We are living in a world where the forces of modernity and globalization have brought a qualitative change in our worldviews and quantitative rupture in our practices which cumulatively re-articulated our lived and built environment. The world that we are living is characterized, along with many other things, by the disenchantment and differentiation of various spheres of human engagements ranging from culture, religion, politics, and economy to knowledge. We see this differentiation in the regime of knowledge more vividly wherein scientific form of rationality underpinned by the instrumentalization of knowledge has eclipsed other forms of knowledge. There are many currents running against this scenario stemming out of the direct linage of modernity and out of the frame of reference of modernity. More noticeably among these is that of religious fanaticism stemming out of the frame of reference of modernity. The primarily fixation of religious fanatics is the reassertion of religion in public domains as it was used to be some centuries ago. That is what they think to be the primarily role of religion. In fanatic religious discourses sociologization of religion is privileged over personalization of religion. I think this is where the real problem lies.
The version of Sharia that Taliban are fixated with is characterized by the binary categories of the ‘self’ and the ‘other. The ‘self’ perceives itself to be self-proclaimed custodians of the Truth/Faith and the ‘other’ is framed to be diverted and therefore deserve to be persecuted and assassinated. These sort of approaches are inherently exclusivist .They deny and reject the ‘other’ and claims the monopoly on faith.
What is missing in these sorts of explanations is that the questions of Sharia and many other key concepts of Islamic intellectual corpus have variety of interpretations and their relative expressions in varied time and space contexts of Muslim history. Being Muslim, nobody can dare to reject Sharia but even within Muslim intellectual history there are multitude of explanations about it in various epochs of Muslim history. There are commonalities and differences but welded together with an overarching concept of Shahada.
The point is to appreciate these explanations of Sharia as human understandings and interpretations of the divine not the divine per se as such because humans are profoundly influenced by the cultural matrices that they live in and their understandings are greatly shaped by the time and space contexts that they have been produced in. There will be differences of appropriations and expressions of what is thought to be Sharia but where there is a difference there is a way forward and that is of dialogue not of militancy. This is where pluralism becomes the most relevant approach that may help us understand and appreciate the internal diversity of Muslim societies as a key to the peaceful coexistence of not only Muslims but also of the myriad sub groups of humanity at large.
What seems to be demanding is the archeology of this discourse so that this discourse should be challenged and deconstructed by using the contours of its own paradigm. Of course, this is not merely an ideological issue but it has political and economic dimensions which are actually supported by its ideology. It requires, on the one hand, a profound intellectual engagement and, on the other hand, a policy shifts in our priorities especially in the realm of educational practices.
The bombardment in North Waziristan is mandatory as an urgent demand of time but it can’t eliminate the attitude of Talibanisation neither does it transform it into a positive and inclusive attitude. Faith is not about the physic, it is about the psyche and the worldview that is embedded in our souls and thoughts. Therefore it demands a long term strategic planning. We need to reset our priorities and accordingly need a paradigm shift in the policy formation and a strong will to and transparent mechanism of implementation. Education will have to be among the top priorities of our policy makers and within that serious reforms are required especially in the syllabus and pedagogy of primary and secondary students. We have witnessed so called higher education reforms but failed to notice that quality is not something to be realized during the four years of university life. If we are really committed with the ethos of developing a peaceful and progressive country, we will have to concentrate at Primary and at Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) level. We will have to provide enabling environment to our kids so that they should be privileged to think for themselves and be able to develop a critical world view placed in a moral paradigm underpinned by the values of justice, equality, rationality, appreciation of diversity, love for humanity, care for environment and other higher human values which have the potential to unite not to divide. Indeed, these are universals that make the message of Islam global in its appeal. By all means we need an inclusivist educational policy consistent with the realities of national context and global challenges.