as stated in the article that AA Khalid mentioned, was a similar idea based on common logic, not in the sense that some sahabi heard the Prophet tell him so ! or that some Quranic verse supposedly “meant” to say something like that.

    Let me know I’m wrong to assume this, but using “schemes” and rhetoric to “trick” people ONLY into BEHAVING according to your point of view, but not behaving according to that point of view because they believe in the principle behind it, my experience is that this tactic doesn’t work positively. This partially works, short term, and destroys the opportunity of those involved to build themselves on a strong foundation, and they fail ultimately, because life itself is very unpredictable, only those handle it, who have a strong foundation. I have personally found this to be a major issue with Islamic reformists. Traditional Islam works because it appeals to people’s emotions.

    On the other hand, if the arguments like these are only used to cause a DENT in the thinking of a person holding some rigid view, to make him open to the idea that he might have been wrong to hold a one-sided view, that would help, but only those who were ALREADY in doubt. If you think that the number of doubtfuls is growing (Feroz khan seems to as well), you might have more luck.

    And by the way, reformist Islam tends to shy away on sexuality, and traditional Islam knows how to use it extremely well. That too is something not to be ignored.

    And I fully understood what you meant by posting that speech of George Washington. I just tried to put my own argument that I had come to understand yours and AA Khalid’s argument that religion could remain in the public sphere, in a certain context, but ours was not that context.

  270. Salman Arshad

    @ bciv:

    Your argument that secularism has to be top down, and you restrict that idea to flourish only in a developing society, has its merits. I understand.

    I just don’t agree with it, so to speak, because it assumes that the “state” is alien to the society. I agree to it just because I don’t see any alternative, but I can understand that it will never work, and can remind myself that I should look more closely.

    If today, Jinnah suddenly appeared and came to sit in Islamabad, he would have to go to jail as soon as he repeated his 11th aug speech. The army would have to take over, understandably, in the “nation’s” interest. As a favor they might confine him to house arrest and not jail. And you talk about the beginnings. Well this qaum ka baap was murdered. And our society had no problem with that. Zafarullah khan had started to face serious opposition from the very beginning. Our society had no problem with that.

    When secularism was murdered, our society did not have any problem. But if theocracy, as today, was even looked at with the “mailee aankh of an islam ka dushman”, the society would have no problem taking out the aankhs of the dushman.

    My argument is that Society is not impartial. It is society that ACCEPTS or REJECTS the state as it is.

    And if we are talking of the system being DEMOCRATIC, which is one point all of us in this discussion hold as uncompromisable, then it IS the SOCIETY that would even define the state. Not even Jinnah could do that.

    In my opinion, only the Muslims of Pakistan have the potential to change the course of things. It has to start at the grassroots level, which could then get a leap if someone at the top from among the religious liberals gets the chance to make some major changes.

    For your point number 2.. i agree with you to a great extent.. i’ll put a twist to it though, we were “potential perverts” before.. now we are convicted perverts. I think it would be too judgemental to think that we were “good” before and “bad” now.

  271. Salman Arshad

    @ AA Khalid and Tilsim:

    Feroz Khan raised a very important question:

    Do you consider yourself right, or do you consider yourself as “possibly right”?

    Do you consider your Islam to be “the” real Islam ?? or do you consider that it is only that you are convinced that your understanding of Islam was the guidance the Divine sent down, but in all possibility the traditionalists could be right ?

    Once this is done.. what about the others in the public sphere who consider themselves right with no compromise ??

    He’s talking about dogma.

    A very important related issue is that of, I’ll use a general term, Shariah law.

    How do you circumvent Shariah law.. in a secular Pakistan ?? what will be your stance ? My understanding is that Muslims are bound to rule their community by (at least) Quranic laws. The Almighty even at one instance says “don’t let pity stop you from punishing those who … ” were caught being naughty. some punishments are so literal, you cannot reinterpret them.

    How would the state justify not implementing them ?

    Its a serious obstacle in my opinion for a Muslim majority state to declare itself secular, and that too while allowing Islam in the public sphere.

  272. Salman Arshad

    @@ AA Khalid:

    Green movement .. Yes I have hope in that its a very powerful mixture or religious and non-religious liberals.

    AKP .. Not really trustworthy.. probably only concerned about “human rights” of Muslims.. like “to wear the hijab” .. till now.. very small minded ..

    The AKP never said that Islam proposes for strongly for what we now call a democratic set up, so that they can clearly be separate form those who would be with them today only to come to power democratically in order to bring “real” Islam which we call authoritarian today, but which is affectionately known as Shariah ..

    They never took a serious stance .. Right now, they seem to be an evolved version of JI. Their latest amendments to the constitution are grossly suspicious.

    I see them as waiting to stab non-religious liberals in the back, just like the religious “liberals” of the Iranian revolution. I desperately want to be proved wrong.

  273. Salman Arshad

    @ bciv:

    Re: Musharraf, the Hudood and the awam..

    here’s my take on the issue..

    Writing of the constitution, barring the 1973 one, has been done by the elite, due to their reasonably unchallengeable power.

    (reasonably, because it is not possible for any party to be all-powerful, or all-powerless)

    And the awam, have accepted that they are slaves of the state. They have no concept of being responsible for themselves, or that the state has to provide for them. They don’t give a damn who is ruling them !!!

    In short, the awam KNOWS they are not participants in the constitution.

    With that scenario, (almost) anything is possible by the will of the elite. They just have to play it right, which they normally know how to.

    BUT:

    All of our discussion here on this thread assumes, and we strongly want this to be the fundamental groundwork to build the system on, a fully participating awaam.

    If, and when you let this awaam participate, THEN you will see how powerful JI is..

    The political ideology spectrum of the Awaam of Pakistan currently starts with JI .. and ends with .. guess who ? Imran Khan !!!

    And I’m talking about the middle class mainly. Even more so, the EDUCATED middle class.

  274. Gorki

    Dear all, especially Tilsim, BC, Salman, Feroz and of course Khalid Sahib:

    This is an unbelievably rich and educative debate even by the PTH standards that the moderator(s) should seriously think of putting out a pamphlet with a series of essays from the above (written by the various discussants here) to be distributed in English and Urdu to a wider audience

    Since the topic is so Pakistan specific, it is only appropriate that as an outsider I must respectfully limit my comments therefore I will strive to be brief.

    In my reading of the various comments it seems that everyone is agreed in favor of a secular democracy, so as I understand it the debate is only whether the religion (Islam) should be completely shut out of public life or it should be allowed to influence the public life (though relegated to play a permissive role from the background).

    If so, then I have a dumb rhetorical question for all:
    Why must Pakistan be a secular democracy in the first place?

    I ask this question in all seriousness because IMHO both ‘democracy’ and secularism’ are concepts imported from another civilization that were not discovered in a sudden rush of inspiration but evolved over several centuries as a result of debates like the one above. These ideas finally won out of several competing ones not the least because right from the Greco Roman beginnings, the Western civilization was always organized around one fundamental principal; that the rights of an individual mattered the most, even above those of the group rights.

    Historically the Eastern civilizations (Arabs, Iran, India and China) were organized around tribal rights above those of the individual. While I personally agree with all the discussants above, I wonder whether an Eastern mind can wholeheartedly accept these concepts in the first place in the face of competing ideologies as benign dictatorships of one kind or another or for that matter political Islam or will remain lukewarm to it at the best.

    If so, then should not the discussion be first to make a foolproof case, in few short arguments, why secularism and democracy is preferable to all the alternatives?

    I believe that if such an argument is made (and made repeatedly and well), then it will develop an inbuilt mechanism for resolving the above debate (faith is public or private) for it will then safely allow a role for all belief systems (religious and otherwise) in the public sphere provided it made its guiding principle (a new Nazaria-e-Pakistan if you will) the fact that ‘an individual’s rights and freedoms are fundamental and cannot be tampered with’ either in the name of a faith or ideology.

    Regards.

  275. Chote Miyan

    Gorki,
    “beginnings, the Western civilization was always organized around one fundamental principal; ”
    and
    “Historically the Eastern civilizations (Arabs, Iran, India and China) were organized around tribal rights above those of the individual. ”

    Both these statements are not quite correct. The distinction is not as crystal clear as it may seem to be.

    I am not going to comment about the really long discussions about role of Islam in politics, et al., because in that area, I agree with ylh that such discussions are never ending and entirely useless(bakwas), in fact, even dangerous. I am quite surprised that so much of the first rate intellectual energy of the Ummah is spent discussing such concepts and providing arguments that, at best, can be referred to as indulging in splitting hairs. Of course, to each his own.

  276. Gorki

    @ CM
    I agree that my statements are generalisations to some extent but stand by the broad argument.
    I don’t want to distract people from this intra Pakistani discussion so will not elaborate further; await any responses from Pakistani side.😉

  277. I must say that this post is the most relevant article I’ve ever read and saw. It’s a great help to everyone who is looking for this information.

  278. no-communal

    @krash
    “Your POV is exactly the justification that is sometimes used for secular authoritarianism.”

    Okay, so you are saying making laws for particular religious communities based on clear instructions written two thousand years ago is the same as making laws for all citizens based on the state of the art of ongoing scientific and medical research.

    To make a case for religious laws being at par with secular ones, one would need some other example, one that can be evolved by a consensus . There are clear cut instructions against alcohol no matter what.

  279. Salman Arshad

    @ Gorki:

    To each his own, of course, but my stance on your argument is that, the whole present Muslim world, and specifically Pakistan, is a product of Colonisation, which provided us a fast track out of the “Eastern” systems we had previously, and western philosophy is not “foreign” any more. We lived and participated through it.

    Even traditionalist Islam of today no longer assumes a tribal society. (Maududi, Syed Qutb…)

    We are all in need of a viable governance system, suitable to a nation state, which is a given. We are going through our own little evolution.

    So the debate, at least to me, doesn’t have seem to have missing the discussion on our ancestry. We have “Eastern” remnants left in us, no doubt, but that gets taken care of by the way we approach the problem. I suppose we are already doing that.

  280. @Salman Arshad

    I quite agree with you.

    It is simplistic, in this 21st century, to argue about one set of cultures displaying collectivist, aggregative value systems and behaviour, the other displaying individualist, segregative value systems and behaviour. These are as damaging as Huntington’s deliberate mischief, or as Toynbee’s well-meaning wrong turn; they simply are too broad to describe any group with any reasonableness. Take the case of any modern Chinese or any modern English eccentric, and we find that the first obeys the dictates of self-preservation and self-promotion, the other the hallmarks that have been assigned to him and to his role by years of cultural indoctrination.

    And what of the Indic personality, myth though it is? Is it an individual, scrupulously clean at home and given to fouling his environment in public places? Or is it a robotic persona, locked into simplistic thinking and given to a Procrustean bashing of all of external reality to fit his two or three little ideas? These cartoonish descriptions are so different from the reality that the answer is obvious to all but avid readers of and participants in Bharat Rakshak or PakDefForum.

    These categories simply don’t cut it any longer. Obviously Pakistan’s problems are sui generis, and need to be treated as such, rather than force-fitted into any other model.

  281. Gorki

    Dear Arshad Sahib:

    Thanks for the prompt and gracious reply.
    You have a point that due to the colonial experience (or in spite of it?) the ideas of enlightenment have taken a root in our lands.
    Also I wholeheartedly concur that spreading new ideas is a process and that the debate above is one such a process. (It is because of this that I suggest that ideas such as yours should be propagated to a wider audience)

    The point I was trying to put across (but tried to tip toe around) can be put bluntly as follows:

    1. The challenge for the liberal, western educated, elite in many Islamic countries (specifically Pakistan) is to build a universal consensus around the concept that sovereignty does not belongs to God but to the collective will of the people.

    2. Further that one principle should be inviolable in public sphere, that universally recognized individual human rights must be sacrosanct, and may never be tampered with either in the name of a belief system or of ideology.

