Can secularism help Pakistan?

Published: September 13, 2011

Secularism must be embraced and should not be perceived as a threat to religion.

The vox populi says “no”, and I understand that most readers would hold fast to this sentiment with earnest sagacity regardless of what I write here. But recognizing that this debate has been re-invoked by a popular article “Secularism does not equal tolerance”  about secularism not being a necessary prerequisite to religious tolerance, I beg to state my own case.

Firstly, I must stress (as many secularists do) that secularism is not an anti-religious system. It merely stipulates that the state affairs must not be influenced by religion, in acknowledgement of the fact that a nation is a collection of citizens with different religions, and putting one group’s religious laws on the pedestal would be unfair to the rest, who would want their own religious values to be prioritized.

Secularism is not an experimental model. It’s a tried-and-tested system that has consistently yielded splendid results. To emphasize this point, I’d like to talk about something I learned from an Irish friend of mine.

The image of Ireland following its independence and almost all the way up till the 70’s was a dismal one. With the Catholic group in power, an iron-fisted censorship board was established that banned films and magazines at the slightest hint of blasphemous or “immoral” content, and the artists and writers involved in these acts were punished.  Professors were frequently mistreated for teaching concepts which were not considered in line with the orthodox Christian beliefsReligious minorities faced unfathomable horrors as they were discriminated against by their government as well as the people.

The results of this system were abysmal. The Irish film and art industry was left strangled, and the state of education was atrocious. The state of women worsened and religious minority populations began to dwindle. The country developed a reputation as a terrorist state, known well around Europe as the home of IRA and religious fundamentalists. This tarnished image quickly became the bane of Irish migrants in UK, who reported widespread discrimination and bigotry against them.

Prominent Irish Catholics blamed this failure on improper implementation of Christian dicta, arguing that since these religious laws worked perfectly well for the Rome-dominated western Europe of the 13th century (regarded as the golden age of Christianity), there’s no reason why they shouldn’t for modern Ireland.

Do these circumstances sound familiar?

With the secular revolution in the 1970’s, Ireland was quickly transformed from a backward European nation to a progressive, prosperous state. A remarkable reduction was observed in the level of religious intolerance, the art industry began to thrive and Ireland’s global image received a boost in inverse relation to the level of discrimination faced by Irish people abroad.

Ireland is just one example. The failures of Pakistan despite fervent Islamization are no indication of the inefficacy of Islam laws, which largely promote religious harmony and unity. It has been observed by prominent scholars and theologians that many edicts that are passed off as Islamic commandments these days have little to do with Islam itself, but rather the socio-cultural model of 7th -10th century Arabia. The same Arabic laws that did wonders for Muslims in the golden age a thousand years back may require some revision if they are to work just as well in the 21st  century paradigm, where things have changed significantly.

This evolution must be embraced, not perceived as a threat to our religious values. A secular system of governance is not a hindrance to the Islamic faith, but an assurance that each one of us can practice his/her religion freely without being discriminated against or provided special privileges on the basis of our religious convictions (or lack thereof).

This is, coincidentally, what the father of our nation implied in his address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947:

“You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

The author of the article I alluded to in the beginning claims that religious tolerance can be achieved sans secularism. Perhaps so, but that noble task is markedly more onerous when the dialogue is initiated with the words:

 “Our country’s laws shall be based on my religious beliefs, because they are superior to your beliefs. Now, let us talk about equality and tolerance!”


Can secularism help Pakistan?

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Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • M Ali Khan

    and the “secularism is against two-nation theory and a conspiracy against Muslims of Pakistan” wagon to begin in 3…2…1….Recommend

  • Haseeb

    Excellent article! I’m going to share this on my blog. Recommend

  • H Javed

    THANK YOU for making sense and talking reason. I, for one, am completely with you.Recommend

  • umair

    sometimes this newspaper comes up with masterpieces such as these. bravo! good to see some sane minded people here.Recommend

  • Ameer

    Great article! Pakistan needs to become secular if we want to restore sanity to this nation. It was predominately secular before the 70’s, which were such a peaceful time, where people didn’t kill and discriminate on the basis of religion.Recommend

  • Saleem Khan

    I agree, great article. Only secularism can help and people perceptions need to be changed.Recommend

  • sars

    im going to agree with all of you and hope we are not drowned in the sea of people who made up their minds what to write at reading the word “secularism”Recommend

  • Rock

    There many people who believe since India is secular [religon is personal thing], pakistan can not become secular it is not in national interest of pakistan. Guys after 65 years you feel secularism is national threat then nothing to discuss here. I am glad India is secular atleat I live in mature society. In last 10 years Indians are becoming much more mature helping the entire civilisation. Recommend

  • Syed M Haider

    Author defined it right ” state without a religion”, but that secularism was an inevitable result of the corrupt face of religion that was presented by Christianity. The Cathedral was corrupt, immoral, and devoid of care for the suffering masses. Being fed up by the state of affairs, people started abhorring religion, hence secularism was born!!
    The equation is simple: When Europe left its religion(altered Christianity), they prospered; and when Muslim world left it’s pure Divine code(that essentially is social-guide as well as an individual ), they faltered and are still treading on the same path.
    religious tolerance & democracy can best be seen in the first Muslim state of Madina: Rule of the majority(Muslims) with all the due rights to the minority groups, including freedom of practising their own religion!!Recommend

  • toobahatif

    we got this state in the name of Islam so let it be an Islamic state.. even if it is just for the sake of title. Only change Pakistan need is in its constitution and strategies..
    what good being secular state did to India?? Nill.. A large population is living below the poverty line soo secularism is not the answer for Pakistan’s problems…Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Good article, but you should’ve addressed the infamous “The purpose of Pakistan is Islam” argument, which is very common.

    Pakistan was made to allow Muslims a homeland where they could practice their religion freely and peacefully. A secular state provides just that, except that it allows grants the same rights to other religious groups. Unless you believe that the purpose of Pakistan’s creation was to allow ONLY Muslims to practice their religion openly and peacefully, secularism is the way to go.

