The Secular Threat

When anti-Shia religious extremists kill people in the streets, why does it seem like everyone is afraid of secularism these days? From the Chief Justice to Syed Munawar Hassan, it seems that “secularism” has become the latest fad in bogeys. But what’s so scary about secularism?

To discover just how terrible secularism is, let us look at the example of two opposing approaches to hijab in France and Bangladesh.

The French parliament’s decision to ban public wearing of hijab is often incorrectly viewed as a law promoting “secularization”. This is quite incorrect. Actually, by prohibiting women from wearing hijab, the French are imposing a particular practice.

The Iranian government of Reza Shah made the same mistake in the 1940s when it was declared that women were to discard their veils on order of the state. This was not secularism, but a misguided attempt to counter radicalism. What was the result? The Shah swung the pendulum too far against religion, and the pendulum swung too far the other way in reaction.

But secularism does not mean “no religion”. It doesn’t mean “no hijab”. The UK has a national religion – the Christian “Church of England” – but it maintains a secular approach to religion in law and society. Anyone who has spent even a few short minutes wandering the streets of Tower Hamlets in London can tell you that there is no trouble finding any Qurans or hijabs or Mullahs who will be happy to talk to you for hours.

Compare this to Iqbal’s Allahabad address of December 1930, as referenced by IA Rehman today in Dawn:

In the last week of December 1930, Iqbal gave his Allahabad address. He declared that “Islam, regarded as an ethical ideal plus a certain kind of polity — by which expression I mean a social structure regulated by a legal system and animated by a specific ethical ideal — has been the chief formative factor in the life-history of the Muslims of India.” Then he added: “Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that India is perhaps the only country in the world where Islam, as a people-building force, has worked at its best.” Since no Islamic theocracy was ever established by the Muslims in India, Iqbal could only be extolling their secular traditions.

Similarly, Education Ministry of Bangladesh last week circulated direction to authorities that no female students are to be forced to wear veils or any other religious attires. Do you see the difference, because it is an important one. Young girls and their families still have the freedom to wear veils if this is their choice. But if a girl’s mother-father does not think she needs to wear a veil, she is not forced by someone outside her home. This actually respects religion and culture. It allows people to practice freely, and does not discriminate or reduce religion to some command of the state.

Anti-secularist lobby is simply making the same mistake as the Shah of Iran and the Parliament of France. They are trying to take the place of mother-father in the family relationship as a reaction to political frustrations.

IA Rehman is correct:

While the common people of Pakistan have no reason to share the ashrafiya’s fears of secularism they have every reason to dread the anti-secularism lobby. The “principal institutions of a secular society” listed by Altaf Gauhar are: the elected legislature, the judiciary, and the press”. (Battle of Ideas)

It is quite clear that all these institutions have to bear with one another. The Supreme Court can never sack parliament or the media, nor will parliament ever be foolish or strong enough to abolish the Supreme Court or the media. But the extremist militants that are being reared by anti-secular elements, if they ever capture the state, will almost surely pack off parliament, the Supreme Court and the media into oblivion. The choice before the people of Pakistan has never been clearer.

The anti-secular lobby is not advocating religion, it is advocating tyranny. The antidote? Secularism.

 

2 thoughts on “The Secular Threat

  1. After Bangladesh ministry issued the edit predictably JI was quick to issue a statement that this “hurts religious sentiments”. But what about the hadiths that says disobedience to parents is a major sin?

    “Anas narrated from Prophet Muhammad (SAW) about the major sins. He (Mohammed) observed: Associating anyone with God, disobedience to parents, killing a person and false utterance.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 11, Number 0159)

    Does these JI Mullahs believe that they has taken higher authority than hadiths now?

    Religion is more than just the pronouncements of Mullahs and Imams. Yes, these may be learned people and they may have excellent advice and judgment. But they may also be led astray as they are men only and not Allah. Too often people are lured into associating these clerics with Allah himself, despite the fact that it is identified as a major sin by the Prophet (SAW)!

    “Narrated Aisha: Allah’s Apostle said, “If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected.”
    (Sahih Bukhari, Book 49, Number 861)

    Why did Prophet Mohammad (SAW) use the word “principles”? This is an important choice of word because it recognizes that the world and society is constantly changing. Innovation in science and medicine and technology is not considered Bid’ah. It is only innovation in religion. So the principles that are at the heart of Islam, these are what must be kept alive in our practices.

    This is also in line with Surah 42.13

    “The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah – the which We have sent by inspiration to thee – and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).”

    The real Bid’ah is practised by those Mullahs who try to take the place of Allah in the world and make all sorts of pronouncements that are not supported by Quran or Hadiths but are only inventions of their own. They may believe they are gods on this Earth, but they will find justice, though, at the end Inshallah.

  2. To those great illustrious propagandists against
    secularism.Allama Iqbal had these words for them;
    Khuda tu jeh kisi toofan seh ashna ker deh,
    keh te reh beher ke moj on meh istarab nahi.
    Tu kitab kho wan hai, magar sahib e kitab nahi.In
    the same contestSufi El Ghazali stated;People oppose things because they are ignorantof them.By
    simply cramming the Koran does not make one good
    Muslim nor brings one near to the Creator.For every passage there is a lesson to be learned in context to the Past, in the Present and for the future.Thus the power of Reasoning has been gifted
    to mankind.Only that we use this power sensibly
    and move with the times.We as a nation as seen by
    Jalaludin Rumi are Two reeds;
    Two reeds drink from one stream.One is hollow,the other is sugar-cane.Let us accept this fact that that the former greatly outnumber the latter.

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