The Curse of being Liberal

The Curse of being Liberal

Coming home late one night after a stressful day at work, I switched on the TV to shed a bit of tension out of my system. I switched on to one of the news channels only to have it switched off within five minutes with a bigger headache than what I had started with. The reason was the unbearable level of noise the respected participants of the ‘top rated’ talk show were generating. My patience reserves exhausted when one of the participants in a western suit and tie called the other a ‘liberal’ in such a derogatory way as if abusing the other.


After switching off the TV, the inquisitive part of me immediately reached out for the dictionary to check if the meanings of liberal had changed to something bad since I last looked at it in my school days quarter of a century ago! After all, the world has changed quite a bit in that period. To my amazement, it still read the same:


adj. favourable to progress or reform, tolerant, open-minded


Finding apparently nothing wrong with these words either, left me even more perplexed because I thought being open minded and progressive is also what the religion teaches and the society demands from us.


Good old Dr Wikipedia says: Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty, equality and justice (both legal and social). Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of press, freedom of religion and free trade. As far as my meagre thinking goes, none of these is either against religion, law or general norms of society. In fact, this is probably the reason why in the 20th century it’s the liberal democracies that have seen the most growth and progress made.


“No school can supply an anti-liberal education, or a fascist education, as these terms are contradictory. Liberalism and education are one.”
― George Seldes


Why then is the word liberal so demonised by one side of our ever-growing left-right divide? Watching the vomit of words going on our TV screens, it seems that the liberal is portrayed as a hard drinking, clubbing species who feeds on US dollars, follows the paymaster’s dictates and hence devoid of any patriotism. A liberal is also considered to be having nothing to do with the religion and thus lacking any moral bearings. Nothing could be further from the truth than this wayward perception. Being liberal neither means that one is an atheist, nor does it imply that one is unpatriotic. We’ve had our fair share of liberal heroes, Salman Taseer being one of them who had to pay with his life for standing for his liberal stance.


Just like conservatism, liberalism also has its core principles[1], the difference being that liberalism is not afraid to question the status quo. It looks for answers to the whys that keep propping up in every mind but is shunned to believe the ‘way it is’. The foundation of this philosophy is that all ideas will be constantly examined, scrutinised, studied and debated. If new information emerges to challenge the present state, it will be rightfully taken into account. Liberalism searches for the ultimate value on which to build a moral foundation: Truth.


This does not imply in any way that it is only the liberals searching for the truth. The point is that however healthy our left-right debates may be, it is wrong on either side to accuse the other of being a traitor or unpatriotic on being liberal or conservative. A liberal can be just as much loyal to the country and just as dedicated to the religion as a conservative and vice versa. At the end of the day it is the humans that err, not ideology.

Nabil Akhtar

An IT professional who aspires to see a just, tolerant and peaceful society in his lifetime. Other interests are sports and travelling. He blogs at

Related articles

  • Haq

    Spot on Nabil We need to essentially perform a psychoanalysis on a regular maulvi to understand the things he’s willing to die fighting against, and the things he won’t die fighting against but will oppose through words/rallies , things he’s unconcerned about , and things he’ll support by words/rallies. The regular maulvi represents the conservative mind, so any conclusions we draw should be applicable to most conservatives. The regular maulvi is mostly concerned with the following things

    a) ‘honor’ of the prophet
    b) the wearing of hijaab and niqaab by women
    c) the banning of music and musical gatherings
    d) the elimination of coeducation plus any such practices which allow intermingling of genders

    Whatever preferences he chooses to have, I am not particularly worried until the regular maulvi and his followers start enforcing their point of view. When they start preaching others about the orders of God and how those who do not agree with their point of view are rebelling against God, that is when I have a serious problem and I think this is where the role of the state needs to be clear. In other words, how far can the Maulvi go in the pursuit of his ‘ideals’. My problem is that why can’t individuals make their own choices and why does it bother the maulvi and his followers ? If I choose to live my life as a ‘Faasiq’ (the Quranic definition of a non-practicing muslim ), why is the Maulvi trying to fix me when I clearly have made my own choice.

