The secular delusion

Published: October 19, 2012
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The writer is an Indian author-columnist. She also blogs at http://farzana-versey.blogspot.com/

The writer is an Indian author-columnist. She also blogs at http://farzana-versey.blogspot.com/

Forget about separation of religion and state. Can religion survive without a state? Would it be orphaned without patriotic fervour?

I come from a country that is secular. Yet, its largest opposition party has dreams of a Hindu Rashtra. The government offers sops to every faith. There are regional groups that seek special status for language and ethnicity. Tribes and scheduled castes have their own demands and the nation owes it to them, not because the Constitution has failed them but the faith they were born in has. The Constitution, in effect, is keeping belief systems alive.

Does India have a right to be called a secular republic? Is this not merely about multiculturalism, the subsuming into an Axe effect that starts wearing off once the pores start emitting sweat again? ‘Iftar’ and ‘pandal’ politics are now so well-entrenched that it would be unthinkable for any political party to upset this neo-status quo, which is quite precious for a status quo is usually an established model. There appears to be only a repackaging of tradition.

The recent Pew Research Centre’s study that reveals 19.6 per cent Americans believe in “nothing in particular” is considered a departure from stratified norms. It draws attention to US politics within the framework of piety. To suggest that one in five adults is not using traditional patterns does not mean much. Even in states with a religious constitution, there are the rebound and rethink dissonances. Pakistan is a prime example. Rather, religion gives the state a long rope to hang itself with.

As the study team said, “Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.” How does this bode for the religion of the state when not only is the faith factor divided by race, but political choices made by the ‘nones’?

Dan Barker, Co-President of The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), thinks it is a pertinent yardstick: “…when are politicians and candidates going to wake up to the changing demographics and start courting us? Secularists are looking for candidates who share a commitment to America’s foundational principle of separation between religion and government.”

It depends on how deep one excavates to get to the foundation. After the American War, the states expected government office-bearers to express fealty to the Trinity and declare the divine inspiration of the Bible. We may move on, but history is embedded.

In the run-up to the elections, FFRF is putting up billboards showing regular families — the big American fantasy — with catchphrases: “This is what an atheist family looks like”, “I’m secular and I vote”, “We’re too old for imaginary friends”, “Atheists work to make this life heavenly”.

How different are these notional divisions from devotional ones? Who will they vote for? What are the candidates promising besides the usual civic issues? President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both alluded to religion. ‘Other’ faiths are mentioned either as a species to be protected or as a threat.

Richard Dawkins who wrote The God Delusion partly as a reaction to 9/11 has suggested that whatever may have been the hijackers’ political or social motivations, it was a religious act based on the conviction that they would be rewarded in the afterlife.

The proponents of such theocracy use this as a cover-up. It might explain the ‘non-state’ nature of these actors, too. Their religion gives the attacked country a carte blanche to choose its opponents from the many streams of Islamic thought. Curiously enough, the US did not strike at the fount — Saudi Arabia.

Would the ‘religious act’ argument apply to the violence in Tibet, a Buddhist state? The self-immolation by monks and nuns could also be seen as a violent act, and the ethnicity of the people depends to a great extent on its religion to survive. Devotees are blamed for deifying the founder. The moot question here is: Why, then, are there Buddhist states? Hypothetically, without a supreme being or an emissary, as much as a political or philosophical leader, is it possible to sustain any creed?

Even in non-religious societies, as in communist states, there will be fringe pious groups — whether it is the Russian Orthodox Church or minorities in China. The state is expected to uphold their rights or else deal with ideological skirmishes and bloodshed.

There is a belief that superimposed unity is counterproductive. Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion in London, quite naturally upholds ‘purity’: “State-sponsored multiculturalism treated European countries like hostelries. It judged that the state should not ‘impose’ rules and values on newcomers. The resultant policy was that states treated and judged people by the criteria of whatever  ‘community’ they found themselves born into.”

