Producing the Islamist Subject: Liberalism and the Postcolonial State
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This paper examines how Islamist publications represent the history of Pakistan as a story of betrayal by the country’s leaders. These publications emphasize that the very ideology which forms the basis of Pakistan has been sidelined. I contend that this imagining of an Islamic state is not inconsistent with liberal ideology. Through an examination of critical histories of Pakistan, I show how these organizations are formed within the politics of the postcolonial state. Adapting Homi Bhabha’s (1994) theorization of ambivalence, I argue that Islamist organizations are actually the ‘slippage’ of liberalism in Pakistan. While Islamists call for an Islamic system, they imagine change within a legal framework and operate within the parameters of the state. In fact, Islamists position themselves as intermediaries between liberals and militants, attempting to reform the former and integrate the latter. Islamists construct an interesting dualism within the political arena: on one side, they position the United States and subservient Pakistani leaders, and on the other, they place militant organizations such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Tehrik-e-Nafaz-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM). In the process, religious organizations become the spokespersons for Islamic politics in Pakistan, and the protectors of Islamic identity, taking over the role historically occupied by the liberal leadership.