By Sabah Mushtaq
Last Friday, I heard a prayer by the Imam (prayer leader) of one mosque that put me into deep introspection. “Oh Allah! This country (Pakistan) is becoming liberal; please save it and guide its leaders to promote Islamic system in this country.” The nagging question that haunted me, after listening to the prayer, was what did it mean to be liberal in Pakistan in common citizen’s point of view. It also propelled me to think whether to be liberal, in essence, was really equivalent to going against Islam. Liberals in Pakistan have been a jeopardized species for a long time.
Pakistanis have no shortage of revile words to throw at each other under the most favorable circumstances; however a standout among the most vitriolic terms in vogue today is the word ‘liberal’. The word is used as a part of different combinations — liberal fascist, pseudo-liberal — so as to disgrace and quiet a contradicting opinion in discussions about anything from Pakistani society and religion, to the development of Pakistan and its belief system, to the war on terror. However, many people who do so, have no essential comprehension of what liberalism truly is, and in fact, are mistaking it for different notions in a way that is both unmindful and humiliating to discern.
Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Whereas classical liberalism emphasizes the role of liberty, social liberalism stresses the importance of equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programmes such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality, and international cooperation. Liberalism achieved a top in the 1960s with an agreement on welfare capitalism, democratic politics and multiculturalism in Europe and the US after the revulsion of the Second World War that were driven by outrageous economic, political and social conservatism.
For me, it speaks to the pinnacle of human thinking’s evolution since forever. All people merit respect, beyond ethnicity, religion, and race. Xenophobia and bigotry are awful. Politics must be fair, economic impartial. However, to the best of my comprehension, these liberal thoughts are so clearly valid there is not even a need for debate. This is the thing that every great religion preached; however, is not what their followers always follow today. In this way, it perplexes me that liberalism is yet not the predominant intellectual constrain in Pakistan. All the more worryingly, it is in retreat. Liberals wherever are battling a difficult task — and winning just once in a while. To be backward looking, narrow, prejudiced, parochial, tribal, sectarian, and nationalist is so much easier than to be accommodating, global, and universal in Pakistan.
(The writer is an M. Phil Scholar in the History department of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad)
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