In Britain, where the Church of England is effectively the state religion, what culture could be used as a standard and how would it negotiate nationalism? We do tend to use the word culture to take away the harsh reality that almost all cultures depend on value systems and these, even as heresy, are often imbibed from sacred texts. Therefore, the non-canonical is perforce born of the consecrated and remains a recusant faith, as it were. To prove otherwise is merely akin to spilling ink over scriptures. Secularism as negation is as hallucinatory as the perennial queries about God. It must be pointed out that over-the-top nationalism putting country above all else uses a theistic paradigm.

If the Indian nation did not identify me as a Muslim, I would have — as when the rare occasion permitted me — filled in the religion column with “Not Applicable”. The onus is on the state to stop acting like a shrine.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (58)

  • sh(india)
    Oct 19, 2012 - 10:38PM

    As if there is secularism in any muslim country!! Plz leave india if dont respect hinduism,buddhism and jainism.

    As an indian atheist i would not be safe neither in pakistan nor in any muslim country

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  • Lala Gee
    Oct 19, 2012 - 10:43PM

    “Does India have a right to be called a secular republic?”

    I am absolutely convinced of at least one thing in my life, that the secularism in India and democracy in Pakistan are the biggest deceits with human kind.

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  • gp65
    Oct 19, 2012 - 11:08PM

    Ferzana,
    Nice thoughtful article. Definitely liked it much better tahn the earlier one. I agree that freedom to believe can only have value if there is freedom not to believe, otherwhise the belief is not voluntary but a forced act.

    Having said that I would like to say that I beg to differ on “We do tend to use the word culture to take away the harsh reality that almost all cultures depend on value systems and these, even as heresy, are often imbibed from sacred texts.”

    FOr example all Gujaratis – Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Jains have traditionally had a shared cultuire independent of religion consistiing of folk music, folk dance (garba, dandia),, language, dressing (seedha pallu saree for ladies), festivals such as utaraan etc. I would imagine that that was true of Punjabis as well as until Pakistani punjabis deliberatiely started moving away from it, Punjabis (Hindu, Muslim Sikh) too had a shared culture around language, literature, bhangra, food, folk music festivals like basant etc. On the other hand a Tamil Muslim is likely to have little in common culturally with Muslims in Nigeria or Afghanistan.

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  • Indian Catholic
    Oct 19, 2012 - 11:21PM

    Dear, dear Farzana, Why do I always sense that you have an axe to grind?
    .
    Like you, I too am from Bombay. However, I gave up on Bombay when it became Mumbai. The bigotry and the hypocrisy was too much for me to bear (Clarification: I never faced it myself but saw it happen all around me) and I moved to the US.
    .
    However India is not just Mumbai. I urge you to come to Bangalore and see for yourself.

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  • BlackJack
    Oct 19, 2012 - 11:23PM

    I am completely mystified. The writer is a very muddled person – her ramblings indicate that she had a lot of space to fill and nothing much to say. She confuses atheism with secularism; she also has issues with the Indian constitution that gives diversity (in religion, language, ethnicity) its space – and then dumps the topic to move to American politics, where again she says nothing much; 9/11 appears to have provided the West some stick to beat select Islamic thought streams with – though which ones are not specified; then self-immolation by Tibetan monks is thrown in – apparently the Tibetan issue is a problem with Buddhism in her eyes. She clearly has a problem with the BJP (which has never claimed that it wants a Hindu rashtra) – an argument during which her religious identity suddenly make a stealthy comeback despite protestations to the contrary. However, I can answer one question – Can religion survive without a state? Modern nation-states are a recent phenomenon and have nothing to do with religion. Most nation states were also not formed on religious basis, although there may have been a degree of homogeneity in the religious beliefs of the citizens. Anyone who reads newspapers can see how religion has thrived below the surface even under secular despotic regimes in the Middle East and is making a scary return – which puts paid to even that point. Will someone tell me what this was about? Incredible waste of time.

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  • sh(india)
    Oct 19, 2012 - 11:29PM

    madam muslim popualtion in the west is increasing and christian population in muslim countries is decreasing.This is a fact of secular countries.

    Recently a bangladeshi muslim was caught in usa for terrorrism. if muslims hate west why do they migrate to secular countries?

    As an indian atheist i am more worried about indian muslims being caught in terrorist activities.

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  • Thoughtful
    Oct 20, 2012 - 2:07AM

    The author is breathtakingly verbose while saying nothing. Secularism is a delusion only to the delusionall.

