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Islam and Politics ( 23 Feb 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Creating a Secular Jinnah



By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

20 February 2014

The magazine Newsline’s February 2014 edition has an interesting – albeit unoriginal – cover photo depicting Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah as a bearded Islamist, with cover story titled: Islamisation of Jinnah.

While Ayesha Siddiqa’s cover story doesn’t delve much into the “secular Jinnah versus Islamist Jinnah” debate, the general idea among the liberal intelligentsia in Pakistan is that Jinnah was Islamised by the right-wing following his death to suit their own agenda – a claim that undoubtedly has its fair share of veracity.

Where Jinnah ranks on the Islamico-metre historically moves in synchrony with whosoever has taken over the reins of government in Pakistan. From a moderate Muslim to an Islamist, anyone can create one’s own Islamic Jinnah. Since Pakistan was founded in the name of Islam– or Muslims’ religious identity, Jinnah’s actions and words provide the ingredients you need to cook your own Quaid-e-Azam, who is – surprise, surprise – as religious as you are.

What a coincidence.

Similarly, there exists a liberal class in Pakistan that ranks pretty low on the Islamicometre. They enjoy alcohol and an eventful night life, and aren’t accustomed to praying, fasting or adhering to any of the Islamic obligations – nothing wrong with any of this, except that these people still cling onto their Islamic identity and present themselves as the ‘right kind’ of Muslims. And to justify their reluctance in practicing mandatory Islamic rituals they’ve created an imaginary liberal brand of Islam where the traditional Islamic obligations have taken the backseat, or in most cases have been thrown out of the car altogether.

Spearheading this oxymoronic, liberal and secular Islamic movement, years after his death, is one Maulana Muhammad Ali Jinnah who is depicted as the father of secularism. Yes, the man who used religion to launch a separatist movement is dubbed the personification of secularism. We’ve always been told that secularism entailed separation of state and religion. However, Jinnah’s secularism entailed separation of state through religion.

Common evidence provided to establish Jinnah as a secularist, include a lack of beard; alcohol and pork consuming habits and a picture with dogs. If not being a practicing Muslim is the sole criteria for being secular the majority of Pakistan’s population could be dubbed secular.

Even so, the slightly more substantial evidence for Jinnah’s secularism can be found in Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech where religion was not supposed to be the business of the state and Muslims were supposed to cease being Muslims and Hindus were to cease being Hindus, ideologically. This is one of the two and a half instances following June 1938 – the last time he showcased his erstwhile stance of Hindu-Muslim unity – where Jinnah manifested ideals of secularism.

For every pro-secularism speech, Jinnah conjured tens of Islamo-nationalist speeches, which is why uneducated and biased commentators like this scribe use the dreaded C word while describing Jinnah. His personal life; professional life; ideological inclinations; political movement; idea of nationalism; all of this when put together forms a massive bubble of contradictions.

Why did he defend Ilam Din in court, while still being a flag-bearer of Hindu-Muslim unity and having warned against the misuse of Section 295-A? Why did he marry a Parsi woman who had to convert to marry him, and then was visibly incandescent after his own daughter married a non-Muslim, all this while ostensibly being a strong believer in religious coexistence?

There’s more, but let’s move on to why it’s so easy to depict Jinnah as an Islamist.

Here’s what he had to say in January 1938:

“When we say this flag (Muslim League's flag) is the flag of Islam they think we are introducing religion into politics - a fact of which we are proud. Islam gives us a complete code. It is not only religion but it contains laws, philosophy and politics…. When we talk of Islam we take it as all embracing word.”

(Gaya Muslim League Conference)

He promised an Islamic state on the pattern of the Medina state in 1942:

“(Pakistan) will be an Islamic state on the pattern of the Medina state…”

(Muslim League session Allahabad)

 Eyed Islamic laws in November 1945:

“The Muslims demand Pakistan where they could rule according to their own code of life and according to their own cultural growth, traditions, and Islamic Laws”

(Frontier Muslim League Conference)

There are many more where these came from, but the point being made here is that Jinnah, on multiple occasions, categorically called for an Islamic state with Islamic laws following his politico-nationalistic U-turn in 1938, but never used the word secular, not even when he was directly posed the question in a press conference on July 17, 1947.

Now some Jinnah apologists would like to argue that:

a)     Jinnah had no idea what he was taking about when he talked about Islam and Islamic laws


b)     He had to use Islam to create this independent state

While neither of these arguments make his Islamo-nationalist communal movement any less bigoted, let’s give Jinnah the benefit of the doubt. For, after he secured Pakistan, he could easily have done something to establish this secular state that he envisioned. After all, that August 11 speech was a pretty good indicator wasn’t it? And 13 months is a long time…

Here’s Jinnah promising Sharia in January 1948:

“I cannot understand the logic of those who have been deliberately and mischievously propagating that the Constitution of Pakistan will not be based on Islamic Sharia. Islamic principles today are as much applicable to life as they were 1300 years ago.”

(Address to Karachi Bar Association)

Promising Islamic banking on July 1, 1948:

“I shall watch with keenness the work of your Research Organization in evolving banking practices compatible with Islamic ideas of social and economic life. The economic system of the West has created almost insoluble problems for humanity and to many of us it appears that only a miracle can save it from disaster that is not facing the world”

The much-maligned (and rightly so) Objectives Resolution of 1949 was passed after Jinnah’s letter to Pir of Manki Sharif – where he promised Sharia law in Pakistan – was presented in the Constituent Assembly in support of the resolution. The Objectives Resolution is primarily responsible for the sectarian mess that Pakistan finds itself in, where the Constitution is performing Allah’s duty of excommunicating religious sects.

Even so, despite all this – and much more – Jinnah continues to be perceived and portrayed by some as this flawless embodiment of secularity. These are the same people who mock Pakistan’s collective obsession with Arabisation, while conveniently forgetting that it was the founders and proponents – including Jinnah – of the Two Nation Theory that sowed the seeds of obsession with Arabs.

Here’s what Jinnah told Beverly Nichols in an interview in 1943:

"Islam is not only a religious doctrine but also a realistic code of conduct in terms of every day and everything important in life: our history, our laws and our jurisprudence. In all these things, our outlook is not only fundamentally different but also opposed to Hindus. There is nothing in life that links us together. Our names, clothes, food, festivals, and rituals, all are different. Our economic life, our educational ideas, treatment of women, attitude towards animals, and humanitarian considerations, all are very different."

The Muslims of this region were told that they have nothing in common with the Hindus of the same region, which became the founding principle of Pakistan. And now the same Muslims are being told that they have nothing in common with the invaders who spread Islam through the butchery of their sword.

So who exactly are these people then, if they don’t have anything in common with the people who originally lived here or those who invaded the region? Either Jinnah – and with him the founding principle of Pakistan that Indian Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations – was wrong, or the current assertion that Pakistani Muslims and Arab Muslims are the same people is incorrect. The question is binary and the answer is rather obvious.

Dubbing a movement that used religion for the creation of a separate state “secular” is as comical as it is dishonest. For if religion wasn’t to be the business of state, what exactly linked East and West Pakistan together? Why didn’t Jinnah call for East Pakistan to be a separate state and instead preferred to lay the foundation of Bengali subordination which eventually metamorphosed into Bengali genocide in 1971?

Creating a secular Jinnah might help you drink peacefully on Saturday nights, and forget your religious obligation to pray five times a day, but Pakistan’s actual secularisation cannot be instigated without admitting to the wrongs of 1947. For, no matter how much leeway one gives Jinnah, if merely wanting secular states created secular states, I, for one would be a billionaire right about now.