    To damn the minorities by saying that only we can flaunt our religious laws through the state constitution while they have to practice theirs in private, is grave injustice.Recommend

  • Shumaila

    *cheers * Mr Talat, you speak sense always and you do so with such eloquence. I cannot agree with you more here. Thank you SO much for writing about this topic. Unfortunately I wonder how many people will take an objective view instead of an emotional one and see the sense in this post.Recommend

  • M Ali Khan


    what’s with you people’s obsession with India??!! every time one says secularism, all you people do is say “India this that hindus this that bhookay this that”

    are you among our “parhi likhi” awam that only thinks India is secular? well it IS secular! a country with a majority Hindu has MUSLIM CHRISTIAN PARSI SIKH leaders politicians celebrities war heroes stars and what not! dont blame exploitative economics on secularism

    if you also want to talk about secularism, please mention Europe, USA, Canada, Australia too! Muslims are treated as EQUALS in the eyes of the law without any religious preferences.

    You really need to get over this India-mania. GROW UP!Recommend

  • Faiz

    Yes, the writer is correct that religion allows human beings to practice freely their respective religion . Similarly in Islam, there is no restrictions on different religious practices. But, still, i don’t know, why liberals are so focusing on the world secularism. Just promote that in Islam, every one is free to move to their religious activities. Actually, liberals are promoting it and extremists are against of it. Both are the benefactors of promoting intolerance in Pakistan. The sacrifice goats of the the war between liberals and radicals are the moderate people in this country.

    The author mentioned that when Ireland became a secular country, its development and progress started. Can the author tells me the economic prosperity and development of the Turkey? When Turkey was under the secular rulers before 2001, its standard of living was the lowest in the world. High level of poverty, unemployment, inflations were the main economic problems of Turkey. But when the recent prime minister and president of Turkey came into power, both are Islamist, Turkey living standard increased tremendously. Its per capita income increase about 10 thousands dollars in the last 9 years.

    Simple, religion is not hurdle of development but a catalyst to it.Recommend

  • Faiz

    Everyone needs to study the recent development of Turkey (Which is now under Islamist rulers) before, he/she wants this country to become a secular nation.Recommend

  • Talha

    I am thoroughly impressed, excellent article.

    We are repeating the mistakes that others made, its time to learn from them.Recommend

  • Faz

    An ideal secularist is an atheist, and it is the core philosophy of secualrism. Even for the sake of arguement if one agrees to consider Secularism as not anit-religious then again the majority in Pakistan is Muslim consider Islam atleast as asocial system if not political, so it will not be accepted. The problem with those who advocate secularism as a solution have either not a good understanding of value system in Pakistan or they are just blind to it or perhaps such ideas are a reaction to the hardline stance of major clergy elements.
    Moreover, intolerance in society is not only a result of religious factions e.g. situation Karachi is the biggest example of intolerant behavior to a level of gruesome violence but religion has nothing to it. In addition, even liberals are contributing to the intolerence, e.g. on social media especially they show intolerant or may be ignorant behaviors and give hatred remarks towards religious elements and follow a strategy of using sarcasm as a tool to dent it. Then it backfires badly, becomes counter productive.
    Hence blaming on one element of soceity for all the intolerence and declaring an opposite system as a solution is, I am afraid, not the right approach. Recommend

  • Imad Afridi

    The kind of polarization that exist in our society can only be ended if we stop bringing religion into everything ,we’re a nation that proudly claims that it was born in the name of Islam but we forget to think about the fact its also the same country where religious minoritiws are slaughtered like animals.I firmly believe that I’m a human first so I believe in human equality which although is championed by our religion but actually never earnestly followed in reality.Only wish that I see the day where we learn to be tolerant of other sects and minorities……..
    PS,I’m proud of calling myself a secular and I believe that its the only way out for us..Recommend

  • faraz

    In Islam there is no single authority that decides the true canonical Islam, therefore, state neutrality in matters of religion is the only way out.Recommend

  • Imad Afridi

    @Above,no offense buddy but our brethren have made religion a harbinger of destruction rather than a catalyst of development….Recommend

  • toobahatif

    @M Ali Khan:
    m not against india.. every time any one give example of India doesnt mean we are against em or belittling them.. I am just giving an example.. Recommend

  • Nasir

    The way the author define Secularism is similar to the teachings of Islam (I agree with faiz). The problem is we start to define Islam not by its teachings but by the practices of its people, may they even not be according to Islam. This is also confessed implicitly by the authors. What christian did in Ireland was not the true teachings of Christianity neither are the current so called religious advocators followers of true teachings of Islam. Either used (or uses) religion to gain power for their vested interests. In the strict definition sense (the one which the author gave) Islam itself is a Secular religion. However, author also know that their is a difference between the definition of secularism and how it is practiced. See for example Turkey, who claimed to be a secular state but it has severely restricted Islamic practices. And what about the the recent ban on Pardha in European countries. In a definitions sense, the European are also liberal extremists and not secular.Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Faiz, I’m afraid you’re misinformed about the effects of the secular movement in Turkey.

    With the introduction of secularism in 1928, Turkey was freed from the grip of slick, self-serving religious leaders and feudals who exploited the holy-writ for their own gains and held Turkey back from necessary social reforms.

    Kemal Ataturk’s establishment of secularism in the field of education ensured the influx of high-level European professors into Turkey, making it one of the most scientifically advanced states in the Muslim world. It was the secular movement that granted equal status to women in both civil and federal courts (in Pakistan, according to Law of Evidence Act, the testimony of a woman in court is worth only half that of a man), and allowed them voting rights.

