Religion has nothing to do with the matter
- Yasser Latif Hamdani
- March 17, 2014
- The father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, speaking on September 11, 1929, said: “If we are going to allow ourselves to be influenced by public opinion that can be created in the name of religion when we know religion has nothing to do with the matter, we must have the courage to say ‘no we are not going to be frightened by that’.” He was speaking on the Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929, which orthodox Muslims had opposed on the basis of religion.
People who claim that liberals only quote Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech to prove their contention that Jinnah wanted a modern secular democratic state have not bothered to read the multitude of speeches that Mr Jinnah gave on civil rights, civil liberties, religious freedom, women’s rights, rights of minorities, the role of religion, etc, from 1910 to 1946 in the Indian legislature. They would see that Jinnah’s words spoken on August 11, 1947 were consistent with his lifelong views and his belief in liberal democratic constitutionalism. Jinnah supported a bill that would allow intermarriage between Hindus and Muslims because Jinnah felt that educated people of any religion should not be hindered by the religious clergy. He called upon the legislature to override Islamic laws wherever necessary. He said repeatedly that the march of humanity could not be impeded by the considerations of religious orthodoxy.
Some people have attempted to give Jinnah’s alleged opposition to his daughter’s marriage to Neville Wadia a religious colouring. The truth is that not only did Jinnah not make any attempt to stop his daughter’s marriage to Mr Wadia, he also sent a bouquet of flowers as well as a letter of congratulation to Dina Wadia. It is true that this wedding in 1939 put Jinnah in an awkward situation vis-à-vis Congress-backed Islamists in the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Hind and Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam Hind who were publishing propaganda against Jinnah’s credentials as the Muslim League leader, but the fiction that we have invented about Jinnah forbidding the marriage itself is just a figment of someone’s overactive imagination.
Fast forward 70 odd years, the country Mr. Jinnah founded — as a settlement to resolve the communal problem — has now ascribed all sorts of lies to the man. He is wrongly believed to have wanted an Islamic state. Countless quotes have been ascribed to him that almost without exception turn out to be either fake or taken entirely out of context. His country — now committed to a repugnancy clause — has done exactly the opposite. While Jinnah had called for not being frightened by public opinion created in the name of religion, the country he founded is in a perpetual state of fear in the face of religious agitation. Public opinion is not only manipulated in the name of religion, the tyranny of the majority is shoved down the throats of those who disagree.
The YouTube case that I am pleading before a division bench of the Lahore High Court took a strange turn when one counsel — a man known for rabble-rousing — declared that I was working along the dictates of the protocols of Zion and that the petitioner I represent actually is part of 26 different Zionist plots to take over Pakistan. All this because the petitioner wants to enforce the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan. Perhaps the most disgraceful was the performance of Mr Faiz-ul-Hassan Chohan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf on Ejaz Haider’s show Bay Laag on Capital TV, which dealt with the issue of second marriage and the permissible age of marriage. I marvel at the uncanny ability of Imran Khan’s party to attract the worst kind of bigots to its fold. Other than the fact that Mr Chohan cracked a tasteless joke about two bickering wives, which no one found funny, he also declared that only religious scholars are allowed to interpret Islam and when challenged asked another participant on the show to recite Dua-e-Kanoot. Unable to argue logically, he resorted to screaming and then abusing Meera the actress out of the blue. God save the country (and the party) where misogynist nut-jobs like Faiz ul Hassan Chohan manage to find a voice.
The recommendations by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) are not mandatory and I frankly would not give them much attention. However, what makes the situation more alarming is the fact that the Minister of Religious Affairs was given tacit approval for these recommendations by the Prime Minister. In other words Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will now undo the work Mr Jinnah did all those years ago on the Child Marriages Restraint Act. The CII is now dominated by the orthodoxy. Appointments as a consequence of the dictates of political expediency have rendered it a body that opposes progress and reason. It is time to consider whether the nation can even afford a body that comes up with the kind of pointless and archaic rulings that this defunct body does. Some of the other recommendations that the CII has made in the past include the addition of Kalima and Takbir to the national flag and the removal of Mr Jinnah’s picture from our national currency.
Here is something else Pakistanis must consider. CII Chairman Maulana Sherani is the ideological follower of Mufti Mehmood who was one of the most trenchant opponents of Mr Jinnah and the Pakistan Movement. Well at least they are ideologically consistent.