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  • gp65
    Oct 20, 2012 - 2:41AM

    @Lala Gee: “I am absolutely convinced of at least one thing in my life, that the secularism in India and democracy in Pakistan are the biggest deceits with human kind.”

    Lala Gee. Please speak for your own country. You know very little about India (unsupported allegations does not qualify as knowledge in my book) and even less about secularism though you claim to be secular.Secularism does not mean how it is described in Pakistan i.e. people give up their religious identities. It also does not mean that there are no igoted people. It means that the state does not discrimnate against people on the basis of their faith/absence of faith. If you think India is not secular please provide rererence to any law that discriminates against non-Hindus (be they of any religion or atheists or agnostics).

    Even when it comes to bigotry the prevalence is much less than what it was in 1947 and the trends are going in the correct direcion. And certainly Indian minorities may leave India for economic opportunity but they do not escape due to religious persecution as is faced by Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadis, christians and Shias in Pakistan. Census numbers in consecutive decades prove this.

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  • adam
    Oct 20, 2012 - 2:46AM

    Well you should know that secularism as understood in India means equal treatment of all religious groups and no discrimination or favouring of any group based on religion/religious ideology. It isnt the same definition of secularism as in Europe which is separation of church and state (Hinduism has no established church). The definition of European secularism arose from tussle between the Catholic church and it’s interference in the politics of the states.

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  • Gaurav
    Oct 20, 2012 - 3:26AM

    Turkey is a Secular country , yet has Islamic parties, so what do say ? Do you want India to become Hindu Rashtra, as you do not see India as a successful Secular nation , then no issues with it , it does not mean India will not have minorities. All countries including all muslim countries should strive to be secular, it does not matter if they call themselves secular or not.

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  • emory
    Oct 20, 2012 - 3:28AM

    Agree with BlackJack. The author is thoroughy confused. Coming to the last paragraph about the rare occasion to enter “Not Applicable”. I have a question. What’s stopping you? It is not upon the nation state or the constitution to identify your religion. It is completely up to you whether you want to disclose the information or intended to be identified to any particular religion. The onus is completey on you.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Oct 20, 2012 - 3:46AM

    @author: ” … If the Indian nation did not identify me as a Muslim, I would have — as when the rare occasion permitted me … “

    As a matter of fact, Muslims WANT to be identified as Muslims because they feel superior to all around them and they also feel entitled to special privileges because of whatever reasons.

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  • Dinesh
    Oct 20, 2012 - 4:25AM

    Then please emigrate to the paradise of Pakistan.

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  • Nitish
    Oct 20, 2012 - 5:46AM

    How about shifting to pakistan?

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  • F
    Oct 20, 2012 - 6:43AM

    So set an example: mark not applicable next to the religion column. What is stopping you? The Muslims are first to stamp applicable and believe the country/nation column to be not applicable. And just to clarify, the Indian nation does not require you to mark or unmark any column. It is neither required nor mandatory. If it is please make us aware of it so that we can support your burning desire to stamp non applicable.

    Set an example again by not putting the onus on the state to treat you like a shrine. Forget the schedule castes and tribes. According to you their faith has left them. Yours is special and all supreme. So stop hounding the state for special privileges and protections. What is so special about you that you seek to stand apart from the truly secular and tolerant? Why play the perpetual victim?

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  • Cheetah
    Oct 20, 2012 - 7:53AM

    May be the lady has some hidden agenda but anyway I think the larger problem is that she seems to be deluded.

    The irony is Malaysia which has only 60% Muslim population but still an official Muslim Nation whereas Turkey which has 96% Muslim population but proudly remains a secular nation. I am sure if tomorrow Malaysia strips off its religious identity, there will be as chaos on road as we saw few days back.So every nation doesn’t need religion to define its character.

    She claims about India ” its largest opposition party has dreams of a Hindu Rashtra”. I am sure she is talking about BJP who never claimed such thing but still a good try to satisfy some religious sentiments across the border.

    “Would the ‘religious act’ argument apply to the violence in Tibet, a Buddhist state”. They are fighting for the freedom of their nation. Its called nationalism but I am sure she doesn’t know the meaning of being nationalist as her article reflects that she is all about her religion.

