Extremism. Enlightened Moderation. Democracy. Dictatorship. And Adhocism.
These are some of the most frequently mentioned, used, written, spoken, heard, understood as well as misunderstood terms. So fundamental are these terms to the theory and the practice of politics that not a single politician or leader fails to incorporate one or more of these in his or her policy statements. President Pervez Musharraf goes overboard to assert that he is engaged in a valiant struggle to root out extremism from our public life, and that the good of the country necessitates the ‘coming together’ of all the enlightened and moderate forces of the society. Similarly Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, on the one hand leaves no stone unturned in renewing her undaunted resolve to bring back democracy in the country, and on the other hand shows her ‘heroic’ willingness to put even her democratic credibility at stake for the ‘noble’ cause of strengthening the forces of ‘moderation’ against the forces of ‘extremism’. Mian Nawaz Sharif in this context is so fiercely possessed by his passion for constitutionalism, that he is unprepared to retreat even an inch from his avowed goal of destroying dictatorship.
I have a few serious and a few light observations to make about some of these terms.
Extremism, unless defined and explained clearly, is an attribute, a virtue and an ideal without which no advances in the human civilization, and no revolutions in man’s history would have occurred. All martyrdoms in history have been immortal manifestations of extremism. It was the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) extremism in the cause of establishing Allah’s Rulership on the earth that resulted first in his Divinely inspired flight from Mecca, and then his relentless drive to overcome the forces of idolatry and non-belief. Wasn’t it an act of extremism on the part of Socrates to take ‘the famed cup full of poison’ to his lips so as to uphold the sanctity of truth? Throughout history two forms of extremism have existed side by side. Extremism in the cause of Khair (Goodness). And extremism in the cause of sharr (Evil).
Similarly Enlightened Moderation happens to be a misleading and misguiding phrase. Is tolerance to the practice of obscenity and immorality an attribute of enlightened moderation? Or does enlightened moderation mean banishment of Islamic values from social and political conduct?
About democracy, the less said the better. In our country, all systems adopted in the name of democracy have been designed to keep those in power, fully empowered, and those out of power, in a state of total disempowerment.
I think its time for us to either redefine all these terms, or replace them with new terminology. Let us re-invent our political dictionary.