Sunday, September 02, 2007

Was Jinnah secular?

I suppose this is one of those questions that will be never settled like the one about partition being inevitable. People will keep coming up with answers based on whatever new information is unearthed.

In EPW (August 11-17), Pervez Hoodbhoy tries to answer the question: was Jinnah only in favour of a Muslim majority state (where non-Muslims would have equal rights) or did he want an Islamic state?

Much is made of two speeches where Jinnah is seen as expressing himself against a theocratic state. However, sifting through Jinnah's various pronouncements at other times, the charitable conclusion that Hoodbhoy comes to is that Jinnah preferred to maintain ambiguity on the subject. He was not beyond declaring that Pakistan would be governed by the fundamental principles of the Shari'ah when it suited him.

Hoodbhoy contends that Jinnah's ambiguity was aimed at retaining leadership in Pakistan- had he been entirely forthright in his views, he may not have been able to do so. More interestingly, Hoodbhoy argues that even if Jinnah favoured an Islamic state, that would not be saying much given that the true nature of the Islamic state has been highly contentious in history.

I am surprised that Hoodbhoy does not state the obvious. Having propagated the two-nation theory, it would have been difficult for Jinnah to argue wholeheartedly in favour of a secular state. If such a secular state was possible, why create a separate nation in the first place?

Hoodbhoy concludes:

He (Jinnah) certainly did not want a theocracy or a Taliban state, nor
one in which the non-Muslim minorities would be persecuted and harassed (as they are today). But Jinnah's statements at different times and circumstances are far too widely spread out to conclude anything substantial beyond these

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