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.


brainy said...

what a passionate post :)

of course secularism in a country like India means something quite different from here, since it involves an explicit recognition of religion. After all, our secularism has meant we have different laws for Hindus and Muslims ...

Anonymous said...

I admire your well-written, thoughtful blog.

But as a confirmed agnostic, I must admit a secularist bias. I truly believe that until someone can absolutely prove the existence of God, or Allah, or Jehovah, etc., that there should be no one using religion as a form of social control. (Until God comes down from the heavens and says "Here I am, now this is how you must behave," I will always be agnostic.)

I respect that people have faith, but in the end, that's all it is. It pains me to think about how many state-sanctioned religious wars have been fought when no one can even prove the existence of God without a doubt.

Anonymous said...

I think you are spot on about how and why the athiests and religious people use the term 'secular'. Is the word secular now tainted beyond use? Can it still be used to mean a society where all people have equal rights and recieve equal service and protection from the state regardless of their personal belief system. And no religious belief is imposed upon the populace through the arms of the state.

Anonymous said...

Finally I read you, sabahat. :-). You clearly know my point of viww or can learn from Adil blog about secularism.

However I would say that in urdu secularism is referred as La-deniyat which is pretty true.

iFaqeer said...

Adnan "la-dinniyath" is atheism or godlessness.

Isn't part of the problem that we let others define our terms for us? The word and concept of "secularism" comes from the Western struggle to get the established Church out of controlling the government and to keep the government from interfering in how people practise their religion.

For us as Muslims--especially Sunni Muslims--we believe that society should be structured in such a way that there IS NO established church and no clerical structure. The people, the community, is the sovereign decision-maker. "Ulema" means "scholars"--and they are necessary, we believe, but their function is to carry out scholarly study and inform the body of citizens and leadership.

It is really odd--about 50 years, the government of Pakistan convened a council of Ulema to decide "Who is a Muslim?" Their decision in the end was that the State and community must recognize anyone who claims to be a Muslim to be a Muslim. That was the official position of the Pakistani state, and of the Ulema. Today, only the most progressive of organizations--who you, it seems, do not want to consider properly Muslim--holds that position.

Think about that.

Anonymous said...

you might like to give comparison between two? :-)

if I am not wrong then sepration movement was started by aethists of America who got pissed when they found that their kids are being forced to study christian bible in classes. You might like to check this out. :-)

Unknown said...

Secularism is the mutual concubine of all the religions, which having lost its endeared virginity now claims compensation in the political, social and economic fabric of the world.