Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

The following article written by me was not published as it tackled a so called “sensative issue” . It seem like it is becoming a trend that anything portraying Israel in a good light and anything remotely suggesting freethinking beyond Islam has difficulty getting published, even if it is something that we can learn from. 

Are we free? The answer to that question is normally “Yes”. The reasons given for that affirmative answer are usually: we are free from the shackles of the colonial British and we are free from the united sub-continent, so we are free. According to the Two-Nation Theory that we study all through our school lives,  essentially, we as Muslims, would be a minority in United India and our right to practice our religion would be taken away because Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations.

So today, in 2011, are we actually free? Or this is just a fallacy? In this article I would refrain from a long tirade of blaming the corruption of our leaders for our perilous history and would invite readers to look at their own selves. I would specifically focus on freedom of thought and belief.

Author Yoram Kaniuk allowed to state "without religion" on his Israeli Identity card

I would quote an example from our arch ideological rivals, Israel. Israel has a strict Jewish identity. Even one of the pre-existing demands of the Israeli Government to kick-start negotiations for Palestinian freedom is the recognition of Israel as a Jewish State by the Palestinian Authority. So, in a nutshell, they are very serious about their religious identity, both at government policy level, as well as, society. In this same Jewish State, the famous Sapir Prize winning author, Yoram Kaniuk, was granted the freedom to identify himself as, “without religion” on his identity card by a Tel Aviv district court. After the court ruling, many Israelis gathered to sign a petition to declare themselves as “without religion” and the court’s decision was hailed as a big step towards freedom of thought. Let me make this clear, “without religion” does not mean, atheist or agnostic, it just means what it says “without religion”. There were no sweeping protests across the country for the decision, nothing was burnt down, and Yoram Kaniuk, is still alive and does not have 27 bullets in his chest.

Let’s come back to Pakistan. Pakistan was created on the basis of a religion and also we thrive on our religious identity. The constitution claims to be based on Islam and we are called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Academically speaking, both Israel and Pakistan are religion based ideological states (although created in different circumstances, but that is not the focus of this article). I will put up the question to the readers. Is it possible that the freedom that was given to Yoram Kaniuk, possible in Pakistan? Will a court allow a person to put that in his/her passport? Keeping in mind the fate of Salman Taseer (Governer of the Punjab province assasinated for supporting change in the blasphemy law), I believe that freedom of thought does not exist in Pakistan. Forget about someone declaring oneself as “without religion” which would instantly spring a plethora of “punishable by death” fatwas and will make the “death to the apostate” brigade all hot and heavy. Just airing your views about a man-made law about religion would qualify you for free 27 bullets in your chest (case in point – Salman Taseer). Just having a different ideology within the same religion might lead you to death (consider the fate of Shia Muslims killed on their way to Iran). Or just read the constitution regarding the rules about Ahmadis. I would really urge readers to take a look at Sections 298(b) and 298(c) of the penal code of the constitution and you will see archaic and medieval nature of the law.

So, again I ask, are we actually free? I would term our freedom of thought and belief as a conditional freedom. Free, as long as it along a certain belief system. Freedom, according to Merrium Webster dictionary is “the quality or state of being free: as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action”. All three conditions necessary to be absent to be fundamentally free are present in Pakistan. “Necessity” to believe in a certain way, “Coercion” if one does not believe in a certain way, and “Constraint” if one does want to believe in a different way. Essentially our minds are not free, what do you think?

Disclaimer: The reason for making a comparison with Israel is solely because my argument is based on both of our country’s fundamental foundations based on religion. I am not trying to prove they are better or worse because that would be a topic of another article. 

 

By Ahmed Αμονας Aziz

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