In an unexpected turn of events, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and its relevance in the status quo was debated for the first time ever in the Senate on Tuesday. Attacks made by those supporting the CII against members of PPP, and whether they could recite passages from the Quran, are only further evidence of why the CII should be done away with. Personal attacks against a party, or its members, do not win arguments. If anything, senators who were against doing away with CII only proved why it needs to scrapped altogether.

Senators supporting CII argued that the abolition could not take place considering that Islam cannot be taken out of the country’s constitution. Attaching the sanctity of an entire belief system (Islam) to a flawed, imperfect and often obtuse man-made construct (CII) only serves to undermine the belief system itself. Islam does not need clerics with dubious intentions and questionable intelligence levels weighing in on policy matters that actually have no relevance to religion. Dismissing the use of DNA evidence in rape cases when scientific proof in itself is incontrovertible is the primary example of this.

On a more positive note, the fact that this subject is being debated at all in the Senate – after over twenty years of redundancy on part of CII

– is ground-breaking on its own. The CII was the brainchild of General Zia-ul-Haq and it is time that the government sheds this remnant of his failed policy of Islamisation. The debate is likely to arouse rancour from religious circles, but the government needs to be brave enough to establish its writ in the face of opposition from clerics. Realistically though this is unlikely to happen. The PML-N government relies on its support from religious circles and is probably not willing to fuel the controversy at the risk of hurting its voter base.

The only sort of opinion on religion needed from the state is promoting tolerance. The one thing that the state has to ensure is that sectarianism and extremism are completely eradicated from society. Some of the clerics sitting at CII have still not come to terms with this.

Whatever else remains in all matters spiritual is the personal domain of an individual and the state needs to stop trying to police the morals of society. The CII had the chance to become the driving force in the fight against extremism, but its members did not deem this path a worthy one. Upholding tradition for tradition’s sake will get us nowhere, and it is time the doors of CII are closed permanently.