“The biggest tragedy of the Muslim state is the death of intellect and the rise of the clergy as the only authority posing as arbiter between life and its principles of survival. The intellectual flourished under colonial rule but was gradually ousted from society by the rise of ideology. In Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, the clergy as arbiter of the state is already visible and the rebels shouting Allahu Akbar are vulnerable to it. Libya’s transitional government has a number of Muslim Brothers in it.

Pakistan’s assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto in her book Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West, dreaming of an ideal Muslim state, wrote, ‘And the living reformers like Muhammad Arkoun, Abdur Rahman Wahid, Wahidudin Khan and Khalid Masud would be able to preach and teach their modernising theology without facing repression or marginalisation by the state’ (p. 284). All these intellectual religious scholars have either been exiled or abominated.

Khalid Masud came under attack from the orthodox clergy in Pakistan. He was chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) in Islamabad. Muhammad Arkoun was an Algerian genius who was recognised in the West as the most gifted exponent of Islam who was able to live in Algeria. Abdur Rahman Wahid, an Indonesian religious and political leader, served as the President of Indonesia from 1999 to 2001. Maulana Wahidudin Khan is the Indian moderate scholar whose message is appreciated all over the world but is rejected by the Muslims because of the dominance of extremism in their thinking.

Benazir Bhutto mentioned our CII chairman Dr Khalid Masud because of his scholarly contribution to our fundamental understanding of Islam, including the Sixth Lecture of Allama Iqbal where the national philosopher had bravely ‘reinterpreted’ the concept of hudood in Islam, recommending that punishments such as cutting of hands not be imposed in our times.

The Muslim state survives a little bit better if it becomes a market state, as in the Gulf States. Within the nation state paradigm it starts killing itself gradually through a love of heroic isolation, which is today the ideal of all Muslims, which makes Iran the most envied state. Pakistani generals are following this model and will have to carry the stigma of having killed Pakistan after being pushed by APCs and parliamentary joint declarations into placing Pakistan in the crosshairs of isolationism even as clergy and lawyers bay for the innocent blood of non-Muslim blasphemers; and non state actors kill Shias to claim place in a Sunni paradise after death. The Muslim genius flourishes when ruled over by a colonial master. His intellect dries up under the merciless oppression of a pre-modern vision that the Muslims simply cannot review and modify.”

(Khaled Ahmed)