    Turkish people today adore Kemal “Ataturk” (“father of Turks”) and flood the Dolmabahce palace with flowers in his memory every 10th of November.Recommend

  • Syed M Haider

    i’m amzaed to see how how many are infatuated to a religion-less-state: The problem lies in the fact that Islam is considered similar to other altered-religions. I can only see one point in all the pro-secular arguments that people who don’t want a religion in state also don’t want a religion in their personal life (After all, what right a religion has to stop someone from indulging in debauchery or in-abstinence, or to declare a dicta against drinking or sensuality )!!! Secular is tantamount to atheism, inevitably!Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    Nice explanation and best understanding which is not a part of many E,T writers
    but i have a questian when some thing get start it it goes too far so is there any limit in between for example if society get reliegious it get too far then peoples get upside with that
    and same way what is the end of secularism by the way recently what happend in france
    and swisserland no burqa and minerat what is between?????????Recommend

  • Honorliving

    Long time ago, a principle of Deoband school in india said this to Indra Gandhi “Secularism doesn’t have to mean “La-mazhabiat” (no religion) “ it could also mean “hamaa- mazhabiat” (all religions)”. And I believe that is what you are trying to tell your readers here.Recommend

  • Ms Marium

    waise as far as i know Secularists on twitter mostly – they are those who make fun of Hijaabs and Beards and all kind of religious stuff ..Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Banning of burqas is not a necessary sequel to secularism. And most countries that did ban the “face-veil” (and not burqa specifically), did not do it simply to spite Muslims. They did it for security reasons.

    Do you know that there are non-secular Muslim-majority countries too that ban garments like burqas and headscarves?Recommend

  • Dr Venie Martin

    Congratulations on the clarity of concepts, writing and the conclusions in this short article. As an Irish person, I confirm the parallels you have drawn between the development of my country and the potential development of Pakistan. While state and religion were intertwined in Ireland, the country stagnated and great injustices were perpetrated. The recent exposure of clerical abuse of children in the church has ended church authority. As a person who has visited Pakistan many times and who has many dear Pakistani friends, I hope your writing has the impact on society that it deserves and that your country can fulfil its great potential on the world stage.Recommend

  • Sayyed Mehdi

    Why do people feel that secularism is somehow against Islam?

    Everybody seems to agree that freedom of religion a fundamental Islamic value. Then why do we have a problem with the state giving freedom of religion to people?Recommend

  • Ali

    to all the people who don’t want secularism and want an Islamic state, whose Islam should be used for laws? Sunni, Shia, Deobandi, Barelvi, Wahabbi etc.?

    When one group doesn’t get their way they kill the other group becasue that is how they get power. If religion is taken out of the power equation we can all go to our own mosques and pray in peace…

    This is why secularism is the way out of the religious intolerance situation we find ourselves in. Otherwise people will just move away from religion becasue all these mullahs only talk about hate, killing, negativity, restrictions and nothing positive ever comes out of their mouth, all they do is judge…

    Think about it, you don’t have to be non-religious to be secular.Recommend

  • M Ali Khan

    there is more to secular nations than India, and vast majority of Indians take pride in secularism that their constitution protects the rights and freedoms of every community and are meant to be treated equally.

    before anyone brings the incidents like Babri Masjid etc up, I think you should read about Pakistan’s own discrimination violence and intolerance of religious groups in last 60 years:

    from genocide of Hindus and Sikhs during partition, to anti-Ahmedi riots, to anti-Shia killings in last 25 years, to targeting of Christians and Hindus, and of course Talibanisation!

    Why? Because whenever people hide behind Islam to justify their atrocities, all is forgotten. If Pakistan was a secular state it would have ensured every group was protected and treated as EQUAL CITIZENS where everyone would be protected from hate and intolerance.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @ Honorliving
    Thank you for sharing this to us by the way the gandhi family has very respect to Deoband that i know for long time.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @ Ali
    Nonsense man basic islamic law is one and all these groups are part of Hanafi school
    of thought please first read about it if pakistan is not able to implement it thats because
    of our Noker shahi means our feudals parties and some out pressur too poor begger chick..Recommend

  • Faiz

    @Loneliberal PK:

    I am not misinformed. If you have any recent visit to Turkey, you will find how the people are appreciating the current rulers of Turkey. Both have proudly and openly expressed that they are Islamist, not secular. And first time in Turkey, people are willingly to close the business of bars and wine. Brother, the problem is not with the religion, but with us. If you study Quran and Khadis, you will not find a signal word about imposition of religion on others. Everyone is free to choose it religion.

    In Pakistan, both extremists and liberals have and are earning dollars to promote intolerance. So, this intolerance is created by dollars not by religion. And all Liberals also need to study The recent progress of Turkey in detail. Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    As a matter of fact I have been to Turkey. And I can say with utmost certainty that Turkey wasn’t doing as good before the Islamic leaders as it was now.

    Abdullah Gul is still a controversial figure and is not universally adored. At least, not half as much as an average Turk admires Ataturk (the name itself says it all). And the reason why Turkey still continues to prosper under Abdullah’s government is because despite him being a conservative man, the secular reforms of Ataturk are still being held in place. They haven’t gone anywhere.

    Also, I never said that religion is the problem. Of course, it is people! Law and politics are a rolling wagon of filth that sully everything they touch. The last thing any devout Muslim should ask for, is to have his holy book placed in the middle of a political arena and have guileful politicians and law-makers exploiting its text to satisfy their own interests, and pass them off as “God’s will”.Recommend

  • Nasir

    @ M Ali Khan

    Since in your opinion India is secular state than we do will to talk about Babari Masjid, Sikh movement catastrophes, burning of christians, discrimination against Muslims in jobs and much more. As about the things you mentioned in Pakistan, this is because the law has not been implemented and obviously that is not the fault of Pakistan. Please dont mix political matter with religion. Islam says for Peace and consider the killing of a human (not muslim) as the killing of entire humanity. Islam preaches for imposition of law equally, irrespective of rich and poor, and weak or the powerful. Did Islam tell to elect corrupt leaders, feed corrupt bureaucracy and corrupt army? Why blame Islam for your own faults? If Taliban kill innocents and say they are following Islam, would you say Islam ask them to kill. Dont judge Islam by the acts of some people, but its teachings. Recommend

  • Nasir

    @ All

    By the way where is Islam in this country? It is neither in Law nor in practice. With so much dishonesty, corruption, and freedom that anybody can do anything even against moral values (wine and zina), how can we say that there is Islam. Nobody is following Islam, neither the extremist Taliban, nor the so-called liberals. So stop this joking debate now.Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    (*Correcting my last post: Turkey was doing just as well before these Islamic leaders as it is doing now)Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @ Nasir
    haha Oh man Final verdict no more judge sahab faysala sunya jata hai……Recommend

  • Faiz

    @Loneliberal PK:

    First of all, the word Ataturk is imposed and propagated by the Liberals and secular of that time, because the Islamist were in minority at that time. But now it changed completely.

