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Smokers’ Corner: More pious, not better

Published May 20, 2012 12:45am


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The ‘Islamisation’ debate in Pakistan should not only be about the implementation of various ‘Islamic laws’ by the state and governments of Pakistan. It should also incorporate the study of the so-called Islamisation of public space, or space that was historically and inherently secular in nature. One of the most prominent examples in this respect is the manifold growth in the number of mosques and madrassahs in the last 25 years, and this trend’s physical and symbolic extension into the secular space of society.

For example, ever since the early 1980s, there has been a visible augmentation in the formation of ‘praying areas’ in offices in both private and government institutions, and the toleration of laxities allowed to employees at the workplace regarding prayer timings.

However, as can be observed from the findings of various academic and research-based studies (mainly on assorted criminal activity in the country in the last 25 years), the growth in the number of mosques, implementation of Islamic laws, and an increase in regular practice of faith among the populace ever since the 1980s has not exactly helped make society any more law-abiding and constructive than what it already was.

In fact, the rate of crime has increased dramatically and social commentators have continued to bemoan the ‘institutionalisation of social hypocrisy.’

But this hasn’t prompted influential sections of the state, media and public at large to evaluate the failure of the ‘Islamisation’ initiatives.

On the contrary, the failure of these initiatives to generate a more morally correct and better society has ironically made its advocates actually accelerate their efforts.

For instance, beginning in the 1980s, there are more religious programmes on television and radio than ever before. Also, more and more lawns and drawing-rooms are becoming venues for religious lectures and darrs. In fact, even in modern, posh shopping malls, the central sound system is used to broadcast the azaan!

Secular space is rapidly shrinking and the sociology of Pakistan today is strikingly different from what it was till about the late 1970s.

Advocates of these trends would rightly suggest that social Islamisation could not have taken place without the consent of the majority of the people. True. But one need not be a professional sociologist to determine the resounding failure of this initiative to convert Pakistan into a morally sound community of people.

Social, cultural and economic indicators of the last 25 years suggest a society displaying a religiosity that, at the same time, is convolutedly trying to reach a forced synthesis with modern material want and ambition.

There is an inherent dichotomy between loud displays of moral piety and the desire to taste the fruits of amoral materialism.
Nevertheless, in Pakistan this dichotomy has been turned into a collective attempt to work it as a synthesis.

The apologist argument in this respect is that being pious doesn’t mean one can’t be materialistic as well. This apologia can be countered in a number of ways, especially when the piety that is being displayed is supposedly following the dictates of a dyed-in-the-wool brand of faith — a brand of piety in which, for example, music may become ‘haram’, but getting paid to endorse a western brand of chips as ‘halaal,’ is fine!

Addressing such convolutions has become the work of televangelists and ‘modern sounding’ preachers.

Their role can be defined as helping mould a workable narrative that is constructed from certain select religious texts and then offered to their audience as an Islamic rationale to survive in the modern material world as a loudly practicing Muslim without feeling guilt or angst.

This dichotomy is then converted into a religiously rationalised normality.

But the question again arises, how constructive has been such an arrangement? It has clearly not turned Pakistan into a better, more law-abiding society than it was before the so-called Islamisation process really kicked in (during the Ziaul Haq dictatorship).

As Ziaul Haq’s ‘Islamise society from above’ process failed to address the utopian expectations of the people for the ‘ideal Islamic state’ that he had promised; and as political and economic corruption further eroded Zia’s regime, the Islamists and various fundamentalist groups that had risen in the 1980s, decided to ‘Islamise society from below.’

The idea was to Islamise all aspects of society so that people will ‘turn from being just Muslims into becoming Islamic.’

Interestingly, the state and the governments even after Zia’s demise allowed this brand of social Islamidation to continue, as long as it didn’t exhibit any overt political ambitions. But it did.

The Islamists and the fundamentalists were free to carry on Islamising social space, so much so that today it has become impossible to escape religious symbolism and rhetoric in even the most traditionally secular spaces and surroundings.

The socialisation of a theologically puritan strain of faith has been an all-encompassing event. Its symbols and rhetoric abound on billboards, in shopping malls, parks, on cars, in buses, drawing rooms, on TV screens, in offices and in everyday lingo.

It seems Pakistanis have lost the capability to separate the religious from the secular.

So what’s wrong with that, some might ask?

Well, this trend has consequently molded a mind-set that has become almost voluntarily vulnerable to the Islamists’ exploitative socio-political manoeuvres.

This might answer the question as to why society throws up its arms in disgust after a drone attack but remains awkwardly quiet every time a terrorist murders scores of common people, cops and soldiers in a suicide blast.

And perhaps that’s why — after being cowed down by so many years of Pakistani state’s and its civilian allies’ ‘Islamic project’ — the Pakistani society may have a ready-made consensus on, say, the dangers of alcohol abuse, but still can’t seem to reconcile to a common consensus on who or what is an extremist.


