Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Liquor should be Allowed in Pakistan


December 15, 2018

By Saeed Qureshi


Now the use of liquor and intoxicant drugs such as opium, Charas and Ganja etc. have been in use by the denizens of this world from time immemorial. In the modern age except a few Islamic countries, it is an integral part of the societies and is treated to be a great source of liveliness, enjoyment and for a pleasant boost to the people.

It should be known that there was no ban on drinking liquor or the alcohol in the voluminously referred and widely quoted state of Medina (including the incumbent PTI government in Pakistan) as a model for the Muslims to follow. Imran Khan wants to establish the replica of the State of Medina in Pakistan.  The prophet of Islam Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) left it on the discretion of the Muslims to drink alcohol or not. He decreed that in this(liquor) there was more harm and less benefit. It clearly shows that drinking of alcohol was not banned by the Prophet and was left on the discretion of the drinkers. I am not aware that in subsequent it was banned by him or not.

Some of the liberal religious Islamic scholars should pick up the courage to come forward and straighten and rectify the Islamic injunction about drinking of Sharab or the alcohol. That would clarify the real edict of Islam about this most controversial issue that has kept Pakistan on the troubled tenterhooks of chaos and a rivalry between the liquor drinkers and those opposing it on the basis of religious injunctions or ban.

Let us contemplate and perceive for a minute that does real Islam depend on not liquor drinking. Or else religion Islam emphasizes on good conduct, efficient governance, equality, education, justice, honesty, truthfulness, no adulteration, safety of women and children from abduction, rape or maltreatment, eradication of poverty, and institutional efficiency etc.  

The hue and cry in the name of Islam about the ban of drinking alcohol or liquor would never subside for all time to come. The myopic religious scholars have a right to impose it.  Simultaneously, the drinkers would keep finding alternate routes and way-outs to drink.  As stated above only a saner and judicial use of drinking liquor has been advised in Islam. An Islamic government can impose restrictions on behaviors and attitudes that cause crises and disorders in the society but not complete ban on the use of liquor. It can be perceived that in the time to come, the nation and citizens of Pakistan would be pressed by the extremists and unlettered religious zealots to grow beard, discard modern or western dresses and wear Islamic robes as can be seen in Saudi Arabia and was also worn by the prophet of Islam.

It is good to be a Muslim and adopt Islam as a religion. But to interpret it and its teachings within the framework of the city and state of Medina is simply denying this religion to go along with other societies in terms of social, political and economic changes. We live in a modern time and in civil societies which give rights, freedom of participation in the state affairs, electing their leaders, enjoying civic galore and fundamental rights and socialize. The people of the modern, civil and open societies drink and enjoy civil liberties. They are the beneficiaries of the legitimate rights such as freedom of expression, electing their leaders by using their right to vote, be free to adopt the pattern of life within the civil laws and the constitution.

The western modern societies are much better than the Islamic societies with regard to economic and social freedoms, jobs, raising families, education, rule of law and galore of civic facilities.  That is why the people from backward and poor countries including Islamic deeply urge to leave their religious yet backward and poor societies and settle in the socially peaceful, economically robust, democratically vibrant and civically excellent countries.

In Islamic societies Muslims are stuck up in the past and refuse to make any changes in their attitudes, living patterns, broaden their outlook and give religious freedom tor all denominations.  The Muslims are stuck up in the past and not willing to make changes which in Islam is called Ijtihad. In non-islamic countries, religion has been confined to the personal domain and choices.

This comparison can be judged from the urge and attempt of majority of the citizens and families of the Islamic countries to move towards the developed and advanced states such as USA, Canada UK, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Besides for jobs and residence, they migrate to the liberal Islamic states such as Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Muscat, Abu Dhabi UAE as well as Turkey as well as the Central Asian states.

It shows that Pakistan is economically poor, religiously unsafe, politically divided and indeed a closed society.  In Pakistan, religious freedom human and fundamental rights of the citizens have no meaning. Pakistan is an intolerant country and beset with myriad religious, social, ethnic and similar problems,

That is why the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e- Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah opposed a theocracy opposed the rigid Mullas. Instead he opted for a modern, secular, liberal and democratic state where all sects and denomination would be free to pursue their religious obligations, with Islam as the leading religion.  That Pakistan has even been hijacked and over-taken by the ignorant and violent bands of Islam.

The Sunnis and Shias are engaged in a religious tussle with each other for 1400 hundred years for supremacy of their brand of Islam. The fanatic Sunnis are fighting and suppressing other denominations within Islam. To name a few, these are Wahabis, Brelvis and Naqshbandi etc. If their own religious domain is divided then they have no right to declare and interpret what is permissible and what was not for others of the same faith. One such issue is the use of liquor or alcohol by the people and unwanted imposition of hard rule by the state to ban it.