    As, the problem is not with the religion, it is within the people. So, we must criticise the people. But here everyday, everyone is taking in favour of secularism and implicitly against Islam. Islam is a secular religion, but if the liberals want sex, wine, gays and lesbian rights, then, i am sorry, liberals must study in detail the religion of Islam.

    Quran emphasizes relatively more on human beings rights than the rights of Allah. So, the true liberals (not those who want sex, wine, gays, ans lesbian rights) must study Quran.

    Michael H. Hart wrote in his book, The Hundred, that why i ranked Muhammad (SAWW) on number one in the pool of Hundred influential personalities of the world, because Muhammad (SAWW) was the most successful person on both religious and secular grounds. Recommend

  • Aima

    Excellent article! I wish people can accept what secularism actually means rather than going all crazy after hearing this word!Recommend

  • mourinho

    a big LOL at those who think secularism is tantamount to only means the seperation of church(read mosque) and state and respect to all religions.why should one religion be given special preference over others?take a cue from bangladesh who are a muslim majority state and have a secular constitution.Recommend

  • ithink

    giving rights to minority is good…..
    but protecting those rights is a different matter…..
    that’s why minority is suffering……Recommend

  • Asad Durrani

    Just two Questions:

    What will be the binding force for all the ethnic groups living in Pakistan if religion is out of government matters?

    Don’t you feel Islamic law is itself secular in nature, making it the responsibility of the state to protect rights of minorities?

  • nasir

    problem is not the religion…it is rather its corrupted form which is creating problem. islam preaches secularism…khilafat-e-rashidah were proof of that. still it is not possible to be 100% secular. india is secular but to an extent. why…in all government sponsored ceremonies, hindu religious rights are performed…an inaugration is never made by reciting bible or quran but by arti of lord ganesha. its not wrong. u must go along with the wishes of majority.problem is not the religion…it is rather its corrupted form which is creating problem. islam preaches secularism…khilafat-e-rashidah were proof of that. still it is not possible to be 100% secular. india is secular but to an extent. why…in all government sponsored ceremonies, hindu religious rights are performed…an inaugration is never made by reciting bible or quran but by arti of lord ganesha. its not wrong. u must go along with the wishes of majority.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely and logically argued. Realistically the secular concept of our founding fathers has been so efficiently destroyed that for it to be revived the alternative would have to fail. What we are seeing now is a theocratic state trying to emerge and failing as the emphasis is on religiosity and not religion. The wrong use of religion and the business of religion hold sway for the present. Unless the true spirit of religion is not brought forward, which will not happen, this system too will self destruct. Possibly then the cycle will repeat itself and we may see better times. Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @ Faiz
    You said it man mashallah.Recommend

  • rational

    Correct me if I’m wrong..but if people actually follow the teachings of Islam and apply them, then would we not be able to reap all of the benefits of being secular anyway? There is no discrimination in the scripture, there is however a discriminatory attitude in the followers, a very evident one too. In fact I’m going to cite just one example to show how concerned Islam actually is about its minorities, if you are a minority living in a Muslim state, you can never be forced to join any form of military. It is only at will. Recommend

  • Syme

    Excellent article, What compelled Mustafa Kemal to declare turkey a secular state? Its the attitude of clergy who oppose every state business and even in the war time they ( Turkish Mulla) opposed the military action. The Islamist leaders of turkey and so called Kaliafiat was of ignoble birth and sons of Hungarian and European linage ( I hope people will understand what I mean), Persian taste was common among “Muslim” rulers of turkey. A single factor is not responsible for the turkish downfall even after declaring herself secular. its the military bonapartism which contributed largely to the decay of turkey. Turkish generals pressed for the national security council, its the same NSC, which our generals are demanding ever since, democracy is never given a chance to flourish in turkey because of army involvement plus you can never rule out the Iraq interference in Turkish Kurd matter as it ended after the US invasion of Iraq.
    As regard the Swiss minaret and french face scarf ban, its something to do with personal liberties and security but not wholly. France has ban pork eating,selling in Muslim communities to non Muslims, wearing christian cross, turban by Sikh children in schools and any religious insignia by any french citizen and immigrant. its wrong to propagate that only Muslims are effected by the ban, you should also learn about the whole story.
    Uptil 1985 Croweater gallery in anarkali was a Bar but during the Zia radicalization its converted into an art gallery and all the bars and booze stations banned.Public food consumption was banned due to Zia islamanization of state, Why? because it hurts the pride of Islam abiding Fasting Muslim and reminded him of his starving belly? My foot, Why the hell there are street restaurant selling food in front of hungry masses? why people are eating in front of hungry beggars and roll up the windows of their cars at the sight of approaching hungry beggar?
    Pakistan is religious country for about 7 decades( I exaggerated few years) and as a Muslim state we haven’t done any breakthrough, how much more Islam you want and how long? Our laws are Islamic and do you people think that these laws can dispense justice to minorities who are tried under blasphemy law? We have lost a governor and the killer is taking pride in being a self righteous Muslim? Where is Pakistan penal code? Our Islamic laws can’t deliver the Muslims and Laws need revision badly.
    Its easy for state to become impartial by declaring no allegiance to any religion. Recommend

