Opposing women empowerment movements, blocking minority rights ideas and preventing the spread of modern political ideas coming from the outside world has been the hallmark of our clergy since Pakistani came into being, writes Umer Farooq.
When the English first set foot on Indian soil, they were shockingly surprised by the advance nature of its economic life—its textile production was reaching all the nook and corner of the world with industrial production underway in different parts of the sub-continent, moneyed economy was prevalent and advance nature of process of capital formation was underway in India.
Some, now, even say that India was on the verge of an industrial revolution of its own, or maybe perhaps on the verge of its own version of modernity. British, who have their own textile industry to protect from competition in the international market, forcibly reversed the process of India’s industrialization and capital formation. Therefore modernity came to India through backdoor as a subjugating force—it accompanied British colonial power assuming control of Indian society and state over the course of 18th and 19 centuries with incessant military victories and political intrigues by the colonial power.
Muslims and their clergy especially perceived modernity as a super subjugating force, which had taken away political power from them and brought them under a foreign rule. Their culture and their languages—classical Persian and Urdu—were forced out of the power corridors and replaced by English. This meant that Muslim elite and clergy were deprived of their ability to serve the state because of their mastery over official languages under Mughal state and now they have to learn English to serve in any official capacity. This also meant that Muslim Elite and clergy was deprived of their pride in their native languages, which in pre-colonial times served as a source of financial income but as a source of cultural pride.
All the scientific discoveries and inventions—Railway, telegraph, telephone and modern weapons, the signs of western civilization and modernity—came to India and confronted the Muslim populous and clergy as a subjugating force, a force which deprived Muslims and their clergy of their livelihood and cultural pride and self confidence.
Not surprisingly, the Muslim populace and clergy developed a deeply antagonistic attitude towards every everything modern—modernity and its symbols became the first rated enemies of Muslim clergy. Muslim clergy’s mindset developed a deep-rooted intellectual animosity towards everything modern. Modernity was manifesting itself in the mass education, inclusion of pure science subjects in school syllabus, mass politics and nascent representative institutions. Muslim Clergy opposed all of them.
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The post-colonial state that Muslims of sub-continent inherited from the British embarked on its new life as a modernist project—mass politics, representative institutions including parliament and political parties, modern military, which was nevertheless in very bad shape, modern judiciary and Anglo-Saxon law tradition.
Prime Minister Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto reinforced this political modernity in a unique manner, when he introduced Westminster type parliamentary democracy into the country and gave the country its modern constitution. Bhutto was a man of many contradictions—on the one hand he reinforced the idea of political modernity while on the other put the very modernity into reverse gear just by introducing 2nd amendment into it, which played havoc with the concept of citizenship as a universal idea in Pakistani state and society. This was the very time when Pakistan’s political modernity was put on the reverse track—this was the time when distortion in the system began and appeasement of the anti-modern Pakistani clergy was commenced.
Pakistani clergy deeply immersed in the anti-modernist tradition of colonial period wasted no time in taking one stand after another, over the past seven decades, to devastate the modern structures that British built and Pakistani founding father reinforced into Pakistani society and state.
The very idea that these modern structures were built by British attracted enough popular support for the clergy to bulldoze them into non-existence.
Pakistani clergy was on the frontline to destroy and distort the concepts and ideas of political modernity that Pakistani founding fathers inherited from the British and endorsed them to be legitimate for the public and political life of Pakistani society.
The fact that we are in need of political modernity should have been a foregone conclusion by this point of time in our history. But it is not. We are introduced with retrogressive and oppressive political and religious concepts on regular basis. There should be no confusion that all this doesn’t emanate from the great religious tradition of Islam—which has given one after another-novel ideas to the human civilization in the course of last 14 centuries.
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Opposing women empowerment movements, blocking minority rights ideas and preventing the spread of modern political ideas coming from the outside world has been the hallmark of our clergy since Pakistani came into being.
This is the same anti-modernity attitude that our clergy developed as part of their ant-colonial mindset. They should realise that now we are no more living under colonial administration. We are a free country and are in the process of developing a tradition, for which we cannot simply rely on clergy’s anti-modernist streak. Never we were so much in need of modern and novel and scientific ideas to deal with the crisis that we are faced with at present—COVID-19 crisis that could bring large scale devastation into our society if we don’t heed the calls of the science to do what it is modern and what is scientifically required.
No doubt we cannot stop anyone from expounding religious explanation for the spread of COVID-19 virus in our society, but such a narrative should not receive legitimacy from officials of the state. At least Prime Minister of the country should accord legitimacy to such irrational persons by sharing stage with them, as this will erode the legitimacy and credibility of the state itself. And what such an unscientific, anti-modern and irrational behavior will lead to will most certainly be nothing less than God’s wrath.