A federal law minister of Pakistan allegedly tried to tamper with the ‘Khatme Nabuwat’ (Finality of the Prophethood) clause and it opened the doors of hell. Violent demonstrations, road blocks, burning of vehicles and loot and plunder by the holy guardians of Islam paralysed life across the country. Almost ten people were dead, hundreds injured. Destruction of the public property was estimated to be in millions of taxpayers’ money. The state finally surrendered to the irrational demands of the radicals. This instance of intimidation by the Islamic radicals is neither a first and nor is going to be the last one. The history of Pakistan is saturated with violent demonstrations carried out in the name of religion either to coerce governments to succumb to their radical demands or to punish the minorities on blasphemy charges. To mention a few, in 2014, a crowd of Muslims burnt a Hindu temple in Larkana, Sindh, after unverified allegations of a Hindu youth desecrating a copy of the Quran. In 2009, nearly 40 houses and a church in Gojra, Punjab, were torched on the suspicion that Quran had been burnt there. While police watched, eight victims were burned alive, four of them women, one aged seven. In 2006, churches and Christian schools were targeted in protests over the publications of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons in Denmark. In 2005, 3000 militant Islamists attacked Christians in Sangla Hill in Pakistan and destroyed Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Presbyterian churches over blasphemy charges. And the list goes on. Nearly 95 percent population of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan practices Islam, is associated with major sects like Berelvi, Deobandi, Ahle-Hadith and Shia. Despite various differences on the interpretations of religion, they all agree on the finality of the prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Another faction, Ahmadis, 0.22 percent of the population, who claim to be Muslims, were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani parliament in 1974 for not adhering to the ‘Finality’ provision. So Ahmadis are officially a minority in Pakistan. Although the constitution sanctions the due rights for the minorities, they usually face prejudice and injustice in almost every arena of life. How the majority should treat the minorities is driven not by the constitution but under the guidance of the religious clerics. Mosque and Madrassah (place of Islamic learning) are the strongest social institutions responsible for imparting religious knowledge and thought. Unfortunately, majority of these institutions spread hatred and disliking for the non-Muslims in social interactions. For example, it’s a social taboo to shake hands or eat food with a non-Muslim. Ahmadis have attracted much attention from mullahs over the decades in hatred and abhorrence. Assaulting them physically over minor issues, snatching/burning their properties and even killing them in the name of blasphemy without any trials are taken as acts of bravery and honor in religious circles. Mullahs have been successful in building a narrative that Ahmadis are involved in anti-state and anti-Pakistan activities and that they want to hurt the Islamic essence of Pakistan with the help of foreign agencies and NGOs. Therefore any attempt, word or act that even remotely seems going in Ahmadis favor is taken as an international conspiracy against Islam and Pakistan. So the alleged tampering with the clause of ‘Finality’ was also taken as an Ahmadi conspiracy. Islamic radicalism is haunting the state of Pakistan since decades. This happens when you drag religion into the state affairs without proper homework and use it to meet your filthy political interests. Religion is a very sensitive matter in an illiteracy-stricken and poverty-ridden society like Pakistan. It can be your strength at one time and be a nightmare at another time. The best policy should have been “religion is yours and the state belongs to all”. But somehow religion was integrated ambiguously into the state affairs to meet certain political and strategic interests. The disaster started building when the state disowned the religious part of the governance and handed it over to the illiterate, narrow-minded and radical clerics. Undoubtedly, Islam promotes peace, prosperity and progressive thought in all spheres of life. But unfortunately, Pakistani mullahs are still living in the stone-age where they want to recreate the environment of the deserts of medieval Arabia. They are usually taught and bred in religious seminaries under very strict and unfriendly environment. To make it worse they are taught centuries-old interpretations of religion which are not in sync with the modern age. That’s the reason they are mostly reluctant to adopt the modern technology and way of living. Nearly 95 percent population of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan practices Islam, is associated with major sects like Barelvi, Deobandi, Ahle-Hadith and Shia. Despitevarious differences on the interpretations of religion,they all agree on the finality of the Prophethood No wonder they resisted the inventions of microphone, loudspeakers, camera, TV and internet, and called them the instruments of Satan. But today they use these gadgets as weapons to spread their words — what an irony of beliefs. Islamic clerics need to realise that the world has changed now. It has become a global village in which space & time have shrunk and whatever they do or say reaches across the globe in an instant. Due to their senseless interpretations and beliefs, Islam is already in the line of fire for promoting terrorism and extremism. You can shout a thousand times that Islam is a religion of peace, but the world remembers one act of violence done in the name of religion. Technological advancements are reshaping human behaviors. Electronic and social media are causing cultural integration. All societies are vulnerable to cultural invasion from the outside world. This is bringing nations and states closer and enhancing their economic interdependence. Economic pacts and agreements with the developed world sometimes demand certain socio-economic and religious liberties for minorities and seek rationality in human rights. The world has changed, so we ought to change, to bring our society in sync with the modern age. Mutual co-existence and tolerance are the necessities and not the luxuries which our religious elite needs to understand. The state of Pakistan is allegedly responsible in creating this monster of religious fanaticism. When you use religious sentiments and sectarian biases for political and strategic gains, and then leave the genie unchecked and uncontained, it comes back to bite you in the face. Considering the multi-diversity of Pakistani society, its socio-economic disparities and sectarian-religious differences, the state should have owned the religious institution from the day one of Islamisation. It had to register and regulate the mosques and seminaries, and bring the religious curriculum in the mainstream of education to sync with the modern world. It should have adopted the Saudi model where the state provides the Friday sermons and all other congregations are strictly prohibited. It was a criminal negligence of the ruling elite to leave religion in the hands of ignorants and the illiterates. Pakistan has already paid a heavy price of handing over religion to mullahs. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have lost their lives in terrorism and sectarianism due to the senseless interpretations of religion. This is the high time that the state must show some courage to own the religious part of governance and take sincere steps to promote rational thought, peace and mutual co-existence in society. The writer is a professor at a university in Lahore Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @DrSaqlainSh Published in Daily Times, December 4th 2017.