  • Syme

    And by the way Hussnie Mubarak also ban the beard and veil, Gadaffi refused to grow up militarily despite being a serving colonel for 42 years but he trimmed the highest rank to colonel. We have built a stadium to honor him, I feel shame..These are the seeds sown by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto( I am no one to decide the intentions, I am sure everyone knows what I am referring to) and he reaped the reward later. Recommend

  • faraz

    @Asad Durrani

    If religion had been a binding factor then all Muslim would have lived under a single government. We wouldn’t have lost Bengal in 1971. There would have been no ethnic killings in Karachi and Baluchistan or various provincial and ethnic disputes. Even a regime as extreme as Taliban is divided along ethnic lines; most Afghan Taliban are Pushtoon and they fought civil war against the non-Pushtoon Northern Alliance during the 1990s. Only economic integration, equitable distribution of resources and equal rights can bind people together. And there are many interpretations of Islam; the one advocated by our clergy labels minorities as kafirs who should be hated for their beliefs and they all will end up in hell. (Their main fault is that they were born in a non-Muslim family)


    If secularism is against Islam, then how do millions of Muslims in India, Europe and US live as good, practicing individuals? Your comparison of murderous Taliban with blog writing liberals makes no sense. Liberalism means tolerance and non-enforcement of ideologies. I am a practicing Muslim and I believe in secularism; I see no contradiction. I am not responsible for the lives of others. Before God, I will only be held responsible for my own deeds.
    The clergy doesn’t believe that Islam advocates human rights. For them, Islam divides humanity between believers and non-believers. People of different sects advocate murder over difference of interpretation. The clergy decides who is a Muslim, who goes to heaven or hell. You should study some fiqh that is taught at madrassas; the hatred and contempt for non-Muslims and people of other sects is shocking. Recommend

  • Rock

    @nasir: India has to be secular because 4 religions are born in India “Hinduism, sikhism, buddhism and jainism.” Regarding inaugration ther are different ways but common thing is we use light up the candles or samai. That’s the part of culture. like spreading light in the darkness. Recommend

  • Alam

    @Asad Durrani: The binding force will be somewhat similar culture and, Indus river , regional contiguity and economic ties.

    The same ties have held India together, even though 25% r Muslims who r just impoverished and lagging behindRecommend

  • Awais Khan

    Moderation and secularism is the answer to most of our problems. It is not a threat to Islam or any other religion, on the contrary it will give protection and equal rights to every citizen.Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    Most of the Boarders seem bull headed and out of the realms of reason. In spite of many highlighting in countless articles that a secularist is not an atheist many are hostage to a mindset that cannot accept the same. Secularism cannot promote tolerance but it ensures that no Religion can claim superiority in the pecking order to the disadvantage of other Religions. A State that has laws in its constitution that give primacy to a particular Religion for obvious reasons will have a lowly ranking on all socio- economic scales, in the comity of nations. Even after tasting the bitter fruits of discriminatory policies if one cannot change, I can only feel sorrow and pity. Recommend

  • Aurangzeb

    on personal level a secularist is as much intolerant as religious one. secularism does not guarantee country’s development but honest & competent politicians do. intolerance is a mindset, secularism cannot change it, secularism is not a button if you switch it on and next day suddenly things will get better. for a tolerant society, mindset needs to be changed first, masses need to be educated. more then 60% of our population is illiterate and we are talking about tolerant society, ever tried putting reasons into a jahil extremist mind??

    we have example of india, secular state for 64 years. what magic secularism has done to to their society, people are still discriminated based on religion. hatred among different religious groups, religious riots, massacres, systematic discrimination of minorities, corruption, poor standard of living. dozen of billionaires but nothing is being spent on human development.millions of people living under poverty line. that’s a secular state having people with exactly the same mindset as us. Recommend

  • Ali

    By the way the Turkish PM in Egypt asked te Egyptians to emulate Turkey’s secular model!

    I wish he would say that to our PM’s tooRecommend

  • hassan

    Why do think Afghanistan is in such a mess today? It is because, during the 70s, the communists wanted to have a Secular Republic in Afghanistan. Secularism is an horrible experiment wrong, in all muslim societies.

    People of Afghanistan, steeped in centuries-old traditions, wanted to have less modernity and more religion in their lives. They hated to see women going to work and girls going to schools. They wanted to keep their old way of life, women behind dark veils and men behind long beards. When communists wanted to change this and usher their country into an era of modernisation, the people of Afghanistan called in the Taliban to fight the communists. You know what is the state of that country now.

    All the Muslim countries have experimented with secularism. Egypt had a dose of secularism for long. Now, whole of Egypt is agitating for more islamization in society. People are fighting to have beards and more burqas in society. Iran had a modern Shah. Now, people are happy, once Khomeini came in and ordered the girls back to kitchen and men in charge of women.

    In Muslim country, people get severely upset and get withdrawal symptoms when they are not reminded about their glorious religion even for a minute. Pakistan society is very similar to Afghanistan.

    You know what will make the common people happy? Close down all the girls’ school and make beards compulsory. Impose shalwar kameez as a compulsory dress code in offices and in public places. Make five prayers a day compulsory. Ban all Indian influences. You will soon happy populace everywhere. This is what the people of Pakistan want, and they don’t want secularism. Secularism only will bring thousand civil wars in Pakistan !Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    LOL Hassan! I don’t mean to be condescending, but do you have any idea what you’re talking about?

    Afghanistan’s failure is attributable to the Soviet attempt to establish secular reforms in Afghanistan? Rofl! The wanton bombardment of Afghani towns and unthinkable human rights violations that the Russians carried out in the country had nothing to do with these failures, I suppose? No, apparently it was Russia’s attempt to secularize the country that resulted in Afghanistan’s collapse.

    May I inquire as to where you’re getting your history lessons from?

