Islam and politics

February 10, 2019


ISLAM protects minorities but Islamic provisions in our constitution have been warped by pressure groups to persecute minorities.

The architects of various constitutions did not visualise how constitutional Islamic clauses, when expedient, would be interpreted with blinker-eyed motives in future. Perhaps misuse of the constitution, led veteran diplomat Jamsheed Marker to say: “charge against Liaquat [Ali Khan] was that he moved the Objectives Resolution, which declared Pakistan to be an ‘Islamic state;”’(Cover Point, p. 33).

But as the Indian example shows even secular constitutions are no bulwarks against the persecution of minorities — human rights violations in India — armed forces’ special powers to continue reign of terror in Kashmir and north-eastern states, gagging dissent by slapping sedition charge on pro-Naxalite historians, poets and intellectuals, and declaring even student protesters ‘traitors’ (cow vigilantism).

The current morass in Islamic polities engenders a question whether secularism is compatible with an Islamic state? Abdullah Ahmed An-Naim,a professor of Law at Emory University, repudiates the claim that Sharia among Muslims in their communities can be enforced through the coercive power of the state. Sharia principles lose their religious authority and value when enforced by the state.

Religious compliance must be completely voluntary according to personal pious intention (niyah), which is necessarily invalidated by coercive enforcement of those obligations. In fact, coercive enforcement promotes hypocrisy (nifaq) which is categorically and repeatedly condemned by the Holy Quran.

He opens the first chapter Why Muslims Need a Secular State of his book Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia, p. 1), with words “In order to be a Muslim by conviction and free choice, which is the only way one can be a Muslim, I need a secular state. By a secular state I mean one that is neutral regarding religious doctrines, one that does not claim or pretend to enforce Sharia the religious law of Islam simply because compliance with Sharia cannot be coerced by fear of state institutions.”

Our legislature needs to introduce safeguards against misuse of our constitutional Islamic provisions for extra-constitutional coercive political advantage or human rights violations.

Amjed Jaaved

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2019