Since Pakistan stepped in war against terror, the debate of “Extremist“, “Moderate” and “Liberal” has become common. Until now extremism is being considered uni-polar i.e. religious extremism. You may find oodles of analysts local and international popping up on your T.V screens commenting about extremism, of course they mean religious extremism. By any stretch of imagination it is not tenable.
Unfortunately, now our society deems the word extremism in only religious radicalism. On the other hand, word liberalism has become almost a cliché and everyone likes to be called one. You can witness this thing on any public online discussion forum whether it is a social network, blog or newspaper website. Everyone wants to jump into the discussion and say, “hey, you Mullah, you close minded! You need to get rid of your fundamentalist beliefs”, without realizing the very fact that liberalism is also an extreme on the opposite end on fundamentalism. It’s bipolar.
In fact now we do not argue instead we indulge in tagging each other with labels of fundamentalist/extremist and liberal. We never try to convince by logically arguing and never try to listen what counterpart has to say about it. We go like, “Oh you, believe me or get ready to be labeled as an extremist”. Liberalism tag has become so attractive that everyone wants to wear it. The tag itself is very dictating, and one who wears it unconsciously tries to protect it by whatever means possible.
There is a universally accepted rule that when one accepts any religion and enters into any faith he/she have to accept all the corollaries that accompany. Religion cannot be customized to our political, social or individual needs. When you accept it, then you have to accept it fully.
View of liberals is they have the right to question, to think freely, to have freedom of expression and unrestricted free thinking. Yes, indeed they have the right to think freely and have freedom of expression but religion tends to put a restriction at it. Suppose for the sake of argument you are a liberal living in a liberal society will you allow freedom of blasphemy, free sex out-of-wedlock, homosexuality, theft, robberies and murders just because you think you have the right to express what you want to express.
Indeed most of you will say No, a Big No to it, and that’s where religion put limits and these limits drag liberals to the moderation i.e. to a real comfort zone.
In the words of Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal (Rehmt. A);
People who have no hold over their process of thinking are likely to be ruined by liberty of thought. If thought is immature liberty of thought becomes a method of converting men into animals.
You may argue that Allama said “Immature thought” but may I put stress on the last part of preceding sentence “to be ruined by liberty of thought” which shows that liberty of thought without any hold would at least ruin you and if the thought is immature it would lead to“converting men into animals”. One can see the least and most consequences of having liberty of thought. We as a nation and modern western world unfortunately have lost the sight of this extreme.
On the other hand confining the thought to a smaller territory will bring one to other extreme i.e. conservatism/fundamentalism a.k.a religious radicalism or extremism. The question may arise; which type of extremism is more dangerous? If you ask me I would say “Liberalism” (though my facebook profile says ‘approaches to liberal’ in religious view column). There is a reason behind my sweeping statement; and that is Liberty of thought have no barrier and hence have uncontrollable and far-reaching consequences, which will destroy the very fabric of any society and social institutions.
Social institutions being the building block of society if affected by these extremes can affect the most important social institution i.e. family. Once family system is ruined, the process of “converting men into animals” begins. If we go by this speed we’ll be not very far from it. What we need is a middle ground and that is moderation.
Cross Posted @ MEY