    And as the writer said, secularism isn’t an “experiment”. Wake up and you’ll notice that every developed nation in the world is a secular state!Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @ Lonelib pk
    I think you going little too far every develped nation in the world has blood of innocent peoples of its own also please and there are lot of other things too other wise why allama
    Muhammad iqbal was so against this secularism and Bach Jumhoorah can u guys tell me
    and also no body write about him allways Mr Jinnah was secular and smoked a cigar he
    was good man unlike gandhi with bakry.Recommend

  • Tony Singh

    @Asad Durrani:
    The question you should ask is should religion and “not India” be the only binding force in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Oh, please! Every developed nation has blood on its hands? What did Sweden and New Zealand ever do to you, causing you to feel that they deserve to be a part of your pathetic blanket statement?

    And is this in contrast to the non-secular, hyper-Islamic states that never really hurt a fly?

    The foreign policies of certain developed states may be questionable, but their social structures are much more stable than any Islamic country, thanks to secularism. That is why most confused Pakistanis go around chanting anti-Western slogans in the evening, and beg for US/UK/Canadian visas in the morning.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @ Lonelib pk
    I think u confused man or just trying to stay so called liberal who dont see what happening
    limited one sided knowledge dont see any unjustice and great games in the world and if
    sweden or new zealand are examples so we got same countries too Brunai and malaysia
    these countries does not have any say in the world forum what a countries u choose it
    and peoples are amking lines for visa that not peoples fault its a leader of pakistan or
    any devolping country it there fault even some of them are seculars too like india and latin

  • Sanity

    In my opinion, we should address the very basic or gist of the problem without taking into consideration what other countries have done, or what our founding father envisioned. So we should try to approach the problem rationally. Therefore, forgetting all our bias for the time-being, questions should be: 1) what is secularism; and 2) what are its positive and negative impacts when applied to Pakistan?

    All educated people know what is secularism (by educated I mean those who do not consider it athiesm or La-dinayat), if you need more info refer wikipedia. Now quickly to the next and important question. According to me there are many positives we can draw which are as follows:

    1) It will help build positive image of our country and Islam. Because, it will send a strong message to the world that we not only respect other religions, but we also give them equal platform.

    2) It will create harmony among various sects of islam, and therfore strengthen muslims who are divided.

    3) It will comfort very small percentage of minority left in our country, who feel alienated. Don’t worry that one of them will one day become PM or President. Even if they do there is nothing wrong with it.

    There can be many other positives outcomes. I can’t think of any negatives at the moment, but I will welcome any rational thoughts.Recommend

  • hassan

    @Loneliberal PK:

    Reg, Soviet bombardment of Afghani villages, they happened subsequent to the violent reaction to the ‘de-islamization’ and not prior to that. If the communists had agreed to more islamic society, they would have succeeded. If you analyze, you will notice that the entire Afghan problem, turmoil has nothing to do with development or economy. It is purely a fight between more-beards and less-beards groups. As simple as that.

    Where did I get my information? From a book by Dilip Hiro “War Without End: The Rise of Islamist Terrorism and Global Response, by Dilip Hiro”

    My point is: Muslim societies and secularism do not go well together. They are, to use the expression of Steve Jobs ‘dead on arrival’. It’s not in the DNA of Muslims to live a life without talking about the supremacy of their religion.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @ Hassan
    Russian invasion and terrorising innocent peoples of afghanistan for there expention of evil
    god less empire and they got reaction from hungry foodless but faithfull peoples and earlly
    five years all the world was solent like they dont know what happening there only pakistan
    zia govt and isi was helping them then world came to help when the saw russia is defeatable its not that easy what guys sitting fron of heater out side snowing watching and
    writing there brain fathoor and making money. tuff.Recommend

  • Hammad Siddiqui

    Pakistan is a confused nation is all aspects:
    1. Political system
    2. Education
    3. Religion
    4. Ethics
    5. Security
    6. Values

    In such a situation we are not willing to look for alternative solutions. Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Can we stop pretending like Kabul was the New York of Asia before the evil secular forces came in and ruined it by attempting to establish a secular system there? Can we please?
    Ali Tanoli,
    If you believe that Brunei and Malaysia are in the same league as the United States, UK, Australia or Switzerland, and are not getting any say in the world as part of some Western conspiracy, then you need a serious reality check. Please come out of that paranoia.

    They prospered because they evolved with the changing times. They embraced secularism to ensure equal rights to all state subjects regardless of their religious convictions. The Islamic world refused to adapt to the new world. They arrogantly declared their ideals to be superior to all else and refuse to update them, hence suffered greatly.Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    The problem here is that the people who claim to be in charge of religion are bigoted and intolerant. Therefore religion = intolerance. If we get rid of religion from government and become secular in nature at least it will reduce intolerance and will actually provide the religious freedom that Islam claims to provide. If we believe that Islam is a tolerant religion and provides religious freedom, then we should willingly adopt secularism.

    Their is very little religious freedom in Pakistan that claims to be an Islamic state. Compare this to the secular countries around the world and you fill find all kinds of freedoms.Recommend

  • Syed M Haider

    SECULARISM CANNOT HELP Pakistan because Pakistan’s problem is not religion, which is even not in force here, rather its problem is melafide intentions of those who run it and those who live in it !!
    Islam is a social-religion and not something restricted to personal lives only. it tends to establish not only social order but also social-justice. It makes incumbent upon its followers to attend to social duty. Only a system based on laws from an infallible source can guarantee OVERALL spirituality and growth of the society.
    Society can be run without religion but it cannot be put on the path of God, if you believe in One, without Islam!!Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    @Ali Tanoli

    Ask our Shia friends about the one true Hanafi Islamic law. I am sure that they will have some other ideas.Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    @Asad Durrani:

    Do you think that the binding force in Pakistan is Islam? Look at the killings in Karachi that are being carried out on an ethnic basis.

    If Islam and Islamic law are secular in nature then what do you think of the blasphemy laws?Recommend

  • Balma

    The picture for this article seems to be from some Arab country.Recommend

  • Doctor

    @ Hasan – Turkey proves you wrong. When you “assume” you make an ass out of you and me. Muslims can be peaceful and secular. Look at our neighbor India.

