After the end of World War I and with the establishment of League of Nations, the idea that all nations should have their separate homelands had become a fundamental truth. According to this modern concept of nation-formation, a nation is formed by a common land, a common tradition, a common history, a common language and a common culture.
The modern nation-state is different from the traditional imperial state. The central government of traditional empires, such as the Roman, Chinese, Inca, Syrian and Zulu had only limited, sustained authority over the extensive territory of the empire, which was internally fragmented and ethically heterogeneous, being composed of numerous culturally distinct tribal societies. They did not exhibit a sense of what today would be called “nationalism.” The frontiers of traditional empires were not internationally recognized as boundaries are today. Boundaries were simply the limits of military expansion that could be moved outward at will through additional conquests. Thus, there was no recognition of “inter-imperial” rights or law, that is, no globalized system of empires.
The modern nation-state is a unique creation of specific historical, political, social and economic circumstances. It is different from city-states and traditional empires in that the nation-state claims sovereignty over a fixed territory. Through governing practices and artifacts, nation-states diffuses a singular identity within the bounded space their borders arbitrarily but legally enclose. The sovereign territoriality of a state is represented by a capital city, a flag, an anthem, a passport, a currency, armed forces, national museums and libraries, embassies in other sovereign states and usually a seat in the United Nations. Today’s global world comprises of about 203 recognized nation-states.
The reason I am writing on this issue is that we, the Pakistanis, suffer from the effects of an identity crisis. Most of the people in our country try to associate themselves with the Arab culture and traditions under the assumption that they would become more pious Muslims while doing so. This attitude is causing a lot of damage to our people and our country. We are becoming more and more unaware of our own culture, history, language, traditions and are more inclined towards the Arab culture.
Factually, the religion or the beliefs of a person is his very personal affair. Wherever we go, our identity will be nothing else but Pakistani. A religion is not meant for granting identity to people. Nations are formed by land and therefore our nationality depends upon the land and not on faith, which is a changeable belief.
The Problem in Pakistan is that most of the people from the Sunni sect of Islam tend to be apologetic when it comes to criticizing the brutal Saudi Dynasty. They somehow consider Saudi Arabia as the sole protagonist of the Sunni branch of Islam. The position of Shias in Pakistan is if anything worse. They too, like Sunni’s, are apologetic when it comes to criticizing the brutal Iranian regime. They consider Iran as the sole protagonist of Shia Islam.
This attitude has caused a great deal of trouble in Pakistan. There are so many organizations in Pakistan who are working for the interests of either Saudi Arabia or Iran. Since the Iranian revolution, sectarian violence in Pakistan has reached unprecedented heights. Hence this issue has to be solved as quickly as possible so any further harm could be avoided.
I can be a Sunni and at the same time I can also criticize the brutality and injustice done by the Saudi dynasty. Similarly, I can be Shia and at the same time I can criticize the Iranian government for its brutality.
A few countries cannot represent an entire ideology or religious sect. Ideologies and religions are never confined to a few places, they are universal. Therefore, there is no point in being an apologist.
Another serious problem in Pakistan is that we have failed to acknowledge Islamist extremism properly. Some consider the Taliban, Islamic State and other Jihadi outfits as un-Islamic or western agents however at the same time most of our seminaries follow the same Islamist/Jihadist approach. We need to understand the difference between normal Muslims and Islamists. I believe Maajid Nawaz, activist and author, has drawn a wonderful line between Islam and Islamism. He says:
“Islamism is not Islam. Islamism is the politicization of Islam, the desire to impose a version of this ancient faith over society”.
Highlighting the apologetic behaviour of most of the Muslims when it comes to Islamist Extremism, Maajid says:
“Our Muslim insistence that “only a tiny minority supports ISIS, so shut up non-Muslim” is a total red herring. Islamism and Caliphate fantasies run deep.”
We need to get out of this circle of Identity crisis and apologetics. Only then can we hope for a tolerant and pluralistic society
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