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Is Secularism the Answer?

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    Is Secularism the Answer?

    General Musharraf's plans are to follow the role model of Kamal Attaturk, the leader who oversaw the demolition of muslim power in the world and banished Islam from the state. Turkey is now a somewhat modern, forward looking nation, but not without it's own problems. the sectarian violence is still there, just not sanctioned by the state.

    What do Gupshup members think is the best way forward for Pakistan now? I know there are some staunch liberalists here and also some hardline Islamists. But I suspect the majority are somewhere in between.

    Some say the islamists are to blame for dragging the country backwards, others would point out that in fact it was the secularists that have brought the country to it's knees.

    My view has changed somewhat. I think we need to get our priorities sorted out here. Musharraf has declared his assets and that is a huge step forward. Basic honesty is more important than pious slogans. It may turn out he takes us further down the road to ruin but let's see. Being governed by the 'Muslim' League which is stripping the country of it's assets is no answer, no matter how many token shariat bills are brought in to fool the people.

    Total Islamic government? By whom and how will it work if the people don't believe in it? The fact is, the Pakistani people aren't ready for it yet and nothing works unless there is belief in it. The capitalists believe in their system and it works (for the moment) although it can't go on for ever because of it's very nature. Communism worked only as long as the people believed in it. Once it's inherent weaknesses came to bear it declined.

    I don't think we need a government that shouts about Islam but can't deliver it. We are better off with a government that goes about the business of restoring the economy, overseeing the welfare and education of it's people ostensibly. A secular government can do this. It is also necessary though that while it remains on the face of it secular, it's foreign objectives must remain the same as before; full support to the just Kashmir cause, (we don't sell out on our brothers) but create a an atmosphere of stability and responsibilty in our business dealings with other countries.

    As I see it at the moment we have the worst of both worlds. Strict shariah imposed at home where we don't need it, but a relaxed attitude in our dealings when outside the country. Arguing about beards and lengths of trousers should be left to the imams and the government should not involve itself in any of this business. People who want to argue about these things should be smuggled across the border to fight in Kashmir. Put their energy to some good use. And please, no protestations about Human Rights. This is how the world works. It's how the BJP is now working, with a basically secular face, but a Hindutva goal long term.

    It's all about priorites. Some people complain about the Talibenisation of the country, but just as you cannot impose islam on the people of Pakistan, nor can you take it away from them if they wish for it. But the government itself should be concentrating on building the economy and improving welfare and dismantling the bribery and corruption culture. Groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba who are shooting in mosques should be told to cross the border and fight a legitemate jihad or be locked up.

    The expenditure on the army needs to be drastically reduced. With the missile programme in place, safety of the nation is more secure, and let's face it India are hardly going to invade Pakistan in the first place are they? All these F-16s and what-nots are unnecessary. A fundamentalist with a hand grenade is more effective. Most of the military hardware in Pakistan will never be utilised.

    #2
    Nice post Mr. Xtreme,
    I personally think that it's upto the people to decide whether they want to stick to an Islamic republic or a secular one. Personally I think none of the two can be perfect in any country. Being an Islamic country does not guarantee that you may follow all the Islamic ideals and the same goes for a secular country. India could be a good example where over time our secular credentials have always come under question -- whether it's the anti-Sikh riots of 84 or the Babri mosque demolition or the killing of an Australian missionary and his innocent little kids in Orrisa. The problem is that these kind of incidences won't stop inspite of the nation being secular. But the important thing is whether the constitution is secular or not and whether it provides all citizens of the country equal oportunity for advancement. A secular constitution at least prevent political parties from pushing forward an agenda which might be harmful to minorities. But more that just secularizm I feel that there should be a big effort to seperate religion from the state !! In India people are almost brainwashed through textbooks/movies/documentaries into following a secular way of life....but it still isn't enough. More needs to be done.

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      #3
      It's how the BJP is now working, with a basically secular face, but a Hindutva goal long term.


      Finally you like something BJP is doing and you want to copy it. This is 180 degree turn around.

      In my opinion there should be complete seperation of Religion and State if one wants to live in a tolerant country.

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        #4
        I think it depends on the level of 'secularism' one wishes to implement. The problem with a complete separation of state and religion, for socities occupied by Muslims is that in many respects, it is an impossiblity. Simply because certain aspects of a Muslim's life, demand that institutions be wary of religious protocal.

        Reform is a better answer in my opinion. Reform of institutions which contend that they indeed do uphold the law of Islam, when in reality the are upholding the interests of a few powerful elite who are in a position to control the state.

