Khaled Ahmed - Rollback nations (NEWSWEEK PAKISTAN)

The modern Islamic state continues to be a besieged idea.
After the Taliban killed a major-general and blew up 80 Christians in Peshawar, Pakistan is busy rationalising the situation in favour of "peace talks" with them. As if wheedling himself into their good books, a judge in Peshawar questioned: "Why is modern banking still allowed in Pakistan?" He was within his rights because the Shariat Appellate Bench of Pakistan's Supreme Court has indeed banned it. Banking, as we know it today, is banned in Islam, so is insurance and state lottery, but Pakistan is still carrying on with them. Al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri condemns Pakistan for not banning modern banking.

The religious parties, not able to win elections, draw their strength, not from the elected assemblies, but from al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as the latter kill in the name of Islam. (The exceptions among religious groups are the Shi'ites and Barelvi Sunnis, who are routinely butchered by the Taliban as deviants from the faith.) In unison, they are defending dialogue with the killers, who don't want to be distracted from terrorism as they prepare for talks with the Nawaz Sharif government, fortified by an all-party consensus on peace talks instead of "war against terrorism". The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) at Islamabad has prophylactically started fining girl students who wear jeans on campus.

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), constitutionally mandated to "guide" the legislature, has refused to award death to those who make wrongful accusations under the blasphemy law, which gives death as minimum punishment to those who insult the Holy Prophet. It has also piously deemed DNA evidence as secondary, not primary, proof in cases of rape, where the perpetrator simply cannot be punished because of the conditionality of four eyewitnesses to the forcible sexual assault. It recommends that earlier legislation under "hudood" (Quranic punishments), correcting this legal irrationality, be rolled back.

Muslims produce their best men when they are not ruling the state they live in. The most gifted intellectuals, like Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Abduh, survived only under the British empire because their works were too "groundbreaking". When Muslims acquire a state they go into a kind of recidivist trance: give us utopia or nothing. They make noises about the "modern Islamic" state but the moment such a state is created, they start squabbling over it. Despite their denial of "theology", this is all they have when thinking of the state. They deny the presence of a clergy in Islam but their society is crawling with it, and despite avowals to the contrary, they slavishly follow their frozen-in-time medieval doctrines, savagely discriminatory to women and non-Muslims.

The other thing that has Muslims in a tizzy is education. If you want to educate yourself, never ask a Muslim what to do. He will accept modern education, saying the Quran is for all times, including modern times, and therefore allows modern education. But the moment you say "secular" education, he baulks. The age of reason, which gave us modern education, is not his cup of tea because what he understands by "reason" is "deductive logic". He accepts the discipline of economics while ideologically rejecting the concepts of banking and savings. He is "literalist", therefore he can be a banker without accepting the institution he serves... read more:

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