    I don’t know what is “Indian Nation”, Its “India” , well I think “Indian” word doesn’t hold much importance in her dictionary.

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  • 1984
    Oct 20, 2012 - 8:10AM

    Madam
    I dont know which teacher taught you social science because you have all the rights to sue him for not teaching the subject called “Civics”..

    Among the 6 fundamentals rights given by our constitution
    1.Right to Equality
    4.Right to Freedom of religion

    So,you can practice whatever religion you want to practice,which includes atheism….

    India is a secular country where all religions are given space to practice,while China,Soviet Russia were atheist countries where u could be prisoned for propagating your religion…..

    U cant point out to isolated act of violence to tell that you are not allowed to practice ur religion…In fact,India might be the only country where Shias and Sunnis dont go around cutting each others throat….

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  • Vikas
    Oct 20, 2012 - 8:30AM

    What about Rs.600 crore which muslims in India get from taxpayer to go to Haj? My tax money for pilgrimage of Farzana and her gang. Farzana, ever thought about that?

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  • Deepwater
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:11AM

    I will agree that the writer’s points are open-ended and lead precisely nowhere.

    I would like to ask the writer this: Has she ever been asked to stop practicing her beliefs merely because of the faith she follows? Or to stop celebrating her holidays and festivals? Has the writer ever been told that a certain other religion is superior to her’s and is the only true religion? Has she ever been asked not to call herself something because she does not belong to certain sect? Has she known anyone who has been kidnapped simply to be married into a different faith? Has she ever watched Divali programming centered around someone of her faith being shown the “right” path? Does she have to make certain deeply personal declarations in order to obtain a passport?

    If not, then she has little to complain about. In fact, I think she is downright fortunate.

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  • Mirza
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:27AM

    These are five minutes of my life that I am never going to get back! Recommend

  • Gratgy
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:34AM

    @gp65

    Lala Gee. Please speak for your own country. You know very little about India

    You are wrong here gp65, Lala knows all he needs to about India through his text books

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  • Gratgy
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:37AM

    @Author

    Tribes and scheduled castes have their own demands and the nation owes it to them, not because the Constitution has failed them but the faith they were born in has

    Muslims have the same demands in India and have been demanding reservations., so I assume your argument hold good here too

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  • Lala Gee
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:40AM

    @gp65:

    “Lala Gee. Please speak for your own country.”

    Would you please also advise the same to yourself and to your Indian trolls infesting all over and advising us on issues ranging from street lights to sewerage disposal, every day laws to the constitutional matters, financial matters to political issues, and foreign policy to defense strategies.

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  • Peer Bulleh Shah
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:40AM

    Farzana Versey is a great writer. I never understand the point of anything she writes, but after reading her every time, I know that something is very wrong with India, and whatever that wrong is, Hindus are responsible.

    That makes me happy. ET, can we not have more Indian writers like her here? In these gloomy times, we need all the bad things we can think about those Indians. They are getting too big for their boots, and only Indian writers like Farzana Versey can put them in their place.

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  • Jpy
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:52AM

    Secularism means equal rights & laws to all citizens regardless of their religion. In India it is true and hence categorize under the secular country. If you feal this much secularism is not enough you are free to migrate to any country of your choice. Nobody is restricting you

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  • Oct 20, 2012 - 9:58AM

    You cannot divorce Indians from religion. Gandhi understood that – Nehru found it difficult given his vision of India. I personally find our obsession with temples and rituals troubling. I find it difficult when I see young muslims with long beards and girls in abayas. If at all, young India is wearing its religion on its sleeve and we should hope that the notion of ‘live and let live’ prevails over all the religious noise.

    I can understand where the author comes from and I would suggest that she travels to India’s hinterlands to understand how cultures and religions have always lived together – how illiterate hindu pilgrims will visit muslim dargahs and buddhist temples in gaya and rajgir – you see a culture that is alive, filled with religious fervour and tolerance

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  • Indian Wisdom
    Oct 20, 2012 - 10:18AM

    “Tribes and scheduled castes have their own demands and the nation owes it to them, not because the Constitution has failed them but the faith they were born in has.”