    Once these two principles are universally agreed upon, then perhaps political parties of all hues; ranging from atheist Marxists to religious rightists can happily co exist and compete on equal terms in a thriving ‘secular’ democracy.

    Just my two cents…..

  282. @Gorki

    My very scanty understanding is that in the Abrahamic religions, sovereignty cannot be assigned to the collective will of the people, since the Supreme Being alone can make such an allocation, and has not anywhere, any time, made such an allocation. On the contrary, all who have perceived the will of this Being themselves and conveyed it to others insist that sovereignty has been claimed by the Being.

    In cultures with some full or partial dependence on such theological systems, the urge to hand over sovereignty to the collective will of the people has actually originated from those opposed to the theocrats, from those humanists who take Man to be the measure of the universe. It is this that permits them to seek to govern themselves, not based on holy writ nor on the interpreters of Holy Writ, necessarily self-appointed, since only they have been recipients of the divine message. Humans govern themselves in contradiction to the Abrahamic Divine Being’s claim to be their unquestioned governor.

    It is different in, for instance, Indic religions (there is no point in enumerating the long list of non-Abrahamic alternatives and their theological views one at a time, as an example should suffice to highlight the main points of difference). To take one example, the Divine Being binds itself to a propagation of Universal Law, which is a greater, more transcendent entity than the Divine Being. This Being is at one and the same time both the originator of Law and a voluntary subject of that Law. In this conception, it is a straightforward construction to let the Divine into the affairs of Humanity, and to let Humanity into the affairs of the Divine. Your excellent knowledge of the main Indic religions will take you through the rest of the articulation of this that is needed, and I will not further take up your time or that of others.

    We come back to the original difficulty: countries with an Abrahamic religious identity cannot evolve a harmonious relationship between democracy and the rule of the Divine, except in one condition. That is, the fate of man must be clearly classified as pre-ordained or subject to free will. A Roman Catholic, Orthodox Eastern, Anglican, Lutheran, Calvinist, Methodist, Baptist, and any other sect will define its position according to this touchstone in different ways, and it is this that determines their propensity to democracy in the first place.

    But that is in the first place. This debate started many decades, some centuries earlier. Positions were set in different locations then, approximately 400 years earlier. Since then, the pressure of democratic selection processes has forced most of those committed to pre-ordained destiny to play the democratic game, in order not to lose out massively in matters of day-to-day governance. In spite of their theological misgivings, they voted, formed parties, selected candidates and put them in power, and ruled where necessary. Remnants of their primordial thinking (irony intended, not literal definition) persist in the electoral patterns in several western democracies, probably in order to remind us that a perfect democracy does not exist.

    Your point therefore rephrases itself: there is no need for a consensus that sovereignty belongs to the people. Instead, there is need for practice of democracy as if there is such a consensus. The sheer pressure of keeping up with the rest of the citizen body will sweep aside all religious inhibitions, and convert Mullahs to political beings, advocating election of their candidates, adoption of their programmes and building the country’s favoured values and ethical standards around the values and standards prescribed by their individual reading of holy writ.

    You will have noticed by now, no doubt with some amusement, that since no two schools of theocracy can agree, the ultimate theocratic consensus will be a very wide one indeed, so wide as to allow, indeed dictate co-existence with secular elements.

  283. AA Khalid

    @ Salman Arshad

    I will answer your points one by one:

    ”The idea that a secular state was a “requirement” for being a Muslim, as stated in the article that AA Khalid mentioned, was a similar idea based on common logic”

    No, its based both in reason and Revelation. I think the Quran makes it clear that to be a Muslim one needs to be free from coercion to exercise fully their own free will to make existential and moral choices.

  284. AA Khalid

    ”AKP .. Not really trustworthy.. probably only concerned about “human rights” of Muslims.. like “to wear the hijab” .. till now.. very small minded ”

    @ Salman Arshad

    Its very easy to dismiss something which totally undermines your own way of thinking, but unfortunately I cannot allow you to just sweep away.

    The AKP has instituted the most wide ranging democratic and economic reforms of any political party in any country in the Muslim World in recent times. They are a pluralistic movement, hence their policies have been designed for ALL Turks.

    This is the sort of attitude I find condescending and depressing. You will always be blinkered by an inherent fear and mistrust, even when a party such as AKP has produced actual tangible results. This fear of the AKP is based on prejudice and fear, because there is nothing tangible you can point to which confirms what you are saying.

    The AKP has been in power for a decade, and they have never tried to interfere with personal liberties. Unlike other Turkish (hard secularists) parties.

    The AKP endorse a form of secularism, but it is a democratic, liberal, inclusive, soft and passive secularism. Secularism needs to interpreted so that it can be compatible with the democratic process.

    You seem to think a medeival interpretation of Sharia is the same as Islam but that is just wrong. The AKP strongly believes that Islam is compatible with democracy and a secular state. As the AKP say, they agree to a secular state but strongly wish to see that neither secularism or religion is imposed by the State on its citizens.

    You can let the State be secular by having constitutional limits and exercising a constitutional framework but you cannot force citizens to be secular.

  285. AA Khalid

    ”’My very scanty understanding is that in the Abrahamic religions, sovereignty cannot be assigned to the collective will of the people, since the Supreme Being alone can make such an allocation, and has not anywhere, any time, made such an allocation”’

    That is not true, it is only the Kharajites, the early heretical sect in early historical Islam who thought that.

    Let me quote an episode of early Islam to indicate that free-will and human agency was accorded great importance within the Muslim tradition, from Khaled Abou El Fadl’s essay (Islam and the Challenge of Democracy):

    ”Anecdotal reports about the debates between ‘Ali and the Khawarij reflect an unmistakable tension about the meaning of legality and the implications of the rule of law. In one such report members of the Khawarij accused ‘Ali of accepting the judgment and dominion (hakimiyya) of human beings instead of abiding by the dominion of God’s law. Upon hearing of this accusation, ‘Ali called upon the people to gather around him and brought a large copy of the Qur’an. ‘Ali touched the Qur’an while instructing it to speak to the people and inform them about God’s law. Surprised, the people gathered around ‘Ali exclaimed, “What are you doing? The Qur’an cannot speak, for it is not a human being!” Upon hearing this, ‘Ali exclaimed that this was exactly his point. The Qur’an, ‘Ali explained, is but ink and paper, and it does not speak for itself. Instead, it is human beings who give effect to it according to their limited personal judgments and opinions.1

    Such stories are subject to multiple interpretations, but this one points most importantly to the dogmatic superficiality of proclamations of God’s sovereignty that sanctify human determinations. Notably, the Khawarij’s rallying cry of “dominion belongs to God” or “the Qur’an is the judge” (la hukma illa li’llah or al-hukmu li’l-Qur’an) is nearly identical to the slogans invoked by contemporary fundamentalist groups.2 But considering the historical context, the Khawarij’s sloganeering was initially a call for the symbolism of legality and the supremacy of law that descended into an unequivocal radicalized demand for fixed lines of demarcation between what is lawful and unlawful.

    To a believer, God is all-powerful and the ultimate owner of the heavens and earth. But when it comes to the laws in a political system, arguments claiming that God is the sole legislator endorse a fatal fiction that is indefensible from the point of view of Islamic theology. Such arguments pretend that (some) human agents have perfect access to God’s will, and that human beings could become the perfect executors of the divine will without inserting their own human judgements and inclinations in the process.

    Moreover, claims about God’s sovereignty assume that the divine legislative will seeks to regulate all human interactions, that Shari‘ah is a complete moral code that prescribes for every eventuality. But perhaps God does not seek to regulate all human affairs, and instead leaves human beings considerable latitude in regulating their own affairs as long as they observe certain minimal standards of moral conduct, including the preservation and promotion of human dignity and well-being. In the Qur’anic discourse, God commanded creation to honor human beings because of the miracle of the human intellect—an expression of the abilities of the divine. Arguably, the fact that God honored the miracle of the human intellect and the human being as a symbol of divinity is sufficient to justify a moral commitment to protecting and preserving the integrity and dignity of that symbol of divinity. But—and this is ‘Ali’s central point—God’s sovereignty provides no escape from the burdens of human agency.”’

    As the Caliph Ali (RA) makes it clear even though God is totally Sovereign that does not mean we can ignore our own free will. We cannot escape the responsibility for being a human being.

  286. AA Khalid

    @ Gorki

    ”This is an unbelievably rich and educative debate even by the PTH standards that the moderator(s) should seriously think of putting out a pamphlet with a series of essays from the above (written by the various discussants here) to be distributed in English and Urdu to a wider audience”’

    I have an idea, and if others think this is good we can make it happen.

    The Boston Review, is a literary outlet in the United States which produces on top of a magazine, books edited from the articles contributed.

    An example of this is the Boston Review’s (Islam and the Challenge of Democracy).

    The format goes like this:

    PTH editor can writer a foreword.

    The initial writer, who is the author of this thread writes the opening essay.

    After that, a series of different people contribute essays of their own in response to the opening essay.

    At the end the initial writer can sum up his/her own thoughts in a concluding essay.

    Now that seems to me to be a decent format. Each of us individually could edit our own contributions on this thread to make an essay, and then make a booklet freely available in a PDF file on this website.

    Because this really is a unique debate (it would be a shame to lose it, we should keep it), I think some of the ideas and points discussed have been invaluable. My own personal opinion is that the issue of the scope and nature of the State is one of the most important points made in this debate (by Krash initially).

  287. AA Khalid

    ”Its a serious obstacle in my opinion for a Muslim majority state to declare itself secular, and that too while allowing Islam in the public sphere.”

    In the post ”October 16, 2010 at 5:45 am ”, you make a serious point, but I think we need to discuss this elsewhere on another thread for another time.

    But I would argue that if you try and prevent ”Islam”(what you really mean is to prevent religious citizens from entering the public sphere and thus violating their political rights, because remember there is no such thing in the real world as ”Islam”, there are just human beings with different ideas about faith – from an anthropological perspective) from entering the public sphere, you will inevitably lose democracy.

    The State interfering in the public sphere will lead to authoratarianism.

    There have been so many other debates weaved into this one, that I feel my brain is going to burst trying to keep up with all of them!

  288. AA Khalid

    Interestingly Salman, the AKP constitutional reforms were held up by the EU as model democratic reforms:

    ”These reforms are a step in the right direction towards fully complying with European Union accession criteria,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in Brussels on Monday.

    ””It demonstrates the continued commitment of Turkish citizens to reforms in view of enhancing their rights and freedoms. As we consistently said in the past months, these reforms are a step in the right direction as they address a number of long-standing priorities in Turkey’s efforts towards fully complying with the accession criteria,” EU enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fulle

    The Turks are finally getting freedom, freedom from the Army and freedom from the ”guardians of secularism” who practiced autocratic measures to the extent that the ”Republic” from the Republic of Turkey disappeared…..

    Also the popularity of the reforms as indicated by the votes is indicative that Turks want a free, open, tolerant and inclusive public sphere. In fact the reforms do not even speak of religion, they speak of liberties, rights, democracy, equality and rule of law.

    The AKP is a political party with guts, the guts to democratize in a Muslim society…..

  289. @AA Khalid
    [October 16, 2010 at 3:20 pm]

    Educative, to put it mildly. However, certain issues raised by you need a little further probing. Please be sure that what follows is marginal to the main debate and requires an answer only if you really have the time to answer.

    (1) That was a very effective anecdote about Hazrat Ali and the Kharijites. But were the Kharijites so wrong in their approach?

    Probably they were, if we assume, as we less learned must, that you have drastically summarised their point of view for the purposes of a popular discussion such as this.

    What we get is the following:But considering the historical context, the Khawarij’s sloganeering was initially a call for the symbolism of legality and the supremacy of law that descended into an unequivocal radicalized demand for fixed lines of demarcation between what is lawful and unlawful.

