Minorities and Nationalism

I find national identity of minorities very interesting. However, my interests lie in the need of minorities to constantly defend and justify their loyalty to a state in which they are not accorded the status of equal citizens. This becomes particularly important in the case of minorities that believe in a religion that differs from the religion of the majority, given that the state is based on religion.

Not only do minority citizens face the need to constantly reiterate their loyalty but their contributions towards the well being of the nation are often undermined by their minority status. Two examples of this are Dr. Abdus Salam, the first Muslim and only Pakistani to be a Nobel Laureate, and Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan,the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan to the UN and the President of the 17th session of the UN General Assembly. You will rarely find the names of these two in a history textbook in Pakistan. The former lived in self exile by virtue of religious persecution and the later resigned in the face of demands from extremist factions and the inability of the state to respond appropriately. Both were haunted by doubts casted on their loyalty to the Pakistani nation on the basis of their minority status.


Flag Ceremony at Wagah Border

Every day the flags at the Wagah border are taken down at sunset and put back up at sunrise on both sides of the border. Crowds gather at both sides, cheering slogans of national greatness and crying out 'long live Pakistan' and 'long live India' simultaneously (depending on which side of the border you are at). I hope you find the video at youtube interesting.



The land I recognize no more

Nationalism is a myth yet we cannot shed it. I always have trouble drawing a line between nationalism and patriotism. My national identity is tainted by my disagreement with what most mistakenly believe to be the foundation of my nation. No, Pakistan was not created on the basis of religion. Belie history as much as you want and teach as controversial a version of history as you may yet the facts will remain.

Pakistan was created to safeguard the economic, political and social interests of the Muslims of united India. Religious freedom was part of the agenda but not THE agenda. The key Muslim scholars and leaders of sub continent were opposed to the idea of Pakistan. They did not believe in the creation of a nation on the behest of religion. For them Muslims of united India were part of the international Muslim Ummah that existed without borders. In fact, these very Muslim scholars (including Maulana Maududi) considered Jinnah to be a heretic and the very idea of Pakistan flawed.

And then soon after the tables turned and Pakistan was created, these very people who had passionately opposed the founding of the country were suddenly blessed with the revelation that the sole purpose of the creation of the country was Islam. The Republic of Pakistan became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Religion and State became entangled and the secularism preached by Jinnah in his very first address to the constituent assembly became a forgotten aberration.

Thanks to Zia's Islamization , today most Pakistani's believe the creation and purpose of Pakistan to be tied to religion. Only if one paused to wonder what was behind Zia's Islamization and the legitimacy it offered to the tyrannical rule of a dictator, one can see what a facade it all was. Add to it the Washington coined Jihad during the Soviet war and the ISI created Taliban and you shall not be surprised much at the state of affairs in the country today.

Where we stand today is a direct consequence of our inability to draw a line between state and religion. A country founded to safeguard the Muslims of sub continent is not to be equated with a country founded for Islam. Religion is a private affair. The state has no business with religion (period!).


Nationalism 101

What is a nation?

An imagined community...fair enough...what is an imagined community?

Benedict Anderson's 'Imagined Communities' is the seminal work at the foundation of the idea of nation as an imagined community. An imagined community is made up of individuals who associate with each other without ever having met or seen each other. As opposed to a real community (i.e. class mates, a church congregation, office staff, teachers at a school, football team etc), members of a nation share belief in nationhood. They imagine other members of their nation to exist rather than know them in person.

The idea of nation is abstract. We all have it yet we really do not know what makes our nation a nation. Is it shared bloodline or race or ethnicity? Is it shared geography? Shared language or culture? Shared religion? Shared history? Or all of these put together?

There are nations that exist without sharing all of the above. Are the swiss a nation, with their multiple languages? Are Americans and British one nation with one language? Are the Kurds in Turkey, Iran and Iraq a nation, with their separatist claims? Are all Muslims of the world a nation? Are the Sikhs in Punjab and the Gujaratis and Tamil part of one big Indian nation? Are the Chinese and the Taiwanese one nation? Are the Palestanians a nation?

Where do you draw the line?


Hypocrisy 101

A halal vegetarian meal with red wine!

Problem? Not really.
I figure you have a skewed way of looking at things and I understand you are another ordinary mortal. I find the contradictions in you amusing at best.

What is it with halal meals and alcohol?

I am not particular about this so I will eat any meat other than pork. How the animal was slaughtered or electrocuted does not bother me. What bothers me though is that I know 'self-righteous' people who look down upon me for ordering a chicken sandwich and proceed to indulge in wine with a 'halal' meal.

Seriously, what is wrong with you?
My problem is not your halal/non halal preferences or your indulgence in or abstinence from alcohol. My problem is your 'better than thou' attitude. It plain simple irritates me.

Go do all you want. Just do not tell me about how you are a much stronger Muslim.


Mazhab 101

I am not a practicing Muslim. I do not pray or fast. I have no inclination to visit Makkah. I would rather donate to a hospital or a school than support a religious cause. I find mosques to be a waste of space and resources. I am just not fascinated by the idea of Islam as an overrated religion.

In fact, I find religion to be overrated in general. The way I live my life has little to do with religion. I have my own morality, my own right and wrong and it works just fine for me - until the 'self-righteous' make it a point to talk to me about religion.

A) My life is none of your business
B) There is a life beyond religion - Get over it!
C) If you make the mistake of taking me up on religion, be prepared. I will prove you wrong on your own flawed logic.

Seriously, what is wrong with people? What is wrong with supposed self righteous Muslims. Of course, they need to get a life but beyond that they need to find a God: a God that can be God and yet tolerate the prevalent notion of religion.

I grew up in a Muslim household. I have prayed, fasted, read the Quran and even taught Quran. Only that I never felt content with babbling Arabic without knowing what it means and I could not make peace with practicing religion without understanding it.

I make no claims to understand religion. I am not proposing I know God. But I know your God does not exist. I know the God you preach cannot be God. And it frustrates me. It irritates me when you go around praying five times a day without knowing what the verses mean. I do not pray but I can translate the verses you recite during prayer for you. I know the meaning of the prayers I do not say. You do not know what Quranic verses mean in your language when you read them. I really do not see whatever gave you the idea you can come talk to me about religion.

Seriously people, stop telling me about what your Imam, Aalim or Molvi Sahib said. I am sick and tired of the Mullah. You would rather believe a Mullah for what he thinks religion to be. I would rather be content with my own interpretation. At least, I know what I know for myself. I am not drowning on the behest of any self proclaimed Jesus.