Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea

Hassan Javid in Dawn:

51svY0qVmxL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_For Devji, Pakistan represents an example of Zionism, which he interprets as being a political form in which national identity is defined primarily by religion. In this respect, so the argument goes, Pakistan bears a close resemblance to Israel; both nations were created amidst the decline of the British Empire, they ostensibly represented homelands for minorities fleeing real and perceived persecution, and they came into being with the transfer of large populations into territories that had previously not been inhabited by them.

Viewed through this lens, nationalism in Israel and Pakistan was not rooted in claims about specific territorial boundaries or even ethnic and linguistic groupings; instead, it decoupled the idea of the nation from its traditional markers, basing itself instead on the existence of a religious community, bound together by common beliefs that transcended questions of territory, language and ethnicity. All Jews were, and are, welcome to settle in Israel regardless of their previous territorial affiliations and, in 1947, the same was true of Pakistan with respect to the subcontinent’s Muslim population. If, as Benedict Anderson argues, all nations are essentially “imagined communities” in which identity and solidarity are constructed by the propagation of shared cultural values through a common linguistic medium within a defined territory, the Israeli and Pakistani nations were imagined primarily as religious communities superimposed onto relatively arbitrary physical spaces.

Comparing Pakistan with Israel in this fashion is not new. Indeed, as Devji himself mentions near the start of the book, no less a personage than General Ziaul Haq noted the similarities between the two countries in 1981.

More here.