    What is so objectionable in that? Surely the whole purpose of law is to determine what is lawful and what is unlawful? and surely no reasonable person willing to live in society at the cost of some minor surrender of his individual liberties will cavil at a call for the supremacy of law?

    Obviously something has got omitted in the need to compress an historical event sufficiently to fit these columns. It could be an assumption that these laws are immutable and not subject to interpretation – Ali’s lesson pointing to the contrary! – or it could be an assumption that only the ‘elect’ are entitled to interpret these laws, if interpretation there must be. Hazrat Ali seems to be saying, very reasonably, that a document cannot enter into human affairs, a book cannot adjudicate; it is not clear from your brief anecdote if he also held that only those knowledgeable in the contents and the context of the book can use it to resolve the knots that human beings seem to get themselves into. Fair enough, but what was the dangerous, the objectionable part of the Kharijite stance?

    (2) I had mentioned the divergence between free will and predestination in the context that I knew it, the Christian context.

    It is interesting that there are presumably two interpretations in the Islamic context as well, one being the contemporary fundamentalist doctrine which proclaims predestination, and the freedom only to obey holy writ and its interpretation by ‘authorised’ interpreters. Against this, there is the other point of view which Hazrat Ali seems to have articulated, if your anecdote is properly understood, that we are not relieved of the burden of exercising our own free will and our own moral judgement merely because holy writ appears to cover part of the territory, even all of the territory. In believing that, we are also saying that we have the duty to interpret if the version of holy writ that has been received by us is truly our moral compass, or it is incorrect, and that it is our moral duty to act contrary to it.

    Is that not more or less the position that laws and society must be built according to the interpretations of moral law by individuals, not by holy writ?

    The core discussion is clearly between Krash, bciv, Salman Arshad and you; I am clear that these questions lack heft in the context of those, so kindly give them just as much time – very little – as they deserve.

  290. AA Khalid

    Thanks for your reply Vajra, it is thought provoking, but if I am to do justice to your thoughtful reply I will need time. So I have acknowledged your valuable contribution but I will reply in a more fitting manner (with more detail and attention) at a later time.

    Regards

  291. @A A Khalid

    On second thoughts, I wish to withdraw my post, on the grounds that it is a distraction of little value. It really doesn’t fit in with the rest. Please do not bother replying it at the moment.

    Perhaps, some other time.

  292. Addendum:

    He hates hacks who don’t know what imperialism means, what ideology means and what Indian means.

  293. Tilsim

    @Salman Arshad
    October 16, 2010 at 3:33 am

    “For the gullible common man, it is much more easier to understand that “coercion is wrong” ”

    I don’t disagree because actually that is the point. The solution to many of these issues comes down to basic principles. Tolerance, human free will, human agency and shunning of tyranny being particularly important to a just society and prized by Islam too. How can one be good (a moral choice) if our will is pre-determined? I would also add that in my view claims of infallibility are a form of hubris which cause corruption and an infringement on God’s omnipotence. Humans are fully capable of making mistakes. Once one understands these things, I think one is necessarily cautious in matters of doctrine.

    Reform is focussed around these aspects first and foremost…. our attitudes.

  294. Salman Arshad

    @ AA Khalid:

    “No, its based both in reason and Revelation. I think the Quran makes it clear that to be a Muslim one needs to be free from coercion to exercise fully their own free will to make existential and moral choices.”

    Fine. But it is your inherently subjective understanding that weakens your argument against any opposing one. For example, it can be very easily explained that your understanding is missing the practical ways the society was managed by the Prophet. He asked of those to be killed who reverted from Islam, when there were certain Jews who found out that they could assert the falsehood in Islam by claiming to acquire the faith and then revoke it. If this insecurity of the faith lies directly in the “number” of people not revoking the faith, instead of its own claim to “Truth”, the event at least shows that your understanding is simply missing something. Or it could be explained that a 7 year old is to be beaten if he doesn’t pray (regardless of his limited understanding of what prayer is, or what God is). You could probably attack the chain of narrations, but that is too subjective a matter. Narrators have emotional affiliations in Islamic discourse. You might have to spend your whole life doing research on the matter. And a lot of nitpicking on the issue of hadith has been done for centuries.

    This was just an example, and not a counter argument, just to show the presence of a strong argument that has too much in its support for you to refute within the limits of Islamic discourse.

    My argument was that such arguments exist that CANNOT be proved to be false from within Islam. They can only be proved to be false based on some “trans-Islamic” principle that even Islam would be subject to, for its own legitimacy.

    Traditionalist Islam’s ONLY weakness is the failure at explaining its injunctions with respect to material, verifiable logical arguments. Otherwise, documentary evidence for its injunctions is too strong on its own.

  295. Salman Arshad

    @ AA Khalid:

    Regarding the AKP, yes it is mostly distrust. And that is because of their not clarifying their position of how they hold Islam to be compatible with the state being secular.

    Erodogan had banned alcohol in cafes when he was mayor of Istanbul. I don’t know if he feels “guilty” of doing that now. I had read about him say that he believed in a secularist state some years before his mayorship. I could be wrong, but this was typical JI style.

    I don’t know but maybe you understand how his ban was legitimate while the state was secular, and was simply a decision by the “public sphere”. If you do, this would be a good example for all of us to understand.

    He has not clarified his position about Islam’s own authoritarian injunctions.

  296. Chote Miyan

    Salman saab,
    I broadly support your arguments. I have some Turkish friends who call themselves liberals(in fact, they are) and they foam at mouth when talking about Erodogan. Most of them take his reforms as a hidden ploy to undermine the secular nature of Turkey. Some years ago, he reportedly said that he feels more comfortable around Muslims than people from other faiths! The problem is that in terms of orthodoxy, the Turkish liberals, at least the one I know, are no better, only that their orthodoxy is of a different kind, and they are quite elitist as well. I guess, in my view, it’s the absence of substantial middle ground that is hurting the cause of secularism in Muslim world.

  297. AA Khalid

    I have to say Salman Arshad can you point to something in the last 8-9 years of AKP rule?

    Yes that is a legitamate criticism, but the wide ranging economic reform, political reforms and the move towards a more democratic constitutionalism is unprecedented.

    The AKP has taken some unprecedented moves towards political liberalism in the Muslim World. Yes they are conservative on social issues, but every party as along as they abide by constitutional limits, the democratic process has a right to take a particular view on social issues, as long as no imposition and coercion is involved. And I see no evidence of the AKP doing that.

    But the fact the AKP is calling for more democratization while some of the so called ”secularists” are doing everything to protect the army as ”guardians of the secular state” is mind boggling.

    The Turkish ”secularists” are proof of what happens when you put a higher priority on secularism than democracy.

    Put it this way the AKP is like the Christian democratic parties of Western Europe. Politically liberal, democracy loving, free market oriented but socially conservative. That’s a pretty valid platform to be honest.

    The bottom line is the AKP is popular. The AKP has done something which parties in the Muslim World have failed to do. Make bridges with the West and satisfy their domestic constituents.

    There is no similarity between JI and AKP. The AKP is a wide raning pluralistic party which has many types of Turks in its party. The AKP has articulated a discourse of civil liberties, human rights and democratization combined with a free market oriented approach which has meant Turkey has undergone an economic transformation in the last 10 years.

    Sure there have been some bad policies, but overall I think the AKP represents the future for Muslim democracy.

    ”Secularists” in Turkey seem to have just one mantra about the AKP. That they do not adopt a Western lifestyle in their personal lives and by defintion any one who thinks being religous, a democrat and liberal is not a problem must be mad, lying or a two faced enemy. The ”secularists” in Turkey see leading a particular life style proof of democracy! How pathetic….

    This is unhealthy, the ”secularists” in Turkey adopt the same sort of conspiracy theory mindset that is prevelent in Pakistan.

    To quote from Mustafa Aykol’s paper:

    ”With its Ottoman heritage and a deepening democracy, Turkey has the potential to create that synthesis and send that message. That potential was denied and marginalized for many decades, but it is coming back. That is good news not only for Turkey, but for the world.

    Above all, the experience of Turkish Islam also suggests how the ultimate reform of the Islamic world will come about –through democracy and free markets. These are the social dynamics that create individuals and communities will-
    ing to embrace modernity and shape it to their own historical imaginations. When Muslim societies are forced instead to accept some elite’s version of modernity whether rough secularist tyrannies or Western military interventions– they invariably react against it, and the backlash just as invariably fuels an even more ferocious, reactionary religious radicalism. ”

    Secularism in the Middle East has had a very autocratic and dictatorial tendency. Which is why I continually argue we must focus on the democratic process more.

    The paper is called, ”THE CURIOUS STORY OF TURKEY’S LIBERAL ISLAMISM”

    And it’s abstract is:

    ”The aim of this article is to analyze the Turkish contemporary experience, taking as turning point the foundation of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001. For this, it has been necessary to revise historically the Ottoman legacy and its reform, emphasizing in particular the Tanzimat period and the role of the Young Ottomans in this process, and, on the other hand, the genesis of the modern Turkish Republic and the changes made by Kemal Atatürk. The experience of Turkish Islam, through democracy and free market, is an example that shows how
    different social and historical dynamics can lead to the creation of people and communities that can combine Islamic values with modernity.”

    And its not like the AKP wins in Turkey by small margins, the margins by which the AKP wins are quiet comfortable. On the referendum the margin was pretty big, 58% against 42%.

    The paranoia and unhealthy conspiracy mind set about the AKP is frankly infantile and demonstrates a lack of maturity to deal with the issues, facts and figures at hand. Enough talk about ”conspiracy”, ”ploys” and so on. This is what has kept democracy and the whole country back by the so called ”guardians of secularism” in Turkey…..

    If you are a person whose politics revolves around fear mongering then it shows how little substance there is in your brand of politics.

  298. Harbir

    A A Khalid,

    So what is public religion and how is it better than secularism as practiced in, say, the united states?

    Have you answered that yet?

  299. AA Khalid

    ”Have you answered that yet?”

    I have answered that question countless times now. Fundamentally you will not accept my answer because you have a rigid mindset which sees public religion (as I have described) and secularism as competing forces.

    I have constantly argued for a secular state, but you seem to stick by your narrow and parochial conception of a hard and uncompromising almost autocratic model of secularism which seeks to exclude rather than include.

    They are not competing forces. One can have a secular state, but allow religious citizens to engage in the democratic process in the public sphere. That is fundamentally the scheme I have proposed in a nutshell.

    The reason I do not like to cite different models of secularism in different countries as absolute examples is, because the understanding of secularism then becomes contextual and contingent on a certain politio-historical experience and process. There are a series of discursive and domesticated understandings of the secular in many countries.

  300. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (various posts)

    You have not answered any of my questions, listed below, but have pressed ahead with your own questions.

    In any case, this debate does offer a window into your idea of a “public sphere”, where you hold others accountable, by asking them to defend themselves, but do not wish to be held accountable and answer questions as to what you believe, believing that your views are correct, sacrosant and above questioning.

    Please answer the following questions.

    Isn’t religion and religiosity in Pakistan crowding out the civic debate, threatening moral reasoning which does not agree with a majority view ?

    Does the public sphere, as it exists in Pakistan, not ban the freedom of conscience if it deviates from the morality of the majority view?

    Does the public sphere in Pakistan, as it exists presently, holds or does not hold the democratic process hostage to a theological world view?

    In another interact post, with Krash, you quoted Voltaire as saying that “I do not like what you have to say, but I will defend to death your right to say it” as example of free speech in the public sphere.

    This idea is as alien and unlikely to happen in Pakistan and its public sphere as is a Martian coming to Lahore to visit Heera Mundi!

    Again, the place we are discussing is Pakistan and not some utopia in the Hereafter.

    No Muslim in Pakistan will stand up next to any non-Muslim minority member, in the face of a raging blinded by hatred mob, foaming at the mouth and braying for blood, led by a mullah deranged by apolexy and defend a non-Muslim Pakistani’s right to critique the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad by quoting Voltaire!

