Purifying the Land of the Pure: A History of Pakistan's Religious Minorities

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9780190621650: Purifying the Land of the Pure: A History of Pakistan's Religious Minorities

When Pakistan emerged as an independent state in 1947, it sought to provide a new homeland and safe harbor for South Asia's Muslims, the largest religious minority in the subcontinent at the time. Yet this project was not exclusive. Taking its name from Pakstan, an acronym composed of the key letters of its constituent regions-Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan-Pakistan at first welcomed all of its new citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Non-Muslims comprised 23 percent of the total population, and non-Sunnis comprised a quarter of the Muslim population.

Today, non-Muslims comprise a mere 3 percent of the population, and in recent years all non-Sunnis have been subjected to increasing levels of persecution and violence. What happened?

In Purifying the Land of the Pure, Farahnaz Ispahani analyzes Pakistan's policies towards its religious minority populations, beginning from the time of independence in 1947. She notes the period of transition from an inclusive policy to an exclusive one, citing the influence of a number of religious and political leaders who invoked a new vision for Pakistan. The word "pakistan" is Urdu for "Land of the Pure"; thus, in their view, it followed that the objective for Pakistan's creation should be more specific and narrow: to create an Islamic State. In 1949, Pakistan's Constituent Assembly ratified this objective, which set the country on the path it was to follow. But as Ispahani carefully notes, the event that accelerated the pace towards intolerance of non-Sunnis was General Zia-ul-Haq's forceful ascent to power in 1977. His military regime promoted Sunni Islam at the expense of other denominations so that by the end of his reign, Pakistan was no longer a welcome place for minorities. Many fled, but those who remained faced escalating persecution, from both state and non-state actors. Tens of thousands died in the ensuing "purifying" attacks. Ispahani traces this history, stressing how the contradictions at the heart of the Pakistani state-building project have fueled the intolerance.

Concise yet sweeping in its coverage, Purifying the Land of the Pure is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding why Pakistan remains plagued by radicalism and violence.

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About the Author:


Farahnaz Ispahani is an author, journalist, politician, and policy analyst. She is a former Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and served as a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan between 2008 and 2012.

Review:


"Farahnaz Ispahani demonstrates that Pakistan's history is an extended cautionary tale: nations that marginalize their religious minorities commit a kind of slow-motion political suicide. In her powerful and often heart-rending account, politicians, generals, and extremist ideologues conspired in Pakistan's step-by-step religious homogenization almost from the country's birth, ultimately threatening not only religious minorities but the viability of the nation they thought they were 'purifying.'"

--Timothy Samuel Shah, Associate Director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, Georgetown University


"Purifying the Land of the Pure is an essential contribution to the literature on Pakistan, and fills an important gap in helping readers understand Pakistan's treatment of minorities. Ispahani provides a beautifully written and thoroughly researched look at a deeply sad and seemingly intractable political problem."

--Stephen P. Cohen, Brookings Institution


"Farahnaz Ispahani has written, fearlessly and eruditely, the chronicle of a country destroyed by its own intolerance. Her sobering study of the usurpation of pluralism by fanaticism in Pakistan is a cautionary tale also for other states and societies in which religious zeal is waging war against democratic aspiration. If Pakistan is ever to recover from its descent into extremism and violence, it will require the humane spirit exemplified by this book. Purifying the Land of the Pure is a brave and admirable book by a brave and admirable woman."

-- Leon Wieseltier


"[Ispahani] has a firm grasp of Pakistan's modern national narrative and keen insight into its intricacies." --Publishers Weekly