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Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and He is also the author of two books on the social history of Pakistan, End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (100) Closed

Manojav Sharma May 20, 2012 02:54pm
@Analyze this You have made your point and have liberally buttressed it quoting or referencing books / studies by many reputed people, which is beyond a lay person like me to read and understand. But the point NFP is making is this : has the increase in religiousness / religious symbolism in the Pakistani ( or you may even include Indian ) society, caused a proportional increase in peace, harmony , morality and general well being in the society? For I fear that there is a direct co-relation in the increase in religiousness and people dying due to violence. You may go as long back in history as you may want to; it seems that organised religious dogma has invariably caused more harm than good to humanity. The quest for God should be within your heart. And I would like to quote Kabir here : Tera Sai hai ghat bheetar, bahir naina kyun khole......
Yarana May 20, 2012 03:02pm
Anyone read and listen to NFP and his thought provoking ideas and writings is infact his ally and a supporter if anyone says Pakistan is a failed state I totally disagree,Yes pakistan has major problemswhich is uneducated and totally disfunctional Zia's regime dying breed,Mullah and also KP and fata based terrorist but amazingly things getting better extremly slow but as you can see NFP does not have to hide or anyone else If he critize for anywrong doing by the goverment,it's giant leap forward considering it was not possible just some years ago. GOD BLESS PAKISTN LONG LIVE NFP
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 03:50pm
Western civilization has reached the summit of science and technology. It has achieved knowledge, skills, and new discoveries, as no previous civilization before it. The accomplishments of Western civilization cover all areas of life: methods of organization, politics, ethics, economics, and human rights. It is our obligation to acknowledge its amazing excellence. Indeed, this is a civilization that deserves admiration. … The horrible backwardness in which some nations live is the inevitable result of their refusal to accept this abundance of Western ideas and visions while taking refuge in denial and arrogance." . (Ibrahim al-Buleihi
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 03:24pm
"A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious." -- Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 03:26pm
"We are now only concerned about being "good" without making any attempt to being good to others." = Words to live by, my friend. Thank You.
manish May 20, 2012 03:31pm
you could have kept the argument simpler. not so intellectual people like me also come on this site, and want to participate in discussion, but when your arguments are so hard to understand, i am afraid, you should rephrase the entire thing once again. keep it simple like NFP
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 03:34pm
"Western civilization believes that it is impossible to possess absolute truth and that human perfection is impossible, so man must strive to achieve it while recognizing that it is impossible to reach. Thus it is the only civilization which is constantly growing and constantly reviewing and correcting itself and achieving continuous discoveries. …" . Ibrahim al-Buleihi (Saudi Arabia Sura Council)
manish May 20, 2012 03:36pm
THIS ARGUMENT IS WHAT NFP HAS BEEN WARNING US AGAINST. after all this, you are saying it is not enough. you want more. you will desire it until you make entire pakistani society islamic. and an failure will obviously be dubbed as because of unislamic conduct. i am disappointed with you.
Cyrus Howell May 21, 2012 01:23am
The Nation of Pakistan and the Massachusetts Bay Colony were both founded as quasi religious entities. + "There was no doubt in Winthrop (the lead cleric's) mind that God intended civil governments to be in the hands of men like himself; to entrust the people at large with the powers of government , as in a Greek democracy, was not only unwarranted by Scripture, but dangerous to the peace and well being of the community, for the people at large were unfit to rule... (as ultra religious Muslims believe secularists are unfit to govern) + ...Winthrop and the other English Puritans of the Bay Company were authorized by their charter (from the English king) to exercise absolute powers of government ... assisted by a philosophy of government which clothed every civil ruler in the armor of divine authority... ...The most dangerous tendency among the Saints of Massachusetts was not excessive liberty, but excessive purity."
Nizar May 21, 2012 01:23am
"When a group.........right to fight the state" Really! and you fight the state by killing innocent people by suicide bombing in Marketplace, in Mosques, Girls School and the list goes on and on.
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 03:52pm
That is fair criticism.
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 03:56pm
"Let America realize self scrutiny is not treason. Self examination is not disloyalty." . Richard Cardinal Cushing of New York
Mike rauf May 20, 2012 03:56pm
On the spot as always NFP. There is nothing wrong in being very religious, true believer or whatever. What is wrong is the hate & malice for the other Figah. In the race of supremacy ( partly finaced by Saudi, UAE & Iran)., the situation is disastrous, even suicidal.
Shakoor Alam May 20, 2012 03:56pm