    If the offender was killed, the state would not punish his/her murders and the offical bureaucracy will do nothing but more likely have a feast honoring the mullah for upholding the sancity of Islam and its noble message from those who would seek to malign it and insult it.

    It is not purpose of a state, to answer your queries, to ban the human and political rights of its citizens, but rather to ensure the egalitrianism of those rights as being applicable towards all and not just towards the chosen, who unfairly enjoy the patronage of the state.

    As to the public sphere and your new category of “religious citizens”, all citizens are equal before the state. The idea of dividing the society into a segregated apartheid of religious and non-religious citizens would create a dangerous precedent and polarize the society. The political and human rights of all such citizens are protected by the state, but when the state starts to play favorites and starts to make exceptions, with the rights of its citizens, it embarks upon a slippery slope which eventually ends in despotism.

    Since, the reference was made to the state, vis-a-vis its citizens, the state can be defined as an entity responsible for organzing a society or a group under a political organization and governing it, by creating a sense of law and order, where the individual rights to life and property are safe quarded and those who violate and break this contract; whereby an individual gives up their personal rights for a collective good, will be punished by the state.

    Therefore, the coercive power of the state is not necessarily designed to punish expressions of political or human rights or religious rights or their enjoyment, but rather to prevent those rights from being trespassed and denied and in the process, preventing the lessening of the personal, political, human, social and yes; even the religious rights of its citizens by any other group, ideology or a view point.

    Therefore, when it comes to issues of public sphere and the expression of a religious view, a religious identity, a religious tradition or any such activity associated with a religion, the state has a responsibility to ensure that public sphere is accessable to all, but at the same time; if such an activity leads to the marginalization of the expression of such views, as belonging to those groups, which may not enjoy the status of a majority in the public sphere; the state has a duty to resistrict such an activity.

    In the case of the public sphere as you have defined it and the rights of “religious citizens” within it, their rights stop when the rights of the “non-religious citizens” begin. In other words, religion, any religion existing within a state, needs to exist within the realms and limits of the state’s laws, regulations and guidelines and cannot be allowed to be above the law regardless of the reason.

    The problem is, when a religion and its world view is allowed to dominate a public sphere, it will act as the thin end of the wedge and if not challenged and stopped when it exceeds its limits, it will gradually and progressively crowd out and marginalize the other voices, which differ from its own, in the public sphere. Therefore, while there is no harm in the expression of a religious view or even a religious identity in the public sphere, such a view must respect the rights of other religions and religious identies, which also share the public sphere and not be allowed and given the preference of a favored expression in the public sphere.

    Since every religion thinks that they are “right” and “God” is on their side, the absolutism of such an articulation needs to made relative to all other religious views, for the sake of law and order and the maintaince of a public peace, which also think they are right and God is on their side. The irony is that the world is around and in a round sphere; there are no sides, so God is every where with every religion and not just on a particular side and this is what the state has to ensure in the public sphere!

    This is the very precise balance, which needs to be created in the public sphere. It also means, that no one particular religion is more holy than others and all religious expressions and all “religious citizens” have to respect the views, traditions and belief structures, with the other religions with whom they share the public sphere. Thus, what this implies is not the denial of the human, political or religious rights of the “religious citizens” in a secular state but to ensure their existence in the public sphere and their constitutional rights to the enjoyment of the public sphere.

    In the case of Pakistan, it would mean that even though Pakistan is a Muslim majority state, it is still a religiously pluralistic society. The Sunnis may be in the majority, but there also Shias that live in Pakistan. There are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Zorastrians, Ahmedis, and even a very rare and small group of Jews and certain citizens, such as the one in Chitral, believed to have decended from the armies of Alexander the Great, who practice a form of paganism.

    In such a case, Sunni Islam cannot “have its way” at the cost of any other religious view that exist in Pakistan. The Shias, Hindus, Christians, Zorastrians, Sikhs, Ahmedis, Jews and the so-called “Kuffars of Chitral” are also the “religious citizens” of Pakistan and have every right to the public sphere in Pakistan, to express their identies and views.

    The question, then becomes, why are they not allowed access to the public sphere in Pakistan to express their views, identities and religious faith in Pakistan and why are they banned and their political and human and religious rights denied in the public sphere in Pakistan?

    Are they not “religious citizens” of Pakistan, who have the right to express and project their religious views, traditions, identities, expressions, faiths and the sum of their life’s experiences, based on the above criteria, in the public sphere of Pakistan?

    Or, is the public sphere in Pakistan, when it comes to the rights of its “religious citizens” only limited to one particular group of “religious citizens” and only they are “religious” and thus, have rights in the public sphere?

    Who decides who is a “religious citizen” in Pakistan and who is not?

    The state or the religion?

    If it is not the state, but a religion, which decides the qualifications of a “religious citizen” and the “public sphere” in Pakistan, how can it ensure the rights of other religions and religious views and other “religious citizens” which live and exist in Pakistan?

    Creating classifications of “religious” and “non-religious” citizens is akin to pouring gasoline over a fire and it does not ensure the rights of a state’s citizens but creates a political caste system, which then institutionalizes intolerance and injustice in a society.

    Therefore, M. A. Jinnah was absolutely right in the sense of his sage advice, given to the future law makers of Pakistan in August 11, 1947 speech. Religion has no business in the affairs of the state and all citizens, despite their religious views or identities are equal citizens of the State of Pakistan and have equal rights to its public sphere to express their political, human, social, cultural, sexual orientation, and religious preferences without fear or curtailment by any other such group in Pakistan.

    Therefore, the STATE and its LAWS must be SUPREME OVER any RELIGION which exists in within it otherwise it will not be able to ensure these “religious rights” of its citizens.

    ciao

  301. AA Khalid

    ”Isn’t religion and religiosity in Pakistan crowding out the civic debate, threatening moral reasoning which does not agree with a majority view ? ”

    Yes

    ”Does the public sphere, as it exists in Pakistan, not ban the freedom of conscience if it deviates from the morality of the majority view? ”

    Yes

    ”’Does the public sphere in Pakistan, as it exists presently, holds or does not hold the democratic process hostage to a theological world view?””””

    Yes and No, the democratic process is being held hostage by other factors apart from a regressive religiosity.

    Those questions do not prove anything, because I share these same assumptions about Pakistani society. We have different ideas of countering them……

    Which leads me to my question, why are the conservatives, traditionalists and regressives holding sway over religious discourse? Its because ”secularists” do not engage with religious reasoning, allowing the public sphere to be filled with narrow and intolerant moralisms. Fundamentalists rush in where liberals fear to tread……

    I did not invent the category of ”religious citizens” so spare me your condescending lecture, I have talked about equality of all citizens in all my writings before. I am merely saying that citizens with a strong sense of faith should be allowed in the public sphere. That’s all. Hence I used the label religious citizens for the sake of ease, instead of writing citizens with a sense of faith. Any citizen with a sense of faith (any faith) or without faith should enter the public sphere. That’s why I have argued consistently for free access to the public sphere for all citizens….

    So your subsequent questions do not make sense. I am talking about what ”is’ not in terms of ”ought”.

    I have said constantly that ALL citizens should have free access to the public sphere. If you would care to actually read my posts rather than distort my views (I suggest you get your blinkers off and actually engage with what I write) and read what you want rather than than read what I said:

    ”At the end of the day we have similar ideas but we justify these ideas in different ways. Hence we should not be so antagonistic over the basis of justification because at least we share a lot of common ground”’

    You didn’t read that did you?

    I also talked of an inclusive democratic secularism, but you didn’t read that did you?

    Or this:

    ”No State Religion. (the concept of a ”State religion” is theologically meaningless).

    Repealing draconian laws which actually have no precedent in being applied in a nation state.

    Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

    Equal citizenship regardless of faith.

    No clergy having the right to interpret Islamic Law in a codified and centralised fashion.
    ”’

    I share the same notions as you do , I just think my means of justification and grounding these views in the religious discourse makes it more potent. How do you ground these concepts? You talk alot about ”alien ideas”, but have you thought how you will communicate your ideas to a Pakistani audience?

    Now answer my questions, which up until now you have not even tried to answer one.

    The problem is Feroz Khan, you do not read what I write and hence invent ”opinions” for me. You wrote:

    ”In other words, religion, any religion existing within a state, needs to exist within the realms and limits of the state’s laws”

    I already said that!:

    ”That’s why the model of secularism I am talking about (passive,procedural and inclusive) works, because it imposes constitutional limits but does not seek authoratarian control of the public sphere”

    I have already said there should be constitutional limits and argued from the point of view of JS Mill about the Harm principle. You can exercise your rights as long as they do not violate the rights (safety and well being) of your fellow citizens. I endorse a form of constitutional liberalism……

    Who are you talking to when you say:

    ”The idea of dividing the society into a segregated apartheid of religious and non-religious citizens would create a dangerous precedent and polarize the society”

    Because I certainly did not suggest that.

    I suggest Feroz Khan you read my posts more carefully……is that too much to ask? Is reading my posts too much for you? Because if it is then I am wasting my time……if you cannot even reference my point of view properly and subsequently invent ”opinions” for me, its not a fair discussion……

    It is clear Feroz you do not read what I write. I am disappointed, I expected better from you……

    You said:

    ” state has a responsibility to ensure that public sphere is accessable to all”

    But I already said that:

    ”The only way this can happen is if the public sphere is open, free and accessible to ALL citizens wishing to participate in civic debate.”

    Most of your post was just a rehash of what I have been arguing for the whole time!

    And what’s this all about? :

    ”believing that your views are correct, sacrosant and above questioning”

    When did I say this? When did I imply this? Please reference this statement. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I think my views are above questioning.

  302. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    I think there is little point left to this debate which is disappointing. Look at the ‘question’ in this statement from Feroz:

    “In the case of Pakistan, it would mean that even though Pakistan is a Muslim majority state, it is still a religiously pluralistic society. The Sunnis may be in the majority, but there also Shias that live in Pakistan. There are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Zorastrians, Ahmedis, and even a very rare and small group of Jews and certain citizens, such as the one in Chitral, believed to have decended from the armies of Alexander the Great, who practice a form of paganism. The question, then becomes, why are they not allowed access to the public sphere in Pakistan to express their views, identities and religious faith in Pakistan and why are they banned and their political and human and religious rights denied in the public sphere in Pakistan?”

    I don’t believe there is common cause possible when each’s reality is so different.

  303. bciv

    @Salman Arshad

    we were “potential perverts”

    who, human and living, isn’t?

  304. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid

    Please refer to my last post, it was based on your various posts as stated. I have read all your posts in answering your questions, so please avoid preaching to me. I have answered your questions but it seems that you do not read my posts completely.

    The secularists have been pushed out of the public sphere in Pakistan and there is no room left for them to engage with the religious thought in Pakistan. Their viewpoint has been colored as the very anti-thesis of religion itself, in Pakistan, and this argument has been used to deny them access to the public sphere.

    My questions about the “religious citizens” who are not Muslims in Pakistan and who decides on such a label, were not answered.

    Since you mentioned an inclusive secularism, and have stated and I quote, “I have said constantly that ALL citizens should have free access to the public sphere (reference post October 18, 2010 at 1:13 am), does it mean they also have a freedom to express themselves?

    Having a free access to the public sphere and the ability to have the freedom of expression in that public sphere are two different things. In Pakistan, an Ahmedi, as an example, cannot call his or her place of worship as a “mosque”. There is difference between theory and what passes for reality in the case of Pakistan and what is allowed and what is actually practiced in the public sphere.

    Rhetorically, there may be freedom of religion and conscience in Pakistan, but in reality they do not exist. In a rhetorical sense, no draconian laws should exist in Pakistan and if they do, they can be repealed but in reality they do exist and can never be repealed. There is no equal citizenship in Pakistan regardless of faith and to suggest otherwise is pure scatology.

