Commentary



    (Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

    The question of whether or not there can be a dialogue between Islam and secularism is a particularly pertinent one today. Many Muslims, including the vast majority of ulema and Islamists, believe that these ideologies are polar opposites. Hence, they insist, there is no possibility of arriving at even a minimum consensus between the two.

    Yet, the question of dialogue between Islam and secularism remains one of particular importance, especially in the context of the rights of Muslims living as minorities in non-Muslim-majority countries. Numerous non-Muslim scholars and even some noted Muslim intellectuals (such as the Pakistani writer Mubarak Ali, the Indian Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, and the late Professor Mushirul Haq) complain that where Muslims are in a majority, they brand secularism as ‘anti-Islamic’ and a threat to Islam and its followers, but where they are in a minority, they regard it as a blessing. Furthermore, where they are in a minority, they seem to argue for a secular state but, at the same time, insist that Muslims must remain safe from secularism.


    THE POVERTY OF FANATICISM

    'Blood is no argument', as Shakespeare observed. Sadly, Muslim ranks are today swollen with those who disagree. The World Trade Centre, yesterday's symbol of global finance, has today become a monument to the failure of global Islam to control those who believe that the West can be bullied into changing its wayward ways towards the East. There is no real excuse to hand. It is simply not enough to clamour, as many have done, about 'chickens coming home to roost', and to protest that Washington's acquiescence in Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing is the inevitable generator of such hate. It is of course true - as Shabbir Akhtar has noted - that powerlessness can corrupt as insistently as does power. But to comprehend is not to sanction or even to empathize. To take innocent life to achieve a goal is the hallmark of the most extreme secular utilitarian ethic, and stands at the opposite pole of the absolute moral constraints required by religion.  


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