Social movement: Replacing ‘obscure’ thoughts with rationality

Khudi, a recently formed social movement, educates people of values of democracy, pluralism and tolerance.

Momina Sibtain January 20, 2011
Social movement: Replacing ‘obscure’ thoughts with rationality

ISLAMABAD: Democracy! Obscurantism! Democracy! Obscurantism!

The tussle between obscurantism and rational thinking has been going on for the last many years. Recently the debate has taken a serious turn, as target killings and suicide bombings lace the daily environment of the country. With a misinterpretation of religion by extremist groups, Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of Khudi found himself distraught between the fine line that separated ‘obscurantist thought and Islamic teachings’.

Khudi is a recently formed social movement proliferating response from ordinary Pakistanis to reject the arguments of extremists, to denounce their calls for totalitarianism and to stand firm for the values of democracy, pluralism and tolerance.

“It was obvious that military means and security measures alone would never eliminate the menace of terrorism,” expressed Nawaz, “unless the extremist ideology that fuels such violence is challenged.”

Maajid Nawaz is the executive director and co-founder of the first counter-extremism think tank in London, which is called ‘Quilliam’.

Having spent most of his later life working towards moderating the extremist views on religion, in 2009, Nawaz teamed up with a number of young people to start a social movement through which Pakistanis could reclaim the meaning of Pakistan and the meaning of religion from those ‘who had hijacked it’. Through the power of education and debate, and through the magic of arts, “Khudi seeks to act as a counter-force to the darkness of extremist thought that threatens to engulf this country today,” he said.

“People of Pakistan have no consensus regarding the form of government that would be best suited to serve their interests,” said Nawaz. “Khudi is looking to create a civilisation consensus and inculcate the difference between religion and obscurantism.”

Nawaz and his 1,500 volunteers countrywide have reached out to over 22 universities and continue to travel around for creating awareness. Volunteers have created chapters in various regions of the country from Okara to Karachi. Each chapter conducts workshops in their respective region at helping students distinguish between ‘religion and obscurantism’.

Moreover, the movement seeks to educate young people how obscurantism is a political tool being used as a pressure group to attain political gains. Furthermore, Khudi uses religious teachings to distinguish between religion and the ideology of obscurantism and explains how democracy and religion can co-exist.

Nawaz said, “Having spent four years in an Egyptian jail for being part of an extremist (not a terrorist) organisation, I am well-versed in the arguments used by such them for coercing people to join their cause.”  After spending years studying the debate, the founder of the movement thinks that he can discredit the ‘false’ ideas and expose their weaknesses and contradictions.

The project seems very idealistic, almost utopian but Nawaz is realistic in his approach and is aware that the movement will not produce results within the next two years but it will take decades to see the difference Khudi is aspiring to make.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th,  2011.


Hassan Mujtaba Syed | 13 years ago | Reply Greetings Delighted to read the enthusiasm for advancing towards such imperatives which our beloved country needed badly. It'll add into pleasure if I become the volunteer and b able to conduct such workshops with students and academicia in my region supported by KHUDI. Regards,
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