ISLAMABAD, Jan 1: A lecture on “Public Sphere” - a concept from the 18th century Enlightened Movement in Europe when a well- educated middle class challenged the authority of the church leading to the separation of church from the state - kicked off a lively discussion here on Friday.

Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology Dr Khalid Masood delivered the lecture at the Trust for Voluntary Organisations (TVO), which invited a heated debate from the participants on the relevance of the concept to Pakistani society.

Dr Masood attributed the failure of liberalism in Pakistan to the roots of this ideology that went back to the British colonials and the inability of the concept to gather social support in a predominately Muslim society.

His lecture, which he described as “half-cooked” ideas, touched upon the religious movements and the inability of the liberals to have their say in the affairs of the state.

However, he did not touch politics and economics that led to a very strong hold of the religious sects backed by the military in the Pakistani politics.

Dr Masood was also of the view that “Ijtihad” had never stopped in Shariah. He also said that Islamic Shariah was entrenched in the social setup that the Arabs had in the early days of Islam. He said the process of Public Sphere was still going on in Pakistan.

He justified his view by pointing to the emergence of neo- conservative religious scholars like Maulana Abul Ala Maudodi and those who discussed religions at various forums despite the fact that they were not educated from the religious seminaries.

However, a number of participants said liberalism and secularism were never allowed to grow in Pakistan mainly due to lack of tolerance on the part of religious institutions and the interest which the policy-makers and military shared with powerful religious leaders.

They said Public Sphere could never be seen in Pakistan because no one was prepared to accept scientific thinking and to reason or challenge the authority of the religious institutions.

Military dictator Ziaul Haq, who Islamised many laws of the country and the mainstream education system was also the one who needed strong religious groups to fight the US Cold War in Afghanistan against Russia and subdue dissident voices back home, the participants said.

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