Ghamidi and ‘Secularism’ called by any other name smells just as sweet

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Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times:

Please view the Urdu video of Javed Ahmed Ghamidi before reading the article.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a popular reference to William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet seems to argue that it does not matter that Romeo is from her family’s rival house of Montague, that is, that he is named “Montague.”

The cliché is now commonly understood as need to focus on the concepts and essence of things rather than the nomenclature or name.

Let us review the first amendment of US constitution:

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This is how I define or understand ‘secularism’ that the state or “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

I guess respected Javed Ghamidi will agree with this assertion or simple definition of secularism, as he says so in the very beginning of the above video.

I realize that ‘secularism’ is a very loaded word and different authors may be stressing different connotations or meanings of the word. So, I want to move away from the word and just focus on different aspects of the debate.

My emphasis as an editor and as a writer is on human rights, women rights, free speech, interreligious tolerance and Muslim brotherhood that rises above the sectarian divide.

Secularism to me is coexistence of communities of different faiths and sects with love and peace.

Having said that I agree with many of the claims that Ghamidi makes in the above video, namely that love of Sharia and the Quran cannot be taken away from the Muslims and I love and cherish both in my personal life.

However, we should not be dogmatic about the leaning of the Muslim population towards Sharia.

Like any religious group, the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims vary depending on many factors, including where in the world they live. But Muslims around the world are almost universally united by a belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad, and the practice of certain religious rituals, such as fasting during Ramadan, is widespread.

In other areas, however, there is less unity. For instance, a Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in 39 countries asked Muslims whether they want sharia law, a legal code based on the Quran and other Islamic scripture, to be the official law of the land in their country. Responses on this question vary widely. Nearly all Muslims in Afghanistan (99%) and most in Iraq (91%) and Pakistan (84%) support sharia law as official law. But in some other countries, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – including Turkey (12%), Kazakhstan (10%) and Azerbaijan (8%) – relatively few favor the implementation of sharia law.

I also agree that there are some teachings in the Quran about communal living and we should seek the essence of those in our communal lives through contemporary means.

When I collect my articles or of others about secularism, for a lack of better word, it is in the above mentioned context that I am collecting those and entertaining those debates.

I believe we should discuss individual issues, one at a time, rather than lumping them together, otherwise any debate about secularism becomes dogmatic and nothing fruitful is achieved.

Before setting forth my collection on secularism here, let me further concede that I completely agree with Ghamidi that armed Jihad or war is completely and most definitely in the domain of the state and not in the jurisdiction of individuals or any small groups. Please click here for our total collection and below are some of my favorite articles on these issues, for which I use the label of secularism until someone suggests me a better word or label.

To be genuine about my suggestion, I googled for synonyms for secularism and came up with the following choices, temporal, earthly, laic, nonreligious, laical, nonclerical, of this world and unsacred.

So, I have used the word, in the past and here in the above connotations and not to imply, blasphemy, fallacy, defection, disbelief, impiety or infidelity.

Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times and author of this article

Suggested Reading by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times, for the best understanding of personal religion in the 21st century

My main suggestion to the open minded readers is to read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”

Firstly, I want to share the top three paragraphs about secularism from Wikipedia:

Secularism is the principle of seeking to conduct human affairs based on secularnaturalistic considerations. It is most commonly defined as the separation of religion from civic affairs and the state, and may be broadened to a similar position concerning the need to remove or minimalize the role of religion in any public sphere.[1] The term has a broad range of meanings, and in the most schematic, may encapsulate any stance that promotes the secular in any given context.[2][3] It may connote anticlericalismatheismnaturalism, or removal of religious symbols from public institutions.[4]

As a philosophy, secularism seeks to interpret life based on principles derived solely from the material world, without recourse to religion. It shifts the focus from religion towards “temporal” and material concerns.[5]

There are distinct traditions of secularism in the West, like the French, Turkish and Anglo-American models, and beyond, as in India,[4] where the emphasis is more on equality before law and state neutrality rather than blanket separation. The purposes and arguments in support of secularism vary widely, ranging from assertions that it is a crucial element of modernization, or that religion and traditional values are backward and divisive, to the claim that it is the only guarantor of free religious exercise.

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Incidentally, I completely agree with the following video of Ghamidi, where he is describing concepts and human rights and we are tied down to the meaning of a word:

We have also saved the above videoes in the Muslim Times:

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