ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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National Identity and Religious Difference in Pakistan

Desecularisation as an Instituted Process

Religious norms have significantly shaped the evolution of political and legal institutions across many Muslim societies. The public visibility of Islam has been analysed through multiple and overlapping lines of scholarly inquiry, which draw attention to the poverty of the "secularisation theory" - the thesis that modernisation leads to a decline of religion in individual minds and social institutions. The case of Pakistan, analysed in this article, is particularly suggestive for highlighting one historical modality of the relationship between religion and politics. Through focusing on concrete instances of exclusion of religious minorities across time, this article proposes the conceptual usefulness of desecularisation as a historically contingent, instituted process for analysing how distinct notions of politics, citizenship and national identity have become embedded in Pakistan. It argues that desecularisation has led to the slow exit of religious minorities from organised political life, an increase in the cultural power of religious parties in dictating the religious content of state policies, and the entrenchment of both politics of expediency and politics of fear in the way state authorities respond to physical and symbolic violence against religious minorities.

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