In a brief interview with the Economist magazine, Farzana Shaikh, the author of Making Sense of Pakistan, talks about the root causes of current problems in Pakistan. According to her, while the proximate cause of the current mess is the process of State Islamization, emphasized by Zia ul Haq in the 80’s, the ultimate cause lies in the early 1900’s, when there was a widespread feeling among Muslims to somehow purge the South Asian Islam of its local influences — an emphasis to bring out its pristine qualities that were judged to have been corrupt. This mentality left deep marks on the idea and state of Pakistan, as it has been, rather unsuccessfully, trying to project the “legalistic” interpretation of Islam since its birth in 1947.
The founding father of Pakistan, Jinnah, was uncertain about how the state should embody Islam. At times he believed that Pakistan should be secular and open to all religions, while on other he reverted back to the idea of the “land of the Islam”. In Farzana Shaikh’s own words:
Unlike Nehru, who realized very early on, that religion was a retrograde force, Jinnah was always extremely reluctant to accept that, and even said that Islam is not a religion it is a nation.
The confusion over Islam’s role in the newly formed state, and especially about which version of Islam should be followed, accelerated further after Jinnah’s death in 1948 – as Pakistan struggled with the void of strong leadership (See my earlier post: The Importance of Second-tier Leadership.)
Farzana has an optimistic outlook for the future of Pakistan. Pointing out some positive signs like free and powerful media, active human rights groups and organizations, she goes on further and talks about how getting some inspirations from the east can help Pakistan ( paraphrased):
We have an increasing sense that [Pakistan] is not exclusive to the region [of South Asia], it is a part of the region. And to that extent, it must look to find commonalities with its neighbors – including its greatest foe, India. I would go so far as to say, that perhaps, you might find that kind of hope in the expressions of Indian Islam, which made its peace with local non-Islamic cultures. And I think that a return to these sources – away from those “Arabized” versions of Islam – may be one of the ways we can break through this terrible situation that we find ourselves in today. [Emphases are mine.]
[Hat Tip: 3 Quarks Daily]