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Dissent and the Islamic Republic

Last week I received a notice from Twitter Legal that the Government of Pakistan had reported my account as being in violation of Pakistani law. Apparently quoting Mr Jinnah, the founding father of this country, and speaking for the rights of minorities in Pakistan has been deemed in violation of Pakistani law. Twitter has been sending these notices to people for a variety of reasons, but I wonder if those responsible for this spurious unconstitutional and patently illegal reporting have given some thought to how they make Pakistan look to the world? As a lawyer who has worked on Internet freedom, especially You Tube, I have had the opportunity of exchanging views with representatives of these foreign corporations. They are often amused at the kind of things that the Pakistani Government takes offence. People in PTA and other such bodies are not doing Pakistan any favours. Instead they make Pakistan look bad. The idea is to create a chilling effect and curb all dissent and counter points of view. Obviously this also means that foreign corporations like Twitter by conveying these messages to the users are only furthering their nefarious agenda. Sooner or later someone will challenge these notices in a federal court in the US as being in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
I will obviously go on undeterred and will continue to quote Jinnah and oppose the exclusivist religious bigotry that has been built into the fabric of this country. Nothing I have tweeted or written about violates any law and those who have a problem with what I write are welcome to try and bring any legal action to prove otherwise. As a humble student of Islamic jurisprudence, I reject the notion that Islam demands an exclusivist Islamic Republic. The idea of Islamic jurisprudence revolves around the “Maqasid-e-sharia”. None of these Maqasid or objectives are fulfilled by denying equality to Non-Muslims. There is no compulsion in religion and that is the cornerstone of the theological freedom that Islam embodies. It was indeed for this reason that the Imams of the five schools of jurisprudence resisted tooth and nail the idea of codification of sharia and maintained a dignified distance from the political power centers. As Allama Iqbal said in one of his lectures on Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, the idea of separation of religion and state is not novel one. It has in fact existed throughout Islamic history.
The whole idea of an Islamic Republic is in fact an innovation and harbinger of needless controversy. It is like saying that a car is Islamic car or your phone is an Islamic phone. The state in which our holiest sites are situated, i.e. Mecca and Medina, is called the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is not called the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We talk of Riyasat-e-Medina these days but have we bothered to read the Mesaq-e-Medina or what was ostensibly the constitution of the state that Holy Prophet (PBUH) established? It speaks complete social and cultural equality of Non-Muslims in Medina and declares Jews and Muslims as one Ummah in clause 25. More importantly it does not at any point name the state Islamic. The state of Medina was a confederation of communities and a veritable commonwealth. To the best of my knowledge the Holy Prophet (PBUH) did not name the state Daulat-e-Islamiyah. 1300 years of Muslim Caliphate never used the term either. Therefore there is nothing particularly Islamic about naming the state Islamic Republic.
While the Objectives’ Resolution was a departure of Jinnah’s vision of a secular Pakistan, the problem in Pakistan started when we decided to name the state Islamic Republic in 1956. This is because many states have preambles that have a notion of God’s sovereignty and other religiously inspired notions, the Republic of Ireland being a key example.
The idea of having an Islamic Republic though was a completely new innovation unprecedented in Muslim history. While we did not have a state religion in 1956 and for good reason, the name Islamic Republic took a life of its own. When in 1962, Ayub Khan briefly changed the name to Republic of Pakistan, he was met with protests from religious parties, the same religious parties that had opposed the very creation of Pakistan in 1947. Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami, Agha Shorish Kashmiri’s Majlis-e-Ahrar and Mufti Mahmood’s faction of the Jamiat-e-Ulema had all sided with Maulana Azad and had opposed the creation of Pakistan because they had feared a Muslim majority state under secular leaders like Jinnah would have no space for them to mislead the Muslims and keep them in shackles. Plan A for these religious parties was to have a pact with the Congress and maintain supremacy over the community. After the creation of Pakistan however they quickly proceeded to Plan B- to make Pakistan a theocratic state where they would be the dominant force. Hence the innovation of the Islamic Republic was introduced because of their agitation.
An Islamic Republic automatically means that Non-Muslims are somehow less equal as citizens. The very idea violates the binding promise that the founder of this country made on 11 August 1947 to the citizens of Pakistan. Obviously it is easy to ignore an Anglicized barrister and whatever he might have said but then this idea of an Islamic Republic also violates in very clear terms the egalitarian spirit of the very Charter of Medina, we supposedly are now committed to uphold in this Pakistan. In essence therefore there is nothing Islamic about being an Islamic Republic.
If being Islamic is about being just egalitarian and humanistic, it does not require the state to be called an Islamic republic. Pakistan today is not just, it is not egalitarian and it is not humanistic. For religious minorities, it is a veritable hellhole. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can begin rectifying the situation. This is why the so called Islamic Republic is so fearful of dissent because somewhere in their hearts the powers that be know that they have betrayed both Jinnah’s promise of an inclusive Pakistan and the very spirit of Islam by legislating in its name. If there is anything that today blights the glory of Islam, it is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Let us be truthful to ourselves and stop bringing Islam into disrepute in this manner.



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