Is Secularism the Answer to Pakistan’s Identity Crisis?

Abu Bakr,

Article first published in The News Blog. The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of SAM Daily Times.

The debate about whether secularism would make Pakistan more progressive or tolerant has been rekindled recently. It has been intriguing to read different opinions on the matter, but still the argument doesn’t remain quite settled.

First of all, it has to be admitted that secularism is a tried and tested philosophy that has been extremely successful wherever implemented. This, however, does not mean being a theocracy spells out inevitable failure. Pakistan unfortunately, is neither here nor there. Jinnah clearly stated that he did not want Pakistan to be theocratic. He was a man who did not believe in religion intervening with state affairs. The inspiration and idea of Pakistan though, came from Muhammad Iqbal who believed in the Islamic role in politics and legal philosophy. Today Pakistan is officially an Islamic state, but is still mostly governed by secular laws. It is no wonder that now after 64 years of independence we struggle to agree on Pakistan’s identity.

Secularism guarantees you freedom of religion, but so does Islamic Law. Yet, in Pakistan today, Hindu’s cannot get married legally, innocent Christians are killed after being wrongly accused of blasphemy, Jews are unconditionally hated and Ahmadis are murdered and declared non-Muslim. This shows that the problem does not lie in the philosophy you chose to govern our country, but instead lies in our society. Secularism will not save Pakistan, because it will not make any difference. There is no pure culture, religion or form of politics that denies human rights or freedom of religion to members of the state, only personal, self-made forms and interpretations of the aforementioned can do that.

To save Pakistan we need to nurture its people. We need to educate them on matters of sociology, philosophy and critical reasoning in ideas from the east and the west. We need to educate people on basic human rights and stop the enforcements of a particular brand of religion. Religion should be a personal matter and learned by study and examination rather than force or culture. No one should be able to call anyone a non-believer of any faith because they think their own faith, or version of it is correct or superior.

A country cannot progress in such a system unless the true spirit of religion is brought forward. A secular state where religion is kept away from state matters allows a society to be free of wrongful curbing of laws. Under secularism justice could prevail, and perhaps Pakistan could become a better, more Islamic state than under the title itself.

Abu Bakr is an undergraduate student at University of Illinois studying software engineering and philosophy.


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