    Tribes all around the world have been exploited (and had even been forced into slavery, and you very well know by whom) no matter which faith they were born in. Singling out Hinduism won’t help. Even tribes born into Christianity, Islam or any religion have fared no better!!! Its more linked to the socio-economic conditions they were born in…..
    The concept Scheduled castes (or any caste) is a phenomenon which is more linked to culture which developed in India and less to the religion. You won’t find mention of Castes in holy scriptures but you will find the presence of scheduled castes in any religion which is found in India be it Hinduism, Islam or Christianity.

    Point is , its not that the faith has failed them but rather its unfortunate form of socio -cultural and economic exploitation of a significant group of society.

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  • observer
    Oct 20, 2012 - 10:45AM

    @Farzana Versey

    If the Indian nation did not identify me as a Muslim, I would have — as when the rare occasion permitted me — filled in the religion column with “Not Applicable”. The onus is on the state to stop acting like a shrine.

    Madam,

    Here is a link to the Application Form for the Indian Passport. It is interesting to note that the Application Form does NOT HAVE a Religion Column at all.Looks like all the religious identification is being done by you without any help from the state.
    And there goes your spurious argument out of the window.
    http://passport.gov.in/cpv/ppapp1.pdfRecommend

  • gp65
    Oct 20, 2012 - 11:05AM

    @observer: Thank you a picture (in this case a pdf) speaks louder than a 1000 words (this OpEd.

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  • Lala Gee
    Oct 20, 2012 - 11:15AM

    @sh(india): + Those clicking ‘Recommend’

    “As an indian atheist i would not be safe neither in pakistan nor in any muslim country”

    You are very right. Lives of Indians are in grave danger in Gulf, SA, and Malaysia. Do yourself a favor and don’t risk the lives of Indian citizens. Please ask your government to call all Indians back from Muslim countries.

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  • gp65
    Oct 20, 2012 - 11:43AM

    @Gratgy: “You are wrong here gp65, Lala knows all he needs to about India through his text books”

    :) You are right. I stand corrected

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  • Sinclair
    Oct 20, 2012 - 11:47AM

    @Lala Gee

    “You are very right. Lives of Indians are in grave danger in Gulf, SA, and Malaysia. Do yourself a favor and don’t risk the lives of Indian citizens. Please ask your government to call all Indians back from Muslim countries.”

    It is no solution to run away from problems, Lala Gee. Hindus, Jains, Buddhists should propagate their religion in the Islamic countries. We should have an Art of Living center near Badshahi mosque in Lahore, Venkateshwara temples in SA, and how about a multi-storied Buddhist meditation center overlooking Minar-e-Pakistan. Inshallah, it will happen.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Oct 20, 2012 - 11:54AM

    I would like to ask the author – as per your definition of secularism, what should India do to qualify as a truly secular nation.

    I would also like to ask her if Muslims will be ready to live under purely secular laws (no Haj subsidies, no polygamy, no divorce by triple talaq, maintenance of spouse after divorce, etc) and what all they will be ready to give up (Muslim personal law) and accept (family planning, uniform civil code, etc).

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  • Surya
    Oct 20, 2012 - 12:15PM

    @Lala Gee:
    Practice what you preach others..don’t speak for other Muslim countries as if they are client states of Pakistan..all these Muslim countries have more friendly relations with India than Pakistan..this thinking that Pakistan is the center of Islamic universe is the curse of your nation..Recommend

  • sabi
    Oct 20, 2012 - 12:38PM

    Author,
    Wish you peace of mind..

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  • Rani
    Oct 20, 2012 - 2:30PM

    @Surya:
    Why do u indians always twist the arguments? Lala Gee replied some naive person who commented that he won’t feel safe in Muslim Countries.
    @Lala Gee:
    Keep it up. I’m so fed up of these trolls and they Really don’t need to poke their noses in our matters. No other country is THAT MUCH obsessed with Pakistan!

