Remember this the next time you hear someone talk about Saleena Karim’s book, Secular Jinnah and Pakistan: What the Nation Doesn’t Know. Contrary to the title, the book is actually a well-researched and convincing study to show that “secular Jinnah” is a myth (and abonimable like the snowman: some readers might conclude)!
In my opinion, it is a book that must be read. I shall try to explain from a personal point of view why I think so.
The founder of Pakistan was the hero of those who wanted Pakistan, and therefore a villain to those who didn’t. The latter included the Western media, the Israel Lobby and Indian nationalists. Against the enormous influence of this school, the pro-Quaid point of view was bound to lose. It got buried by the early 1980s (the historical fiction, Gandhi, released on the big screen around that time, may also have contributed).
When it became too difficult to defend Pakistan and the Quaid at the same time, a new trend emerged among the pro-Quaid: never mind Pakistan, just defend Jinnah. The most well-known classics of this school include The Sole Spokesman (1984) by Ayesha Jalal; Jinnah of Pakistan (1984) by Stanley Wolpert; and the belated attempt by Jaswant Singh last year. In order to defend Jinnah internationally, some of these writers suggested that Jinnah didn’t actually want Pakistan.
Back in the 1980s, such writers were received like a breeze of fresh air. Compared to the homebred defenders of the Quaid, their work seemed to be presented with more elegance and better research. Hence, rasing the standards of research and widening the horizons was the permanent contribution of these writers, but there were drawbacks.
One of the drawbacks was the myth of “secular Jinnah”. Healthy debates are good for society, but unfortunately “some” secularists resorted to unfair means, such as a "fake" quote attributed to Jinnah by a former secularist Chief Justice of Pakistan – a "hoax" exposed by Saleena Karim in her previous work, and further explained here.
Coming out in the year 2010 – almost twenty years after Wolpert’s book got reprinted locally – Secular Jinnah and Pakistan brings things to full circle, in some ways. It gives back to the people of Pakistan their familiar Quaid-i-Azam: the father of the nation who shared their ideals and beliefs. He had been away for twenty years, but like the hero of Arthur Jones' play Silver King, he has come back more elegant and well-equipped than before. A must-read, and you may like to visit the book’s website too.
To be continued