    Secular does not mean not having religion. It means respecting everyone regardless of religion. Recommend

  • Al Tanoli

    @ Lonelib pk
    Can you tell us why some so called secular and libral countries are so poor and backward
    may be there secularism ginie is sleeping in warm blanket my dear friend its nothing to do
    with reliegen its a implementation of the system. in the pakistani case we dont have islamic niether secular system we a crruptism and feudalism.
    have a good dayRecommend

  • Armchair

    I don’t get it. Why on earth is the “Christian” example used to make arguments against concepts of Islaminc statehood? If Christianity failed in Ireland that is the case against Christian values, not Islamic ones. For the love of the Almighty stop lumping all religions into one convenient ‘scapegoat’ package.Recommend

  • Al Tanoli

    @ Raja islam
    If sunnis can live in shia iran then i think they can live in sunni pakistan with no problem
    and we had no propblrm with shia Mr Jinnah either.Recommend

  • Pakistani in US

    I am a shia’te, I vote for a secular system. We ahle-tashis don’t believe in violent suicidal islam and peacefully live with our belief system without imposing it on others. And those who claim Iran is a shia dominated country, they should know that Iran like Pakistan is following a version of political Islam. And all their ails are rooted in this backward ideology. Enough with wahabi mullah dictating how everyone needs to live. Time to get our country back and move her into 21st century.Recommend

  • http://none Bangash

    Secular democracy is desperately needed in Pakistan. It is a system that works and requires religious freedom and human rights for all.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Ofcourse, secularism is the only way for a modern state to progress. It is nice to see there are sensible voices around. Though, as expected, many here think secularism as a ‘threat’ to Islam. Trust me if I say this, Islam is in much lesser threat due to secularism than the 72 different versions of Islam present in our country.

    The problem with a ‘Islamic’ state is that in modern times, you have to choose a specific ‘sect’ for the entire state, and this is my question to the ‘pro-Islamic’ here, how is this going to help Islam? The 72 versions of Islam I mentioned, I invite you to research, they seem similar, yet they are divided on every single detail/interpretation of religion. Do you want this kind of Islam? Despite all the measures and the inter-sect conferences, the fact is, we are all still divided.

    Islam may not be an ‘altered-religion’ (as it says so in the Holy Quraa’n [many argue]), but then the Christians and the Jews also claimed the same, yet we have seventy two different versions of it, and the worst part is, the Muslims don’t even know which is the ‘authentic version’. For every sect, the other 71 are infidels (or close to that definition). And those who think it doesn’t matter, should apply for Hajj or Umrah visa, where it is MANDATORY to fill out which sect you belong to, because being Muslim is not enough these days

    How in this situation, can you setup a ‘Islamic state’, if you do so, my question is, which type of Islam will you make as the state religion?Recommend

  • Atif

    And where secularism goes for Israel, must check this linkRecommend

  • Bal Thackeray

    @Tony Singh:
    Pakistan doesn’t has babri mosque, gujrat killings like events in history, as our neighbor so called secular country has. In secular countries.
    This is a secular state, where Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray like people make decisions, check the link hereRecommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Ali Tanoli:
    “Can you tell us why some so called secular and libral countries are so poor and backward
    may be there secularism”

    Name ten such states. And don’t say India, because despite its obvious problems, it still outshines Pakistan in almost all aspects from scientific advancement to economic prosperity.

    Also, there is corruption in all countries. Secularism is a more practical system, because it prevents corrupt government officials from exploiting religion, which is a dangerous tool in the hands of those who know how to misuse it. And believe me, our politicians and lawyers KNOW how to misuse Islam for their own gains.Recommend

  • hassan

    Reg: Turkey which became secular due to Attaturk and due to the necessities of becoming an European Union. This secularism in Turkey is not going to stay forever. Already people are clamouring for the right to wear scarves and veils. The Present Prime Minister Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul have already declared that Islamization of Turkey is their ultimate goal. It’s just a matter of a few years before Turkey joins the Islamazition bandwagon. Because, people have started demanding it.

    Reg: India….last time I checked Hindus were the majority population and that is why it is secular.

    Not just me, the world has now come round to the view that it is not in the DNA of Muslims to live in a society where other religions could flourish, because Muslims by nature are Islamic Supremacists.
    You need better argument than Turkey and India to convince the world that Muslims do want a society without religion in their lives.Recommend

  • Voice of Pakistan

    @Loneliberal PK:
    Islam is not only a religion, but is also a complete system which has religious, legal, political, economic and military components. So, in presence of Islam, i think we shouldn’t need any other system.
    Also if politicians and lawyers can misuse the Islam, then they can also misuse any other system. The actual problem is that, Islam still not implemented in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Bal Thackrey, ever heard of Gojra killings? Blasphemy killings?

    India has had two Muslim Presidents despite being a Hindu majority state. THAT is secularism. Can you imagine a Hindu becoming a President in Pakistan? All Islami jamats will set the National Assembly on fire!Recommend

  • turth seeker


    “Muslims can be peaceful and secular. Look at our neighbor India.”

