Religion and Pakistaniat

The white stripe in Pakistan flag is supposed to represent minorities, who have very little stake, now, in the present day Pakistan

By Faisal Bari Published June 23, 2023 for

IT seems that Islam as well as ‘Pakistaniat’ come under threat very often in this country. And to ‘defend’ either, in fact both, it is always appeals to religion, nationalism and tradition that are invoked.

People are accused of being un-Islamic, they are accused of being unpatriotic and they are accused of going against tradition. Traditional power structures are defended, and strongly so, in almost all domains in Pakistan.

The most recent example of this is a letter — subsequently ‘withdrawn’ by the HEC — on that Dr Shaista Sohail, executive director of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), has written to the higher education institutions in the country. In fact, it is a quintessential example.

Dr Sohail directly invokes religious and nationalistic values (“… espouses the cultural and moral values as laid down by our religion“, “… concepts embedded in our own culture, values and traditions, thus preserving the nation’s ideology”, and “… a complete disconnect from our sociocultural values and an erosion of the country’s Islamic identity”). She writes that those who celebrated the “… Hindu festival of Holi” were not aware of “… self-serving vested interests who use them for their own ends…”.

This is about students who celebrated the festival of Holi at a local university. Dr Sohail has made it sound as if some grave event had taken place and that our religion and country are facing a tremendous threat from those who are gullible and do not know that they have been and are being used by vested interests who want to harm Pakistan and Islam.

Is it not amazing how much concern a bit of dancing and throwing of colour by a few young men and women can generate? That a religion with a 1,400-year history, one that is followed by more than a billion people across the globe, can be ‘threatened’ by the song and dance of a few dozen?

The nationalism of a 240 million-strong nation is also threatened by these few. And, it appears, we are at risk of losing our sociocultural values and Muslim identity.

Read further

Suggested additional reading

Happy birthday of Shree Ram and How can Hindus think like a Muslim or a Jew, despite the mention of 330 million gods?

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