Why do we fear Secularism?

June 21, 2010

By Havi Zayed

Many Pakistanis have a built in aversion towards the word secularism while taking an excessive pride in the Islamic Republic attached to Pakistan’s name. Despite the fact that many Pakistanis fail to follow the tenets of Islam and the word Islamic Republic makes a mockery of the meaning it remains a source of excessive pride. People claim that today the country is very far from Islam as very few people in Pakistan really follow the tenets of Islam however very few of them can answer the question whether it worthwhile to have an “Islamic Republic” only in name. However the real question is do we really have anything to fear from Secularism in the first place?

According to its dictionary meaning Secularism refers to the equal treatment of each and every religious group within the Nation and to the idea that religion should have a smaller role in politics and decision making because when it has too large a role people spend their time over their own separate interpretations of religion rather than Nation building and the tasks at hand.

Many Muslims in Pakistan fear secularism because they have a perverse idea of the concept fearing Islam will be diminished with Secularism. This is completely untrue. Pakistan’s Islamic identity will not be lost with a Secular system.

Will Secularism decrease Islam’s value in Pakistan?

Many Pakistanis continually fear that secularism will decrease the value of Islam or worse will eliminate Islam from Pakistan.

The fact is no one is pushing Islam away and with 95% of the population of Pakistan being proud and extremely pious Muslims for the most part it is impossible to even try. Islam will still be practiced by the majority of people as it is being practiced today without any hindrance whatsoever. The only difference perhaps will be that religion will be a personal matter. A person who does not follow Islam devotedly or a follower of a different religion or a sect of Islam will not be persecuted for having his own separate beliefs.

If seen in such a light Secularism is nothing to be feared. We can be proud Muslims and defend Islam as much or even more with a secular constitution as we can by labelling a country ruled by very corrupt people with barely any link to Islam an “Islamic Republic”. An Islamic Republic where the rulers themselves have no link to Islam and others often use religion as a tool to fulfill their personal interests.

The fact is only a country that has a constitution, laws (that are implemented instead of being cleared by people who can pay bribes) rules and regulations based on the tenets of Islam, the Islamic economic and judicial system and based on the teachings of the Prophet should have the right

The tenets of Islam support Secularism & harmony

“To you be your Faith, and to me mine.”

Ayat 109:6

During the rule of Ali Ibn Abi Talib the fourth Caliph of Islam a Jew stole a shield that belonged to the Caliph and claimed that it was his. He was brought to the court of Ali to settle the dispute. However due to lack of proof and according to Islamic law the Jew was allowed to keep the shield as Hazrat Ali could not prove he owned the shield. This was a verdict going against a Muslim Caliph in his own court. However Hazrat Ali accepted the decision calmly. On the other hand the Jew was dumbfounded as he had indeed stolen the shield. He was quick to embrace Islam and declared that he had lied in front of the entire court.

This was one example of how Islam spread to become one of the largest religions in the World and won hearts and minds. It was due to the insight and tolerance our ancestors had that we got to where we are, that Cordova and Baghdad became centres of learning and Islam spread from the corners of Spain to the boundaries of far east.

Unfortunately many people in Pakistan do not understand that human rights and the equal treatment of all individuals in the country is more important in Islam rather than a notion of Islamic pride and superiority where labelling a country an “Islamic Republic” is deemed necessary. This pride comes from a past that our ancestors built with policies that we fail to understand today.

The Quaid E Azams Principles

“In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State — to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non- Muslims — Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”

Quaid E Azam, February 1948

The above quote is the greatest proof that Quaid E Azam did not want a state that was built completely on the basis of religion. Unfortunately since his death the constitution has been changed to suit every new leader that came and the title “Islamic Republic” untrue it may be has been added along with many laws that are completely out of line with Quaid E Azams original ideas for Pakistan. If we look closely at many of his speeches we will notice Quaid E Azam was a staunch supporter of secularism with an added focus on Islamic thought and ideology. Therefore until he was alive the Islamic Republic was never attached to the countries name. That happened when Ayub Khan came into power.

Other speeches by Quaid E Azam that clearly supported the message of peace, harmony and equality between all groups whether they are ethnic or religious are stated below.

‘We are starting with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. No matter what is his colour, caste or creed is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations….”

“In due course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims – not in a religious sense for that is the personal faith of an individual- but in a political sense as citizens of one state.”

“[If you] work together in a spirit that everyone of you no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.”

11 August 1947

“The tenets of Islam enjoin on every Musalman to give protection to his neighbours and to the Minorities regardless of caste and creed. We must make it a matter of our honor and prestige to create sense of security amongst them.”

30th October 1947

Clearly Quaid E Azam understood that a Nation could not be built until differences in the minds of people were eliminated and people saws themselves as equal members of a single society regardless of faith or ethnicity.

Perhaps if that spirit was alive today Pakistan would not be afflicted with minor issues and infighting over Shia-Sunni, Barelvi-Deobandi, Ahmedi, and the principles of personal freedom would have given way to building a Nation that was the most glorious one in history. Unfortunately this destiny still awaits the Pakistani race which dreams for justice and equality. Many people continuously deny Quaid E Azam wanted a secular country fearing that Islam will be destroyed by such a move or fearing for their own interests but Quaid E Azam did indeed want a Nation that was Secular and gave equal opportunity to all inhabitants.