    This cannot be a good example. Muslims typically are peaceful when they are in a minority. They make vociferous demand for religious freedom, minority rights, secularism and what not as long as they are in a minority.
    The moment they become a majority all these noble ideals go out of the window and they give no right to others not even right to live.Recommend

  • Bal Thackeray

    @Loneliberal PK:
    So, are you trying to justify 3000+ killing of innocent Muslims with two Muslim Presidents? India is declared itself as a secular state, but by watching the humanitarian lawless situation specially in Indian occupied Kashmir, must check the link Kashmir graves: Where is the humanity India? , i think Pakistan is fine without secularism.Recommend

  • Bal Thackeray

    @turth seeker:
    Rahul Gandhi, the “crown prince” of Indian politics, told the US ambassador at a lunch last year that Hindu extremist groups could pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants. check out this link WikiLeaks cables: Rahul Gandhi warned US of Hindu extremist threatRecommend

  • salman qureshi

    Good article dude! I agree with you whole heartedly. If only Pakistanis can understand that secularism does not mean anti-islam. If anything I believe it will help flourish our religion and people.Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    @Loneliberal PK:
    Brother, India had three Muslim Presidents – Zakir Husain, Fakhruddin Ahmed and Abdul Kalam.
    India also has a minority leader as its present PM. Servicemen from the Muslim,Sikh,Parsi and Christian communities have gone on to head the armed forces with distinction. Same is the fact for the CJ’s of the Supreme Court as well as Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
    As a citizen belonging to a minority community in India I have been lucky never to have been discriminated against in my 54 years. As a responsible citizens I will act only as per my conscience – so most important is human values. As any citizen I will be willing to die to protect my country(patriotism). Under no condition will I be willing to kill or die for Religion, it being a mere man made construct.
    Khuda Hafiz ! Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Try telling that to Bal Thackarey. He’s utterly convinced that Secular India eats Muslims for breakfast.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    How can a person use an argument based on the analogy of Irelands experience with Catholicism and then superimpose that onto Islam and Pakistan? That’s really shallow.

    Also if we say we must change Islam then what gives us the right to change Islam? Either we say the religion is wrong or we believe it’s right. If we believe it’s right then only God to change his religion for us, not his servants.

    This seems like backward logic and all he’s doing is replacing one religion ie Islam with another ‘secularism’. It’s not an intellectual argument just imitation of the west.

    Oh and Ireland are now facing bankruptcy due to their adherence to secular economic theory. Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @ Lonelib pki
    Every than happend under the secularism.( ye hathi thanth hai)Recommend

  • IQ

    why we think that an Islamic state does not offer equal rights to the minorities?? the Muslim khilafat is a perfect example of such an Islamic state granting equal rights to the non-muslims too..Recommend

  • Sanity

    More than our own country, we are concerned about what is happening in India or to muslims in India. Why are we so obsessed with India. Whether India is progressing or going backwards, why are we bothered – Sanu kee.

    As usual, no meaningful discussion. Nobody is ready to listen to others. Seems like everybody is here to spit his/her venom and time pass.

    If, educated ppl (considering that you all read tribune, :D) cannot talk rationally, THIS COUNTRY HAS NO HOPE.Recommend

  • MD

    @Bal Thakeray
    I feel pity for you, because you know nothing about secularism or democracy. Why are you assuming that once a state declares itself as a secular democracy, all its ills including communal-ism would vanish overnight? Social evils would remain whether the state is secular democracy, theocracy or monarchy. Under any governing system murderers, robbers, rapists, thieves, religious bigots and other criminals would be there. The important thing is that the state refrains from siding or protecting any of the above criminals and ensures that the criminals brought to the justice without any discrimination on the grounds of religion, caste, ethnicity, gender etc..This is called secular democracy where law applies to every citizen equally.
    You may point out at Gujarat riots, Babri Masjid etc where very few people could be convicted in the court of law, but, that happens with the murderers, rapists and other criminals also who get acquitted by the court because of lack of sufficient evidence. You cannot say that this is a failure of democracy or secularism, but, it certainly points at the need for further improvement in the system. We can always keep improving the system because democracy takes time to evolve and improve. Democracy matures gradually. A few decades ago, African Americans had no right to vote, but, today, an African American is the president of the most powerful democracy on earth.
    Democracy may have million flaws, but, one cannot deny the fact that since the advent of democracy and secularism, we humans have prospered as never in the history before.
    We conquered the Moon and soon even Mars will be under our feet!! Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Does the image of Ireland before secularism not seem almost exactly like what Pakistan is going through right now?

    You can make up all the excuses you want, but it’s not like we’ve prospered under the in-your-face shariah rule any more than Ireland prospered under the Catholic influence. In fact, the most prosperous, scientifically advanced states among us just so happen to be secular!

    But let’s NOT learn from them, because we being Muslims are faaaaaar too superior, and would much rather drown in the failures of our experimental religious systems before we implement secularism: a safe, tried and tested model.

    So be it. We won’t be missed..Recommend

  • Dudette

    Questions for those against secularism – How do we stop the minority-bashing then?! How about “religious” leaders who force non-muslims to wear abayas and sometimes even send them to mosques to pray (in Saudi Arabia – true story!)..?! What about all the heinous acts present day so-called-mullah’s do?

    Questions for those in favor of secularism – Islam, being a way of life for all, goes beyond individual practice. Who would implement rules that an Islamic leader has been ordained to? If a not-so-Muslim man commits adultery, cheating on his very-Muslim wife, who would bring him to justice as per the Islamic rights? Who defines what justice would be there then?

    And then both of you groups give examples to support your argument and then someone from the opposition says they live in that secular/Islamic state and its nowhere near okay.

    Simple put, the issue is: THE PEOPLE (not the system).

    As present day Pakistan shows, a truely Islamic society cannot exist with such corrupt people running it. I mean Islamic State = Islamic Leader = Zardari?! o.O

    And as present day France shows, people can go crazy with secularism enough to actually STOP other religions from practicing their beliefs.

    Madinah, when Islam was freshly implemented, was an actual Islamic state that wonderfully catered to the minorities as well. Are you telling me present-day Pakistan is any where near that?! Realise that you’re standing up for a Real Islamic state and not Pakistan as it right now.

    Secularists, when you address the religion rather than the people you “tend “to come off as athiests. Are you telling me that people who oppress minorities with no fear of God would actually fear a mortal “bey-deen” leader and stop doing so?! Heck, they’d bribe him into it too! Realize that you are actually looking to awaken the conscience of the society rather than change the law.

    It’s the people with barely any conscience, morals or equality in them – that bring such evils to society. Its the lack of accountability to Allah on the Last Day and ignorance to present day laws. THAT’s what needs to change.Recommend