Modernist spirit of Islam can fight radicalism: scholars
* Speaker says radicalisation result of intellectual stagnation of society
* Static notion being taught at madrassas same as in public education system
ISLAMABAD: Speakers of a seminar have stressed the need for reinterpreting religious dogma in the dynamic and modernist spirit of Islam, which Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Allama Iqbal had exhorted for the advancement of the Muslims of the Subcontinent.
The seminar titled ‘Deradicalisation of the Vulnerable Segments of Society’ was organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on Wednesday.
Dr Khalid Masud, director general of the Islamic Research Institute of the International Islamic University, spoke on the role of religion in deradicalisation and said the process of change and evolution of thought was being blocked by the religious clergy to whom every new development was being referred to for endorsement by the ruling elite.
Radicalisation was the result of intellectual stagnation of society, which was being promoted by decision makers in tandem with the religious orthodoxy, he said. “Unless this mindset is changed, superficial efforts at deradicalisation are not going to bear fruit.”
He said that the intellectual climate of the country was better in the 50s when scholars like Fazlur Rahman were doing their important work on the reconstruction of Islamic thought. “Today, nobody can dare differ with the clerics who are actually quite ignorant, and together with the ruling elite constituted the dominant class of our religious illiterates.”
Dr Masud criticised the present tendency to seek the cover of Sufism to fight orthodoxy, and said Sufis were no revolutionaries either, and their approach too had no dynamism. “Their approach was just more humane,” he said.
He said that it was wrong to focus on madrassas when the same static notion of religion was being taught in the public education system.
Speaking on the socio-economic perspectives of deradicalisation, Professor Usman Mustafa of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) said the vast economic disparity between the poor majority and the rich minority was behind radicalisation.
It was not religious indoctrination alone that was driving the poor to take up arms, but the desperation of their circumstances, he said.
“While the rich seek protection of their possessions, the poor have nothing to lose but their lives. Unless this disparity is reduced and the poor are given something to hold on to, the problem of radicalisation will persist and grow.”
He also criticised the Western countries, which preached equality and equity to the world, but used their exclusive veto power at the United Nations to secure their advantage. “The disparity between nations of the West and the East is as glaring as one sees between segments of society in Pakistan,” he said.
Earlier, Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies Director Amir Rana explained the various models and approaches to deradicalisation that countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Egypt Australia and the United Kingdom had used and applied to address the problem.
He, however, said that Pakistan could not borrow those models because of the “entirely different nature of the problem here”. There were constrains, both financial and ideological, that would come in the way, he said. In a country where “as many as 104 organised bodies are promoting radicalism and where people are fighting extremism on a war footing”, only a tailor-made prescription suited to the peculiar conditions could address the problem, he said.
In his opening remarks, IPRI Acting President Dr Maqsudul Hassan Nuri said the sense of deprivation had grown in Muslim societies due to poor governance and the ever-widening gap between expectations of the people and the performance of the rulers.
Radicalisation was not only a result of extremist philosophies promoted by non-state actors but also a result of ideologies pursued by the states, he said.