     


Friday, December 7, 2018

The State of Pakistan and Religious Fanaticism


December 6, 2018

By Saeed Qureshi
Islam is the state religion in Pakistan but of which sect? If the answer is pure Islam then what could be the interpretation of this pure Islam keeping in view the various sects and religious denominations that dot Islam. The Sunnis and Shia interpretation of Islamic Shariah is divergently different from each other.
During the last fourteen centuries, there has never been any convergence or consensus on an agreed, unanimous or unified code of Islam that should be acceptable to both the mainstream Islamic sects as well as the fringe denominations. Instead, these sects have been exterminating each other in horrendous massacres and bloody bids for conquering each other’s lands.
This cleavage is glaringly manifest even in the present ages when Islamic fraternity is distinctly divided into two blocs: one headed by the radical Sunni Saudi Arabia and the other by Iran as the main citadel for the Shia branch of Islam. There is no way these two blocs can hammer out a format of faith that can eliminate their ideological rivalry and bring them on one common agreed platform of Islamic Shariah. The division of the Islam into two contrasting and confronting ideological blocs, has given birth to the regional conflicts and a frantic race for political or leadership ascendency in Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
In the ongoing upheavals in the Middle East, in states like Bahrain and Syria, the popular uprising is being interpreted in terms of Shia and Sunni majority areas and demographic proportions. Alongside with the popular wish for liberalization of these societies with civil rights and democratic forms of governments, the underlying tussle boils down to the question as to the which sect is going to wield political power within the respective countries now steaming with the urge for a change.
The same ideological conflict is rampant in Pakistan that is attributed to be an Islamic state. The animosity and hatred between divergent sects are manifest in the unremitting terrorist attacks and bombing of each other’s’ holy places and during religious festivals.
The Muslim societies where the religion is the driving force behind their nationalism or is the raison d’ĂȘtre of their existence such as Pakistan, have remained vulnerable to the sectarian bad blood and ideological pulls and pressures. It would be an ideal situation if Pakistan turns a liberal state where all shades of religious faith are free to practice and worship in accordance with their religious traditions and teachings.
In Pakistan with an Islamic nomenclature, while the majority sect is free to prevail the minority sects and denominations feel themselves fettered and under pressure in regard to the unhindered performance of their religious customs and traditions.
The cardinal cause of the religious discord in Pakistan is the lack of tolerance between sects and because of treating each other as infidels, heretic and out of the pale of Islam. The sects such as Deobandi, Wahabi, Ahle-Hadith, Qadria, Chishtia Naqshbandi and a whole lot of mystical bands, in fact, blur the fair and original face of Islam that was in vogue during the period of first four heads of Islamic states; called caliphs.
The conflict and tussle for power that started between the governor of Syria Amir Muawiyaha and the fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali (656-661 A. D.) laid down the foundations of fissures in Islam that has never been bridged nor can it be removed ever in the future. The accession to power after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) divided the Muslims into Shias and Sunnis.
This ideological division is so hard and trenchant that both these sects do not pray in one mosque, say the same Azan (call for prayer). They observe different timings for payers, fasting and use different words in prayers. The Shias do not pay the Islamic tax (Zakat). Above all they consider that the first three caliphs usurped the rights of blood relations of the Prophet to succeed him in caliphate or Imamate.
As such both these sects are poles part and can never agree on one Islamic code. They kill each other and deem it as a religious obligation to be sacrificing their lives for the sake of upholding their religious ascendency.
The other myriad sects that abound in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan simply help in shredding the monolithic ideological fabric of Islam with their diverse concepts and explanations of Islamic Sharia and by their violent feuding.
For instance, three conservative sects Qadria, Chishtia and Naqshbandi believe and promote the culture of shrines, the worshipping of tombs and graves. They sing hymns for eulogizing the saints and holy figures for their supernatural powers to heal and remove problems. Their opponents, the Wahabi discard all these practices as un-Islamic and sacrilegious.
The Christians, the Hindus, the Ahmadis and other similar non-Muslim sects cannot feel themselves at par or equal citizens of Pakistan because the majority sects would not treat them as such. The orthodox and radicals from the Sunni faith attack and harass and kill, at will, the faithful of other sects within Islam and the non-Muslims alike as a sacred duty. The rival sects when get chance pay back in the same coin.
Therefore, to declare Pakistan as an Islamic state with so much sectarian animosity looks like a mockery because the tolerance and justice, the two pain pillars of Islam, are seldom practiced in any Islamic State all the more in Pakistan. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is now clandestinely ruled and governed by the Islamic militants who brook no mercy nor tolerance for the dissenters or followers of diverse and divergent faiths.
Wherever, the state and religions have mingled or blended by the writ of the state or under the force of the mighty and dominant religious sects, the state affairs and the good and peaceful governance have remained in a limbo.
