As a movement Khudi stands against all forms of extremism, including those that use religion to justify a certain agenda. But simply saying ‘no’ to extremism isn’t good enough – it’s essential to challenge and undermine the arguments used by extremists and to refute the religious justifications they put forward.
However, challenging extremism in this way doesn’t mean that Khudi is eligible to comment on religious matters or issue fatwas about the length of the beard or the hijaab. At Khudi we believe religious beliefs are a personal matter that each individual may take guidance on from their respective religious authorities. Thus, our volunteers and friends belong to a variety of faiths and sects and span the religious spectrum, from conservative to liberal. The important thing is that we stand firmly by the principle of respecting each other’s difference.
Khudi’s support for the democratic process often leads to questions about why we don’t form a political party to bring about change in Pakistan. No doubt the work of political parties is important in that they formulate policy on matters of national importance, but in Pakistan there’s another debate to be had before the work of political parties: the fundamental direction in which we want this country to progress. Do we want it to be a dictatorship or a democracy?
Years of inefficiency and corruption by elected governments have left many Pakistanis disenchanted with the whole idea of democracy. This is why military coups have often enjoyed huge support in Pakistan, as if somehow the army could sweep to power and clean up the mess made by hapless civilians. But alas, these love affairs haven’t lasted too long, for as we all know military rule is no antidote to this country’s problems. As a result, we’ve lurched back and forth for over sixty years, never committing to democracy or cutting loose from autocratic rule.
But it’s about time we chose one way or another. At Khudi we advocate a democratic culture as the best way forward, but a national consensus in support of this can only be achieved through civil society initiatives, not through the formation of a political party that would be engaged in campaigning and policy debates. In short, acting as a political party is not part of Khudi’s plan.
Although established as a non-governmental body, Khudi doesn’t call itself an NGO. This is because NGO work usually revolves around development – digging wells, building schools, providing relief and such sort – and this isn’t the kind of stuff we do. Our domain is one of ideas, where we counter dangerous and divisive ideologies and work to promote a climate in Pakistan where discussion and debate are used as the primary methodology to arrive at solutions and to resolve disputes. That’s why we prefer being called a social movement instead.
Pretty much everyone agrees that terrorism is unacceptable, but suicide attacks and violence against civilians are not all we should condemn. Extremist attitudes that are intolerant of difference, be they political, religious, ethnic or sectarian, don't necessarily need to be violent to be wrong. The best example of this is racism, which is wrong even when no violence is involved. In societies where extremist thought is allowed to flourish unchecked, discrimination and division become the norm. Thus, to fulfil the Quaid's vision of unity for this country, extremism of all kinds, whether violent or not, needs to be challenged.
Social Movement (Definition): a type of group action...large groupings of individuals and/or organisations focused on specific political or social issues, in other words, on carrying out, resisting or challenging a social change.
Democracy isn't just about voting once every 5 years, is it? If elections were the only guarantor of democracy, Adolf Hitler would be considered a democrat! After all, he was voted into power through the ballot. To ensure that the system actually works for us and that the country actually goes somewhere, a 'culture' of democracy is needed (one that we sadly have never had). That means:
- Freedom of speech, assembly and belief
- Free and fair elections
- Equality and justice for all
How many times have we heard complaints about Pakistan? The system doesn't work, the leaders are corrupt, the neighbours are bullying us, the water is running out... and so the list goes on. The reality is that complaining isn't much of a solution - each of us is responsible for making Pakistan a more respected and respectful place. It's a cause worth working for, don't you think?