On Monday, the recently revived Milli Yakjehti Council – an organisation of over a dozen small religious parties created to reduce sectarian tensions – criticised the Sindh government’s plans to formulate official Friday sermons to be read by all mosques in the province. Jamaat-i-Islami’s Professor Ibrahim Khan, head of the council’s ‘Khutbat-i-Juma commission’ said that the government has no right to dictate what clerics say or do not say, saying that “idealising Saudi Arabia” is not the right option here.

The group makes some valid points, which in normal circumstances may have held much more weight. In an ideal world the government should play no part in individual religious activities, since it infringes on constitutional protections, however this is not an ideal world, or even a stable one. The groups arguments don’t take into account the countless hate crimes perpetrated against minorities, most of which are initiated by a cleric’s loudspeaker. At the moment, regularisation of sermons and loudspeaker use remain the only viable options to curb this menace.

If there are more, the Milli Yakjehti Council is welcome to forward them.

Its other arguments against checks on religious organisations also fell short of the mark. The council essentially reiterated the same line that seminaries are employing to escape monitoring; monitor and regulate the people actually doing harm, don’t create blanket policies that effect even the innocent ones. This seemingly intuitive argument is the most insidious. Without blanket policing, there can be no preventive action, only reactive. The government will be able to shut down mosques that incite sectarian hatred and convict clerics that preach extremism, but it will only be able to discover these crimes once the damage has been done. The Milli Yakjehti Council and the people it represents may be rightly outraged at being lumped together with terrorists, but they have to rise above the displeasure and look at the country objectively. The same day the council took to the stage a Shia cleric was shot in Peshawar and Lal Masjid continued to be belligerent.

Pakistan may be “idealising Saudi Arabia” with this policy but that is not a bad thing if the policy is geared towards a noble objective. Furthermore, the council seems to have no problem with other instances where Saudi Arabia has been idealised in Pakistan – Al-Bakistan number plates are just the tip of the iceberg.