People try to deny this but the fact is that this is not a bad thing for us to be ashamed about being Muslims but something glorious in itself that a leader who did so much for Muslims giving them a new homeland and independence still understood the morals of our ancestors because of whom Islam to spread.

Issues caused by the misinterpretation of Islamic Law & resources used to contain them

The fact that laws created to safeguard Islam are being used for the benefit and self interest of bad people does not do anything great for the image of Islam. A clear example is the blasphemy law, a law that makes an insult to Islam, the Prophet or the Quran illegal and punishable by death. This law has been used against minorities for a long time. However Muslims have fallen victims to this law as well.

An example of how this law is misused was the case of Mohammad Imran who was arrested in Faisalabad for blasphemy on the 28th of October 2007. He was falsely blamed because of a personal argument. After being arrested he was first tortured by the police, then the inmates and later he was placed in solitary confinement without anyone looking after his injuries. He was only released in April 2009 after being declared innocent.

Another example was the framing of Akhtar Hammed Khan, an 81 year old writer and sociologist by business interests and authorities unwilling to let his development work take place in Orangi, Karachi. He had launched a development project on the behalf of the people of Orangi. His project offering real estate loans on good terms and work to improve the condition of women through education, access to employment and family planning was not well liked by these authorities. Thus they decided to book him on false charges with the police under the blasphemy laws. He was later released due to inadequate evidence but the case proves how the law is being used to settle personal scores and disputes.

Minorities have many such stories to share as 60% of all victims who are framed under this law are Non Muslims. The law has become a tool for fanatics, murderers and people seeking to settle personal scores yet the law still hasn’t been repealed due to the fact that militants have some influence on governance. Land disputes or personal quarrels are by far the main reason for people to be booked under this law.

Another such law is the Hudood Ordinance where in a case of Rape four witnesses are required to confirm that a Rape has taken place. This is practically impossible. However the woman who complains that a rape has taken place is often booked for being with another man while the culprits of the rape run free.

Therefore the Hudood Law became a tool in the hands of rapists and today any woman can be raped and when she goes to the police to get justice the Hudood Law can be used to frame her as by claiming that she has been raped she also admits that she has been with another man and committed Zinah. Some figures claim that in the year 1979 there were only 70 women in Pakistani jails. A decade later, in 1988, this figure had risen to 6000 and over 80% of the women in prison were there because of these laws. It is said many more women do not even report rapes in fear of being persecuted due to this law.

Is Pakistan really Islamic?

Better to have a Secular constitution than Islam only in name

There is no doubt that our leaders found us a land that was a safe haven for Muslims and gave us freedom to make our own decisions without the fear of suffering biased treatment for the faith we followed. However the question today is how much Islam is being followed in the country?

For instance the Quran states “Keep yourselves away from bribes because it is kufr and one who receives them will never smell the scent of paradise”. The fact is in Pakistan taking and giving bribes is so common that even a noble person can hardly live without paying one. Some honourable folk still struggle on but their lives are much more difficult. If a person has money it is a possibility he has given or taken a bribe at least once. Unfortunately the entire bureaucracy is at the forefront of this rot. Justice is sold and witnesses can be bought.

On the other hand while drinking is not allowed and a license is required in order to drink in Pakistan people who want to drink do so with impunity and with no fear of being punished. The law is not even being implemented while if a drunkard happens to get caught a simple bribe wins back the persons freedom. Also while adultery is considered a punishable law under the constitution it is practiced by many people in the country without any fear of punishment. The same goes for many other laws.

The fact is many laws related to Islam exist in Pakistan but they are there only in name. They are either being misused by people for their own interests or they are not implemented and people who commit heinous crimes are allowed to go free because of them without any fear of punishment while the innocent are framed.

The real question for Pakistan today is whether it is sensible to have a false, broken and corrupt “Islamic Republic” in name or it is better to have a secular constitution that guarantees freedom to everyone and ensures that there are no vaguely addressed laws that make a mockery of our Religion which are misused for the benefit of a few criminals.

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3 Responses to “Why do we fear Secularism?”

  1. pakistaniprincess88 said

    Brilliant brilliant piece Havi. Really good. Not only does it make a point but each and every point is backed by solid undeniable evidence. Even a Mullah would think twice before disputing this article and responding.

    Really brilliant piece. You even qoute from the Quran. Brilliant work. I am amazed by your writing skills and research skills.

  2. Ali Sajid said

    I don’t agree with this articel. Pakistan made because of Islam and for Muslims. Even Nationalist leaders don’t say it isn’t. They told that many times Nationalism is most important thing but it doesn’t mean we forget religion.

    Also in secularism we give openness for everything. It means people can drink and bollywood can show what it wants everything.

    I agree with Nationalist ideology and I am sworn to die for my country like any other Nationalist. But I don’t believe Islam should be put away completely like this.

  3. Jamshed Khoro said

    Brilliantly written and backed up by perfect evidence. It raised my eyebrow when I saw it because I didn’t really think you would write anything like this because you always write about American interference but when I read it I knew you have a point.

    First of all no Islam is implemented in the country anyway and then also we are using Islams name to try and make inhuman laws and using it as an excuse. An Islamic Republic is a country that follows Islamic teachings in spirit.

    No Nationalist can ignore the Quaid E Azam’s own words. Secularism does not have to mean what is going on in west and making porn stars. Secularism in Pakistan will still be dominated by the majority religion Islam. Its nothing to fear but some people still thinking Islam will be reduced.

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