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  • Oct 20, 2012 - 2:56PM

    The writer has very aptly dug out the foundation stone of the current extremism and intolerance.Recommend

  • Nateshan
    Oct 20, 2012 - 4:28PM

    I think Farzana has a reason not to fill up the column mentioning Religion. After the Jehadi attack on US everything changed, Muslims are earmarked, security checkups at airports, railway stations became more stringent, even Indian actor Shah rukh khan has to face the embarrassment at US airports. Recommend

  • Menon
    Oct 20, 2012 - 5:30PM

    Why don’t you come back and tell us when you have original thought instead regurgitating this study, that study and who told what in which book.

    Geez, papers publish any rubbish these days.

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  • Bigboy
    Oct 20, 2012 - 6:24PM

    Duh…. Just didn’t get this write-up. Maybe its only me. Hope ET did not commission this write-up just to fill space.

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  • Nitish
    Oct 20, 2012 - 6:25PM

    @Rani: No other country is THAT MUCH obsessed with Pakistan!
    No other country has killed 170 innocent people of another country and kept hostage its city for entire three days.

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  • observer
    Oct 20, 2012 - 6:32PM

    Forget about separation of religion and state. Can religion survive without a state? Would it be orphaned without patriotic fervour?

    The short answer is- Yes, religion can survive without a state.

    The long answer is too long to be produced here. Suffice it to say, the 2000 year old history of Judaism is the story of a religion surviving without a state.

    But the author, for understandable reasons, would have us believe that all religions are supported by some state or all states have a state religion. This is the only way she can justify some states going bonkers in the name of some religion.

    Sorry, the story does not stick, in view of the evidence of the Jews.

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  • PK
    Oct 20, 2012 - 6:40PM

    @Farzan – many Pakistanis tend to confuse what secularism means. They think that being a secular means non religious. Now if you are going to write such a confusing article, I am sure it is not going to help. Please can you be clear next time when you write..Recommend

  • Cynical
    Oct 20, 2012 - 6:45PM

    @sh(india)

    I doubt if you have read the article before you started hitting the key board.
    Engage in an intelligent discource and stop this incohorent, jingoistic rant.
    You will make yourself and your country men proud of you.
    Please.

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  • joy
    Oct 20, 2012 - 7:11PM

    @Farzana Versey
    If the Indian nation did not identify me as a Muslim, I would have — as when the rare occasion permitted me — filled in the religion column with “Not Applicable”. The onus is on the state to stop acting like a shrine.
    what is a state? It consists of a body of a people being governed/ruled according to some laws and regulations. The Indian state does not tell us to wear our religion on our sleeves, but alas, most of us Indians do so.Madam, you always have a choice to say that you don’t follow any religion…
    @Lala Gee
    “Does India have a right to be called a secular republic?”
    I am absolutely convinced of at least one thing in my life, that the secularism in India and democracy in Pakistan are the biggest deceits with human kind.
    Sir, Secularism in India is not going to die because someone like you wishes so.I refrain from talking about democracy in Pakistan coz its still in its infancy.

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  • BlackJack
    Oct 20, 2012 - 8:17PM

    @Cynical:
    @sh(india)
    I doubt if you have read the article before you started hitting the key board. Engage in an intelligent discource and stop this incohorent, jingoistic rant.

    Sir – I appreciate your comment (and I seek not to speak for @sh(india)), but do feel that the possible reasons for the ‘incoherent, jingoistic rant’ that you decry needs to be examined in greater detail. Clearly Ms. Versey has her own point of view, which remains most skilfully hidden in that jumble of words that we see in her op-ed; but I believe that a majority of Indians seek intra-faith harmony and respect, the perceived absence of which pushes us to metamorphose into those whom we rail against. For many of us, secularism is an English word that represents sarva dharma sambhava more than rigid separation of church and state (which has no practical meaning for a Hindu majority country without the concept of a church or any such body that seeks to speak for the religion) – and this is where the essence of conflict lies. Feel free to respond with your perspective.

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  • Oct 20, 2012 - 8:21PM

    @Peer Bulleh Shah: ‘

    “Farzana Versey is a great writer. I never understand the point of anything she writes,”

    A great logic is discovered in your comment i.e. As you don’t (fail to ) understand what Farzana Versey writes therefore She is a great writer. Wow ! you should propagate your theory In Pakistan.