        Secularism, in the political system, in judiciary (with the exception of some aspects of family law) can be implemented as long as one respects the fact that Pakistan is a pluralistic society, in which certain members may well wish to practice their Islam, in a stricter fashion than others.
        The complication than arises when one individuals religious zeal clashes with anothers secular values. How do you deal with this contradiction - where one group wishes to cover up women, while another wishes to remain unveiled? Simply giving individuals the choice to do either, opens up the possibility of having strong opposition and even violent uprising, arising from quarters who feel that century old traditions and religious edicts are being ignored for 'westernized' notions of modernity.

        Where you draw the line between secularity and religious revival is blurry. The two intersect at different junctures, and at those intersections, you have the possibilty of violent conflict.

        Religion is like a nail, the harder you hit it, the deeper it goes in. Suppressing religion, especially Islam, may well bring to the foreground, fundamentalism and revival. I don't think there is a black and white answer - secularism or Islamic state - but somewhere in between. Finding the right balance is the challenge. I wonder if we'll see it met in our lifetime.

        Good post Extreme!!

        Achtung

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          #5
          I don't know whether complete secularism is the answer, but I am firmly of the opinion that the state and religion should be seperated. The people of Pakistan have time and again indicated through the ballot boxes that they do not wish to have a religious state, by rejecting the religious party at each and every election held. Religion is a personal thing and everybody follows it as he sees it fit. The so called mullahs and other religious leaders have done more harm than good to Islam. The quicker these people are removed from the scene the better it will be for our country. What we need are properly educated religious leader who can spread the true message of Islam. Some people say that Pakistan was acheived in the name of Islam and therefore we have to remain an Islamic state. Seperating religion from the state in my opinion does not negate this theory.

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            #6
            Dear Mr Xtreme,

            It may not be the best form of a political system, but it most certainly is a desirable form of system for Pakistan. Not only Pakistan is diverse ethnically, it also has a population that is fairly diverse from religious standpoint. It is true that over 95% call themselves Muslims, it can not be compared with countries that have very homogenous population. So, a form that suits everyone should be where everyone, regardless of their faith, is considered equal.

            It will be the most welcoming change should the General introduce it.

            It will not mean (as Bombaykid pointed out) an end to inter-racial/ethnic conflicts, but it will be a good start. I think it is about time that we all worked “together” to ensure the coalition, safety, and progress of our homeland.

            I agree with your views entirely. (I have a little trouble understanding your argument about sending the “fighters” to the other side of the border)

            Comment


              #7
              Ehsan..."The people of Pakistan have time and again indicated through the ballot boxes that they do not wish to have a religious state, by rejecting the religious party at each and every election held."

              But by not bringing parties like the Jamaat to power doesnot mean that people have rejected the idea of an Islamic state. If the people really want a secular state, they can get it done. In the mid 70's Indira Gandhi tried to end democracy in India but people were literally on the streets to fight to restore democracy and they succeeded !
              I honestly believe that secularism should not mean taking the majority religion for granted and belittling it....if that is remembered, I don't think there will be any problems. In the U.S. too every month there are instances of racial violence......but we all know that in essence it is very much a secular country. India may not have reached that level of tolerance (India's and the US history are also different and India is much more diverse), but I seriously believe that we can get there. Already more people are marrying outside their religion/caste/state in India than at any other time, which shows that people in general are changing their views. So taking into view all other choices, I feel that a secular nation can alone guarantee (to a large extent) the right of all the nations citizens.

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                #8
                Yes you are right Bombay Kid, people have not rejected the idea of an Islamic state. But by the same token they have quite categorically rejected the notion of a pure religious state as preached by these parties. People want to practice their religion in their own way. It reminds me of an incident I heard during the 1971 elections which the senior Bhutto was fighting on the platform of Roti Kapara and Makan. The story was that the religious parties went to a village and while slaging of Bhutto and his slogan asked the people what was that they wanted : Roti, Kapara, Makan which was being offered by Bhutto or relgion, which they were offering. People of the village went back to their homes and brought back the copies of Quran with them and told the religious parties that they had the religion, what they needed was roti, kapara and makan. May be the story is not true, but it depicts the mentality of our religious parties and the fact that while people of Pakistan are religious they do not want these parties to turn Pakistan into another Afghanistan. Majority of Pakistanis are quite middle of the road and moderate when it comes to religion.

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                  #9
                  Forget all 'isms' and just try to find food and water.

                  Fata Morgana

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                    #10
                    Pakistan for Pakistanis !!!

                    If Quaid-e-Azam had lived a little longer, we would have had a secular Pakistan with room for every Pakistani.

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                      #11
                      i feel politics and religion should be definitely separated in a country but also democracy should be strengthened. i could understand the frustration of the pakistanis with the two political parties but then you had to keep patience. india had to endure 40 years of nehru-gandhi family rule then it got a alternative which definitely is better in a longer term. america had to fight a civil war to unify the country under a secular leadership.
                      i doubt general mushraffs statement about elimination of corruption. everyone knows the how much money the elite in the army has whipped from the country. is he going to go after them which i doubt very much

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