Stories about secularism

Muslims in India today are revisiting the same fears as they did in 1947

The strength of a democracy is measured by the way it protects its weak, marginalised and minorities. After Partition in 1947, one big challenge before India was how to assuage the fears of the Muslim minority about their well-being in India. Bridging religious faultlines was part of the nation-building process. The government, civil society, film industry, media, and even on an individual level, a large section of the society created an ecosystem where secularism and liberalism were promoted unabashedly. This ecosystem and way of life have been largely sustaining India for the last seven decades. Three generations later, Muslims in India are ...

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From Allahabad to Prayagraj: Is India reclaiming its history?

In post-independence India, Bombay became Mumbai, Madras became Chennai, Calcutta became Kolkata, Mysore became Mysuru, Bangalore became Bengaluru, and now Allahabad has become Prayagraj. Then, before the row over Allahabad showed any signs of settling down, there emerged demands to rename Muzaffarnagar to Laxminagar. The love to change names from the past continues after more than 70 long years of India’s independence, and it will most likely continue on in the future as well. Although we talk of India as an emergent world power, it seems that the hangover of history is not yet over; it still lays buried ...

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The Turkish Republic, as we know it, is dead

In perhaps the most important election of the past two decades, Turkey has given its verdict, electing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the president and also giving his party, Justice and Development Party (AKP), who fought the elections in coalition with Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a majority in the Parliament. President Erdogan called an early election because he was expecting to win at this time, and therefore, wanted to use the opportunity to consolidate his presidency, which after last year’s referendum had become an extremely powerful post. Just to reiterate that presidency after the referendum is no longer a ceremonial post but gives ...

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Yes, Shahrukh Jatoi is a murderer, but is he a ‘terrorist’?

Once again, the murder trial of Shahrukh Jatoi is making headlines. Since December 24th, 2012, the evening Shahzeb Khan was shot, the case has constantly been in and out of the media spotlight. As per the latest developments, the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered a retrial of the case in November 2017, following which the session court released the accused on bail on December 23rd, 2017. This development has shocked many, particularly those belonging to the civil society who showed their intention to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. Despite several obstacles and delaying tactics employed – including misleading statements about the age of the accused murderer – by ...

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Ironically, the credit for banning triple talaq in India goes to BJP and Narendra Modi, not Congress

The recent decision regarding triple talaq by the Supreme Court (SC) of India has elated many liberal intelligentsias. I also believe that it is a step in the right direction and should be applauded by all those who want better treatment for Muslim women in India. I have written about it earlier as well, that one of the major problems ailing the Muslim societies is the gender imbalance due to the on-going rampant religious orthodoxy. From a political perspective, what is really interesting is that apparently, the party which has actually championed the issue in recent times is not the left-leaning ...

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Is Turkey transforming into a fundamentalist religious state?

Turkey has given its verdict in the referendum paving the way for a powerful Tayyip Erdogan presidency. Although the margin of victory is close and is contested by the opposition, but it does not really matter. Erdogan has gotten what he wanted. If one has to draw an analogy with Pakistani politicians of the past and present, it would be apt to say that Erdogan is on his way towards becoming what Ziaul Haq had been in the 1980s, what Nawaz Sharif wanted to be in the late 1990s, and what Imran Khan perhaps wants to be in the future – an autocratic religious head of the state. In Turkey’s ...

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It is pretty clear that neither Ali Muhammad Khan nor PTI know why Pakistan was created

Recently, I had the opportunity to witness a panel discussion where the firebrand conservative MNA from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Ali Muhammad Khan, delivered his, and for that matter his party’s, “vision” for Pakistan. According to him, Pakistan should be a theocratic state and seculars should either mend their ways or leave Pakistan. Moreover, he also brought in the havoc of the Partition riots, arguing that all the sacrifices were actually for the creation of an Islamic country.  PTI's MNA @Ali_MuhammadPTI calls secular people a threat to Pakistan and asks them to mend their ways or leave the country pic.twitter.com/R2tezc7QoV — Reema Omer (@reema_omer) ...

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Why Turkey’s referendum is important

Turkey is one of the most beautiful countries of the world. Besides physical beauty of its architectural heritage and breath-taking landscapes, Turkey also captures the imagination because it is a crossroad of Asia and Europe, and consequently a lovely mix between tradition and modernisation. But what makes Turkey truly fascinating for me is that since the 1920s, it has been a secular as well as a moderate Muslim majority country. Whenever someone wants to prove that a Muslim country can be secular and moderate, they use Turkey as their example.  Turkey was cited by Reza Aslan as an example to counter ...

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Will Pakistan ever function as a secular state?

In Pakistan and, in fact, most of the Islamic world, the very concept of secularism is completely misunderstood. Somehow the concept has been thoroughly confused and amalgamated with atheism. An overwhelming majority of politicians, and even intellectuals, often try to defend themselves when “accused” of being secular, particularly on mainstream online media and Urdu print media. To declare oneself as a secular is considered equivalent to being considered an atheist in the public imagination. The entire atmosphere is riddled with severe misconceptions about secularism. Due to fear of being branded an “atheist” and anti-Islamic, the word secular, in both letter and ...

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Five reasons why socialism is not discussed in Pakistan

After years of abandonment following the demise of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, socialism is generating academic and political interest again. The financial crash of 2007-08 only added fuel to the fire, as critics of capitalism pointed towards the inherent tendency of the system to collapse. The left-wing tilt of Latin America, since the start of the century, along with the victory of Syriza in Greece in the not too distant past, has only encouraged further debate on the merits of socialist thought. Interest in socialism and the Marxist worldview has a long history in Pakistani politics. While it can safely be argued that ...

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