Pakistan Independence Day: Celebrating extremism and bigotry

Article by Qantra A Ahmed

The founder of Pakistan, which today celebrates Independence Day, believed in the separation of mosque and state. He would not recognize his country now. Blasphemy laws silence religious expression. On a visit, I was often reminded to lower my voice ‘lest the servants hear you.’

Growing up in England, my Pakistani émigré parents taught me to revere the founder of Pakistan, which marks its 65th anniversary of independence today. Mohammed Ali Jinnah was a secular, westernized moderate – a sort of Muslim Thomas Jefferson, who cherished the separation of mosque and state. Our family trips to Pakistan always included a trip to Jinnah’s mausoleum in the center of Karachi.

Almost 40 years after those childhood visits, it pains me to watch the relentless rise of religious extremism in Pakistan – a rise that has been permitted and even abetted by Pakistan’s government. While readers in the West may be conscious of Islamism’s tightening grip on the country, many are not aware of how this happened and how dangerous life in Pakistan has become for those deemed insufficiently devout – the very minorities Jinnah believed Pakistan would safeguard.

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