‘Religious fundamentalism is the enemy of mankind’

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ULAANBAATAR: Religious fundamentalism is so deeply rooted in Pakistan that it has taken over the minds of many in the country and has brought devastating effects, says a veteran Pakistani politician.

In an interview on the sidelines of the 11th Asia-Europe People’s Forum here in Mongolia, Awami Workers Party Secretary-General Farooq Tariq told FMT that Pakistan was paying the price for its past leaders’ promotion of religious fundamentalism.

He said in the past, military dictators Muhamad Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf had promoted religious fundamentalism for political reasons.

“Now, the chickens have come home to roost.”

He said as a result of unchecked religious fundamentalism, Pakistan is now seeing more religious extremism in the form of suicide bombings and an increase in sectarian violence, resulting in the deaths of innocent people.

Additionally, he said religious fundamentalists in the country believed that people were poor because it was God’s will, so they would oppose civil society movements and trade unions in demanding better wages.

“Religious fundamentalism of any kind, of any religion, is the enemy of mankind, human rights, equality and democracy.”

Farooq said that religious fundamentalism victimised women and religious minorities, and said religious fundamentalists held the view that their religion was superior to others.

“This is a kind of fascism, because they are of the view that their religion was superior, hence they are superior.”

He also warned that religious fundamentalists would never change their ways, hence it was a mistake to gamble on political alliances with them.

“They might say one thing before they are elected or before elections, but their true nature will surface after,” he said.

Farooq also held the belief that religion-based parties should not be allowed in politics as religion and politics must be separate.

He said if religious fundamentalists were to rule a state, they would turn their state into a religious state and this would surely lead to it becoming a state which discriminates against its citizens from religious minorities.

In Malaysia, there have previously been calls for the government to ban religion-based political parties.

In 2013, then DAP Chairman Karpal Singh had called for religion-based parties to be de-registered, and this was echoed by former Umno minister Zainuddin Maidin, in reference to PAS.

The Islamist party’s former spiritual leader, Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, had in the past stressed that establishing an Islamic state was part of the party’s struggles.