Pakistan: Between Modernity and Religion


  • Harry Deng Simon Fraser University


Prior to British colonization, there was a general trend by the (Muslim) Mughal Empire to integrate Hindus into the civil and military administrations. They also actively sought to bridge any religious divides and to create a more coherent society through matrimony. However, with the onset of British colonial rule, this generally harmonious existence started to fade away. The British believed that Muslims and Hindus naturally consisted of separate nations. In fear of Hindu domination, began to champion the idea of a separate Muslim majority nation state in north-western and north-eastern India, where Muslims were in the majority. In 1947, with the creation of Pakistan, this became a reality. Pakistan came into existence with the duty of being the Muslim homeland in South Asia. However, in this paper I argue that even though Pakistan was create as a nation for Muslims, it was never an Islamist state, like that of Iran immediately post 1979 Revolution, but instead remained secular. The word secular is often simplified as the separation of church (or whatever religious institution) and state or just wholly misinterpreted. Moreover, secularism is often seen as a pre-requisite to democracy and modernity. Hence, I would like to explore a couple of ideas: one, what secularism really implies; two, the consolidation of democracy and Alfred Stepan’s theory of the “Twin Tolerations”; third, the development of Pakistan’s institutions and its relationship with Islam.