    Futhermore, and I quote your post again, “No clergy having the right to interpret Islamic Law in a codified and centralised fashion” (reference October 18, 2010 at 1:13 am). Then, what is the function, purpose and intent of the Council of Islamic Ideology in Pakistan? What is its mandate?

    As to grounding these view in a religious discourse, it is impossible. The religious discourse in Pakistan rejects the very idea of discussing non-religious views within a dialogue that might seek a compromised consensus between the religious and the secular views in Pakistan. Anything against Islam or Sunnah or Shariat or their interpretations is not tolerated in Pakistan. It is the contention of the religious dialoque to dominate the public sphere in Pakistan and to dominate all such discourses, which take place within it.

    As to communicating such ideas to the Pakistani people, the experience of living in a society that does not tolerate the plurality of views, will convince the Pakistani people as to the idea of separating religion from politics making sure it is subordinate to the law of the land. This is what the article discusses: the idea of communicating the problems associated with the mixing of state and religion.

    I think, you are the one who is inventing opinions and not me. I have read everything you wrote. 🙂

    If you had completely read my previous posts, you would have realized that they never discussed the assumptions you made about them. As to my posts being rehash, that is because if you had understood what I was saying, I would not had to repeat myself!🙂

    As to your views being above questioning, that observation was based on a series of your posts and not on one particular post. Parentically speaking, it would be a good idea for the editors at PTH to start numbering the posts instead of just stamping them with a time and date. In an article like this one, without over 300 posts, it becomes a problem to identify one post or to find it easily given the volume of replies in a day.

    ciao

  305. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 18, 2010 at 1:47 am)

    Can you please tell me what is wrong with this statement/question?

    “In the case of Pakistan, it would mean that even though Pakistan is a Muslim majority state, it is still a religiously pluralistic society. The Sunnis may be in the majority, but there also Shias that live in Pakistan. There are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Zorastrians, Ahmedis, and even a very rare and small group of Jews and certain citizens, such as the one in Chitral, believed to have decended from the armies of Alexander the Great, who practice a form of paganism. The question, then becomes, why are they not allowed access to the public sphere in Pakistan to express their views, identities and religious faith in Pakistan and why are they banned and their political and human and religious rights denied in the public sphere in Pakistan?”

    Can you please tell me why this question/comment cannot be asked or said? You are making a judgement that there is no point to the debate, because of this. Are you suggesting then, only certain questions and comments can be asked in a debate and if the question/comment is uncomfortable, the debate is useless?

    Then you write, and I quote, “I don’t believe there is common cause possible when each’s reality is so different.” Are you suggesting my reality is different from your and if it is, does that mean there are no Hindus, Sikhs, Zorastrians or Christians living in Pakistan?

    ciao

  306. Salman Arshad

    The way I see it, there is a clear difference in Feroz Khan’s and AA Khalid’s position:

    Feroz Khan:
    The present constitution is already not giving priority to just the Sunni warring and peaceful lashkars. So it is already non-partisan in a way.
    The public sphere has had the freedom to engage in debate. Things are very bad today, but they are the result of active participation of the public sphere all along the 60+ years. The public sphere (left un-regulated?) has come into a shape where the state has no moral standing to go against “Islam” as it has committed to; “Islam” being defined by the public sphere as it is today. At present, the constitution cannot give up its commitment to upholding Islam, while giving the respect the public sphere should get (ideally).

    AA Khalid:
    The present constitution is not secular.
    The public sphere does not have a level playing field in Pakistan, and so it has its problems. Its imbalanced, or one sided, not because of religion, but because of *other factors*.
    So all of the above mentioned assumptions of Feroz Khan are wrong.
    The solution is to make the constitution secular.
    And let the public sphere (as of now !!) to go on with its debates.

    Assuming I am correct in analyzing the two approaches to the problem, I would say I believe Feroz Khan is being very realistic.
    I believe, while AA Khalid’s thesis can work in some other country, like Pakistan was in 1947, when the *other factors* were also in balance, but not in today’s Pakistan. The reason being, AA Khalid does not want to make the state secular on the basis of a non-secular principle, but on an INTERPRETATION of Islam, that he abides by, while the public sphere at present, given the freedom to debate, can literally murder AA Khalid or his fellow opinion holders, and get away, EVEN in a strong secular state. There will be too much public support for the bigoted interpretations of Islam.

    I would suggest, if my understanding is close to what the debate really is between Feroz Khan and AA Khalid, please clarify further and make amendments if necessary to it, and we move on further from there.

  307. Salman Arshad

    @ bciv:

    “who, human and living, isn’t?”

    of course. That was the best I could do not to be judgmental about the past. I will be judgmental about today though.

    As of now, we are not potential perverts, like non-Pakistani living humans, we are die hard perverts, full of jubilation and euphoria to make sure we don’t go back to being normal.

  308. Tilsim

    Feroz
    I have read your posts and frankly I think you have too much of an axe to grind and hence debating with you is not based on what people are saying. I think your statement was wild and sweeping and noted that this is a consistent style. I never cared much about Chris Hitchens and I am not about to start liking that sort of discourse now. So you won’t get much from me on this now.

  309. Tilsim

    @ Salman Arshad

    “As of now, we are not potential perverts, like non-Pakistani living humans, we are die hard perverts, full of jubilation and euphoria to make sure we don’t go back to being normal.”

    This debate has always been on the edge of polemics but now is truly so.

  310. bciv

    @Salman Arshad

    I will be judgmental about today though.

    or you could have actually bothered to read what i had originally written:
    “the evidence that any of the perversion of pakistani constitution and laws was a result of popular demand is paltry. the relative/commensurate perversion of society happened after the event, not before it.”

  311. Feroz Khan

    @ Salman Arshad (October 18, 2010 at 3:12 am)

    Realistically speaking, what AA Khalid is suggesting can only work in a theoretical sense and the present reality of Pakistan mitigates against such a possibility.

    If you read the most recent statement by Tilsim, (October 18, 2010 at 1:47 am), it is highly unsettling and it highlights my point that in a public sphere, which is dominated by a particular religion or its interpretations, free debate is not possible. Tilsim suggested that there is no point in debating with me because I share a different view. Does this mean, then, debate is possible and encouraged in a public sphere, where all agree with one another and when disagreements arise and hard questions are asked, debate in such a public sphere is discouraged or even ended?

    PTH, by defination is such a public sphere. If my point of view and arguments are considered as pointless in such a public sphere and there is no point in debating them, it begs the question who gave Tilsim the authority to judge that my views are not worth debating by stating, “I think there is little point left to this debate which is disappointing. Look at the ‘question’ in this statement from Feroz…”

    Another interesting observation, over some 300 posts, is that AA Khalid also said that there is no point in futher debating me on this issue, (I suggest Feroz Khan you read my posts more carefully……is that too much to ask? Is reading my posts too much for you? Because if it is then I am wasting my time…October 18, 2010 at 1:13 am).

    The point is not that we are disgreeing; the point is they have arrogated a right unto themselves to decide when to end or start a debate and what is discussed within it!🙂

    This is really interesting! Does it suggest that debate of an uncomfortable nature will not be tolerated in a public sphere where all views are supposed to be encouaged and all are equal and free to express themselves?

    This is just fascinating. If Tilsim and AA Khalid are judge and jury of what passes for a debate in a public sphere like PTH, then what is the function of the editors of PTH? If the editors (aka the state) cannot ensure free debate, then who moderates the opinions on PTH (or in the state)? Is PTH a mutual admiration society then where only “like minded” are encouraged and all others are discouraged?

    Just simply fascinating, the directions this debate is evolving into and the issues it is percolating.

    ciao

  312. Tilsim

    @ Feroz

    You are a master at twisting words. Debate happens when people are actually listening to each other – not when they are not. What you are indulging in is preaching.

  313. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 18, 2010 at 3:31 am)

    Can I ask you what gave you the impression that I have an axe to grind? What gives you the impression that I am making sweeping statements? Are they sweeping, because you disagree with them or are they making you uncomfortable in the manner in which I am stating my views?

    If it is the latter, and if my aggressive tone towards religion concerns you, should I be more deferential towards religion when discussing it and if so, can you please tell me why?

    Just curious.

    ciao

  314. bciv

    @Harbir

    it has been interesting to read your posts. you raised some important questions, right from your first comment, and one by one answered them all in your subsequent posts. as for your comment about secular authoritarianism vs religious authoritarianism: which is worse?

    to re-confirm your point, it’s kind of ataturk vs zia ul haq. if you have no choice but to have an authoritarian state, you better pray (since you can’t vote or protest etc) hard it’s a secular rather than theocratic one.

    the problem with authoritarianism and the autocratic state of course is that in the ‘early’ days, there was no way to tell if ataturk would turn out to be a mobutu or even a zia ul haq. he became ruler, through might rather than by right, long before he could claim some kind of post-event legitimacy as a result of his proven right-mindedness in certain key areas, eg secularism, and the immense good that did to turkey in that respect. the soviet state, the former enemy of the free world, was so secular that the US might have appeared as almost a ‘theocracy’ in comparison (allowing for exaggeration).

  315. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim

    Preaching? Twisting words?

    Let me guess, defending my point of view is preaching but being told that I am wrong and meekly listening, when I am being lectured is engaging in a debate?

    ciao

  316. bciv

    @Feroze Khan

    as long as PTH has a purely secular censorship policy, and PTH mods have the total monopoly over the power to censor, it is irrelevant to this debate to the extent that it cannot – because it must have decided it doesn’t wish to – influence it one way or the other. otoh, unlike a democracy, PTH does not put points of view expressed here to a popularity test in order to establish legitimacy, regardless of the rightness or wrongness of any point of view. however, there might be an unintended, entirely informal and therefore indeterminable aspect of democracy here: it is reasonable to expect that most PTH visitors remain in the audience than comment. in a democracy too, the bulk of the voters are listeners rather than speakers but what they think of what is being said is formally captured through the ballot box.

  317. Feroz Khan

    @ bciv (October 18, 2010 at 4:33 am)

    If PTH has a censorship policy, then it is wrong.

    ciao

  318. bciv

    PTH does censor, whether it likes to or not. it censors uncivil, filthy language. it also censors spam. though simple and straight forward, it is a censorship policy. it is practical, not wrong. it is a responsibility (no matter how tedious or undesired). for example, PTH will also censor serious and malicious breaches of personal data info (e.g bank details etc), if requested. that’s another practical use of censorship that PTH has to be prepared to have the responsibility for (ie to continue with your state vs public domain & debate analogy)

  319. Feroz Khan

    @ bciv (October 18, 2010 at 4:48 am)

    Can you answer a few questions, if possible.

    Why are the replies/posts appearing in bits and pieces? First there is a part and then after refreshing or answering, when the page refreshes, the second “part” appears but it does not appear as one. If this is the case, then AA Khalid has a valid point that I am not answering his posts and my complaints to him not answering my posts and both of telling each other to read the posts. Any reason why this is happening?

    Also, not that it matters, but the post indicator seems to have become stuck at 306 posts. Sometimes the number is more but there are no new posts. Are the posts first screened and then allowed to be published but the number indicates the total posts and there is time lag between the total numbers of posts posted and the posts actually published?

    ciao

  320. bciv

    @Krash

    Again, Religion vs secularism is not the issue. Coercion vs liberty is the issue

    you are right, in essence. but religious coercion tends to be much worse than secular coercion, almost by definition. it is very similar to ethnic ‘coercion’, except with typically (much) greater conviction. perhaps, one could argue that ethnic ‘coercion’ is an example of secular and not religious coercion, but my point about the greater conviction, zeal and intransigence of religious coercion than of almost any other kind would still stand. my comments here are based on a comparison of the worst case scenario in each category, of course.

