The case of forced Secularism.
#1
Bangladesh has in the last two years witnessed a lot of changes in the political arena. Especially important one is the ban on Jamaat e Islami, the usage of religion in politics etc. by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

Now there is a lot of hullaboo amongst Pakistani liberals who want to emulate Bangladesh which at least to them seems to be gearing toward rapid secularisation of state, society and polity headed by the government in power and the Supreme Court.

I don't really buy this argument.

Reasons are myriad. First amongst them, Supreme Court of no country has no right to dismantle or ban any political party based on any* political ideology. Especially so, since a party which has garnered more than a million votes in previous elections, deemed to be free and fair, amounts to ostracizing the particular community that votes for that political party. Here, that political party is Jamaat. Even if we agree that Jamaat's evolution in Bangladesh was il-legal, the fact remains that after more than 20 years in polity, it HAS developed a vote bank and the side which polity take must be decided by the people instead of unelected representatives.

Secondly, an overwhelming victory in an election doesn't necessarily mean that the people trust every bit of your agenda. What I am trying to say is that in the 2008 elections, Awai League clean sweeped the polls, but that doesn't really amount to a radical shift in how people look toward the society and the state. And to be frank, back in 2001, the same party had lost the elections. Just eight years, and the whole society shifted its paradigm to staunchly secular doesn't just add up.

Thoughts and criticism much welcomed.

*Lets just not discuss if JI is like EDL or not. Lets just talk about any political party.
Reply
#2
This is indeed a very difficult subject to talk about. Especially without any context as to what religion actually is in modern society.

So let's begin with that context.

Since the founding of modern democratic governments, there has been a categorical division between religion and the rest of culture. This division has good reasons that have to do with removing the influence of organized superstition from overtly affecting the political process, which today is a highly unintuitive one. The ultimate reason for this is that large democratic societies are bound to fail unless certain pre-judgments are made into law regarding what is and what is not morally permissible as a collective.

In this regard, religions are recognized as private belief systems distinct from the state. Their significant impact on people's lives is noted, and various laws recognize religious groups, conferring unique status to these sets of self-contained cultural ideas.

So the idea that the "Supreme Court of no country has no right to dismantle or ban any political party based on any* political ideology" must be tempered with the facts about what religion actually is and how democratic governments have recognized them. I do not think there are any hard and fast rules about how democratic governments should deal with religious groups in general. But certainly when organized ideologies that are recognized by the state as institutions deserving special status become an intrusion on the operations of a democratic state, it is within the rights of the elected representatives to declare certain actions illegal.

Now if Bangladeshi Muslims are willing to forgo all special religious privileges (such as tax exemptions and other unfair laws) that the state provides to Islam as a religion, and those who promote Islam stop being fascistic and anti-democratic in their demands (from the state to the UN), then perhaps the contention that a democratic state should not disallow an Islamic political party can begin to be taken seriously by secularists.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
Reply
#3
Ajita, you have raised an important point regarding the fundamental rights, the protection of fundamental rights provided by the constitution. As I see it, no democratic government, however way it may be elected has no authority to change those laws that affect the fundamental rights. That is the premise.

Being in the political process itself is an evolving process for a political party as I see it. The rheotric that one can use outside government can never be sustained when within it. And that is entirely the case with parties who use religion as the rallying cry too. The democratic system with its stringent checks is indeed about compromise and accomodating the other one.

Now for that to happen, the state has to ensure that no one in the polity gets to have its sway using violence. There, as I see lies the difference. If we are to argue that their are some certain laws that must be adhered for democracy to sustain by every political party, I don't think that is possible. In this tussle of power, weird things happen. But the situation turns ugly when violenc eis introduced in the polity to mold the societal attitudes.

And thus I am fine with a party using religion, and another one using secularism as a slogan if without violence. In case of Pakistan, an urban party based in southern city of Karachi, MQM can be claimed as the staunchest supporter of secularism inside Pakistan but the harrowing tales of violence committed by its cadres sends shivers through anyone.

And then, finally, how exactly if a part is dissolved, its voting bank will restructure itself according to the new polity. Will it go underground and swell its ranks thus, as in the case of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or start to vote for someone else.
Reply
#4
(19-Apr-2011, 12:32 PM)SalmanJavaid Wrote: Ajita, you have raised an important point regarding the fundamental rights, the protection of fundamental rights provided by the constitution.

I dont see how I did that. Can you please point me to where I said anything of that nature here? I didn't say it for good reasosn- I knew that it would be drawn out into a long debate with no end.

You have also failed to address my actual argument- Laws in modern democracies conferring "unique status" to religion. As I said before, "Now if Bangladeshi Muslims are willing to forgo all special religious privileges (such as tax exemptions and other unfair laws) that the state provides to Islam as a religion, and those who promote Islam stop being fascistic and anti-democratic in their demands (from the state to the UN), then perhaps the contention that a democratic state should not disallow an Islamic political party can begin to be taken seriously by secularists." Please address my argument if you wish to actually have a conversation and not just push your point of view.



"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
Reply




Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)