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Books and Documents ( 30 Jul 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Review: This book places Pakistan in the context of the intellectual and political currents in the Muslim World stretching from West Asia to Southeast Asia

By Anil Nair

July 30, 2019

Pakistan and the Muslim World
Mathew Joseph C
KW Publishers
9789387324930 | HardBack
280 pp | 2019
Rs. 918

India has a flourishing scholarship on all things Pakistan. Because of the troubled shared history of the countries and the four bitterly fought wars between them since 1947, the focus of Pakistan studies in India remains predominantly security and strategy. For this reason, most of the books on Pakistan by Indian scholars are written from the security point of view. Because of Pakistan’s covert and overt support of separatists in Kashmir, most of these narratives project Pakistan as an enemy country and a hotbed of Islamic militancy. Pakistan and the Muslim World, edited by Mathew Joseph C, endeavours to place Pakistan in the larger politico-cultural context of the Muslim world and offers a welcome departure from the traditional Indo-Pak binary. It looks at Pakistan as just another post-colonial third world country which lends it a great amount of academic objectivity.

The Muslim world, or the Islamic world, refers to the 50-odd Muslim-majority countries spanning across Africa and Asia. Though it has more Muslims than all Muslim-majority nations other than Indonesia, India is not considered a part of the Muslim world. As Pakistan came into existence as a homeland for Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, it was natural for the new nation to establish close ties with Muslim states. Pakistan’s active involvement in the Organisation of Islamic Conference and other groupings of Muslim countries reflected the educated Pakistani elite’s ambition to play a leadership role in the global Islamic community. Pakistan still enjoys some credibility among the community because of its large population, military capabilities and its status as the only nuclear-capable nation among the Muslim-majority nations.

This volume looks into the linkages between society and polity, civil society and popular culture of Pakistan. Through this book, the authors have made an attempt to place Pakistan in the larger context of the intellectual and political currents in the Muslim World stretching from West Asia to Southeast Asia. The articles in this book come from broad disciplinary categories of political science, international relations, and post-colonial studies, distinguishing it from the other Indian books on Pakistan that focus on security aspects.

Religion is a major influence in international relations, but the major theoretical frameworks of the subject do not factor in religion in their analysis. This may be due to the western origin of International relations as an academic subject. A K Ramakrishnan’s article, “Islam and International Relations: Understanding the Politics of Culture”, attempts to analyse the latest developments that bring religion in the ambit of international relations theory. Kingshuk Chatterjee has penned an analysis of Arab Spring, and why the pan-Islamic movement failed to make inroads into Pakistan, which, many scholars thought, would be a happy hunting ground for its message. His article, “The Search for a New Discursive Space in the Muslim World: From the Arab Spring to Katchi Abadis of Pakistan”, explains how Islamists failed to breach the military-dominated state structure of Pakistan.

Kalim Bahadur explains Pakistan’s limitations as a nation-state in his article, “Pakistan’s Search for Its Identity”. Bahadur explains how Pakistan’s raison d’etre was lost the minute it came into existence. It reasons that Pakistan was not the result of an anti-colonial struggle, but a product of anti-Hindu and anti-Indian National Congress sentiments among the Muslim elites of the subcontinent. Rasul Bakhsh Rais discusses the contending ideas of nationalism in his article, “Contested Identities of Pakistan: Exploring Alternative Visions”. Rais narrates how nationalists, regionalists, and Islamists look to provide alternative narratives to bind disparate regions into a nation-state.

Political Islam refers to interpretations of Islam as a basis for political action. Understanding Political Islam has been made difficult by the perception that it is a monolithic phenomenon and an ally of Western imperialism. K M Seethi in his article, “Pakistan: State, Civil Society, and Political Islam”, explains how this simplistic understanding of political Islam fails to explain the origin, evolution, and spread of the idea across the Muslim World. Seethi explains how Political Islam is a response to all-pervading globalisation that provided space for Islamist organisations to function freely. He argues that the linkages of political Islam and globalisation need to be understood to explain its evolution across the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular. M H Ilias in his article, “Understanding Salfi Movement in the Context of Pakistan”, presents a nuanced analysis of the Salafi Movement and its presence in Pakistan. It explains how the use of modern communication technology helped the creation of a Salafi network across Pakistan.

The Islamic movements that originated across the world have influenced Pakistani political opinion in a major way. Mathew Joseph C. discusses in detail how the Palestinian movement, the Iranian revolution and the anti-Soviet jihadi movement in Afghanistan shaped Pakistani politics. His article, “Pakistan and Islamist Movements in the Muslim World”, explains how the Wahhabi ideology and revolution in neighbouring Iran contributed to the bloody Shia-Sunni strife in the country.

Islam has been a major factor ruling Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and West Asian nations. This was natural as religion was the only binding factor that connected various regions of Pakistan. Noor Ahmed Baba’s article, “Islamic Predicament of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy”, narrates how the country’s leadership leveraged Islam, especially the radical elements, to its benefit in its relations with neighbouring countries as well as distant allies. Faisal Abbas’ article, “Remittances from West Asian Countries and Pakistan’s Political Economy”, analyses the impact of Gulf money on the religio-social life of the people and how male migration resulted in the improved visibility of women in public life and their financial empowerment. Bhavna Singh discusses Sino-Pak relations in the context of the Xinjiang separatist movement. In the article, “Pakistan and Xinjiang: Deconstructing the Islamic Linkages”, Singh explains how Pakistan is helping China to keep the militancy in Xinjiang under control.

Pakistan’s role in nuclear proliferation is one of the reasons for its lack of credibility with the West. Manpreet Sethi’s article, “Nuclear Proliferation from Pakistan to the Muslim World: An Ideological and Commercial Enterprise”, analyses the nuclear trade network developed by A Q Khan for Pakistan.

The biggest problem faced by a majority of Muslim states is sectarian conflicts and Pakistan is no exception. Pakistan has become a battleground of Sunni radicalism fuelled by the Saudi Wahhabi influence and the Shia movement encouraged by Iran. Alok Bansal in his article, “Cleavages in the Islamic World: Sectarianism in Pakistan”, offers a politico-social context of the sectarian conflict in the country.

What really sets this volume apart is its focus on the social classes, civil society, art and culture of Pakistan. It goes beyond the traditional scholarship that analyses state-to-state or government-to-government interactions through the theoretical prism of realism. The book gives an entirely different perspective for serious observers of Pakistani politics and the country’s diplomatic relations.

(This edited volume is brought out by KW Publishers Pvt Ltd, New Delhi.)

Source: The Financial Express