Daily Times: by Yasser Latif Hamdani:
Merchants of religion and ideology: The Business of Religion
We do not live in the Middle Ages, and even if we did, the faith of Islam does not allow any ecclesiastical authority or a secular one determining who is a Muslim and who is not
The people of the Indus Basin, who form the majority of Pakistanis, are by nature conservative and by that I do not mean that they are necessarily close minded. What I mean is that on a long enough timeline, they tend to reject extremism of all kinds and this is their greatest strength. This one characteristic is self-evident in our family lives. Religious extremists as well as those who forward a self-righteous creed of any ideology — secular or otherwise — alike are ostracised and sidelined within their homes. It is not unusual to find families balking at the idea of their son growing a long flowing beard and becoming overly religious. Similarly, those who are refuseniks of sorts and preach their doctrine are viewed with suspicion. The relationship between the common Indus man or Indus woman with religion is by its nature pragmatic. It is a sort of an insurance policy, an unspoken agnosticism that seeks to cover all grounds and possibilities, including the possibility of there being an afterlife.
Then why do we live in an age of extremism you may ask. Extremism in the post-1970s era is big business. It sells like nothing else. I recently asked a famous but thinking religious scholar of the Deobandi school if there was a possibility of introducing an oath on the Holy Quran for those who accused others of blasphemy. His reply was instructive. He said that ‘mullahism’ is now nothing but a means of livelihood and that economic conditions would ensure that the complainants of blasphemy will indubitably take a false oath on the Holy Quran. In other words, the mullahs have scant regard for their own holy book. It extends beyond mullahs, of course. Great investigative journalists of our time — especially those who write for a certain news media organisation whose Urdu title translates as ‘war’ — are waging a war on reason and hope, all for their own advantage.