By Wasimul Haque
April 27 - May 03, 2012
??It is ironic that when the nation is taking small steps towards democracy, the newly formed Difa-e-Pakistan Council, an assembly of ultra right wing politicians and ex-ISI chief Gen Hamid Gul, are out to derail the process.
The councilclaims self righteousness in projecting itself as the defender of the state’s identity through religious and militaristic nationalism.Reason has been replaced by jingoism, justified in the name of faith.
Thecurrent political situation in Pakistan is the outcome of an earlier synthesis of Zia’s militarism and religious ideologies of Jamaat-e-Islami to combat the Soviet Empire. The American support of theanti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan and financial and military aid to the Zia regimecreated a strain of Islamthat justifies the killing of Hindus in their temples, Christiansin their churches and Sunnis, Shias and Ahmadis in their mosques. This ideologyhas destroyed the civil fabric of our society. Pakistan has become intolerant of its own citizens and religious violence has reached new heights.
In the past, Faiz Ahmed Faizhadchallenged the religious orthodoxy in Pakistanin his famous poem ‘ Dua’or ‘Prayer’:
(To those who follow the religion of lies and hypocrisy
Give the courage of heresy and desire for truth)
Have we forgotten that our founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah had rejected religious intolerance? His speech of February, 1948, was a clear reflection of his dream:“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.”
It is unfortunate that the tide of religious extremism has spread in every sector of our society and no attempts are being made by the intellectuals, state institutions, and politicians to get us out of this abyss.
Politicians must show courage and denounce religious fanatics.Nawaz Sharif, once a supporter of Gen Zia, should denounce extremism. Imran Khan should also be critical of the role the Taliban have played in creating the mess we are in. And President Zardari should make sincere attempts to make up for his party’s reported support for the Taliban in the past by going back to the PPP’s original liberal manifesto. In a recent episode of TV show AwamkiAdalaton Geo TV, 97 percent of the audience consisting of university students voted in favor of rejecting religious extremism.The leaders of Difa-e-Pakistan Council should listen to the call of the young. Some of these leaders had been part of the American war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It is time to correct the mistakes of the past. Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and many other politicians have died at the hands of extremism. The bloodshed must stop.
It is time we carefully study Muslim history and the significance of religiouspluralism,which wasprevalent in Muslim Spain, Muslim India and the Ottoman Empire. It is this religious pluralismthat became the cornerstone of scientific, literary and philosophical success of the Muslim civilization. According to the Holy Quran: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error;” (2:256).
The Friday Times