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  • Sultan
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:08PM

    Wow, the fake moral outrage over Mallala only lasted a week? I guess no amount of Imran bashing will help drown the voices of sanity–in the end, we will need to one up with a political solution part of which may involve some bomb dropping. Imran’s plan should be refined through a national debate and implemented with full real support from the government and the army. Or we can bomb now, make a bigger mess by alienating more people and hardening the resolve of existing renegades only to make the inevitable negotiations more and more difficult and may be even impossible. We need to use our brains to the fullest capacity.

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  • Dr V. C. Bhutani
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:19PM

    Dear Madam, I couldn’t agree with you more. I agree with you throughout,especially the arguments and conclusion, and the concluding line “If the Indian nation did not . . .”.
    Allow me to offer a few observations which in my view are relevant. I was born in 1940 in Rawalpindi to a mother who was a second generation atheist and a father who too was an atheist. In my time I was content to remain an agnostic. I take my stand with Jinnah that one’s faith or belief is one’s personal matter with which the State should have nothing to do.
    It is no use talking talking about the divine inspiration or origin of texts like Gita, Bible, Quran, or any other text. The fact is that books are conceived in human minds and are written by human hands. It is the bureaucracy of religions that posits itself between the followers and Isvara/God/Allah/Wahe Guru. They have a vested interest in perpetuating the fiction because their livelihood depends on it.

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  • gp65
    Oct 20, 2012 - 9:20PM

    @Lala Gee: “@gp65:
    “Lala Gee. Please speak for your own country.”
    Would you please also advise the same to yourself and to your Indian trolls infesting all over”.

    Lala Gee, you chose to not quote me fully. I said “Lala Gee. Please speak for your own country. You know very little about India (unsupported allegations does not qualify as knowledge in my book). This was thus directed to you specifically and not to Pakistanis in general – many of whom I respect and pay a great deal of attention to e.g.(Max, Ejaaz, Mirza, Cynical, wonderer, LoneLiberalPK). I am not a megalomaniac to believe that I represent all Indians and hence cannot speak on behalf of all of them but I do hold myself accountable to facts and data anytime I comment. So no double standards there.

    In the meantime, would you respond to my original point as it relates to this particular OpEd and provide a reference to a single law in India that discriminates against non-Hindus? Because THAT would support your statement that India is not secular.

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  • Sanjeev
    Oct 20, 2012 - 10:11PM

    Good question raise by the author about secularism, well the utopian model for secularism would be no one needs to fill the RELIGION COLUMN but Alas the Hindus even have to write it in the form…Ditto for Jains, Sikhs, Christain in India.

    The other way round is to give your identity away – Religious identity, So India as a nation does not have any people with a religion !!! The question is are you ready to drop your religion to uphold secularism and this onus is on us not the state.

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  • bibyawari
    Oct 22, 2012 - 4:23PM

    @gp65:
    There are double standards based on religion, what happened in Babri Mosque episode, the Gujrat mob incidence and most importantly in Mumbai your own Indian nationals the Muslim actors cant get accommodation just because of their religion.

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  • Aqueel
    Oct 22, 2012 - 7:08PM

    Ironically, it is writer’s delusion and/or illusion, if not hallucination, that she equates secularism with atheism. While former is about coexistence of different religions – whether fractious or peaceful is another matter, latter is about denial of God’s existence itself. When I am talking of secularism, I am talking about it as envisaged in the Constitution of India, so please do not come running to me with a dictionary or free dictionary link. Again, ironically, the hyperlink to the line >>> … when the rare occasion permitted me — filled in the religion column with “Not Applicable”. <<< is about Pakistani passports “having a religion category”. Indian passport – on the contrary – does not have religion mentioned, one the writer should be holding for being “an Indian author-columnist “ and being “from a country that is secular”. So, the link seems odd, if I am not wrong about her passport, and I guess it is an editorial insertion. If latter is the case, then the writer may ask ET to remove the hyperlink.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii
    Oct 22, 2012 - 7:25PM

    Clearly – NOTHING COULD BE UNDERSTOOD from this ARTICLE.
    Author is totally totally confused about word ” secularism ”
    Secularism – can be applicable only in the context of Governance.
    Secular State means – The state ( Government ) does not recognise or be partial towards any religion.
    Secularism cannot be used for peoples behaviour in a society.

