Islamabad: The tendency to mix “religion with the running of the state” has led to the disintegration of both in Pakistan, an editorial in a prominent daily said Thursday.
The editorial, headlined “State And Religion” in The Nation newspaper, noted that the National Assembly on Wednesday “accepted an amendment to include recitation of ‘Naat’ after the recitation of Holy Quran at the beginning of the proceedings of the house”.
“Was there no other issue of importance to legislate on?” wondered the daily.
“While no one denies the good intention behind this amendment, we must understand that it is precisely this mindset, of mixing religion with the running of the state, which has led to the disintegration of both,” it said.
The editorial, however, contended that religion plays an important role in shaping society and morals.
Religious belief and practice remains vibrant in Pakistan, “but this does not require that religion be blatantly displayed in the legislatures. The National Assembly is a place of work, not of worship. Yes, we must start the proceedings with the name of Allah and his word, but extended worship must take place apart from regular proceedings”.
“It is necessary that the state remains separate from religiosity so that the constitutional structure is maintained. Religious beliefs do not need the protection and support of the state like this,” it added.
The daily went on to say that instead of passing amendments on Naat Khwani, poetry in praise of the Prophet, should the members of the National Assembly “not be passing legislation to promote religious freedom and protection to those who dare to belong from a different belief than what the state imposes on them?”
There are laws and bills that already relate to religious issue that need to be amended, including the Blasphemy law and the Hindu Marriage act.
It categorically said that the parliamentarians were doing “a disservice to Pakistan’s religious minorities when laws and acts pertaining to the majority are so readily adopted, and those relating to minorities become controversial landmines”.
“Islam will always have a place in the political landscape as it is the religion of the majority. This does not mean that it needs to be ‘saved’ or institutionalised by MNAs. The problem is that religion is the trump card, and once the Naats were suggested, what MNA would have the guts or irreverence to say no to the proposition?
“But what must be understood is that nobody is criticising Islam by arguing for a separation of the state and religion. What is being criticised is the lack of space for people of different backgrounds to even have a voice, when the voice of the majority is so loud,” it added.