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Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea Hardcover – September 30, 2013
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Muslim Zion exposes the reader to ideals and realities that competed in the formation of Pakistan. It is a cerebral insight into how there was never a clear notion of 'what Pakistan should be' and, therefore, it is not surprising 'what it has become.'
(Gayatri Chandrasekaran Mint 2013-08-22)
Faisal Devji's Muslim Zion...is a refreshing addition to the study of politics of Muslim League and Jinnah's personality as it traces the creation of Pakistan...Muslim Zion brings forth the collaborative and competitive politics of Ambedkar and Jinnah, a much ignored aspect. The book thus effectively traces the creation of Pakistan by mapping Islam, Muslim, and minorityism packed with some fresh and original perspectives on Sir Syed Ahmed, Allama Iqbal, and Syed Ameer Ali among others. Muslim Zion will also be of interest to those seeking to have some understanding of the Shia sub-sects. Devji suggests that the interest of prominent Shias in the politics of Muslim League had got to do with the fact that they wanted to protect themselves from both the Hindu as well as the Sunni majority... Even as the book explores on the idea of Pakistan, the amazing parallels between a Muslim homeland and Jewish settlement seamlessly runs through the narrative making it eminently readable. Muslim Zion is a provocative and fascinating piece of scholarship with some very complex and tight observations and arguments. (Danish Khan Two Circles 2013-09-12)
A trenchant analysis...the book presents a wholly different and more nuanced view of Islamic politics than most recent titles. (Publishers Weekly 2013-07-01)
No one but Faisal Devji could have given us Muslim Zion, which offers a brilliant, counterintuitive meditation on the analogy between ideologies of Zionism and Pakistani/Muslim nationalism, and at the same time a nuanced historical exploration of the idea of Pakistan. Intellectual history as a page-turner. (Noah Feldman, author of Cool War: The Future of Global Competition)
Despite their vast differences, Pakistan and Israel share this strange coincidence of birth: they were both created to resolve the problematic status of minorities defined partly by religion. Scholars in a number of fields have begun to explore facets of this strange parallelism. Faisal Devji has brought the historian's traditional skills to the task, focusing on the Muslim League's demand from the 1930s for a separate homeland for the Muslims of India. Muslim Zion tells a gripping story and will make an important contribution to this ongoing scholarly discussion. (Aamir R. Mufti, author of Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture)
Devji is arguably the most brilliant scholar of his generation writing today on South Asian history and global Islam. His explorations of the tensions inherent in the idea of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland, and the fascinating parallels he draws with Zionist and settler-colonial pasts, provide a new point of departure for the study of both Muslim and Dalit politics in British India. His reflections on the failure of the category 'minority' in decolonizing times will help us rethink the very idea of the political in the twentieth century. A thoughtful and courageous book. (Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago)
A fascinating, thoughtful, and provocative work, Muslim Zion explores the paradoxical dimensions of Pakistan by focusing on the period when this country was imagined, but yet unrealized. (Christophe Jaffrelot, CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS)
Faisal Devji's brilliantly written, deeply felt book is an important contribution to the study of the tortured relationship between different ideas of Pakistan and of Islam. (Anatol Lieven, author of Pakistan: A Hard Country)
A remarkable book…Devji has persuasively interpreted Jinnah’s view of Pakistan as an anti-territorial, universalistic conception of the nation. Summoning Pakistan into existence was an act of pure will that required the rejection of history, soil, and culture--all the usual grounds on which to claim nationhood, and which for Jinnah subverted the unity he claimed for India’s Muslims. (Sunil Khilnani New Republic 2013-11-09)
Devji provides a unique insight into the underpinnings of the idea of Pakistan. [He] sees a parallel between the Zionist movement for Israel and the Muslim nationalist movement for Pakistan…Devji provides an excellent narrative of the course of Muslim politics, its interactions with other Indian movements, and the commitment to a separate political entity--Pakistan. This is familiar territory, but it is presented with an entirely new perspective--the author refers to contemporary literature, poetry, and political speeches and writings…Devji’s erudite, balanced and lucid work, embellished with pithy insights and interesting sources, is a stern warning about the hazards of basing nationhood on religious identity. (Talmiz Ahmad Business Standard 2013-11-12)
About the Author
Faisal Devji is Reader in Indian History and Fellow of St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford.