Dear Zeeshan, be patient.I don't know where do you live but in Lahore,there is a green belt all around the walled city.Now you can find many illegally constructed mosques and Dini Mudhrasas etc at outside Shairanawala gate(a lavishly constructed musjid by a notorious land grabber-Qooma Kasai),Musti gate, Bhati gate(a huge building of mudhrasa),Lohari gate(famous Muslim Musjid), Daihli gate( a musjid right in the round about) etc etc. NFP is just trying to realize us about these religious encroachments.
Abdul Rauf May 20, 2012 03:56pm
so in other words... more pious, not better ...but it is not piety either. Let's get this straight, the pakistani society is not pious.
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 04:00pm
If one cannot criticize Islam, so one cannot criticize himself. There can be no corrections possible. "I thought I was wrong once. That was the only time I was ever wrong."
guest May 20, 2012 04:10pm
The is no comparison between NFP & Dr Naik ,a cleric who is suppose to promote & defend his fiqa. You know well ,what clerics are expected to do!
indiajones May 20, 2012 04:11pm
Scratch anyone in South Asia, and you will find some form of religious feeling oozing out, even if it's an imperfectly understood version of whatever that faith is. The first PM of India, Nehru, understood this, and knew that he could get his points across only with mixed metaphors, like: " Dams are the temples of modern India " - that socialist economics, equitable distribution of resources, and feeding empty stomachs mattered more than any sunshine-moonshine road to salvation or jannat. Way to go, NFP ! I look forward to the day when visitors to our countries will marvel at our achievements, every which way.
Zafar May 20, 2012 04:16pm
I would disagree that only Urdu readers are conservative. Conservatism is seen in all walks of life. I am not against practicing Islam, but I am against cramming one's personal brand of Islam down other's throats.
F Khan May 20, 2012 10:19am
Articles such as this one should appear on urdu print media because the major problems lies in the urdu reading, conservative practicing muslims. It will then be more effective. I do not agree mostly with NFP but this is a brave attempt-to write agianst a prevaling mind set which is in denail.
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 03:10pm
Bertolt Brecht was declared a "non German" citizen by Adolf Hitler. So was Eric Maria Remarke the author of the anti war novel All Quiet on the Western Front.
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 03:13pm
There would also be free tickets for all of Pakistan's national team's cricket matches.
Abdul Rauf May 20, 2012 02:16pm
I am not too sure NFP understands what piety is, because if he did the topic of the article would make no sense to him.
Sara A.K May 20, 2012 04:28pm
The author's arguments are so baseless that it's actually funny! One could correlate the rise in crime to a million different things and find a positive correlation! How about the growth in the population! Or the number of people below the poverty line! Or the number of computers or the number of cell phones! You could get a positive correlation for all these things plus anything you wanted! As far as the pervasiveness of religion in public's because the PUBLIC wants to see religion there that's why it's displayed! You claim to fight against oppression and for democracy but you don't have the guts to tolerate the majority's mandate! It's people like you who preach equall rights and a liberal society but can't stand those who differ from them especially when it comes to the religion and secularization debate. You need to understand what true liberalism is! I agree with your opinions on extremism but you tend to label all of religion as a form of extremism and that's where your mistaken
Imadullah May 20, 2012 04:39pm
I think you've jumped the gun. First of all, his point is that the mandate to Islamize social space in Pakistan was not achieved through a democratic process but either from above, such as the state, or from below, such as fundamentalist organizations. And his argument is pretty simple: If the Islamization of society was meant to make society better in the spheres of morality, economics, politics, etc., than did it? NFP thinks this proccess had actually corrupted the whole idea of piety and faith. I tend to agree with him. You may find this as 'actually funny' too, but guess who's having the last laugh? NFP.
Imadullah May 20, 2012 04:43pm
Also, NFP should now also include in his sharp thesis the infiltration of obscurantist forces to control cyber space as well. Take the recent examples of banning Facebook and Twitter, supposedly on religious grounds.
Mustafa Hussain May 20, 2012 12:07pm
Sad, but a true outlook on excessive display of religious symbolism in the public spheres and space. It is eroding the distinction between the sacred and profane. My hat off for NFP!
kayenn May 20, 2012 11:57am
There is still some hope !!!!
Suhas Polumak May 20, 2012 02:29pm
We see the same type of ad-hominem criticisms by Indians on Naqvi's despatches from Delhi. One must debate the op-ed opinions and not the person. I think this is a specially endemic South-Asian malaise.
from the UK May 20, 2012 11:43am
The greatest example of secularism is America. It has launched three wars in the last decade, killed millions of people and left the countries in ruin. I do not see secularism very viable in Pakistan. The government of the PPP can be seen as secular, yet they have riddled this country with corruption, hunger and lack of basic amenities. Islam in Pakistan is not being implemented properly; all our problems would be over. Had it been implemented fully, there would not be a dog in Pakistan without food or water. There would be free healthcare and education for everyone. There would be a social system for the unemployed and disabled.
