Sunday, October 19, 2008

Behind Pakistan's Islamic Ideology - 7

Mubashir Inayet wrote:

This is got to be the sick joke of the century. However,l as Br. Irfan correctly points out, there are still people alive who sacrificed their all for Pakistan. So let us not go there....Who is being hoodwinked by who is so obvious here.

Faiz wrote:

I think there are a lot of people still alive and well who actually participated in the formation of the "Mamlukat-e- khadad" and I think they will fight you tooth and nail to defend their struggle and reject your claim. I was not born then, so I can't bear witness to anything. But what you are saying, reading, and believing is NOT what the MAJORITY believes. In fact you may be one of very few people in your camp.


Dear Friends,

This may help

Dr Mubarak Ali says the history written in Pakistan had been “dictated” by the ruling Establishment and represents its wilful perversion of facts “to accord with a fabricated ideology”.

Roots of religious extremism By Mubarak Ali

THE emergence and expansion of religious extremism is hotly debated and discussed in Pakistan. The origin of this phenomenon has mostly been traced to the madressahs and, therefore, attempts are being made to reform the educational system of the religious seminaries to check extremist trends. Efforts have been directed towards introducing moderate religious reforms in their system in order to help them produce liberal students or taliban.

However, this assumption is not fully correct and to blame the madressahs for producing narrow-minded religious fanatics is not justified. There are other reasons for the promotion of religious orthodoxy and fanaticism in society which should not be ignored. Here I shall analyse those causes which are usually not discussed when looking into this phenomenon.

The most potent and important institution which patronises religious orthodoxy is the state of Pakistan. Right from its inception in 1947, the ruling elite hesitated to adopt liberal and secular policies. In the case of constitution-making, it sought the help of ulema and asked two leading religious scholars, Sayyid Suleman Nadvi and Prof Hamidullah, to come to Pakistan and advise the government on making the constitution Islamic in character. The involvement of the ulema in this process is well known and ultimately resulted in the Objectives Resolution in 1949 which subsequently determined the direction of future constitutions. Defending it, Liaquat Ali Khan the prime minister, explained to the Constituent Assembly that the state should not remain partial in matters of religion.

According to him, it was the responsibility of the state to patronise religious teachings. In spite of protests from minority members of parliament, the resolution was adopted. This laid the foundation of religious extremism in the country. On the other hand, from the very beginning the state adopted a hostile attitude towards progressive and liberal groups, parties and individuals. During the entire period of the Cold War, the Pakistani state sided with the western bloc and supported religious elements to counter communism. Consequently, communists and socialists became the victims of state oppression. They were harassed by the secret agencies, put in prison and tortured. They were denied government jobs.

Even private institutions closed their doors on them and they could not hope for any employment. The Communist Party of Pakistan was banned and its workers went underground. Barred from working openly, they either associated with some other parties or worked silently in a limited circle. Progressive writers and intellectuals were criticised and dubbed as agents of foreign countries. Their magazines were banned, their writings were censored and cases were filed against them on charges of obscenity or treason. The result was that religious parties and groups found free space to play a dominant role in society. Liberal and progressive elements were so terrorised and harassed that they lost their voice to challenge religious extremism and propagate their point of view.

Since then, the Pakistani state has been playing an active role in the propagation of religious extremism. The three constitutions that were enacted contained provisions which upheld religious tenets in every walk of life. The educational institutions Islamised their curricula to teach every subject from a religious perspective. Islamisation of the legal system and the setting up of the Sharia court undermined the judicial system. The official media propagated jihad and glorified martyrdom.

Thus it was the state that emerged as the main vehicle of spreading religious fanaticism in society by crushing all liberal and progressive points of view. Because of the importance of the institution of the state, the ulema have vehemently opposed its secularisation. They fully realise that in a secular state they would lose their power and influence.

The mission of all religious parties is to capture the state either through democratic means by appealing to the people to support them in the name of religion in elections or through an armed struggle. At the same time, their strategy is to pressure the ruling classes to keep away from any process of secularisation of the state. They have insisted on the implementation of the Sharia for making Pakistan an Islamic state. Thus, we find that religious extremists are fighting on two fronts: political and social. The irony is that nearly all non-religious political parties are proclaiming their adherence to the Islamic system. They also promise to preserve what has been Islamised by past governments including those of Z.A. Bhutto and Ziaul Haq.

In this respect, there is no difference between religious and non-religious parties. All of them, just to win the support and sympathy of the people, promise to establish the Islamic welfare state in Pakistan. They pledge to revive the past glory of Islamic history which was actually nothing but that of conquests and the expansion of Arab and Turkish imperialism. Religious extremists are also concerned with the social change that Pakistani society is undergoing. As a result of globalisation and scientific and technological inventions, the social and cultural values of society are changing.

The old cultural and social practices, customs and traditions of the jagirdari and tribal system which have been validated by religion, are now under threat. Dress, music, dance, eating habits and lifestyle are all challenging the old value system. Women want to marry according to their choice. They like to get an education and want to work outside their homes. When religious and old social value systems fail to check these changes, the guardians of conservative mores resort to violence and try to stop new trends. Here, violence is justified by religious scholars to uphold the outdated system of a feudal and tribal society. The key question remains: is there any hope for changing the structure of the state? Perhaps no, because all political parties like to use religion and exploit the sentiments of the people to win elections. Religion and politics will remain an integral part of Pakistan. To defeat old and conservative traditions will take a long time
because at present liberal and secular forces are too weak to resist and combat the established set-up.

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