Why Pakistan needs the Separation of Religion and State
The Tea Party and the Religious Right would like to abolish the separation of church and state. They in effect want the government to get into the Christian religion business, though they don’t specific the sect the government should choose as a model, a major oversight. Different Christian sects have serious disagreements and are often at daggers drawn: Northern Ireland is an example, with Protestant Christians and Catholic Christians killing each other with great satisfaction. In fact, let me quote this paragraph from Charles Reade’s wonderful book The Cloister and the Hearth:
Soon after this a fellow-enthusiast came on the scene in the unwonted form of an old lady. Margaret, sister and survivor of the brothers Van Eyck, left Flanders, and came to end her days in her native country. She bought a small house near Tergou. In course of time she heard of Gerard, and saw some of his handiwork: it pleased her so well that she sent her female servant, Reicht Heynes, to ask him to come to her. This led to an acquaintance: it could hardly be otherwise, for little Tergou had never held so many as two zealots of this sort before. At first the old lady damped Gerard’s courage terribly. At each visit she fished out of holes and corners drawings and paintings, some of them by her own hand, that seemed to him unapproachable; but if the artist overpowered him, the woman kept his heart up. She and Reicht soon turned him inside out like a glove: among other things, they drew from him what the good monks had failed to hit upon, the reason why he did not illuminate, viz., that he could not afford the gold, the blue, and the red, but only the cheap earths; and that he was afraid to ask his mother to buy the choice colours, and was sure he should ask her in vain. Then Margaret Van Eyck gave him a little brush–gold, and some vermilion and ultramarine, and a piece of good vellum to lay them on. He almost adored her. As he left the house Reicht ran after him with a candle and two quarters: he quite kissed her. But better even than the gold and lapis-lazuli to the illuminator was the sympathy to the isolated enthusiast. That sympathy was always ready, and, as he returned it, an affection sprung up between the old painter and the young calligrapher that was doubly characteristic of the time. For this was a century in which the fine arts and the higher mechanical arts were not separated by any distinct boundary, nor were those who practised them; and it was an age in which artists sought out and loved one another. Should this last statement stagger a painter or writer of our day, let me remind him that even Christians loved one another at first starting.
But perhaps our Religious Right could look at Pakistan and see what happens when religion is combined with government. Juan Cole:
… The horrifying assault on the Ahmadi congregations underlines why Pakistan needs a separation of religion and state. The problem with using Islam as the state ideology (as the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah clearly foresaw) is that there is no generic Islam. If a strict Sunnism of a revivalist or Salafi sort is the orthodoxy, then Twelver Shiites, Ismailis, Ahmadis and Sufis will be disadvantaged. I would argue that these latter groups taken together constitute a majority of the country (most Pakistanis are Sufis, and most Sufis are Sunni, but fundamentalist Sunnism despises mystical Sufism, which strives for spiritual union of the believer with the divine beloved)…
Read the whole thing. It doesn’t take much to imagine the bloody struggles between different sects of Christians—indeed, we have only to look at history. Nothing a sect of Christians seems to like more than the wholesale slaughter of another sect (who are always labeled “heretics”, so it’s okay to kill them).