Kuppuji May 20, 2012 11:46am
It is clear that when a nation's majority is from a particular faith, and a majority of the majority tries its best to concur social space, it produces a kind of society that gets "outraged by a drone attack but is awkwardly silent " when many of the faith get slaughtered through suicide attacks by practitioners of the same faith. Perhaps a compulsory curriculum in high schools/colleges in area studies would help in understanding how other societies tackle this kind of problem. And, as usual, NFP has nailed the problem without being preachy.
zeeshan May 20, 2012 02:30pm
my point of view is that, you can not ask people to limit their religious practices. if social evils are increasing stop them by proper measures.
Cyrus Howell May 20, 2012 03:03pm
"criminal activity comes back down to the fact of us having lax laws and not tackling poverty. Thus people will have to steal to feed their family. " This is an oversimplification. You don't know criminals. Don't get in the way of them stealing or they will kill you. Why do you think people fear criminals? You give them the power over you if you don't take away their power. The USA has millions of men in prison for a reason. "It is just another way of saying I don't want anything done if I have to get involved."
from the UK May 20, 2012 11:43am
The author bemoans Islam socially and states that Islam has failed as a system altogether. Yet he presents secularism as the most viable option for Pakistan. First of all the criminal activity comes back down to the fact of us having lax laws and not tackling poverty. Thus people will have to steal to feed their family. The reason why people are so reactive about drone attacks is because its seen as a violation of our sovereignty. Of course all acts of terrorism are wrong i.e. all the suicide blasts, but it comes back down to our failed foreign policy. We are subservient to America and we will have to do what they say. We have no independent thought and what is the best policy for Pakistan in the long run.
Tahir May 20, 2012 08:05pm
We are so so lost.
Farina May 20, 2012 06:24pm
@amarnawaz "He is PPP undercover" LOL! Buddy, first of all NFP has never hidden the fact that he is a PPP admirer or for that matter also a supporter of MQM, ANP and Sindhi and Blaoch nationalist parties. He is a proud secular Muslim and a fierce democrat. You better stop reading spy novels. And if you want to know what is a secular Muslim, think of Jinnah.
Syed Ali Raza Shah May 20, 2012 11:12am
Thank you NFP! Great article, very well written and right on its mark! It was a real pleasure reading an explanation of the social erosion in terms of applied sociological theory. Great work! Hats up to you!
Kris May 20, 2012 05:56pm
Hypocrisy rules supreme in Pakistan, unfortunately.
Cheema May 20, 2012 05:38pm
The issue of drones is not as simple as NFP thinks. It does kill innocent people alongwith a few militants, creates anger and revengeful sentiments. When a group of people is angry and THEY feel the state is not doing enough to protect them, they believe it is right to fight against the state. Anger clouds rational thinking. The solution to our economic situation is electing a trustworthy government not the the corrupt lot as we have today. A government that prioritises education, health and development of indigenous energy resources. Religion can achieve social progress not an economic progress. We people have to do our part. It is critically important to elect a better government, shun the ethnic, provincial and religious prejudices, work hard and be patient. Yes we have become an intolerant society but it is due to our failure to understand Islam which teaches tolerance towards followers of all religions. NFP I am sorry that you feel this way about Islam.
Sunil May 20, 2012 10:26am
@Ali: Rational arguments don't usually work with/on religious people. Otherwise, there would be no religious people. ~ Dr. Greg House
Pradip May 20, 2012 06:05pm
Aziz May 20, 2012 06:05pm
NFP means well. But still his 'articulations' come out as peddling his beliefs in the ideology bazar. There are many countries where Islam is not the 'offender' and yet they are poor despite being secular. Take Cuba. Take our neighbour as well. One cannot establish positive correlation (even this has yet to be established in any society) between religion encroaching the 'secular space' and the ills of that society. NFP's prescription are at best naiive and superficial. The progress and happiness of a society depends on the will of the people being implemented. In Pakistan either there is military dictatorship or there are rubber stamp parliament more akin to a bourse than as the highest law-making institution of a destitute, helpless but nevertheless hopeful nation. NFP must continue to write. I may or may not agree with him. But then both of us understand well that the 'public space' needs to be defined by the nation collectively , not by NFP or by the likes of me.
Frizzy May 20, 2012 06:06pm
Dear Amran Nawaz, NFP's father was NOT an ambassador. He was a journalist. And who told you NFP is campaigning for ambassadorship? I think you eaten a bit too much of the grass NFP wrote about last week.
Ashish May 20, 2012 10:54am