  321. bciv

    @Feroze Khan

    re. screen reloads changing content: that anomaly would be in relation to my comments only (or another mod as lazy as me). that is because instead of being organised enough to edit my comments before publishing, i re-edit them after they have been published if i spot a typo or cheekily add a line or two. sorry! in my partial defense, i do it to my most recent comment only (i try to do so before it has been responded to, but i could miss a response due to the normal delay in posting/reloading. note: this one has not been an exception. i must start editing them in Word or something in future.)

    re. post counter: i’m afraid i don’t know whats happening there.

    regards

  322. bciv

    … many readers subscribe to PTH by email. they will only receive the first and original copy of my comment, with the typos and all. so everything is documented, despite me being lazy.

  323. tilsim1

    @ Perspective

    Exactly, have to listen in order to counter appropriately.

  324. no-communal

    If any proof was needed why too much religious discourse in the public sphere is bad for society, the above few posts have them. And it’s not even a real religious debate, it’s a debate about if we should have them!!

    The fact remains that religion is such a personal and sensitive matter, debating it inter- or even intra-religion is almost always divisive. That’s why it should be avoided as much as possible.

    Frankly, I didn’t find Feroz Khan’s posts preachy.

  325. Chote Miyan

    NC,
    And, you could have added that there was hardly anything new in this debate. As I said before, I get stunned about the amount of intellectual capital that these sterile debate cost, which could have been put to a better use. Of course, it goes without saying that these debates also provide employment to so called ‘intellectuals’ who provide little beyond saying that so and so said this and that, blah, blah, blah. I am so glad that we have left such debates to khaki chaddi-wallahs in our country.

    Feroz,
    I agree with you. Good arguments. Keep it up, friend.

  326. Raza Raja

    @ AA khalid and Tilsim

    I think frankly this article has provided one of the best debates ever since I joined PTH. The contributions by you two along with so many other people is so mind blowing.

    I think Feroz Khan deserves a lot of appreciation whether you agree with him or not, for asking and arguing some very pertinent questions.

    I have extremely high respect for idealism and feroz sahab at heart is an intellectual and an idealist.

    Any ways I tink all the participants have provided here a treat…an intellectual delight to the PTH readers.

    So kudos to Feroz Khan, AA khalid, tilsim, Bokhari sahab, No communal, Vajra and all the rest ( I am truly sorry if I have missed any name)…for making PTH an intellectually stimulating place.

  327. Tilsim

    @ Raza

    Thank you to PTH for providing us the opportunity to give our two cents on these things.

  328. krash

    @bciv
    “but religious coercion tends to be much worse than secular coercion”
    This is debatable. Let’s not forget secular coercive ideologies like Communism and Fascism.
    In any case, the point is that as long as any ideology (religious or otherwise)is not NECESSARILY coercive we should focus on combating the coercion part only and not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

  329. krash

    It is interesting to note the divide between AA Khalid and Feroz Khan. It is completely analogous to the divide between the AKP and the secularists in Turkey.
    I hope this is a good omen and Pakistan soon finds itself on the same path as Turkish democracy.
    Unfortunately, we also have the examples of Iran (religious fascism) and Algeria (secular fascism) to worry about.

  330. bciv

    This is debatable

    it definitely is. it’s just that the backache that i live with is much worse to me than someone else’s toothache. it would be cruel, nevertheless, to be asked to choose between the two.

  331. due

    to krash
    maoism was/is not a secular ideology. it is a chinese ethno-fascist ideology in which Mao was worshipped. fascism too is not a secular ideology – it involves the worship/idolization of some person or book or state or nation etc.

    secularism means to understand that nothing is worshippable “”to the extent”” that it can or may dominate public life, political goals, law-making and jurisprudence.

  332. @bciv

    I think your views expressed elsewhere are very, very germane to this discussion. Just a thought.

  333. Bin Ismail

    I’ve stated this earlier, on a previous thread as well. May I very humbly reiterate my opinion that a “secular state” can best be described along the following lines:

    1: The Secular State does not at all mean an anti-God or anti-religion state.

    2: Secularism simply means that the State does not hold the religious affiliation of the Citizen to the advantage or disadvantage of the Citizen.

    3: There is no State Religion in place.

    4: Adherents of a particular religion do not enjoy state-granted privileges, exclusive to that religion.

    5: Adherents of all religions, without exception enjoy equal civil rights and have equal civil responsibilities.

  334. krash

    You don’t want the medicine for your backache to give you the toothache🙂

  335. krash

    @due
    nothing is worshippable “”to the extent”” …….

    If we are going to use the terms as commonly understood, then this is probably best referred to as liberalism.

  336. bciv

    @Vajra

    i shall try and share it here. thanks

  337. AA Khalid

    ”” this is the case, then AA Khalid has a valid point that I am not answering his posts and my complaints to him not answering my posts and both of telling each other to read the posts. Any reason why this is happening? ”’

    I second this. If a really interesting debate like this one has many participants it gets chaotic because the format is not suited to such huge discussions. Perhaps a more clearer system of posting (maybe?)

    Which is why I at times find myself frustrated trying to find replies. Perhaps if the format was clearer Feroz and I could have a clearer debate.

    Because I genuinely think we have more in common then Feroz thinks. We are in effect on the same side. We both want a secular state that much is certain.

    I have said pretty much all I wanted to say on the matter, and am left with a lot to think about thanks to his incredible discussion. So the appreciation by RR is appreciated…..

    And I do not pretend to be judge and jury, so I do not understand why Feroz puts these little anarchisms in from time to time which detract from the debate. It’s not really needed. If it’s out of frustration by trying to keep track of the debate because of the voluminous number of replies then I can understand…..

  338. @ A A Khalid

    I think your suggestion for preparing a reasonable digest of this thread was excellent. Why don’t you armtwist the moderators, better still, Feroz Khan, to do it? It was done, very successfully, once before, but not in another five cases, which I believe fully justified similar treatment.

    That might iron out some of the ambiguities that have crept in, in this catch-as-catch-can style of argument.

  339. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid

    I think, you have said it well. There is a real problem finding the posts and replying to them. This is why, as a suggestion, if the format can include the posts being numbered, it would help when the discussion generates so many posts by so many participants.

    As to judge and jury comments, please be forewarned as a future reference, that I tend to be very aggressive while debating and very adversial. This is nothing personal; just a force of habit. I am used to the American style of debates, and have been since college, and such debates tend to be aggressive in defending a point of view. Also, as I wrote before hand, I wanted to use this debate to light a fire under the Pakistanis’ soles and push them out of their comfort zones.

    Learning, and new knowledge, occurs from disagreement. When we agree all the time with each other, we learn nothing and are merely reinforcing our lack of knowledge.

    ciao

  340. bciv

    nazir naji is a fairly typical columnist of the urdu press. (even) he advocates secularism and his argument really is that because all religions and interpretations within a religion (in pak’s case) feel they are the best or better than the other, the only practical course for the state to take is to ignore them all, completely. he is quite clear about not doing this being the sole reason for the mess we are in. and he warns that if we don’t change course even now, “hamari daastaan bhi na hogi daastaano’n main”

    (apologies to those who do not read the urdu script)

    http://www.jang.com.pk/jang/jun2010-daily/12-06-2010/col8.htm

  341. bciv

    @bin ismail

    it is clear now that the discussants here are agreed on the definition of secularism as far as a total separation of state and religion is concerned.
    The debate here is about the legitimacy of the state controlling public space available to religion beyond the traditional boundaries of the state (a liberal, secular, democratic one). The other side of the same debate is about the prospects of secularism ever becoming the product of a democratic process as long as the mullah-type elements (ie all hues of opinion) are present within that space. The latter point is not so much about any non-state entities being able to use violence with impunity (or the threat thereof) but whether an intra-religion debate can ever arrive at secularism since both the pro- and anti-secular versions of the religion afford the same relevance and legitimacy to religion itself. With religion being a legitimate source for such a debate, what chance does secularism have?

  342. Humanity

    @bciv “nazir naji is a fairly typical columnist of the urdu press. (even) he advocates secularism and his argument really is that because all religions and interpretations within a religion (in pak’s case) feel they are the best or better than the other, the only practical course for the state to take is to ignore them all, completely. he is quite clear about not doing this being the sole reason for the mess we are in. and he warns that if we don’t change course even now, “hamari daastaan bhi na hogi daastaano’n main””

    Some one needs to inform Mr. Naji that proclamation of faith is as simple as recital of the Kalima, which translates to “There is none worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”. Adding clauses to the Kalima that have no justification whatsoever, is how the mullah misguided the masses and created sectarian fractures. The way things are going, it is only a matter of time that “hamari daastaan bhi na hogi daastaano’n main”. By stating “Deen-e-Mullah fe sabillah fassaad”, Iqbal also categorically exposed the underlying root cause of the sad but quite likely outcome.

    A sharp turn from politicizing Islam for earthly gains is urgently required to reverse the course from the precipice. It is imperative that good minded Muslims not propagate misinformation. Otherwise, one should not expect any change to take root.

  343. Tilsim

    @ BCIV
    “With religion being a legitimate source for such a debate, what chance does secularism have?”

    Interesting point and raises important questions. Separate to the debate that has occurred above (but one sees hints of it here), it seems that a new definition of secularism is evolving to mean a public space without religion. A new proselytising form of atheism is emerging vocally and aggressively inimical to metaphysical thoughts or claims.

    Historically each society developed it’s own understanding of secularism; namely the US being not at all hostile to the church and France being hostile in particular through it’s experience of the protestant/catholic wars. In 2010, it’s clear that we are in the throes of a new development which is political activism to save the religious from the ‘God delusion’. I see a world of greater conflict rather than harmony as the final onslaught for an exclusively rational view of existance gathers pace.

    There is irony here. Secular ideals are/were most attractive on the basis of live and let live to the religious, tired of conflict but it seems that atheists are taking the leadership on secularism world-wide and as such a new politically charged atheism is on the rise that will brook no such accomodation with those who also value metaphysical interpretations to give meaning to their lives.

    I don’t want to distract from the debate which necessarily should be focussed on Pakistan but is clearly part of another context too. It’s beginning to make sense now.

  344. bciv

    @Tilsim

    if intolerance is the issue then you might have seen aspects of, if not quite identified, an atheism which indeed might be repeating the folly of religion. the counter argument is probably one of too much tolerance, ie is it intolerant not to tolerate intolerance? indeed, that would have not caused concerns but for the tendency that considers religion to be potentially, intrinsically and inevitably intolerant even when it is not so in word and practice at a particular place and time.

    that is why AA khalid’s position that religion cannot be and must not be separated from society, seems to be the prudent and proper thing to do. religion in a religious society, at any point in history, is the state of society at that point. it is as simple, monolithic and one-dimensional as any human society can be. religion is either a book or code of ethics or even an epistemology. people cannot be any of that. not quite. and certainly not uniformly so in opinion nor in practice.

    coming back to the question that i formulated and you have referred to at the top of your post, the ‘remedy’ is simple. to quote what i wrote here a few days ago: “i’m sure there are muslim secularists who have no problem in arguing for secularism for its own sake, for entirely rational reasons, with no reference whatsoever to religion or this or that interpretation of religion which may happen to be for or against secularism.” i’m sure that they fully realise that any recourse to a particular religion as justification for secularism might detract from its common sense indispensability for freedom and equality, while being quite satisfied in their hearts and minds that they are doing precisely what their religion requires them to do in this matter. perhpas, they can see a parallel in the importance of maintaining anonymity in philanthropy… except that freedom and equality are more essential and fundamental to human welfare.

  345. bciv

    the US being not at all hostile to the church and France being hostile

    england, which is secular in practice and spirit more than it is in strict letter, has been providing state funding to all religious schools including islamic ones. one would have expected france, on the other hand, not to provide state funding to any religious school but it does.. to 8,000+ such schools. however, muslim schools find it nearly impossible to obtain state funding.

