Hannah Harris Green on Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea by Faisal Devji

Hannah Green in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Muslim-Zion-243x366In his most recent work, Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea, Faisal Devji offers a detailed analysis of the various political and ideological forces that were at play in the buildup to Pakistan’s creation. Devji’s larger project seems to be to mitigate the tendency to look at historical phenomena from the 20th and 21st centuries isolated from their global context. In The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence (2012), he presented an alternative biography of the Mahatma, partly by rejecting the notion that this London-educated man was purely influenced by Indian thinkers and had purely Indian goals. In Landscapes of the Jihad (2005), Devji suggested that al-Qaeda and bin Laden took their cues from global media trends much more than they did from any tribal Islamic tradition.

Muslim Zion is perhaps more expansive than either of these works, as it deals not with one specific movement or figure but the confluence of movements and figures that led to the formation of a nation. Devji prioritizes the trajectory of ideas over all other historical forces. Ideologies of communism and Zionism (which Devji uses in a somewhat idiosyncratic way) were important in the middle of the 20th century, Devji argues, because they made it possible for nation-states to define themselves based on ideas rather than territorial or hereditary attachments. Both were significant catalysts in Pakistan’s foundation. Israel is Pakistan’s closest twin in this type of national movement, as both nations were conceived as homelands for people who didn’t necessarily have any familial connection to the territory, and both used religion as the common ground that would define their citizenry. The connection between the two ideologies, Devji suggests, was not a coincidence.

More here.