What a perfect description and analysis NFP. Kudos to you. you have hit bull's eye that no matter , unless and until , you are "PURE" from your heart , no matter , how many times you pray or be in touch with God , all is useless. This is a materialistic world and we have to balance our daily routine with this materialistic world. There will always be available new things , which will attract us and it is us who must decide our boundaries. It is also true that the capitalism has brought all this change. The valley between rich and poor has deepened more and more and due to this , the acts of Robery, abduction and looting has increased "n" folds. but if the upbringing of the society is rational , it can be stopped as in the case of western world. but overall , a very exemplary attempt to highlight the issue. The line "It seems Pakistanis have lost the capability to separate the religious from the secular" says it all. You must have to keep this two seperate otherwise the country will go in drain.
amarnawaz May 20, 2012 05:51pm
Dear commenters; Nadeem paracha father was russian ambassador in ZAB regime. He is PPP under cover. He is next candidate for ambbassador post. Did nadeem paracha ever wrote a column abt the ideal governnace of ppp.
Anuj May 20, 2012 08:46am
There is a major reason for hope in this article, and it is not in NFP's words alone. The fact that a very large number continue to support a secular space through endorsing NFP, and that a very large and growing number continue to believe in Dawn, is the key take away. It means the forces that believe that tokenism and religious right "prescriptions" alone shall not save the soul of the people, is growing. They maybe good Muslims, but they also have a mind of their own which allows them to look beyond the excesses which many religious torch bearers are prone to give a nod for, just in the name of religion(and mind you, give it a bad name sometimes).
Muqarrib May 20, 2012 08:48am
If Mr. Paracha had given any logic or presented any argument I would have certainly responded to it. But as always his present article is also filled with mere statements and devoid of any substance. Agree?
arifa May 20, 2012 08:48am
If his kind was capable of indulging in a healthy and constructive discourse, Pakistan would probably be in a better state today.
Capt Mansur May 20, 2012 09:53am
True. I have lived through all these times and felt exactly like NFP. They say these days Corruption is my job / bussiness and Praying is my Faith. Sad.
zeeshan May 20, 2012 08:52am
so the nfp thinks that, we should not go to the Masjids to counter terrorism? by doing this terrorism fill finish? drones attacks will stop?
Bhatti May 20, 2012 08:57am
Agree with Junaid. The criticism that NFP faces is usually extremely weak. It is full of impulsive anger and judgments against his faith and patriotism. What the religious lobby and rightwing Imran Khan types need is a NFP in their ranks. Someone who can challenge NFP with the same kind of wit, insight and punch that he uses to push forward his secular views.
Cheema May 20, 2012 05:21pm
There are some black sheep in the guise of pious people. Militants often use religious cover and somehow justify abductions, murders, looting of banks. But it is absolutely wrong to attribute all the ills in Pakistan to religion or spread of mosques. NFP is actually trying to make people believe that religion or praying or being pious is wrong. NFP is equating Islam with ills. Why was it that in the Prophet Mohammad's era Muslims took care of each other, gave charity to poor people, freed slaves and became a socially advanced united nation. Pakistan did not progress not because its people (infact only a small minority) started going to mosques. Our poor condition is because of not following the islamic teachings (majority of which are common to all major religions). How could NFP conclude that people who are going to mosques are committing crimes. It may the the people who are not going to mosques. Thanks to our corrupt rulers we are poorer, more unemployed, less tolerant now than 30 years ago and these are the causes of todays crimes. NFP please stop propaganda against any religion including Islam. All religions deserve respect.
aaa May 20, 2012 10:37am
The problem is not the laws or the idea problem is who is misusing it and how. As long as humans will be there they will always use different thought pattern to get what they want. Mostly what i have seen is 1)Im religious if its in my benefit. 2)Im totally liberal/secular as in this matter right here it suits me. 3)And yes this month im traditional as something just came up and it suits me. Motive is often money or some material gain or status.
Haji Ashfaq May 20, 2012 09:10am
Your articles draw the comments most. Also mean that more read them. So far so good. If you can write sensible articles like this, why go funny and absurd like 'grass eaters'. The Irony of our nation and society is that We dont practice what we preach. Had been to Civic Centre - Karachi where staff come as late as 1PM and hardly after a few minutes in the office - go for prayers - then lunch. Attend files/individuals where 'rishwat' is expected and time to go home ! It is same all over Pakistan. Wah re Pakistan.
Indian May 20, 2012 09:17am
There is a difference between following your religion and ostentatiously displaying it. You need not make the whole world aware that you are a Muslim. You know it best. Also, he has been making himself quite clear that More Islamizaiton is not the solution to Pakistan's problem. In fact, de-Islamization is the key. Think rationally, and not religiously.
Farhan May 21, 2012 12:27am
