By Yasser Latif Hamdani
30 April, 2012
Jinnah believed in equal rights for all people, regardless of religion or gender, because he believed in freedom of speech and freedom of expression. He was — as Agatha Harrison eulogised — a believer in unpopular causes
Last week Taimoor
Ashraf in his article, “How liberal are they” (Daily Times, April 23, 2012) stated that since Jinnah defended Bal Gangadhar Tilak in a sedition case and Ilam Din in appeal, his worldview was somehow broad enough to include both.
This is an absurd argument. Consider the facts: Jinnah’s political career began firmly in the moderate camp when the Indian National Congress was divided into moderates and extremists. His mentor was Gopal Krishan Gokhale and Tilak was his political rival. On the limited question of sedition, Jinnah represented Tilak and represented him well. Similarly to the disappointment of those who try to use Jinnah’s role as the lawyer in the appeal for Ilam Din to somehow score a point about the Blasphemy law, Jinnah’s arguments as reported in the said judgment show that at no point did Jinnah condone Ilam Din’s act. Given the communal colour that this issue had taken, the Muslims of Punjab invented many myths about Ilam Din but the fact is that he repeatedly claimed that he did not kill Raj Pal, the publisher of the offensive pamphlet. Jinnah also represented Sardar Phanse in the famous Bawla murder trial and had his punishment mitigated to life. Would one conclude then that Jinnah’s political vision was broad enough to include even murderers?
Ashraf — who happens to be a lawyer — should know a bit about defence law. As a lawyer, one represents the most reprehensible amongst criminals but it does not amount to an acceptance or tolerance of their crime. Jinnah’s liberalism emanates not from his defence of Tilak or Ilam Din — whatever that means — but because Jinnah believed in equal rights for all people, regardless of religion or gender, because he believed in freedom of speech and freedom of expression. He was — as Agatha Harrison eulogised — a believer in unpopular causes such as the Suffrage Movement at a time when even men like Gandhi denounced suffrage for women as a ‘satanic’ idea. Jinnah was a champion of racial equality from very early on, at a time when it was still acceptable to be racist. In short, Jinnah was schooled in the political philosophy of John Morley, who was the finest amongst Victorian and Edwardian liberals.
In fact, Jinnah’s worldview was never so wide as to include retrogressive and reactionary mullahs, who opposed him at every turn. Like Kemal Ataturk, a contemporary world leader he admired, Jinnah’s views on clerics and religious scholars bordered on outright contempt. Words such as fraud, crooks, cranks, madmen, illiterate mullahs, reactionary maulvis, etc, were common in Jinnah’s public pronouncements against clerics. Even when he was not contemptuous, his speech was full of sarcasm as in the case of the famous speech he gave on why the Child Marriages Restraint Act ought to be passed despite orthodox Islamic opinion. Jinnah’s main point of departure from Gandhi emanated from the dispute the great Gujarati leaders had over the role the ulema ought to play. Jinnah’s worldview had no place for religious priests with a divine mission. He said in February 1948, “In any case, 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.”
To Jinnah, politics was a gentlemen’s game where rabble rousing using religious slogans was distasteful. Speaking to the central legislative assembly on February 7, 1935, Jinnah declared, “Religion should not be allowed to come into politics...Religion is merely a matter between man and God.”
Therefore, contrary to the erroneous claim made by Imran Khan in his book Pakistan: a Personal History, Jinnah and Gandhi were not on the same page regarding the role of religion. In fact, in terms of the role of religion in constitution and state, it was Jinnah and Nehru who almost had identical views with the difference being of the cards dealt to them. Jinnah was the leader of a minority community. The events that led to the partition of India had little to do with religion. It was haggling over a share of power and the structure of the future government of independent India that led to the breakdown. The Muslim League had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan without reservations — a fact no amount of mental gymnastics can disprove.
So whatever bar Jinnah set, it did not entail accepting a worldview that sought to make Pakistan a theocracy of any kind. Meanwhile, Imran Khan goes around parroting his favourite untruths about Jinnah. At a public rally, he claimed that Jinnah made Pakistan on the slogan “Pakistan ka matlab kiya: La Illaha Ilallah (What is the meaning of Pakistan: there is no God but Allah).” Nothing can be further from the truth. There is absolutely no record of Jinnah having ever used this slogan. On the contrary, we have it on good authority that Jinnah reprimanded a person who said this. Jinnah’s answer was, “Neither I nor the working committee has ever passed a resolution Pakistan ka matlab kiya, you may have done so to catch a few votes.” His worldview was just not wide enough to include crazies and religious fanatics, which is why the Ahrars and the Khaksars hated him with a passion, calling him Kafir-e-Azam (Great Infidel) and Pakistan Kafiristan (land of infidels).
Alas, he was human. Jinnah miscalculated, believing that Pakistan would produce a secular leadership that would model itself after his own example. Instead, we were left with substandard material, unable to distinguish the issues and too insecure to imagine a Pakistan even remotely close to what Jinnah had in mind. From Ayub to Musharraf and Bhutto to Sharif, we have only had leaders who emphasised Islamic ideology as post-hoc justification for Pakistan’s existence and utilised it in a most cynical way to the detriment of the people of this country.
The writer is a practising lawyer. He blogs at http://globallegalorum.blogspot
and his twitter handle is therealylh
Source: Daily Times, Pakistan