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Don’t blame mullahs, reform the state!

Pakistan identifies itself as an Islamic republic that was formed on the fundamental principles of Islam and aspires to replicate the state of Medina that was established by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fourteen centuries ago. Its religious base is also immensely reflected on its current constitution. The state directly involves itself in the religious affairs of its people. Over the years, the religious identity and premise of the state in this regard has tremendously intensified with the time. Each Constitution brought with it an increased role of religion in affairs of state and its institutions. However, as 9/11 has changed many things around the world, the romance of Pakistan with its religious roots had also taken an effect. As Jihadists emerged around the world, Pakistan also struggled with widespread religious extremism that spurred an unparalleled terrorism and sectarian violence in the country. Then President, General Musharraf tried to introduce essential reforms but failed to achieve any substantial results. After years of reluctance, the current military leadership showed such an aggression in its fight against prevalent terrorism that was not witnessed before. It was also reciprocated by the civilian regime and a National Action Plan was devised to end the menace of extremism and terrorism from the country. The said plan proposed numerous legislations to curb the propagation of extremist views along its military dimensions. Unfortunately no intention was expressed per se in revisiting the role of state in promoting current state of affairs.


Most recently, the state banned clerics from labelling anyone as a heretic or a non-believer. It suggests as state only has the right to define what makes a person Muslim or a non-believer. In the past, the state had famously or notoriously defined a true faith of a Muslim in its constitution and declared for a group to be regarded as a non-Muslim who had previously identified itself as Muslim. Now it creates confusion among people that a state who avidly involves itself in the business of labelling people heretics does not like to see same practice being repeated by the scholars who devote their lives in understanding their religions and attain authority by the virtue of their knowledge. It appears to be an extremely regressive and authoritarian policy. Where it denounces the principles of freedom of speech, it also reminds us of historical mistakes that were made by previous Muslim rulers who had kept renowned scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim, Abū Ḥanīfah and Imam Ahmad, captive for issuing Fatwas that were not consistent with their official version of Islam. There is no doubt that hate mongering should not be allowed but calling an act or belief un-Islamic is not expressing hatred and only bears an opinion. In US, there is a considerable population of Mormon Christians who in opinion of other Christian denominations are not Christians but state has no objection to any such opinion. It is not the clerics who should be refrained from expressing their opinions, it is the state that needs to learn stepping away from private lives of its citizens.

As Pakistanis, we are extremely vocal in criticizing Israel for not giving its Arab citizens equal opportunities, we troll all over the internet against Modi’s India for being anti-Muslim, we curse Myanmar for not giving statehood to Rohingya, but do we ever think for a second what are we doing to our people? If Modi bans cow meat then it is against democracy but we cannot imagine our stores selling pork. The state cannot and should not try assembling all its people behind a specific Imam, it should encourage them to live with differences while respecting each other’s opinions to attain harmony. It should focus on blocking the access of lethal weapons rather than stopping someone from expressing an opinion.


The curriculum needs a massive overhaul in this regard. Currently, it glorifies the looting and destruction of temples and suggests Sikhs and Hindus as our enemies since pre-partition. It forces a certain version of religious practices on every student whereas the state should not teach such subjects and let parents decide what suits their kids the best. The religious parties are openly using the name of religion in getting votes because they know people will vote out of their religious insecurities. It will only stop when state be left with no role to play in the matters of religion and religious parties require no lobbying to implement certain sectarian or religious agendas. Banning few loudspeakers will not help in liberalizing the society, a basic overhaul in our ideology and constitution is required to overcome pervasive religious bigotry. We often blame Mullahs for all problems but they themselves have never ruled the country and have only been played at the hands of state institutions. It is not the Mullah who requires reforms but our state has to move itself toward a liberal and secular identity to bring long-lasting peace and harmony in the society.

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