One of the biggest pitfall in statistical co-relation is that one starts finding causality. You are right to point out that rise in crime and hypocrisy can be co-related to many things but causality is different to prove. NFP is doing blunder by thinking causality here. I don't understand that if PA system is used for Azaan, what's the problem. How come secular space is threatened by it. In west, anyone is allowed to establish mosque, churches or any place of worship and such religious laxities are part of secularism. Secularism vs Religion is no debate as long as religion is not used as an instrument of governance. You are clearly mixing up things NFP
Indian May 20, 2012 09:20am
Do you think rhetoric can stand logic? Do you think Dr Zakir Naik can answer his cross-questions?
pankajdehlavi May 20, 2012 09:32am
Muqarrib May 20, 2012 09:47am
If Mr. Paracha had given any logic or presented any argument I would have certainly responded to it. But as always his present article is also filled with mere statements and devoid of any substance. Agree? Why blame my kind when Pakistan was for the greatest part ruled by staunch secularists and liberals like Iskander Mirza, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Z A Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf, and the present regime is as secular and liberal as they come. Secularists and liberals are the only ones to be mostly blamed for the mess Pakistan is in.
IWatchedItFall May 20, 2012 06:38pm
@Analyze this, I fear it is rather difficult to take you seriously given your choice of callsign (which I think betrays your real intent with this post). Not to mention that personally I find it hard to take any opinion with the term "post modernist" seriously, but then that's just me of course. All I would like to say is, I believe NFP's intention with this piece was to deliberately reach out to the regular folk, you know, the ones who read the dailies, and voice an opinion which is very much derived from a personal world-view, rather than academic research or social commentary informed by adherence to any given philosophical doctrine; therefore if you are disappointed with the level of sophisticated analysis or academic / intellectual value of this piece, you were probably looking in the wrong place. As you can see by the rest of the comments on this page, the common-folk seem to have taken to it well.
Nizar May 21, 2012 01:32am
Which Islam are you talking about? The obscurantist Wahabist, Barellis, Deobandis or what? There is no one interpretation of Islam. Followers of one branch cannot even Pray together with someone belonging to a different interpretation of Islam. They attack each others mosques, kill each other-all in the name of their form of Islam.
kdp May 20, 2012 11:51pm
UK a secular country that you chose to reside in, has most of those Good things you believe Islam can bring
Tauheed Ahmed May 21, 2012 02:02am
General Zia did not need Aristotle to tell him this. He had figured this out all by himself.
Yawar B. May 20, 2012 08:40am
Though I don't always agree with him, but there is no doubt that NFP is at the front line of the battle of ideas being fought for the soul of Pakistan. Yes, his opponents are far larger in numbers, but he has some very strong allies as well, such as Pervez Hoodbhoy, Najam Sethi, Hasan Nisar and Saroop Ijaz. But NFP has been the most consistent and to me he seems right to suggest that faith is better and more real when it's a private matter but gets corrupted and distorted when enforced upon a government and the public.
rabia May 20, 2012 08:41am
very true.
Aamir Younis May 20, 2012 11:02pm
Jinnah was British Empire under cover, don't you know that story ;)
Aamir Younis May 20, 2012 11:07pm
The problems we are facing now can only be traced back to Zia time. Zia was not secular. The klashinkov culture, madrassahs for militancy, secterian killings, lashkars, Sippahs, insurgency into other countries by religious groups based in Pakistan, it all started with Zia. The problems seculars produced do not annihilate a nation but slow down their progress. What Zia did would destroy Pakistan in the next few years. In Pakistan, a Muslim kills another Muslim in the name of Islam, where goes the two nation theory of sub-continent when now in India Muslims are safer than in Pakistan from their fellow Muslims?
Analyze this May 20, 2012 12:52pm
There is a difference between an analysis and a apologetic argument. I appreciate the views expressed by the writer because I believe that every one should have the rights and the opportunities to express themselves. However, the text contains no analytical sophistication that can be taken as or presented as a challenge for further intellectual pursuit. For those who want to pursue a study of secularism , traditions, modernity and debates about role and definition of religion I would recommend the following readings: "Conversion to Modernities" edited by Peter van der Veer. "Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity " by Talal Asad as a start. Now to the problems in the texts. First the writer has a very naive and one sided view of modernity, tradition,secularism and religion. This view is informed by a commitment to liberal rationalist theory. There is nothing wrong with that theory or any commitment to it, but a balanced view should take into account the difference of opinions between the adherents of that theory, the critique by scholars who have criticized this theory not on any religious basis but due to their own adherence to different philosophical and theoretical approaches. Post modernist critique of modernity by french authors like Lyotard , Barthes, Foucault as well as socialist neo marxist critique of connection between certain modernity and capitalism by writers such as Althusser and Gramsci cannot be ignored when talking about what is modernity, secularism and what is the relationship between religion as a discourse. These gentlemen were atheist. When someone defends a religion and gives