  346. bciv

    [vajra, here is the note from the other discussion resulting from nazir naji’s column and taking place in parallel to this debate here]

    Which is why I think religion must be kept out of the political discourse and any interjection by the laity of a milder secularist Islam will never succeed in a religiously contested public space.

    i agree. there is no such thing as secularist islam. there is either secularism or religion. convincing and reassuring muslims in the public space that the state being secular is not against but in fact as ordained (*hence the obvious danger to and potential negation of secularism) by islam is a patently non-secular argument. but how can it affect the state if this conversation is happening in the non-state public space? more importantly, where is the legitimacy for the state to forbid such a conversation and debate in the public space? there has been much confusion about the political public space on pth with people confusing it with the usage of private vs public sectors in economics. the political public space, whether we like it or not, ends inside the parliament house and not outside. just like the state ends outside the parliament’s door.

    ideally, i would like parliament to legislate religious parties out of being able to contest elections, for a start. and so on and so forth. but how can i deny a majority the democratic right to be wrong? i can only protest against such wrong but not claim that me, myself and i have greater right to legislate than the democratic majority.

    to the extent that islam is a religion and not a non-religion, indeed this is not the maulvis’ fault. and the identity part of religion is not the maulvis’ fault either for his tool is the belief system. it can be a boon to him though, depending on the circumstances.

    my interest in naji’s column is entirely two sentences only “that is why states do not get involved in religion. those who do, end up in a mess like us.” the rest is more a matter of being practical and pragmatic keeping in view his jang audience, regardless of whether he is doing so knowingly or because he thinks not that differently than his audience. maulvis, as the worse and belligerent evil, are a good practical target to start with as naji does in his column.

    it is possible to tell people in the public space that islam too directs that the state must not give preference to any religion. so that is the behaviour they must accept, expect and demand from the state. this tactic might not give us a secular state. but it might get society thinking.

    actually the bombs and 30,000+ dead have got society thinking. now we need to decide whether it is worth the liberals being practical and deny the maulvis capitalising on the loss of confidence. i am not advocating practicality at the cost of liberal principles. that would be admitting defeat.

    harbir talked of the US. i mentioned about every US president,even today, ensuring that confirmation of his christianity informally slips through. the rumours about obama being a muslim is because the US is not secular enough to accept a muslim president. but none of this makes the US a less dynamic democracy or less great a country to live in.

    pak society will either move on or it will self-destruct. it will not move forward according to dictionary definitions of anything, including ‘secularism’.

  347. Tilsim

    @ BCIV
    “i’m sure that they fully realise that any recourse to a particular religion as justification for secularism might detract from its common sense indispensability for freedom and equality,”

    Yes, if it just means that. No, if it means that a religious person’s freedom to share the public space is negated (not state power). That is not freedom and equality. Atheist mullahs are leading the charge to redefine secularism into an argument that says religion is per se intolerant and retrogressive so tolerate no religion. This is the new big idea: one day we can think of all religion as a phase that humanity passed through – like belief in witchcraft. It’s a madcap scheme but the idea has more currency this time round because it does n’t have the outward baggage of communism or facism and presents itself allied with science. There is definitely active propogation of the idea taking place. It’s not obvious to people how illiberal this idea is because the automatic association of secularism is freedom of thought and equality.

  348. Bin Ismail

    @bciv (October 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm)

    #1: “…..the legitimacy of the state controlling public space available to religion beyond the traditional boundaries of the state…..”

    Again, the debate would boil down to the extent of separation of State and Religion. I would be of the opinion that this separation should be with reference to the Citizen. Essentially, citizenship, permanent residence or temporary residence, all are contracts between the individual and the state. With respect to the Contract of Citizenship, I believe the State should not enjoy any form of leverage by means of which it can hold the religious inclination of the Citizen for or against the Citizen. The examples of England and France that you’ve cited, are indeed relevant to this debate. France, inspite of all its claims, emerges as not so secular. The option of extending a certain benefit to the Citizen or retracting it, on account of his religious identity, which in this case France exercised, should in my opinion, not rest with the State.

    Canada, in my opinion, has set a worthy example of striking the right kind of balance between secular statecraft and equal benevolence towards all religious groups living in Canada.

    #2: “…..the prospects of secularism ever becoming the product of a democratic process as long as the mullah-type elements…are present within that space…..”

    In my opinion, secular statecraft can neither be achieved nor preserved if political parties representing a certain religious denomination or religious mindset have access to political candidacy.

  349. bciv

    @bin ismail

    secular statecraft can neither be achieved nor preserved if political parties representing a certain religious denomination or religious mindset have access to political candidacy.

    those using religion for their (or as) politics in order to win the democratic competition for the right to govern should be barred from participating in the contest. it is for political parties to ensure that their members adhere to this if they do not want the party barred from contesting elections. the latter would be an indirect means of controlling against individuals with such a mindset.

    i agree.

  350. bciv

    @Tilsim

    they are as bad as mullahs indeed, and just as entitled to hold their opinions as long as the state does not allow them resort to violence without having to face the full legal consequences. it makes for a poorer quality public space though. a variety of intolerant views ain’t exactly the kind of diversity that one wishes for, and sees as enriching any society.

    bin ismail’s prescription and warning could equally apply to atheist mullahs, if any, for any explicit plans to use the state against freedom of conscience and not their anti-religion views, just as it should to religious parties for their lack of commitment to secularism. that is, if they choose to run for government.

  351. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 19, 2010 at 12:17 am)

    There is no aggressive athesist movement underway to wrest religion out of the public sphere.

    France became a secular country in 1911 in the aftermath of the Dreyfuss Affair and not as a result of the religious wars of the sixteenth century. One of the most secular minded French politicans, in history, was Cardinal Richelieu and his protege, Cardinal Mazarin, a naturalized French citizen of Italian birth, and both guided France in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) against Habsburg Spain, another Catholic nation, and was responsible for the emergence of France as a European power.

    During the French Revolution, the French revolutionaries disallowed and outlawed religion but Roman Catholism as a religion, was revived by Napoleon through the Concordat with the Vatican.

    ciao

  352. Tilsim

    I would classify one of the premier intellectuals of the modern age, Richard Dawkins, the author of the God Delusion as a grand Ayatollah. Some quotes:

    “If this book works as
    I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down”

    Religion is “irrational” and a poison”.

    Many people like his ideas. They say that secularism is not a neutral concept. It is a set of values and religious values clash with it and should be negated.

    Fundamentalists including atheist ones misrepresent and oversimplify.

    Amongst other things, there is an active debate in Europe whether Christmas trees and lights should be allowed in the public space; whether workers should be able to wear the cross around their neck. Of course, we know what the Swiss did with Islamic minarets. The low hanging fruits have been taken: burkas are banned across several countries now.

    Pope Benedict on a recent visit to the UK:

    “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a ‘reductive vision of the person and his destiny’ (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

    “Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. ”

    Pakistan is facing the opposite problem with religious extremism. It needs a secular state but not in the way that people like Richard Dawkins wish it. If the tiny band of secularists in Pakistan chose to identify with this new trend, this will be a still born idea.

  353. bciv

    “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down”

    he need not have bothered to make the effort that goes into writing a book if he thought his argument wasn’t good enough for him to make that claim. same goes for anyone who has got something to say, wishes to argue it and writes a book (or more) doing so.

    They say that secularism is not a neutral concept

    as long as they do no more than saying it, they have the right to say it. the state must act as a neutral referee, of course, but not get involved in the debate, and therefore, nor is it the state’s place to decide the debate. it would be nice for someone to convince me of something other than what i believe to be right, but it would be the opposite of nice for them to threaten me with violence to get me to agree with them. it is the state’s job to protect me from the latter and to stay well away from the former.

  354. Tilsim

    @bciv

    “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down”

    The only point that I wished to convey was that this sounds very much like a religious manual. It may be arguing strictly from a rationalist standpoint but it’s aim is the same.

    It is also hugely influential amongst intellectual circles. Enough so that the Pope is getting involved. The secular states are going to have to deal with this new manifestation of atheism. It will be interesting to see how the principles hold up against their own biases.

  355. hayyer

    Rationalists can scarcely be called extremist because they insist on a rigorous rationality. What are we getting back to? The incoherence of the rationalists?
    Everything we do as humans, even everything animals do has a reason. That is how nature reveals itself to us, excepting now in quantum physics where the reasons are still not understood, but scientists don’t stop searching for them.
    If faith must prevail over reason believers should let it dominate every aspect of their lives not just the hereafter, and that is what some faith leaders would have us do.
    Dawkins rebuts just about every argument in favour of God except one. He just elides over the question of where it all came from? The notion that things need a creator. Dawkins argument that this line of questioning leads nowhere and is thus futile merely avoids the issue. Perhaps Physics will have answers some day but they are nowhere in sight yet.

  356. due

    hayyer writes:
    “Dawkins rebuts just about every argument in favour of God except one. He just elides over the question of where it all came from? The notion that things need a creator. Dawkins argument that this line of questioning leads nowhere and is thus futile merely avoids the issue. Perhaps Physics will have answers some day but they are nowhere in sight yet.”

    Physics definitely cannot answer this question nor does it intend to. The more relevant question is whether there is only one god (who is then also the creator-god) or more (and then the creator-god is just one among many, and there are others like those of this book and that race and this people and that language) – and if they or some are good-natured.

    Wishful thinking by (some) human beings leads some to conclude that there is only one god and that he is good-natured. But there is no logical or factual compulsion for this.

  357. Tilsim

    Robert F. Kennedy said, “What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

    Extremists try to provoke the target into a disproportionate response that radicalizes moderates and drives them into the arms of the extremists, expanding their supporters and allies.

    Hayyer, the reference to Ghazali was a painful poke.

  358. no-communal

    Another reason rationalists cannot be called extremists is that they hardly force anything on us. They make their arguments, may be write a book, and leave it at that. There is no fear of severe punishment in this world or anywhere else if we ignore them.

  359. hayyer

    Tilsim:
    I am sorry to have caused pain, but it seems to me that the rationalist cannot be an extremist. Merely asking questions is not inflammatory, or should not be.
    I was told as a child that there was a God who made us all and I believed it as children will, though no one taught me any dogmas.
    On growing older the elders had no answers to the questions that inevitably arise, except to tell me to believe because questioning is wicked.
    Very intelligent men have constructed proofs of God’s existence, the latest I know being Kurt Godel. You can google it at enstopwikipediastoporg/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_proof, but I don’t think it advances the argument any.
    I am an agnostic and am perfectly content to live and let live. I am willing to be persuaded that there is a God. You wouldn’t call that an extremist view would you? Where our beliefs prevent peaceful co-existence we can find ways of disengaging. But if you proclaim that there is a God surely I have a right to proclaim that I can see no evidence of him. You have the choice of reading Dawkins book or not reading it, just as Dawkins has the right to read Ghazali or not read him.

    Due:

    “Physics definitely cannot answer this question nor does it intend to.”

    I am reminded of Auden’s lines.

    In this world our colossal immodesty
    has plundered and poisoned, it is possible
    You still might save us, who by now have
    learned this: that scientists, to be truthful,

    must remind us to take all they say as a
    tall story, that abhorred in the Heav’ns are all
    self-proclaimed poets who, to wow an
    audience, utter some resonant lie.

    Auden was a catholic.

    If physicists deny the existence of God then they need to answer where the world came from. It is not enough to say that matter pops out of nothing one fine moment and then pops back again at will. Nor does M theory solve anything. Where do those parallel universes come from?

    “The more relevant question is whether there is only one god (who is then also the creator-god) or more (and then the creator-god is just one among many, and there are others like those of this book and that race and this people and that language) – and if they or some are good-natured.”

    I don’t think that is the relevant question at all. One might say that there is as much reason to believe in one God as there is to believe in a million. Not so-because all those Gods must resolve into hierarchies with only one overlord and that is the boss man who can make or unmake all the others. In an ordered hierarchical universe, which is the only one that human beings can conceive of there is only one big fella. And, as I wrote on some other thread to a similar question, Occams razor rules out more than one God. If one God can do the job why imagine more.

    “Wishful thinking by (some) human beings leads some to conclude that there is only one god and that he is good-natured. But there is no logical or factual compulsion for this.”

