Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The fundamental point

Daily times, Lahore on April 20, 2006

Sir: Appearing on television during the ongoing controversy over the contents of school textbooks, Zubaida Jalal, the federal education minister, has declared, on more than one occasion, that she was a fundamentalist and was proud to be one. She thought this was a smart statement as it would appease the religious lobby and, at the same time, confound the liberals by re-interpreting the word ‘fundamentalist’ as one who believes in the fundamentals of Islam. She is wrong!

Meanings do not lie in words but in the people who use them. Fundamentalism, whatever the origin of the word or its literal meaning, has come to connote fanaticism, extremism, intolerance and religious militancy. This is how it is commonly understood today.

For example the word ‘gay’, which according to dictionaries published before the 1960s, meant joyous and lively; merry; happy; light-hearted means something completely different today. Today no one would like to call himself/herself gay if he or she was feeling joyous, lively, happy and light-hearted.



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