Pakistan and Secularism.<br>By Yasser Latif


Perhaps the most contentious issue in Pakistan is the nature of the state. Should Pakistan be a sharia based Islamic state, or should she be a Modern democratic secular state? The very word 'Secular' has been demonized by the majority of religious cl

Many eminent authors and historians from the Subcontinent as well as the West have described Jinnah as an avowedly secular leader, pointing more often than not to his 1 year in office as the Governor General of Pakistan. The opponents of this view however point out Jinnah's fervent advocacy of the Two Nation Theory as a counter to this claim. Then in the first camp there are those who point to Jinnah's whisky drinking and swine eating habits to prove his 'secularism'. That Jinnah advocated many different types of Nationalism at different times in his career is an undeniable fact. Broadly speaking he was a staunch secular Indian Nationalist right until his reiteration of Sir Syed's two-nation theory. From that point till the creation of Pakistan, he was the apostle of Muslim Nationalism, after 3rd June 1947 he seemed to favor Secular Pakistani Nationalism. This however is of no consequence to his credentials as a secularist. Neither is his dietary observation which! H can only! prove his 'religiosity'. Jinnah was a secularist simply because he endorsed the principle of the separation of Church and State, which is the active definition of Secularism in our times.

In promoting an impartial secular state in Pakistan, Jinnah betrayed his above average understanding of John Locke's treatise on Government. The true End of Government, according to Locke, is to protect life, liberty and property by enacting and enforcing laws to that end. Whether the state is homogenous or heterogeneous is beside the point. Infect history has shown that Multiculturalism is an attractive by product of secularism and not the other way around. The fact that the most successful multi-ethnic secular democracy in the World, the United States of America, started out as a homogeneously Protestant Christian state with a secular constitution lends credence to this view. Historically we see that not all multicultural states have been 'secular' and certainly not all of the secular states have been multicultural. Whereas the conception of an Ottoman in the theocratic Ottoman Empire was largely secular in the sense that an Ottoman could be a Muslim, a Jew or a! Christian, Turk Nationalism that led to the creation of Secular Turkey was an entirely Muslim Nationalism. Infect the attempts to create a national unity on the basis of language in Secular Turkey are only intellectual, the Arab Province of Hatay and the Kurds in the South have only Islam in common with the Turks. Needlessly to say Pakistan made the same blunder of imposing a lingual nationalism, which failed drastically in Bangladesh.

So whereas Secular Nationalism and/or multiculturalism are idealistic concepts, Secularism is supremely a realistic one. With over 73 different sects in Islam, the issue of sharia will prove to be divisive. Which sharia, whose sharia, why sharia? Are the questions, which will continue to plague Pakistan? Next will come the creation of sectarian parties and almost certainly the creation of an exclusives Sunni theocracy, or 'Theo. -democracy' as Maudoodi put it perversely. Such an exercise will defeat the 'true end of the state' since the state itself will become a party and not an impartial arbiter and a law enforcement agency. Furthermore narrow-minded interpretations of Islam by the so-called scholars can hardly be entertained as possible treatises on state and government. The disgrace for example that the presence of Federal Sharia court and its verdict has brought is the direct result of such a blunder.

In my opinion the entire concept of an 'Islamic state' o! r an 'Islamic Republic' is faulty. 'State' and 'Republic' are inherently secular concepts. They are concerned with the public sphere and not the spiritual well being of the people. So in other words a concept of a state is either 'Islamic' or it is not, and hence Democracy is either Islamic or IT is not, and since I haven't been able to find any verse in the Quran commanding: 'Thou shall not be a state and thou shall not be a Democracy', I must conclude that there is nothing un-Islamic about the state, or democracy. Therefore, the adjectival noun 'Islamic' before 'Republic of Pakistan' is irrelevant and a waste of ink, or bit space.

Pakistani Secularists don't want to disestablish Islam from the civil society for 'religion is the personal faith of an individual', but rather disestablish it from the Governance of the state for after all 'there is no compulsion in religion'. They envisage a strong and progressive Pakistan, where life liberty and the property of every citizen regardless of religion caste or creed, is protected as a sacred trust by the state, and where every citizen has an equal right to change his or her government at will upon the forfeiture of the above mentioned protection. Why such a goal would be 'unIslamic' is beyond my understanding.

"No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of their houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable conditions in which our women have to live. You should take your women along with you as comrades in every sphere of life."

-- Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan)
The new state would be a modern democratic state with sovereignty resting in the people and the members of the new nation having equal rights of citizenship regardless of their religion, caste or creed.
--Jinnah to Doon Campbell 21st May 1947

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