essentialized examples or arguments based on a very consolidated view of religious doctrine without taking into account the diversity and debate within a single religious discourse, their approach is good material for rhetoric but has no academic value. Similarly, a simplistic approach to any ideology, religious or non religious, without tackling the complex developmental history of that ideology has no academic value. What the writer of this text is doing is preaching a certain ideology that he likes on the basis of certain theoretical postulates that can strengthen his arguments. But the debates surrounding these postulates are not part of his intellectual universe. Or if they are he is not addressing them. This behaviour is also manifest in religious scholars who preach their version of religious ideology and history and do not expose their clients or students or audiences to the internal debates of their ideologies. Nonetheless, as i said, everyone has a right to express their views even if these views have no real intellectual value and have an overdose of rhetorical value.
Muqarrib May 20, 2012 07:10am
If Nadeem Paracha's name is removed from the article and replaced with Robert Spencer, Ann coulter, or Daniel Pipes no one will know the difference. Spencer, Coulter, and Pipes have a competition now.
Israr May 20, 2012 07:24am
Excellent, very brave. Our standards of being good have been forcefully entangled with hollow rhetoric in such a sustained manner that stating of the obvious (like this article) starts to look brave. We are now only concerned about being "good" without making any attempt to being good to others.
Caz May 20, 2012 07:24am
Pakistan's salvation is to reconnect with its bigger and better part India. One hopes jinnah is turning in his grave!
Junaid M May 20, 2012 07:35am
A sharp critique of those who think that forcing religious rituals and symbols upon society would make it better. NFP is right,all this has done is to make society hypocritical and use religion to defend the society's not so pious acts.
Junaid M. May 20, 2012 07:38am
Is this the best you could say in your response to the questions raised by NFP? That's why a freind of mine was right when he once said that the strength of NFP's arguments lie in the weakness of the criticism he usually gets. Come on you could do better than this. Take him on intellectually, not like a sour loser.
Aneeq Sohaib May 20, 2012 07:40am
“The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out "stop!" When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.” ? Bertolt Brecht
Aamir Younis May 20, 2012 11:00pm
And this exactly what the writer says, Islam has been exploited and distorted by Zia just to stay in power.
ali May 20, 2012 07:59am
I want some religious scholar to answer this. And please be rational in your rebuttal.
Aamir Younis May 20, 2012 10:58pm
The unfortunate are the innocent people who die in drone attacks. Those who use drones, do not intend to kill them, but the few terrorists sitting along side. They still launch it and kill all. Majority of those in Pakistan who are crying for these innocent people have no concern for them, but for the terrorists who were killed. Since they cannot cry for the terrorists, they use the guise of these innocent to seek protection for the terrorists. These poor people are unfortunate as no one cares for them. Why have we failed to understand Islam? What was wrong with the understanding of Islam before Zia? You are approving NFP's point that Zia because Pakistan was still Islamic republic and better before Zia. Zia simply exploited Islam's name by calling himself " Islam ka Mujahid (warrior of Islam)" and dragged the country into this ditch. There were ethnic differences in Pakistan as in other countries but Zia added sectarianism to the list which was not there before him.
Once Bitten May 21, 2012 02:48am
Pakistan is being used as a 'Bad Example" to the rest of the world. The state it is in is a warning to other nations to Keep Religion Out when You are Administering a Country......
raja Aamir May 20, 2012 04:31am
This is serious, NFP how you feel's today!!!
Devendra May 20, 2012 08:58pm
programmingdrone May 20, 2012 10:04pm
Agree with NFP. Making the wolf wear the sheep's skin doesn't turn the wolf into a sheep.
Allama Iqbal May 20, 2012 04:58am
Aqal-o-Dil-o-Nigah Ka Murshid-e-Awaleen Hai Ishq Ishq Na Ho Tou Sharaa-o-Deen, Bott Khudda'ay Tasawwarat Intellect, heart and vision, all must take their first lessons from Love— Religion and the religious law breed idols of illusion if there is no Love. Love for God All-Mighty. Shair-e-Mushriq(Poet of the East), Muffakir-e-Pakistan ("The Inceptor of Pakistan") and Hakeem-ul-Ummat("The Sage of the Ummah")
Marvi Junaid May 20, 2012 05:32am
This is a swift and insightful look at the religious-materialism quagmire we have been stuck in for many years now. I agree with NFP when he suggests that secular space needs to be protected so that a healthy balance between the religious and the secular can be struck. Also, yes, I too agree that the religionization of society has not made us into better people, in fact, as NFP suggests, society has become more hypocritical.
Pradeep May 20, 2012 05:41am
Being pious doesn't mean you are a good human and that's a fact. Today's extremists are great example for it.
observer May 20, 2012 06:12am
islam is a software that gives societies like pakistan and saudi arabia. If thats what people of pakistan want to become more then its their choice and in the process become even a more failed state
abdal May 21, 2012 03:22am
