state building and regligionThe exploitation of religion has never been helpful in the process of state-building; a lesson that we learn from the history of Europe. When Europe was under the control of the Church, human rights were tremendously violated and ignored in Europe. Muslim societies have not learnt from the world history thus we observe that Islam has been misused by political forces and powerful groups to promote their own vested interests. It is not that only the religious group exploits religious sentiments of common Muslims but secular groups alike use religion, whenever they need it, as a weapon to protect their privileges and power. A case of Pakistan is a classic contemporary example in which both religious and secular groups exploited religion and hindered the process of state building, which could not take place even after taken the independence the British rule 64 years ago.

The analysis of history of India-Pakistan shows that Muslims were never stopped from performing Islamic obligations under the British rule. Nor had they strong fear that they would not be able to perform their religious fundamentals under the rule of Hindu majority after independence. What was the reason for demanding separate land for Muslims?

Muslims were discriminated politically and economically under the British rule and the Muslim educated class had feared that they might be more discriminated under the Hindu majority after independence of the Subcontinent. This fear was escalated by the educated Muslims of the Subcontinent and not by the Mullahs (Hassan 2000) thus the demand of independent country was not supported by most of Mullahs and religious political parties like Jaamat Islami. The movement for an independent land for Muslims was started by a secular leadership of All Indian Muslim League. Primarily, the collective leadership of the party was from the upper educated class, which is mostly secular. Even, the top leader of the Muslim League, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Popularly known as Quaid-e-Azam (a leader of the continent), extremely impressed by the British culture and followed theirs mannerism throughout his life. However, he did not refrain from exploiting religious sentiments of common Muslims to achieve his political goals and ambitions.

To gain sympathies of scholars, Mullahs and ordinary members of the Muslim community in India, All India Muslim League used the slogan, ‘Pakistan ka malub kiya; Laa ilaaha illal (Pakistan means: none worthy of worship except Allah). The slogan was used to convince Muslims to support Muslim League and participate actively in the movement of independence. Although, Jinnah tried after independence that religion would be a private affair of people Pakistan, the consequences of this slogan have been felt, strongly, on the politics of Pakistan.

Mullahs and like minded people used this slogan to promote their own vested interests in the name of Islam and all secular governments pampered them to gain their support (Hasan 1977). Mullahs’ philosophy strongly emerged on the political scene in 1977 when the political movement against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto turned into a religious movement on behest of Pakistan military generals demanding Islamic Shariat laws in the country. General Zia-UL-Haq took the advantage of the situation and used religious sentiments to establish his rule for a long term by promising that he would run the state as per Islamic law – of course, he failed to do so. The mullahs and Military rulers like Zia-UL-Haq have misconstrued religion and tried to inculcate false idealism in order to strengthen their control in which they strived to establish democracy as a non-Islamic model of government and accountability of the ruler lies with Allah and not with the people.

The history of Pakistan shows that all military, secular and religious leaders used Islam to meeting their own political ends and ignored to initiate the process of state-building. Initiating the process of state building has always been seen dangerous by all power full actors and groups including rich feudal class, military, industrialists, mullahs and politicians.

Since no attention has been paid in the process of state-building, consequently public institutions weakened. Instead of working within their domain of authority, institutions, for example army, have seen it as an opportunity to transgress from their legitimate authority, which brought chaos and corruption in the country throughout the years after independence.

Till today, there has not been drawn a line between state and religion in the system, therefore, individuals and institutions are misusing religion for their own benefits. It is very likely that the situation continues because people are not ready to separate and draw line between religion and politics. They are not ready to accept that prophets can manage the two different affairs simultaneously but not ordinary people.

Nadeem Yousaf

8 July 2011


Religion and State Building