The Modern Vanguard?

The Modern Vanguard?

As a political scientist in the making, I was explained by my westernized instructors that secularism, separation of the mosque and the state, being critical of religion and some other post-industrialist values, are the ultimate path to righteousness of nation-kind in 21st century. In general, political modernization was the right path, the straight path. Hence, living in a third world developing country, my latent political socialization now dictated to me values I could not experience in my immediate surroundings. Obviously, the shrewd ones among those instructors never categorically subscribed to any particular ideology, unless the instructor was a prototypical ideologue. Hence, my political socialization in a predominantly pre-modernist, pre-industrialist, traditional, parochial society was that of an alienated thinker; a young mind whose cognitive map had been shaped in a way that all western political moralities were now sacred to it.

A mind was at war with itself. A mind to which appeals of Marx and of western political thinkers equally struck. As instructors did not conspicuously subscribe to any particular ideology, but continuously tailored my individual conscience, I was always grappling with radical shifts.

And, I must accept it. Most of the western moralities now make sense to me. Secularism protects religious diversity. Separation of church (mosque in my case) and state takes religion to its “natural” domain, a privatized entity that is personal to every individual. It allows democracies to function with modern values and demands of modern day and age. Religion is not what mullahs and my local imam tell me. It is what is personal to me and I should in person strive to understand it, and in public try to interpret it in a way that satisfies my conscience. At the end of the day, religion is all interpretation.

And, hence, one fine day, while I was arguing with a bunch of my ‘structured, conservative, radical, unenlightened fundo’ friends about modernizing society and hence ‘emancipating’ it, I realized something: Are we, ‘the liberal modernists’ of today, not assuming the role of a vanguard party in dictating the society as a whole as to what is to be done? What is the great difference between me and those communist lefties who also want to dictate to the society what is good for it and eventually lead to a handful of ideologues in charge of the entire political system and a single-party, subscribing to whose views is a pre-requisite for every individual if he or she wants to climb the ladder in society? Are we becoming the new vanguards? At once, I recalled Gabriel who said that a society should form a system that is in line with its history. I questioned myself: am I doing the right thing, by forcing onto these friends of mine perceptions so alien to them, theories their mind has never touched, way of life that they have not been prepared for?

A prime reason for me to dislike, if not hate, communism (keeping in mind the ‘c’ and ‘C’ difference in referring to communism) was its appeal of creating a single-party which had the fundamental responsibility to decide, determine and dictate to society what it felt necessary. Was I, and hundreds of like-minded liberals I know, not deciding, determining and dictating to the society what we find or have been made to find true and righteous?

I must vividly state that my argument here is not whether western mantra is right or wrong. In fact, it is questioning the way that liberals of new-states, usually a thin minority of rich educated class, which the dependency theorists call the comprador class, are trying to preach westernization.

Is our way of critiquing the political system on western scriptures even a rational action – when we know that it took around four centuries for USA to give up slavery and a period of around seven centuries (if we count it from Magna Carta) for Britain to form a parliamentary system with a constitutional monarchy and universal suffrage.

Can we secularize a society that is 95% Muslim, is a traditional polity, has not undergone essential processes of nation-building and state building, has not developed as a political system at all, has religion at its center of creation, and is divided along parochial cleavages? Can we separate the mosque from the state when we are yet to see any clues of enlightenment or ideological revolutions of any sort?

The reason why democracy has failed to take roots in our society is because democracy is not merely a political system. It is a culture. And as every other culture, it brings with it ideas and practices that are exclusively compatible with it. One such practice/idea/phenomenon is political modernization.

And hence I conclude my article with a question: if we still persist with our traditional way of preaching western scripture, are we not being the modern vanguards?


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any organization with which he might be associated.

Syed Abdul Ahad Wasim

Author: Syed Abdul Ahad Wasim

The writer is an undergraduate student of Political Science and International Relations at Lahore School of Economics and has also headed the political science student body of LSE at the National Social Sciences Conference. He is an avid reader and has a keen interest in writing and debating. He has worked on a number of research papers and is also interested in politics, philosophy, history, theology, historiography and sociology.