New Age Islam
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Islam and Pluralism ( 4 March 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Secularism versus Pakistani Islam

No love lost

By Vikram Sood

5 Mar 2009, 0000 hrs IST


Over the years Pakistan has come to believe that the world is beholden to it because it exists. This notion of indispensability allows those in power in that country to be wild, delinquent and dangerous.

Like the spoilt brat of a rich and doting parent, Pakistan either becomes petulant when it is not granted what it unjustifiably demands or becomes belligerent when it is granted that wish by its benefactor.

Today, Pakistan has a begging bowl economy; terrorism is its main export. Unending unrest in Balochistan and sectarian violence in Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan, coupled with a creaking law and order and judicial systems, evoke little confidence in that country.

There are many in India who are ready to give Pakistan another chance forever. They say Pakistanis are like us but the poor souls are stuck with rotten governments and they need our help to get them out of their predicament.

It is incredibly naive of us to build policies for our future and security on fond nostalgia, which is mostly one way. They teach their children mostly how to hate India with warped versions of history, even in their mainstream schools.

It is strange that we still keep telling Pakistanis that we are all alike and have a common culture and so on. The truth is that they do not want to be like us and, quite honestly, we have nothing in common with them. Not anymore.

First of all, our minority population is more Indian than the minorities there are Pakistani. And our majority too is different from the majority across the border. Pakistanis have never understood, therefore never accepted, the concept of accommodating minorities. Not that we do it perfectly but we do a fairly good job.

In Pakistan, you are either a Shia, Bohra or an Ismaili or an Ahmediya. Being a woman, a Baloch, a Pushtun, a Sindhi or a Mohajir or a Hindu hari is a curse.

Only a Sunni Punjabi is a true-blue Pakistani. Arguments with minorities are settled with a bullet. It is difficult for a Pakistani to understand that minorities can also have a say. Our cricket team symbolises our diversity. Pakistan does not have an equivalent of Bollywood and if it did, Hindus would never dominate the industry.

There are other fundamental differences. They deny history and even geography; we seek our roots in our civilisation. Extremists there cry jihad in the name of god.

We have room for all faiths at the Dargah in Ajmer Sharif, in Darbar Sahib (whose foundation stone was laid by Mian Mir) or San Thome. Fewer Pakistanis understand that it is easy or natural for an Indian to listen to Jafar Hussain Badayuni's rendering of Amir Khusro's `Bahut kathin hai dagar' or `Ek pita ekas ke hum baarek' by Bhai Maninder Singh and Bhai Jitender Singh or `Jai Madhav Madan Murari' by Jagjit Singh on any morning.

In Pakistan today, we see images of mullahs leading a march to medievalism. In India, we see the young and exuberant marching into the 21st century. We are still behind the rest of the advanced world but are determined to catch up. Across the border, they wallow in a sense of victimhood, and blame everyone else for their plight.

In Pakistan, the extremists believe that Islam and democracy are incompatible. Secularism does not exist in the mullah's vocabulary, or even in the minds of some self-proclaimed moderates like General Musharraf.

So what do we have in common with Pakistan that we yearn for? The answer is nothing. We are two different countries with two different kinds of people on two different trajectories and we here should be happy with that.

Pakistan will strike deals with al-Qaeda, will encourage Lashkar-e-Taiba to carry out attacks on India and will appease the Taliban. It would seem that they have a death wish. It would be prudent for us to take measures now in case Pakistan's wish is granted.

The writer is a former secretary, Research and Analysis Wing.


Constantine And Us

A Times Of India Editorial Comment

5 Mar 2009, 0000 hrs IST


The marriage of state and church can be said to have begun when Constantine, then a successful general, had a vision in 312 AD as he led his troops at the battle of Milvian Bridge.

Constantine, according to Christian sources, looked up at the sun and saw a cross of light above it, along with the words "By This, Conquer!" He ordered his soldiers to inscribe a Christian symbol on their shields, to which their subsequent victory was attributed.

Constantine, famously, ended persecution of Christians in the Roman empire. Persecution took place because Christians refused to worship the Roman emperor as divine.

Such worship, however, was within a polytheistic framework that included many deities, churches and cults, and therefore cannot be described as a union of state and church.

When Constantine became the emperor of Rome he issued the edict of Milan, an interesting document. The edict conferred on Christians the right to observe their religion while allowing other divinities to coexist with the Christian God.

This had led to a misleading debate about how truthful Constantine was when he converted to Christianity. A better way to look at it is to see the edict of Milan as akin to the spirit of Indian secularism.

While western-style secularism calls for a strict separation of state and church Indian secularism, some of whose features are anticipated in Akbar's liberal principle of Din-i-Ilahi, recognises the coexistence of many faiths and spiritualities.

The later Constantine, however, was hardly a liberal. He renamed the city of Byzantium after himself and studded it with basilicas and overtly Christian architecture, while non-Christian temples folded up. Emperor Theodosius I, a successor of Constantine, made Christianity the state religion. Substitute Hinduism for Christianity, and that's the direction in which saffron critics of Indian secularism would like to take India.

Religion, however, is too serious a business to be left to politicians. Indian civilisation has never been beset by religious wars to the extent that Europe has. Indian secularism, which respects all religions, is an organic response to that.

The tools used by the later Constantine to spread Christianity, including grandiose architecture accompanied, according to some chroniclers, by the annihilation of non-Christian temples, were those of a Roman emperor whose writ was unquestioned.

Such conditions cannot be replicated in 21st century India, even if BJP president Rajnath Singh promised in the course of the current election campaign to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya. The BJP has enough issues to take on the UPA government, without dragging religion in.