Famous civil-servant columnist Orya Maqbool Jan continues to claim — like a broken record — in column after column that Jinnah’s August 11 speech was made up by secret forces who were Lord Conwallis’ followers and who were secularists. His original claim was based on the fact that he looked through the record of the Civil and Military Gazette and he could not find it; hence the great civil servant concludes it must not exist. The Hindu, apparently, is not a reliable source because, well, it is ‘The Hindu’. Similarly, the record of the Indian Constituent Assembly with Indian legislators referring to Jinnah’s speech was also ‘tampered’ with I suppose. Jinnah papers have the complete record of the speech in Jinnah Papers Volume IV Appendix IX, Item 4: President’s address, but you guessed it — according to Orya Maqbool Jan that is tampered with as well. He claims that the Constituent Assembly debates are also made up, because, well, they were published on October 9, 1948 after Jinnah’s death.
He then claims erroneously that Selena Karim’s Secular Jinnah: What The Nation Does Not Know is his source. Perhaps he should read his source more carefully. Selena Karim questions a quote that Justice Munir had stated in his book Jinnah to Zia, not the Munir Report. This was not about the August 11 speech but Jinnah’s interview with Doon Campbell. The actual quote, which is much longer — which Selena refers to — in fact is even more clearly secular in the real sense of the word. How that becomes relevant to Orya Maqbool Jan’s claim that Jinnah never spoke on August 11 can only be explained when one sees how desperate Orya Maqbool Jan is now having been exposed rather badly.
One wonders what it is about the August 11 speech that bothers people like Orya Maqbool Jan that they would go to such lengths in denying the existence of a speech that really cannot be denied. The issue is obviously of the content. It is too fine for the philistines. Here we have our Quaid-e-Azam, the founding father of Pakistan, the largest Muslim majority state at the time, saying that the religion of a citizen should not matter to the state and indeed going even further and saying that, if this policy is followed, in due course of time, the political distinctions between Hindus and Muslims would cease to exist. To Jinnah’s mind, the question of ‘secular’ versus ‘Islamic’ did not even arise. The issue between Hindus and Muslims was a political question to him. He was schooled in the British tradition and there secularism and religion were never mutually exclusive. Toleration and equality of citizenship were the ideals to be achieved with progress and maturity. This was a constant view that Jinnah held throughout his life. It was there when he was a Congressman, it was there when he proposed the 14 points and it was there again when he warned Muslims against raising sectarian questions and theological debates. Jinnah’s idea of Islam was of social justice and equality and never of narrow-minded interpretations by the orthodoxy.
Perhaps if Orya Maqbool Jan had read Mr Jinnah’s speeches as a legislator in the Indian Central Legislature between 1910 to 1945 he would find many speeches far more ‘secular’ than the August 11 speech. I will, in due course, produce these speeches in public record but suffice to say that Jinnah remained consistent in the principle that the state should, at all costs, remain neutral and impartial on questions of religion. To Jinnah, at least, this was in no way contrary to the principles of Islam. He also said on December 17, 1947, speaking to the last session of the All India Muslim League, that Islam did not endorse an “ecclesiastical state”.
Perturbed by this scurrilous claim against Jinnah by a civil servant on the payroll of the state — and who would not be perturbed when one makes such erroneous and patently false claims as Orya Maqbool Jan has done — I called up Dr Akbar S Ahmed who is visiting Pakistan and asked him what he made of this. Dr Akbar S Ahmed, who is an authority on Jinnah and on contemporary Islam, was categorical: “Jinnah did give the speech. I researched it in the course of my Jinnah quartet. The issue of Islamic versus secularism is a false binary. What Jinnah said on August 11 about an inclusive state is perfectly Islamic.” He suggested that Orya Maqbool Jan should read the Meesaq-e-Medina, where Jews and Muslims are described as one ummah or community. Maybe he feels that too is made up.
Jinnah’s August 11 speech, call it secular or Islamic, was one of the most remarkable speeches ever given. It shows the immensity of his vision and his idea of Pakistan. It calls for an inclusive society where no bars are placed against anyone on the basis of religion, sect or caste. It was the crowning glory of a passionate career devoted to constitutional advance and progress. The real reason that it bothers Orya Maqbool Jan is that it goes against the narrow minded and fanatical worldview our mighty civil servant holds. An opponent of democracy, Orya would sooner have the Taliban ruling Pakistan. To Orya, Islam is incompatible with democracy. To Jinnah, democracy was “in the blood of every Musalman”. Well too bad; Jinnah, the founder/maker of Pakistan, was a liberal democrat all his life. No amount of mental gymnastics and odious claims by dishonest civil servants can change that fact, try as they may. Now that is what hurts people like Orya Maqbool Jan so much.
As for Pakistan, for now the Oryas, dime a dozen, have managed to thwart Jinnah’s magnificent vision; not for long though. Ultimately, truth will triumph, Inshallah.
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