(Only) I think, therefore (only) I am

Yes, the Unhinged is remixing our religion. Indeed, his devotees are undeterred, and nothing written on these pages will weaken their resolve. The truth is that this is not the first time the remixing has happened. In many ways, this is old news. The reaction of his followers is old news as well. So, I’ll focus on something new.
Let’s talk about a brief discussion coming out of a channel, conveniently named, Naya Daur (New age?). This episode of the programme, Khabar se agay (Beyond the news), was uploaded on YouTube on the 28th of July and has the two hosts, Raza Rumi and Murtaza Solangi, engage with their two guests, Tanzila Mazher and Tauseef Ahmed Khan. Largely, they engage on the Unhinged’s recent declaration of what qualifies as shirk. All of the panelists seem to be quite irate on the said declaration. And, as they discuss their frustrations, they incarnate an exciting drama that perfectly showcases the biggest problem with the ‘liberals’ of Pakistan.
All of the discussants see a dichotomous world. This first becomes obvious when one of the guests claims that the Unhinged tries to appeal to both sides: ‘the modern, liberal, T-shirt wearing lot’, as well as the ‘religious, shalwar kameez wearing lot’. A little further in the discussion, one of the hosts offers a protracted monologue where they claim the following: they insist that politics and religion need to be separated and this meshing has been the biggest problem of the country since 1949. They offer examples such as the objectives resolution, the second amendment, as well as the misuse of blasphemy laws. The host insists that it is this entanglement that has made our minorities unsafe and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. After their statement, another guest explains that the Unhinged has lived in/through a ‘progressive setting’ which they describe as entertainment, traveling across the world, and being exposed to (some[?]) knowledge. The guest insists that the Unhinged wants to deprive the youth of such an opportunity and instead nudges them to hold ‘danday’ (sticks) and insist that they can challenge America. The guest also claims that the Unhinged lives within a ‘modern culture’ however, the example they offer as corroboration is a lazy accusation on dog-feed.
Eventually, the host with the monologue returns and reiterates what they’ve said already. They, rather angrily, insist that the society at large needs to separate State from religion. That, it should be ensured that there exists a neutral state that treats all Muslims and Non-Muslims equally. While the guests add in random morsels now and then, the host continues to take the stage and further elaborates their stance. They urge the Unhinged to refrain from misleading the youth of Pakistan. They remind him that it’s the 21st century. They insist that they want the youth to be educated in science and technology. When a guest reminds the host that youth from prestigious Pakistani universities are part of what the guests label as ‘dolay shah ke choohay’ (I presume, a take at pied piper), the host agrees and adds that even youth living in secular countries, in Europe, follow the Unhinged. Finally, one of the guests explains why the Unhinged has followers amongst the youth: they are repeatedly exposed to his message and eventually it gets assimilated. The program, finally, ends.
For the hosts as well as the guests, the world can be meticulously divided into two camps: a modern, liberal, secular, progressive, tee-shirt’d, entertaining, well-travelled, European form of living that’s driven by the momentum of science and technology, is egalitarian, and is made up of thinking individuals vs a religious section where people don shalwar kameez, carry sticks, are unmodern, prefer to infuse religion into politics, don’t have the agency to think for themselves, are emotional and exploitative towards the weak, and unprogressive. Clearly, for the discussants it’s an either-or situation. Much clearer still is that the path to a better future lies in choosing the former and discarding the latter.
The concept of a secular state is a pipe-dream; it was, it is, and will always be. The host insists that European countries are secular which is far from the truth. Most of the European states have state religions and the religious ethos are deeply intertwined into their legal instruments. France is one exception (amidst the world!) where the project of laïcité is being enforced and is an important reminder for the world at large to recognie the futility of this endeavour. However, even if we ignore its failure, the assumption that a secular French state is egalitarian is outlandishly false. In France, Christian mores have been rearticulated as attributes of the ‘folk church’ which means, while other religions are bound by the ghastly laïcité principle and are policed into the ‘private sphere’, Christian symbols loudly embellish the ‘public sphere’. Much like the romanticised narrative of a realised secular state where religion and state are separate, the assumption that this form of statehood is egalitarian is fictitious.
Moving on, the discussants seem to assume that being progressive and modern only implies doing away with the things categorised in the opposite religious camp. They monopolise these terms through definitions that are shamelessly ‘western’. One doesn’t have to think twice to recognise that they’re pushing for an enlightenment project in Pakistan that encapsulates the Europe of the 18th century. While their intentions are probably pure, they end up sinisterly colonising the articulation of rationality, progress, modernity, and knowledge. For them, these terms only encompass a certain western comprehension. Scholarship on multiple-modernities, decolonial studies, critical secularism, and post-modernism have long established that these terms are subjective and derive definitions out of specific, local experiences. Finally, for the discussants, singing to their tune denotes agency and critical thinking. A narrative opposing theirs is a mindless, emotional, irrational exercise. Much like the colonists, the discussants seem to insist that only they get to define (and hence mould) an unsavage being.
The world is not simply divided into two camps. Instead, it’s a stage of complex histories, narratives, and pursuits of power that both contribute to, and insist on the elimination of the other. Being rational or progressive does not mean being areligious; understanding of rationality and progressiveness can and does derive from a religious existence. The western conception of modernity is not capital-M modernity. Etc, etc.
While I recognise that such ‘liberals’ need to construct the un-liberal to self-justify their stances (much like the other camp), such segmentations only ruin Pakistan. Here’s to hoping we indulge in some altruism towards our nation.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More