    These are human concerns. God is by definition, not human. Goodness and evil do not exist outside the human mind. If there is a God goodness would be an utterly trivial concern for him, though it dominates our thinking. It is part of our myth making. We are better than animals, we have moral concerns because we aspire to be nearer to God not because there is such a thing as good or evil.

    You might want to say that even asking where it all came from is only a human concern and it does not have anything to do with a God, but that would lead to another line of argument altogether different from our subject.

  360. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 19, 2010 at 11:37 pm)

    Pope Benedict is the head of the Roman Catholic Church and he will speeak in favor of the church. As to the extermists of the 20th century, which Benedict alluded, that most probably was communist and facism. Benedict speaking of atheist extermism is ironic, because his own nom d’ plume was “God’s Rottiweiler”and he was counted as one of the church’s most conservative cardinals attacking the secular minded elements in society.

    Does it then mean that extermism in the way of God is a virtue? Pakistan army’s motto is jihad in the name of Allah. Does this justify the army’s policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan and breeding militancy and supporting militant groups in Kashmir? The militant organizations, which are blowing up Pakistan also are working to spread the word of God. Are they then wrong in their actions?

    As to Dawkins, the best religious argument to the rationalists on the issue of existence of God, was provided by Pascal. A religious person does not need any proof of God’s existence and s/he does not need to prove anything. Their own belief and faith in the existence of a God is all the proof and evidence they need of God’s existence.

    No one is going to become an atheist just because they read his book. Extermism exists in all shades of opinions and ideas and historically, rationalism was a response to the butchery conducted under the name of religion in Europe. The most pivotal event in the European history, which changed the common perceptions towards war and religion in Europe, was not the Reformation and its wars, but the Thirty Years Wars.

    That war created a popular disgust in the average European towards religion and its involvment in non-religious affairs. There was a very good article recently titled “Petereus’s Thirty Year War”. The problem with the religious wars, as the Europeans understood and the Pakistanis are starting to understand, is they are open-ended. No side, claiming to be fighting for a God, can stop unilaterly because that would be admiting defeat and so they fight and they fight with a brutality justifed in the cause of God.

    The religious wars of Pakistan will end. They will end because of a more earthly reason and that will be the eventual exhaustion of the finances, which propell and sustain such wars. It is surprising that Pakistan, which has suffered so much recently in the name of Allah, does not ask who finances these warriors of Allah? Where is the money coming from?

    Nawaz Sharif refuses to grant TV interviews if he is going to be questioned about his views on the Taliban. He is a closet Taliban, and unlike Imran Khan, hides his true love quite well. He is also the architect of the 15 amendment in Pakistani consitution that would have made Pakistan into caliphate and in that case, there is not much difference between him and Mullah Omar.

    The biggests supporters of Taliban in Pakistan are the Pakistani middle classes, who equate the support to Taliban as an extension of their anti-Americanism and these ex-patriot Pakistanis living in the Gulf, are the biggest source of financial funding to the Taliban; the other sources are sale of opium, bank robberies, and kidnappings and off course, Saudi Arabia the so-called “hidden hand”.

    Pakistan is ruled by 3 foreign powers and is a joint protectorate of China, United States and Saudi Arabia and these are three meccas to which a Pakistani politican will turn for counsel, advice and quidance and dare not refuse. There is a proxy war being fought in Pakistan between these 3 powers to secure their interests in Pakistan and this is where all the instablity in Pakistan comes from.

    Tilsim, extermist atheism is the least of Pakistan’s concerns and Pakistan needs to deal with tangible problems intead of creating new intangible problems.

    ciao

  361. Tilsim

    @ Hayyer

    It’s often difficult to tell on a blog where someone is coming from and arguments are frequently misunderstood or miscontrued. Richard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens, Sam Harris, Melanie Phillips etc are not asking mere questions. They vociferously argue, often in denigrating and vicious terms that intolerance for religion is a good. Sam Harris has gone as far as advocating that religious ideology may be so dangerous that it is ethical to be violent against it. They have used the 9/11 shock to unleash their distaste for all religion but in particular Islam and Muslims in a uni-dimensional way – i.e Muslims are wholly irrational, illiberal, bigoted and dangerous. As is evidenced repeatedly on PTH, a significant number of commentators subscribe to this view. Secular atheists have become shrill in the threat they see from religion in the public sphere. Obviously they do not see any redeeming features for religion.

    As a Muslim firstly I wholly disagree with this essentialism because moving amongst Muslims I know that the picture they paint is a caracature. It is part of a campaign to equate the holding of a religion as an unreasonable stance.

    Secondly I do feel threatened by it and I am by no means an orthodox Muslim. I just have to say I am a Muslim and immediately I have to be justifying why I am not a bigot or out to kill everyone. Religious persecution is not just the domain of Religion. Secular regimes have not been immune to a history of vicious treatment towards religious groups. I don’t need to give you examples, I’m sure.

    If removing religion from the public sphere is what secular now means, I am going to argue against this new dogma.

  362. no-communal

    hayyer
    “then they need to answer where the world came from..”

    Science has a rudimentary explanation of it in the big bang theory. It received some experimental confirmation. The scientists who detected the cosmic background radiation won the Nobel prize. After the big bang, with the right set of conditions, there was life. The rest is explained by Darwin. It’s a speculative picture, but there is at least something and there is some evidence of some of it.

    Synthetic biologists are beginning to understand how life can be created in a lab. Recently J. C. Venter’s group created a complete artificial genome, inserted it in a dead cell, and the cell came back to life.

    Actually the concept of God itself rests on some sort of Occam’s razor argument. It doesn’t matter how many Gods, one or many, supernatural powers made it all happen is the easiest way to explain everything.

  363. Tilsim

    The reason that your comment ‘incoherence of rationalists’ caused pain was that the implication seemed to be that i was advocating his criticism of muslim rationalists in his book the incoherence of the philosophers. On PTH, I have repeated talked about the rationalist Ibn Rushd who also wrote a book criticizing Ghazali’s book: ‘the incoherence of the Incoherence’. He advocated for the separation of religion and philosophy but coming from a Muslim perspective. It seemed that yet again, the working assumption was that I was advocating against rationalism or against someone’s right to criticise religion.

  364. Feroz Khan

    @ Tilsim (October 20, 2010 at 8:26 pm)

    The distaste, which you refer to towards Islam and Muslims, could be a reaction to the fact that over a period of time, religion and its views in the west, has accepted its place in the public sphere and has given up any ideas to dominate it. Islam, on the other hand, makes no such claims and that might be a cause of concern to the western world.

    The west is reacting to Islam, in the wake of 9/11, based on its own historical experience with religion. This is why, it is so important in the Muslim/Islamic world to understand the European lesson of the Thirty Years War, because it was out of that war that the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648. It was this treaty, which created the notions of sovereign states and separated religion from politics.

    The most interesting facet of the treaty was in its clauses, which defined the nature of the state and its powers. The power of the state, as defined, was based on its war making powers and its decision to start and end wars. This right/power was taken away from the papacy and given to the monarchs/princes of Europe and it was this idea, which made the post-Westphalian state of Europe secular and not the removal of religion from the public sphere.

    The reason that Islam, Muslims and Islamic/Muslims states are being harshly condemned is because to the west the Muslim/Islamic states are co-joined with religion; the power to declare war – jihad – is seen as an expression of a religous dominance over politics. The west sees no separation of religion and politics in the Islamic world and more so, when it comes to the issues of war and peace.

    The Muslim/Islamic world is genrally ignorant of the European experience with the war and religion and statecraft and war and peace and the reasons, why they evolved into their present shape. In Islam, the political experience of the state was always aligned with religion and so, the average Muslim mind cannot contemplate the existence of the state outside of religion and a personal identity, which can separate itself from religion and yet co-exist with religion but not be dominated by it and this to the European mind smacks of irrationality.

    It is a passing phase and once we learn and understand where each of us is coming from and what experiences moulded our views, the situation will improve.

    ciao

  365. bciv

    no-communal

    big bang or whatever beginning science is able to explain for matter, the question can always be asked: and what about before that? as physics stand today, it is difficult to foresee how it can answer this question or otherwise settle the issue. in fact, the ability to ask the question might cause science to keep looking until it can show that it is no longer reasonable or rational to ask the question. however, the fact that it may be possible to ask the question, seemingly perpetually, does not mean that, somehow, god is the answer (at least not until and unless physics itself discovers god as scientific fact).

  366. no-communal

    bciv

    “big bang or whatever beginning science is able to explain for matter, the question can always be asked: and what about before that?”

    There are theoretical proposals for “before that”. “Nothing” is one of them. Time itself started then, so “before that” could be meaningless. But probably the physical laws which will apply at such infinitely high energies have not been constructed yet. I agree with you the question is not settled.

  367. bciv

    In Islam, the political experience of the state was always aligned with religion

    historically, who declared war, or jihad, in ‘islamic’ states? with the exception of the vilayat e faqih of the fatimids, which caliph or islamic ruler shared any kind of real power with any religious authorities? what religious authority has been there capable of demanding such a share? even according to orthodox/(lately)mainstream islamic theologians the state is the only legitimate authority to declare war, or peace.

    you might find that most muslim states in history were at least as autocratic and authoritarian and secular as the early post-westphalian states in europe. the muslim state in india was no exception.

    they (the secular authorities) were all happy to mix religion with politics though, as and when dictated by political expedient and opportunity (including declaring all wars jihad and all enemies kafir, including all muslim ones).

    saudi arabia, turkey and iran are examples of theocracies and secularism from modern islamic history. pakistan is neither a secular state nor quite a theocracy, not unlike several other modern muslim majority states.

  368. bciv

    The Muslim/Islamic world is genrally ignorant of the European experience with the war and religion and statecraft and war and peace and the reasons, why they evolved into their present shape.

    the muslim/islamic world is generally ignorant of mutazalites, asharites and actual history of the islamic experience of state, theology, secularism and philosophy as well. the muslim/islamic world is ignorant. full stop. as per the UN human development index kind of criteria.

  369. bciv

    the saudi state is considering limiting the theologians to issuing fatwas only when asked for one by the govt. this would make saudi less of a theocracy than iran, technically speaking. iran will remain more of a ‘democracy’ though.

  370. Bin Ismail

    @bciv (October 21, 2010 at 12:54 am)

    Saudi Arabia is an autocratic theocracy and Iran is a democratic theocracy. The theocratic dimension is obviously common.

    People or associations of people should indeed have the freedom to seek fatwas for the sake of personal enlightenment or for the sake of groups of people within the society. The problem starts when the state steps in. As soon as the state approaches a certain brand of theologians, that particular school is instantaneously exalted to a position of influence over the state. First, the state seeks guidance. Next, the clerics offer guidance. Next, the clerics dictate guidance. Next, the legacy of Yazeed is revived.

    Once, someone came to Muhammad the messenger of God and asked him for a fatwa regarding a certain matter. The Prophet replied, “isstafti biqalbika”, meaning “seek the fatwa of your heart”. If anything, it is this glorious legacy of Muhammad, that needs to be revived.

  371. Wonderful ideas; but can they be put into practice? If they can be, who will do it, and how long it will take?

    Changing just one individual human being is almost impossible. Everyone resists change. Changing the thinking of a whole society fundamentally is not possible. All what one can do is to change self.

    Who are these ‘barbarians’ we keep talking about? They are none other than the illiterate and abjectly poor members of our own society. The solution to our problems lies in education and development. A well educated individual can even question religion. If we need religious education for our children, the teachers should be highly educated – and not the type we have now.

    Our nation has been moving on a wrong path from the very beginning. It is not easy to change course. The most unfortunate aspect is the absence of a leader. Can we think of anyone from among us who commands respect of the masses? The very fact that we have not been able to throw up such a leader is proof enough of the fact that we need to look inwards. We should blame ourselves and stop blaming others for our misfortunes.