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According to the author, Pakistan is a paradox; a country which rejects history and territory in favour of a 'homeland'. Yet this homeland itself is a nation state with historical roots in Punjab, Bulochistan, Sindh and also Kashmir. Pakistan is nation established on the sole basis of religion (just like Israel). Because of this, Pakistan rejects the more traditional nation state concepts such as 'blood and soil', which tended to characterise traditional forms of nationalism in Europe. Indeed, Devji makes many parallels between this Muslim Nationalism and Zionism, claiming that there is significant similarity in the aims of both.
Initially, the concept of a Muslim homeland developed out of the ideas of the Muslim philosopher Mohammed Iqbal. Iqbal was concerned for the fate of India's Muslims and was in favour of recognition of a Muslim province in any future independent Indian nation. These ideas fermented and were taken up by the secular Muslim politician Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Jinnah and his Indian Muslim League were to ultimately advance these ideas and declare at the 1940 Lahore Convention the desired aim of a separate Muslim nation.
Mr. Devji makes a good case for Pakistan as a political idea. Further to what's written above, he explores fears amongst the Muslim leaders of India of Muslims becoming a minority in a Hindu dominated Indian nation, comparisons with the struggles of other Indian minorities such as the Dalit peoples (the 'Untouchables'), and a belief that Pakistan would not only be a home for India's Muslims but Muslims across the world.
However, one of the most interesting aspects of the work is how the author describes Pakistan as a bundle of contradictions. Jinnah, a leader of Muslim independence who was himself a secular Muslim, and even a little contemptuous of the more devout worshipers of Allah. A nation state that rejects the concept of history and territory, yet functions as a nation. How the Muslim basis for its existence failed to inspire a codified concept of worship within Pakistan, leading to a generic Sunni/Shia mix of practice. The comparisons of Muslim Nationalism with Zionism and yet the refusal of successive Pakistani governments to recognise the nation of Israel.
Mr. Devji's work is fascinating yet complex. This is a serious study on the origins of Pakistan as both a nation and a political idea. One would suggest they they are one and the same. I understand more about Pakistan now than I did before I read the book, and I'm no stranger to intelligence on the country. This is a core work for scholars of Pakistan.
Israel was conceived and executed as an exclusionary colonial-settler state mostly be a few Europeans of the Jewish faith who nowhere constituted a majority in any European space. Its aims was to establish a Jewish state inhabited by European Jews after displacing by force the Arab population of Palestine. In the late 19th century, when the Zionist idea was being proposed, the Jews constituted a tiny percentage of the population of Palestine and about half of them were European Jewish settlers.
As such Zionism has no parallels to the Pakistan movement. The idea of Pakistan was to establish Muslim sovereign states (one or more) over
large contiguous territories in the eastern and western parts of northern India where Muslims constituted a clear majority of the population. The leaders of the Pakistan movement did not claim that this would be a homeland for all the Muslims of India or that non-Muslims would be displaced from the territories that would constitute Pakistan.
Israel was established as a Jewish state for all the Jews of the world. As a result, any Jew living in Manhattan, NY, or Ethiopia, or anywhere else in the world had the right to land in Israel and claim Israeli citizenship. This has never been the case with Pakistan. Pakistan is a country of the people who inhabited Pakistan. Not more than 5 % of the Muslims of the territories that lived in the Indian territories with Hindu majorities (barring
Punjab) migrated to Pakistan. There was a larger exchange of Muslim and Hindu populations of Punjab but this was not part of the Pakistan plan; it was the result of violence that was certainly not planned by the Pakistani leaders.
Zionism was but the latest example of exclusionary European settler colonial movement that had the support at different times of every Western power, a settler state that would be deployed against the nationalist aspirations of the Arabs in the Middle East, that would serve -- as Theodore Herzl said -- as "a rampart" of Western powers in the Muslims world.
Israel was not created as the result of a liberation movement against Britain. It was a British creation that also had the support of other major Western powers. It was an alien (mostly European) presence forcibly planted on Arab territories: one that had strong similarities to the Crusades except that the Crusaders in this case were Jews (if European) who wanted to gain violent possession of 'their' Holy Lands.