Monday, June 14, 2004

On Secularism: Enough Already!

One of the perennial discussions on "Secularism" drove me to write this:

In my view, the problem is that most people that express views for or against "secularism" today--especially South Asians--equate it with being against the very existence of religion in any realm. Whether they will admit or not--even to themselves.

The phrase, folks, is separation of church and state--not destruction of one or the other. Just like the indepedence of the three branches of government and the media from each other does not mean we should abolish, say, the courts.

Personally, I think the word (secularism) is at best a red herring or a red rag, and at worst the biggest, most unfortunate, most distracting, and irrelevant concept we have in the discussion of how society can and should be made better. The "secularists" use it as some kind of high holy concept they wrap--dare I say hide--their anti-religion emotions and passions in [notice I don't say logic or rationale? it's intentional]; while the "religiousists", if I may call them that, use it as some kind of bugbear and code word for satanism.

A pox on both houses!

For they both only use the discussion to try to further their own ideas--not to make the life of humankind any better.

Mazhab thoe buss mazhab-e-dhil hai; baqee sub gumraahee hai (the only (true) creed is the creed of the heart; all else is heresy), as a South Asian poet once said; and frankly, neither today's "defenders of Islam" nor the "enlightened liberal thinkers" act like they have a heart--they have rationales and logic, they have right on their side, they have truth, history, geography, anthropology, sociology, neonatology and every other kind of -ology. No heart.

A pox on both houses!

For if you don't have a heart, sir, you're heartless. And if you are heartless, you fit neither my understanding of the words "Muslim" or "Hindu" or "Christian", nor my understanding of the words "enlightened" or "liberal".

Can't we all just ... do something for the common human? Insan1? Remember that concept? Huququl Ibaad2 anyone? The tired, the poor, the huddled masses, anyone?

  1. Urdu, Hindi, and Arabic for "human".
  2. Huququl Ibaad: One of the fundamental principles of Islam is the dichotomy of "Huququllah" and "Huququl Ibaad". That is , the Creator [Allah] has some rights [Haq, right; plural, Huquq] on the human [namely to be worshipped, obeyed, etc.] and just as important are the Rights (Huquq) of Creation [Ibaad; literally "worshipper"], which a human must observe: everything from the rights of one's family over one's time, love, and resources; the rights of neighbours (not necessarily *Muslim* neighbours, mind you) towards each other; the rights of all things great and small, basically, to be treated right. People that watch these things closely might have noticed Gen. Musharraf mention this concept--especially in some of his earlier speeches to the Pakistani People right after 9/11; and, more importantly, some of his statements on these issues *before* 9/11.
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