Monday, December 6, 2010

The Origins of Israel, Pakistan and Blasphemers

Uri Avnery, in a fascinating article in Outlook, argues how the “secular nationalism” of Zionism (or so he claims) was marred by the State of Israel’s “non-separation between state and religion”
“This distinction between Israelis and Jews would not have surprised any of us 50 years ago. Before the foundation of the State of Israel, none of us spoke about a “Jewish state”. In our demonstrations we chanted: “Free Immigration! Hebrew State!” In almost all media quotations from those days, there appear the two words “Hebrew state”, almost never “Jewish state”.”
“The source of all this evil is, of course, the original sin of the State of Israel: the non-separation between state and religion, based on the non-separation between nation and religion. Nothing but a complete separation between the two will save Israel from total domination by the religious mutation.”
Interestingly, this is eerily close to a revisionist school of South Asian History which claims that the Pakistan—which, like Israel, is a confessional state founded on a 20th century ‘idea’—might have been envisaged by its founder as a ‘Muslim’ state but never a ‘Islamic’ state. Like Israel’s ‘Jewishisation’, Pakistan’s ‘Islamisation’ is a result of the country’s politics after the establishment of the state.

This, of course, is a controversial and highly charged subject in Pakistan’s politics. And like so many other historical figures—Attenborough’s Christ-like Mahatma, for example, bears very little resemblance to Gandhi—the Quaid-e-Azam of so many Pakistanis differs starkly from the historical Jinnah. It is said, only half in jest, that a politician’s stand on the matter can be deduced from the sort of portrait of Jinnah he has up: if J’s ‘suited up’, it’s a liberal’s wall you’re looking at; if he’s wearing an achkan/sherwani, the man who owns the portrait wouldn’t take too kindly to the revisionist school.

Whatever be the source of it, though, this malaise has become quite cancerous. Recently, a woman was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for insulting the Prophet (prophets, as we all know, are in dire need of protection by just about anybody). Like most religion-based scuffles, the origins of the case are somewhat prosaic, rooted in a row over drinking water. Currently, the case is in Lahore’s high court with moves being made by Zardari to pardon her.

P.S: Just realised what a ridiculously pompous title this post carries. Oh well...


Cool4u said...

the difference between a Muslim & an Islamic state, if you please?

Hades said...

Well, a Muslim state would be a nation for Muslims (in Pakistan's case, British India's Muslims). Just as the French state is a state for Frenchmen. Theoretically, the religion Islam would have no explicit role to play in the country's politics. In other words, the term Muslim, here, is being treated as an ethnic/cultural denomination, not a religious one.

Turkey is a (Turkish) Muslim nation: most of its citizens identify as Muslims. It is not, however, an Islamic state, however. Pakistan is a Muslim as well as an Islamic one. OTOH, the Mughal state under Aurangzeb was an Islamic state but not a Muslim nation.