    A person can be partial to his religion in his personal or public life.
    The same person as a Govt. official or representative shall be impartial.
    This is the meaning of Secluar State or Secluarism.

    Don’t equate Secular States actions of subsidies to piligrimage/education etc., as anti-secular, it is more in the line of AFFIRMITIVE ACTION by STATE.
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  • Oct 22, 2012 - 10:52PM

    The state thrusting a religion is about various aspects, including attitude towards minorities – both as appeasement and pinning against a wall. It is most certainly not about a passport in the Indian context, although I have had problems at Immigrations in my own country for Pakistani visas stamped on it even when I am returning from anywhere else. However, that’s a different issue.

    @Aqueel Thanks for pointing out the hyperlink. It has nothing to do with my piece. I shall inform the ET eds.

    As regards secularism not being atheism, I think it is amply evident. Secularism is about the state; atheism is personal. The idea of superimposition conveyed that. I suppose it can be illusion/delusion. Glad my headline at least took off well…

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  • Deb;India
    Oct 27, 2012 - 3:13PM

    @FV

    You did well in explaining it.

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  • Cynical
    Oct 28, 2012 - 6:41PM

    @BlackJack Thanks for asking my perspective on your views. Let me start with the specific comments @sh(india) made. He exclaims (read screams),

    ‘As if there is secularism in any muslim country!!’
    With the probable exception to Turkey, there is none. But what it has got to do with India? Is Indian secularism conditional/relative to the secularism in Muslim countries? Does India want to be a mirror image of Muslim countries? I would love to believe that the answers to both the question are ‘No’. Can’t India stand on it’s own with her secular ethos? I think, she can. That kind of shrill (to put it mildly) comes from among other things, a lack of confidence.
    Then he decrees his fatwa, ‘Plz leave india if dont respect hinduism, buddhism and jainism. Where the writer has shown disrespect to hinduism, buddhism and jainism? And why she should leave India? If it’s for pointing out a few fissures in the way secularism is practiced in India, then I know of a dozen non Muslim Indian scholars, social scientist, political analysts, who have written far more damaging condemnation. What would be his advice for them? To leave India!!! I doubt. He takes out all his real and/or perceived grievances against the Muslims in his drivel because the author is Muslim.
    I welcome intelligent and informed debates, more so because it helps me (and I suppose many others) to learn new ideas, perspectives and facts hitherto unknown. But this culture of one-upmanship, taking cheap potshots, hurling invectives at each other is self defeating and must be discouraged.
    Now coming to your posts (I have seen 2 so far), I tend to agree that, ‘She confuses atheism with secularism;’ But if, “she also has issues with the Indian constitution that gives diversity (in religion, language, ethnicity) its space” as you said, I also have issues with this business of giving space.
    My guess is we didn’t learn from the history of the pre independence politics. It was Gandhi’s support for the Khilafat movement (I have no doubt he meant well) that for the first time created a communal space in Indian political thinking. Finally the partition was also about gaining space on religious lines. Problem is if you allow space to various groups of people who have no understanding of their respective boundaries (in terms of duties and obligations to each other) they end up owning the whole without belonging to it. Another example is the reservation fiasco and the mess it has created. Giving space to diverse community is laudable, but in the hands of short sighted leadership it has become an euphemism for appeasement leading to a sinister brand of identity politics. In short state should have no business with religion of it’s citizens. No covert or overt support either. Religion is personal, should be practiced within the personal domain i.e one’s home. It should not be brought into the street.
    Regards.

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  • Manish
    Nov 17, 2012 - 7:58PM

    Ms Farzana has a tendency of saying something which would create unrest or a bitter discussion. She will always shy away from raising real issues and then proposing solutions to them. She will just create a fire and then stand away and watch the TAMASHA. This is her claim to fame. The funniest part is she chooses to write about Indian secularism in a Pakistani Newspaper which i strongly believe is farther from secularism. Pakistan is not supposed to be a Secular state as it is born to be a Muslim country. So does it mean that Ms Farzana believes that India should have been a Hindu Rashtra?

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