First of all, in the absence of a unanimous or agreed format of Islam, the faith-based dissention or strife would always remain a lurking hindrance for the unity and peace of a society. The attacks on shrines in Pakistan have gained momentum. The destruction of Sunni and Shia places of worships are testament to the gory fact that it was impossible to eradicate the discords of creed between these colliding sects.
It is, therefore, necessary that state affairs should be detached and made free from the religious domain as far as possible. The interference of religions in state affairs is detrimental to the overall advancement of a society and for the unhindered socioeconomic progress, political stability and democratic culture to flower.
There should be freedom of religion for all sects within the confines of the law and the constitution. Europe went through the turmoil between Catholicism and Protestantism and finally confined religions to the individuals to follow. The European societies have ever since been in peace.
Pakistan is a geographical entity. Islam was here in these lands when Pakistan has not been carved out. Pakistan as a country is meant to serve and cater its citizens irrespective of their cast, color, creed, gender, religious inclinations, or being low or high, rich or poor.
A country cannot be called an egalitarian state or a free society, if it remains hostage to the overbearing dictates of particular cults or sects. It would be a theocracy as Pakistan is. Absolute theocracies have never prospered as evidenced by history.
For a theocracy, the citizens of a country have to be in vast majority with the same faith in order to maintain their hold on power as we can see in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Otherwise only brute power can keep the opposing sects or ethnic segments together as seen in Iraq during Saddam Hussain or presently in Bahrain.
In the modern times when the nation states have emerged, the theocracy is unthinkable and to impose it would be sure recipe for sectarian war and social disharmony and dysfunctional political governments.
During the British colonial occupation of 200 years and even during the 1000 years of Muslim rule in the united India, the society, by and large, presented a harmonious blend of religious pursuits for all sects and their peaceful cohabitation. The Shia-Sunni and Wahabi-Naqshbandi discord that in Pakistan has reached frightening dimensions was seldom on display during the British rule in India. The mushrooming of sectarian civil war began after the creation of Pakistan which is getting more violent and deadly with the time passage.
It is indispensable to curb and rein in the religious extremism that may now be called religious militancy as it is becoming a constant threat to the writ of state and does not allow the society to be transformed into a civil pattern. The strident religious extremism hinders judiciary, press, executive and legislature to be free and independently play their respective roles for the benefit of the people.
The religious extremism poses a constant challenge to the people and state so much so that the false cases of blasphemy cannot be adjudicated that merit release of the accused person. If someone is released by the court he or she is later killed.
Moreover, these violent, hate-filled, rancorous and bigoted religious entities are exploited by the political forces and special interest groups to promote their respective agendas. The religiously motivated individuals are always ready to kill and create panic. General Ziaul-Haq cleverly and adequately manipulated the religious right in Pakistan to douse the spirit of social freedom and keep his opponents under control.
His lurid legacy remains vibrant with every successive regime following the same tactic that is creating perpetual disorder and turmoil in Pakistan. The creation of Taliban for occupation of Afghanistan is now back lashing as this Frankenstein is now swallowing Pakistan with atrocious and disastrous ramifications happening every day by suicide bombing and sectarian clashes.
The Islamabad religious seminary’s deadly episode with state troops demolishing that place with brutal force is a testimony as to how strong and defiant the religious outfits have become to create a state within a state.
If some can come up with a practicable model of an Islamic state in clear terms, which can fulfill the demands of the modern civil society, a nation state and with complete sectarian ethnic and communal peace in Pakistan, then he should hasten to unfurl it so that Pakistan can move forward as a stable and strong nation. The models of Saudi Arabia or Iran will not work in Pakistan as they have complete majority of their respective branches of Islam in their lands. Otherwise let Pakistan be a secular Islamic state.

This religious and sectarian frenzy poses a great challenge to the incumbent PTI government. The latest demonstration of that distasteful bigotry has been witnessed in case of a Christian girl Asia Bibi who was convicted of  blasphemy by a Pakistani court and was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. She was acquitted In October 2018 by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the basis of insufficient evidence.

That verdict was rejected by the fanatic religious leaders led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi a Barelvi preacher and the founding chairman of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a fast-growing religious political party.

On their command the whole country was paralyzed under the pretext of blasphemy committed by that young Christian girl who had already been punished for a sin which she has denied of committing and had even asked for forgiveness. The main cities including Karachi and Lahore were gridlocked by the fanatic religious crowds. That show off of bigotry caused enormous financial loss as well as termination of mobility of the people and the transportation. Threats were hurled by Rizvi and other demagogues at the government, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary. That was a kind of a kind of religious coup against the state of Pakistan. Now such gory incidents can also happen in the future which need to be forestalled.