    A liberal does not believe in the usage of guns, violence and he/she does not judge others on the basis of whether he has a beard or whether she wears a niqaab. A liberal does not judge humans on the basis of their religion since he/she believes in equal rights and equal opportunity for all. A liberal believes that matters concerned to a particular individual are private and therefore he/she has no concerning business. As you stated, a liberal can be a very religious person but who sticks to liberal ideals or he may not be religious at all.

    The regular maulvi does not believe in these ideals. He brings in ‘Amr-bil-maaroof nahi-anil-munkir’ to support his stance followed a hadith or two justify himself. A regular maulvi does not believe in peaceful coexistence with a liberal. He believes that because of his efforts to be ‘pious’ and his stature as a Maulvi – and him being designated as the ‘Caliph of God’ on earth – it is his ‘moral’ duty to fix the liberal. He will not rest in peace until the liberal changes to something just like the maulvi or the liberal just dies or goes away.

    This is just what I think. If anybody disagrees, I would be more than happy to read the counter-arguments.

  • Arman Zain

    No liberalism is not bad indeed and if you look deeper you will come to
    know that nothing is completely bad in itself it is its execution that
    is bad.

    Liberalism, in dictionary stands for progression , freedom of speech and justice, but the pivotal question is at what cost.

    Progression, for whom and and what cos – progression of few at cost of masses, growing wealth in 10% while rest pay for it.

    Freedom of Speech – how to be conducted – at cost of others believes, moral values and self respect.

    – how to execute it – Above all justice is hardest to comply to as
    there are always unfolded facts , life of upper class is more valuable
    then life of poor.

    In today’s world liberalism is termed evil
    because liberals use it to spread ideas which are hurtful to majority,
    liberals push to progress as long as it is their progress and they call
    for justice as long as it doesn’t cost them. For example look around
    people and societies which call themselves liberals and then try to see
    how much they have used the pillars of liberalism to their own benefits.

    Thanks for sharing your views.

  • BizzleNews

    A mind blowing piece of article to remind everyone, what is the meaning of liberal.

    I can understand the panic over the liberalism, and the hard push from the political parties who always try to grind people.

  • shaukat chughtai

    Excellent article. Right…….FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, FREEDOM OF SPEECH,
    LIBERALIZATION AND PLURALIZATION are pillars to grow in this universe. Individual or nation must be believers of Growth and Evolution which Maulana Rumi stated in his literature.

  • Zeeshan Ali


  • Zaheer Kazim

    Ours is not to be bogged down by stereo-type definitions from home grown bigots but stay the course of liberalism.The landscape may be dotted overwhelmingly by such morons,but the stronger the challenge the greater should be the will to persevere and stay the course.

  • Akhlaq Nabi

    The uneducated “educated” people from all walks of life can only come to this meaning of the word “liberal”. Are we going in a nose dive as nation/people?

  • Annie

    Yes. If you open your eyes to the true doctrine of islam it’s the most liberating ideology of all

    • ahsan

      hmmm, pardon my curiosity, but whats your take on…
      interest based economy…
      gay rights…
      couples living in civil union..
      legalized porn industry… etc etc
      liberating ideology yes indeed, but liberating from what, that is subjective concept and to me, muslim means TO SUBMIT… submit to Allah’s decree,…
      Iv spent a few years in the DEVELOPED west, returned to Pak of my own free accord, i can fairly say that the present definition of ‘liberalism’, is…. my poem and prose is weak, so allow for any mistakes here on

      “kee jau tara-kee tum nay farangi ban k
      yeh farangi ki tara-kee hai musalmaan ki nahin…”

  • Anonymous

    ‘can a muslim EVER be liberal??’

    Can a good muslim be anything but a liberal?