Introducing secularism in Pakistan for dummies

The English press, opinion pieces, blogposts, comments are going nuts over secularism saying that our cause of all our ills is too much religion or religion in the mainstream resulting in creation of Talibans and their efforts to impose Sharia over night. So what is the solution of the Secularoons (if I may call them as such): impose secularism overnight by whatever mean i.e., revolution of masses, martial law, striking off all religious references from constitution in an instant.

You know from my various writings that I am a right wing person (loosely defined as someone not believing in secularism in Pakistan) however looking at the frustration and desperation of the Secularoons I have decided to offer them some words of advice or pearls of wisdom.

I have mentioned it earlier however it is worth mentioning again that its the secularoons own fault that we and they are in this rut. It all can be summarized in one sentence

It’s the education, stupid

They need to ask themselves is where did we go wrong as the country did not become right wing over night. Religion has slowly crept into it and now,  in addition to middle classes, infects significant numbers in upper classes (the funding for extremism comes from here) and lower classes (the workers, suicide bombers come from here).

It all would have started when the secular leaders of this country, mind you they were all secular with the exception of Zia and NS,  never did anything for the education of masses or even for their welfare. When a whole section of society had been ignored, they had no where to go for food, shelter, education, career etc. This is where Madrassas came in. Though one may not agree with the kind of education or career (being a molvi, tableeghi, jihadi) madrassas provided but one has to realize this was the best option available to these people. The people running madrassas worked day and night, raised funds in Pakistan from ordinary people, from government and even from foreign governments. The secular governments in Pakistan were happy as this kept a lot of trouble makers (rather a portion of population) from demanding their rights in education, jobs.

The model was so successful that such madrassas started mushrooming and the governments became happier for they now need not worry about providing education and opportunities to large number of people. Over a period of decades madrassas have produced a critical mass of right wingers.

Religion has also rubbed on to people in the middle classes and upper classes with a result that recently they have established education institutes for middle income and upper income people where again religious education is emphasised  e.g., Generation, Al Huda, Iqra etc.

Fine there have been plethora of Grammar schools and schools opened in last decade which are not religious but they are not secular either. They are for-profit institutions whose job is to help student cram the maximum and move on to next class.

Where have been the secularoons all this time? Except for Citizen Foundation, they have been totally absent. Only thing they worry about is Sharia does not allow mixing of sexes, drinking is prohibited in Islam etc and they can write pages and pages on it. However, when it comes to working on the ground and working towards eliminating creeping religiosity, they are conspicuously absent.

In 6 decades this that this country has been in existence, it has been ruled by Secularoons (politicians, military or bureaucracy) for 4.5 decades and they never really promoted what they believed in through proper channels.

A lot of people blame Zia for bringing in radicalization whereas more learned say that it started in 1950s. Whenever it started, it took some time for religion to take hold. Similarly, it will take some time and effort to release the nation from its  strangle. If you are really serious about introducing secularism in the form that you believe in, stop writing in the limited readership blogs and newspapers, set up schools and education centers for the masses where you teach them your values. It will take 3 to 4 decades to clean this up but Pakistan is not going anywhere. The conditions that we are in, nobody is willing to run over us or rule us (not US and I am sure not even Indians).

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One thought on “Introducing secularism in Pakistan for dummies

  1. A very nicely written article. I agree that the major cause of overindulgence of religion in socio-political matters is education. But we cannot rule out the effects of some other minor factors also, like Salafism, influence of scholars and mass media etc. And aside from Madrassahs the curriculum of our public schools also needs to be overhauled.

    As you mentioned that the failed leadership in Pakistan can be one reason for the absence of secularism but what bothers me is the fact that it’s not just about Pakistan. All the Muslim-majority states and especially the democratic ones tend to favor religion more compared to a secular dispensation e.g. Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia etc.

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