I just cannot digest the argument of religious encroachments. Are the authorities in REM( a stage in sleep cycle) when these so called encroachments are being made? or are have these authorities turned blind eye over these encroachments? One must take cognizance of the fact that apart from all the corruption persisting in our government system, we do find some departments who are active in performing their duties. The construction of a structure over a land cannot commence until an approval is obtained. This is all insane saying that an encroachment was made. The relevant authorities know whats going on their area. I am really sorry Shakoor Alam Sahab over your comments. People should not be misguided over this particular issue. Thanks
N Ahmed May 20, 2012 07:51am
Great article. I wish such column couuld also be published in the urdu media which is read and understood by ~ 98 percent of the population·
Devendra May 20, 2012 09:05pm
In commenting on the author's last article on Pakistanis eating grass to have the "Bum," I asked the author a question. That still stands (repeated). Have you, NFP, considered running for public office? You can do the greatest service to Pakistan by being in a position of power to steer it to sanity. I am tired of writing/saying - EXCELLENT, BRAVE, GREAT, HONEST, WELL ANALYZED, TRUTHFUL, SCHOLALRLY......WHICH YOUR ARTICLES ALWAYS ARE.
umer May 20, 2012 06:55am
when I was growing up In my little village in remote KPK, we had just one mosque in a 15 Kms radius.We were tight-net contented community and there was abundance of love and happiness. People would kill for honor surely but not in order to rob or abduct someone.In the space of last 20-25 years I've witnessed "mosques' crop up everywhere.There now is one mosque for every two households.What's more, these places are full of worshipers five times a day.In most instances these projects are supported by wealthy and corrupt state officials.Recently my neighbor,who is an official of Pakistan customs and excise department had a divine inspiration to fund the construction of yet another mosque.Sadly though the incidence of crimes has increased in direct proportion to the rate of Islamisation. Robery, abduction and looting, unheard-of in the good old days are a daily occurrence now.On the other hand votaries of the islamic parties insist that all our socio-political and economic ills are due to lack of islamisation.
Usman May 21, 2012 07:56am
Well said!
Insomniac May 21, 2012 08:00am
Running a public office might not work for NFP. Its not his space and understandbly too. You can't expect Harsha Bhogle to go and Bat on the field just because he know each and every bit of the game.
Insomniac May 21, 2012 08:08am
lol... good one frizzy...
pankajdehlavi May 21, 2012 06:45pm
Secularist in Islamic republic of Pakistan ?? what a joke ? Forget India, but at least you can learn from your break away eastern part about: what is secularism. They now know what is its meaning and why is it required.
Ahmad Nadeem May 21, 2012 08:37pm
NFPs favourite secular heroes, MQM supremo who has become a permanent resident of London has only telephonic contacts with his ethnic followers, other now heading presidency, by all counts & polls has popularity less than 15 %. Who is there to invigorate secularism as opposed to Islamism ?
Busaiff May 22, 2012 11:09am
Well, i just though to find what Allah is saying us in the Noble Quran with regards to rule and rulers. please find the interpretation of the meanings of some verses of the Noble Quran.__2: 208 O you who believe! Enter perfectly in Islam (by obeying all the rules and regulations of the Islamic religion) and follow not the footsteps of Shaitan (Satan). Verily! He is to you a plain enemy._5:44. Verily, We did send down the Taurat (Torah) (to Moosa (Moses)), therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to Allahs Will, judged the Jews. And the rabbis and the priests (too judged the Jews by the Taurat (Torah) after those Prophets) for to them was entrusted the protection of Allahs Book, and they were witnesses thereto. Therefore fear not men but fear Me (OJews) and sell not My Verses for a miserable price. And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the Kafiroon.__The message continues....
ashar May 22, 2012 06:56pm
You see Muqarrib, You have most dislikes than likes on your comment. Because this is a forum of NFP, clearly inclined and absolutely biased.
Karachi Wala May 23, 2012 04:15pm
I would love to see this article to appear in Urdu media. Yet, I can not be that cruel as I want NFP to live long. Majority's brain that follows Urdu media in any shape or form has been corrupted beyond repair. For all this we are indebted to the policies and education system that was adopted as a state during the Golden era of Zia ul Huq that allowed state to convert Muslims to Ziaism. Zia has long gone but no one had the guts to touch his legacy. Not even so called liberals and leftists like PPP and ANP.
Ganz May 27, 2012 11:06pm
Only solution is to get out of this religious obsession .
Ganz May 27, 2012 11:11pm
Why do you expect leaders to bring about the change? Look around your neighbourhood and a little bit from every individual to promote communal harmony and tolerances towards other faiths would go long way in promoting secularism.
ganz May 27, 2012 11:29pm
I love the way NFP provokes logical reasoning among the common pakistanis ,who are now willing to look beyond their religious veils and not hesitant to take on the logical course to reason out things. These days the positive comments from the readers are more interesting than the article itself. But still the credit goes to NFP. Looks like slowly he is winning..but he must be saying to himself that "miles to go before I sleep" . keep coming NFP! - love from India