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2017. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. When Pakistan was founded in 1947, it had a rich tapestry of different religious groups, ranging from Sunni and Shiite Muslims to Christians, Parsis, Hindus, and Jainists. Non-Muslims comprised 23 percent of the total population, and non-Sunnis comprised a quarter of the Muslim population. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan s first president, proclaimed that the nation had a place for all of its citizens, regardless of religion. Today, non-Muslims comprise a mere 3 percent of the population, and in recent years all non-Sunnis have been subjected to increasing levels of persecution and violence. What happened? In Purifying the Land of the Pure, Farahnaz Ispahani analyzes Pakistan s policies towards its religious minority populations, both Muslim and non-Muslim, since independence in 1947. Originally created as a homeland for South Asia s Muslims, Pakistan was designed to protect the subcontinent s largest religious minority. But soon after independence, religious as well as some political leaders declared that the objective of Pakistan s creation was more specific and narrow: to create an Islamic State. In 1949, Pakistan s Constituent Assembly ratified this objective, and that in turn established the path that Pakistan would follow. The event that accelerated the pace towards intolerance of non-Sunnis, however, was the assumption of power by President Zia Ul Haq over a quarter century later, in 1977. His regime promoted a stricter version of Sunni Islam at the expense of other denominations, and by the end of his reign the Pakistani state was no longer a welcome place for minorities. Many people from religious minorities fled, but those who remained faced escalating persecution, both from state and non-state actors which enjoyed the tacit support of the regime. The years since 9/11 have been punctuated by recurrent pogroms against religious minorities, and thousands have died. Shiites have suffered the most assaults from Sunni extremists, but virtually every minority has been attacked repeatedly. Ispahani traces this history, and stresses how the contradictions at the heart of the Pakistani state-building project have fueled the intolerance. Originally created as a homeland for the subcontinent s Muslims, Pakistan was still religiously very diverse. Over time, efforts to correct this problem radicalized significant segments of the Sunni population, setting in motion a self-reinforcing process of escalating persecution. Some elements of the ruling class exploited these prejudices in opportunistic fashion, while others were zealots themselves. In the end, what drove these elements did not matter much, as the result was the same: a state that ignored frequent attacks on religious minorities by increasingly radicalized Sunni groups bent on purifying the nation. Concise yet sweeping in its coverage, Purifying the Land of the Pure will be essential reading for anyone interested in why this pivotal geopolitical player is so plagued by radicalism and violence. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780190621650

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2017. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. When Pakistan was founded in 1947, it had a rich tapestry of different religious groups, ranging from Sunni and Shiite Muslims to Christians, Parsis, Hindus, and Jainists. Non-Muslims comprised 23 percent of the total population, and non-Sunnis comprised a quarter of the Muslim population. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan s first president, proclaimed that the nation had a place for all of its citizens, regardless of religion. Today, non-Muslims comprise a mere 3 percent of the population, and in recent years all non-Sunnis have been subjected to increasing levels of persecution and violence. What happened? In Purifying the Land of the Pure, Farahnaz Ispahani analyzes Pakistan s policies towards its religious minority populations, both Muslim and non-Muslim, since independence in 1947. Originally created as a homeland for South Asia s Muslims, Pakistan was designed to protect the subcontinent s largest religious minority. But soon after independence, religious as well as some political leaders declared that the objective of Pakistan s creation was more specific and narrow: to create an Islamic State. In 1949, Pakistan s Constituent Assembly ratified this objective, and that in turn established the path that Pakistan would follow. The event that accelerated the pace towards intolerance of non-Sunnis, however, was the assumption of power by President Zia Ul Haq over a quarter century later, in 1977. His regime promoted a stricter version of Sunni Islam at the expense of other denominations, and by the end of his reign the Pakistani state was no longer a welcome place for minorities. Many people from religious minorities fled, but those who remained faced escalating persecution, both from state and non-state actors which enjoyed the tacit support of the regime. The years since 9/11 have been punctuated by recurrent pogroms against religious minorities, and thousands have died. Shiites have suffered the most assaults from Sunni extremists, but virtually every minority has been attacked repeatedly. Ispahani traces this history, and stresses how the contradictions at the heart of the Pakistani state-building project have fueled the intolerance. Originally created as a homeland for the subcontinent s Muslims, Pakistan was still religiously very diverse. Over time, efforts to correct this problem radicalized significant segments of the Sunni population, setting in motion a self-reinforcing process of escalating persecution. Some elements of the ruling class exploited these prejudices in opportunistic fashion, while others were zealots themselves. In the end, what drove these elements did not matter much, as the result was the same: a state that ignored frequent attacks on religious minorities by increasingly radicalized Sunni groups bent on purifying the nation. Concise yet sweeping in its coverage, Purifying the Land of the Pure will be essential reading for anyone interested in why this pivotal geopolitical player is so plagued by radicalism and violence. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780190621650

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