Separate Religion From Politics

From Pakistan Observer

Nosheen Saeed

Hats off to Bangladesh’s Supreme Court! Banning politics on the basis of religion was a giant leap, which will no doubt make Bangladesh a modern, prosperous, secular, democratic country. Will Pakistan follow Bangladesh and end decades of exploitation in the name of religion? Will it take into account the fact that resistance offered by cross-sections of Pakistani society to extremists and the people’s resolve to fight the Taliban-led terrorists, showed clearly that the majority of the people, though religious, openly condemned being exploited on the basis of religion.

Perhaps, its time for Pakistan to renounce the last three decades of Islamization and return to the original vision of its founding fathers; it’s time, for the nation to put a more distinct differentiation between politics and religion. I support the separation of the two not to protect politics from religion but to protect religion from politics. By dragging religion through the dirt of politics, we are doing great disservice to Islam and Pakistan. It’s an idea that should be respected and contemplated upon. Religion and politics will exist in great purity, disengaged. Politics is corrupt by its very nature. Intertwining religion with politics makes religion look corrupt. Whenever religion and state interlace, it creates turmoil, intolerance, violence and collision. In today’s multicultural and multi-religious society, no religion should be able to control and dominate law and the Government.

States cannot be based on their personal religious beliefs it would be the downfall of society. One cannot force ones belief on others. Religion is a matter that solely lies between man and his God; man owes account to none other for his faith but God. I disagree with those who say that religion is a central issue in Pakistan; the real issue is the manner in which religion is being exploited to gain political advantages. The clergy uses religion to obtain political power; our politicians use religion to entice voters and justify pseudo politics; successive governments that have grabbed power illegally, used religion to gain political legitimacy. Religion has been used as a crutch by opportunists; a supporting device to remain in power. Not realizing that crutches render one completely powerless, ineffective or inert. If religion and caste is removed from the public sphere then most worthless politicians will have nothing to present for acceptance.

Religion and national identity are vital for ones sense of pride and recognition; both being the fountainhead of ones strength and the raison d’etre of ones very existence. Like fish out of water, I twist and turn, when extremism and Islam; terrorism and Pakistan are used side by side. Critics of Islam have raised alarm, by proclaiming Islam an “evil wicked religion” and claiming Quran promotes violence. Much more is repeated gazillion times in several publications, making it impossible to give a “soft image” to Islam and Pakistan. This slander is affecting our youth and will influence our future generations too. They will perceive Islam through the eyes of the West and will be “swayed” by its version. Their argument will be based on the fact that, if the West is exploiting religion so are we. Why curse the West, why not ourselves, for coquetting with religious groups, to gather support. We are solely responsible for the transition of religion, as a source of values and wisdom, to religion as a strategy for passing legislation or winning elections. Its easy to blame the West for its ignorance and prejudice against the fastest growing religion in the world Islam and the Western media for carrying out a concerted misleading campaign of distortion but then we can’t throw all the blame on others; we must share some too. Our religious Jamats have contributed in strengthening this false impression with their fiery rhetoric, extremism, intolerance and misinterpretation of Islam. By allowing them to exploit Islam, we have done great “disservice” to the “supremacy of Islam” and to our “motherland.” Beware Frankenstein “destroyed” his own creator!

A vibrant society should be based on the rights of individuals as human beings, not on rights granted by the clergy. Today all politics is hostage to religion. The Jamats seek to convert Pakistan into their personal fiefdom and want to enslave the minds of the Pakistani people to “religious priests” The clergy have become the “agents of Islam” Every “uneducated low IQ mullah” feels entitled to acting like a scholar and gives sermons on what God said and what he meant; define who is a Muslim and who isn’t; decide what is Islamic and un Islamic; declare whose a good Muslim and whose bad; run our lives by interfering in harmless activities, such as marathons and musical concerts. They have been responsible for derailing democracy and in preventing the emergence of political institutions in Pakistan. In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty, he is always in alliance with the despot abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.

Unfortunately Islam is held “accountable” for actions, which are committed in its name, by people claiming to “represent” it. The erroneous ideas about Islam are largely linked to the actions of Mullahs and their actions are not in conformity, with what they claim to preach and practice. Tragically the mullah is identified with Islam and the criticism of the Mullah is understood as a criticism of Islam itself. An absolutely incorrect way of judging Islam! If the Mullahs are willing to use religion for political ends, then they should be held politically responsible for their actions and face accountability.

The pre- Partition generation is a witness to how the Mazhabie Jamats, both Hindus and Muslims hated Jinnah, The Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement. These sects by fomenting sectarianism, creating divisions, preaching violence, intolerance and spreading “Desi Islam” are busy undoing what Jinnah achieved. These religious Jamats never quote Quaid-i-Azam or even mention him because they oppose his philosophy, even today. Jinnah cautioned the people to be vigilant against quislings, fifth-columnists, clichés and mobs. These people opposed the great struggle and raised obstacles with insidious false propaganda and pose as saviors of the people’s just rights; they incite people to defy the government and threaten to commit acts of lawlessness. Their object is to undermine the solidarity of the Muslims, by creating a split amongst brother Muslims and finding ways and means to weaken and destroy the State. These people have been financed by foreign agencies; their purpose is to disrupt and sabotage Pakistan and to destroy what we have achieved. Its time to dig deep into our souls and take a bold stand that might be startling for a hand full of people but will be beneficial for the country. Its time to get rid of the crutches of theocracy and mullahcracy!

To clear the image of Islam and to revitalize Pakistan, there is a pressing need to divorce religion from politics. We need to develop institutional safeguards against religious extremism. Pakistanis must wake-up to the threat of extremism and the exploitation of Islam. The nation must join hands on a common platform to restore pluralism and tolerance. We must revert to Jinnah’s liberal, anti ethnic, secular and democratic Pakistan. Our founding fathers drew their basic moral concepts from secular laws with freedom of religion for all belief systems, in favor of the rights of mankind.

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