Pakistan ~10 years on

By Razib Khan | August 18, 2010 3:21 am

Long time readers of this weblog will recognize Zachary Latif. Zachary and I have been having exchanges on various topics on and off since 2002 on the blogs. His early opinionated musings on cultural and historical topics were a definite prod for me to venture out more vigorously into this domain. As a Pakistani Baha’i educated and resident in the West he offered me a window into a very different perspective from what I’d ever encountered before. In particular he challenged me in 2002 when I blithely repeated conventional wisdom about the economic rise of India and the stagnation of Pakistan. He had numbers at his finger tips. I did not.

Since that time it is arguable that Pakistan has become more, not less, important to Americans. How is Pakistan doing? To look into this I decided to use Google Data Explorer, focusing on trend lines comparing the various South Asian nations.

I invite readers to construct more charts. It’s easy enough. I would say that the last 10 years has been mildly on the less encouraging side for Pakistan in relation to its neighbors. Its economic growth has consistently been lower than India’s for years, so the gap in per capita income is growing. Additionally, Pakistan has not gone through a demographic transition yet. Though Bangladesh remains poorer, its fertility is now far lower. The main reason that the population growth numbers are not further apart is that Pakistan has a relatively low adolescent fertility rate, so the generation times are presumably longer. And note the infant mortality numbers, in 1990 Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan were in the same ballpark, but now Pakistan is the standout, and not in a good way.

Of course there are positives too. Pakistan has far more foreign investment than Bangladesh, which is why I log-transformed the scale. And the trend for something like measles immunization is positive, and pushing saturation. Looking at the data the image in the media of Pakistan being a “failed state” seems a bit much, though as Americans our stake in what happens in that nuclear armed nation is great, so even a small probability is of concern (also, I don’t have data past 2008).

But let’s shift to India. And this is what really surprises me: on some social indices India is not doing so well. Why? Look at life expectancy:

Pakistan has maintained its lead, but Bangladesh seems to have switched places with India. The gaps here are small and of no great account to me, the question is why India is not doing better despite impressive economic growth? That is because “India” is many nations, and several of these nations have entered a phase of rapid economic growth and development, and others have not. The total fertility rate of the southern state of Tamil Nadu in 2006 was 1.8, the same as non-Hispanic whites in the United States. For the massive northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is more populous than either Pakistan or Bangladesh, the total fertility rate was 3.8, only a little below Pakistan’s. India has within it both Bangalore and Bihar, so the aggregate data is masking both the economic dynamism and the outrageous poverty.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Data Analysis
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  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    Lol Razib it has been a while – 2002.

    Thanks for the acknowledgement; I would venture the same, if not more, likewise. We have had some great interactions and I’ve always learnt from your vast knowledge and eloquence.

    I would venture I was more “jingoist” at that time. Time, and age, has softened me out; I would also think my family & I are now post-Pakistani Baha’i. These identities remain salient but subliminal.

    For instance my brothers have paired off with Indians (one London Sikh the other a half Gujju jain Anglo mix) and we’re so much more liberal in ourlooks; the noughties have been a great decade.

    India’s social attitudes, I would venture are colored by caste. Pakistan is characterized by a heady mix of feudalism and fanaticism; India’s held by caste prejudice (which only operates in the rural areas).

    I’ve been here alot about Bangladesh’s social transformation; economically its probably held back by access to Calcutta? At any rate I’m still fuming about how some (Pakistani) friends have written how my comments on the “Bengali genocide” disturbed them.

    Identity and identity construction is all well and good; but whatever caste or creed we belong to we are human beings first. To answer your comment on the other thread even if Bangladeshis themselves have “gotten” over it; it doesn’t change anything there is a “moral debt”. I find it hypocritical to advocate Kashmir but forget Bangladesh and Bihar; frankly it smacks of racism all around. Hypocritical in light of the “colour blind” Ummah, which it obviously is not.

    I would like to remind desis in our “fair-conscious” culture that logically means Western Europeans are superior since they are the “fairest & loveliest of them all”.

    But to echo the earlier thread are the noble savages, i.e. colored people, even capable of racism? (where’s that sarcasm mark when you need).

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    also I haven’t ignored your facts and figures they speak for themselves – I think South Asia needs to collectively address its issues and work on them. I am an eternal optimist.

    Also I would argue that Pakistani “ambivalence” on terrorism needs to be addressed. Whatever causes & greviances you have in this day & age there must be an absolute rejection of any violence. We are all sophisticated people let’s use words instead of weapons.

    I’m morphing into a quasi-social activist offline and a pontificator online. Ha!

  • omar

    I generally agree with Zachary. I also think both India and Pakistan are held back by their stupid zero-sum games with each other. The amount of damage done is not trivial. Its not just defence spending and hurdles to trade and commerce (the two countries are obviously ideally suited to be each other’s biggest trading partner), its very direct sabotage and disruption. Pakistan has had the “edge” in this last sector because it is ruled directly by the security establishment (even in times of so-called democracy, the security establishment calls the shots on crucial decisions and manipulates the levers of power from behind the scenes) and so the work of training terrorists and smuggling explosives is more efficient. But an Indian friend with relations in the Indian security establishment once told me that after spending a summer with some of them, he was convinced that the only difference between Pakistan and India is that in India the “corrupt politicians” have the security establishment on a bit of a leash while in Pakistan that rabid mindset is free, otherwise, the mindsets are mirror images of each other.
    Immediately after 9-11, the US may have been in a position to push Pakistan in some other direction, but after various missteps (perhaps inevitable ones) the shoe is now on the other foot. The US needs Pakistani help to get out of Afghanistan without losing too much face.
    But I would add that if India can actually sustain an economic takeoff, then Pakistan will follow. The “establishment” is addicted to its rent-an-army model of economic survival right now (some would describe it as holding a nuclear gun to their head and saying “pay up or I shoot”), but they are not blind. If the big money is in capitalism with nationalist features, they will become capitalists. Of course, in a sense, they already are; the inflow for rent-an-army operations has sustained Pakistan through tough times. Just the direct US subsidy is over 2 billion a year. Thats a lot of loose change in a poor country. But in the long run, its no substitute for an actual economy and its blowback (in the form of terrorism at home, bad press and bad relations abroad, poor investment climate and so on) is eventually greater than any benefit. But this is not a lesson they will learn by reading about it. Its too profitable for the people at the top as it is. But they WILL learn it if India really takes off. In some way, we are connected at the hip….If India can do it, we have to do it too….

  • dave chamberlin

    As Zachary influenced you to drop conventional beliefs for more critical thinking, you have influenced thousands Razib, thank you.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    zach, re: bangladesh. from what my family’s interactions with pakistanis suggest they don’t even know of the genocide. many of them won’t get off the need for urdu supremacy to this day. so you’re going down a rough road. additionally, if pakistanis are putting the label ‘kafir’ on the tombs of hindu citizens who died, i think you need to look closer to home.

    http://www.zeenews.com/news645999.html

    economically the country is doing OK. but every non-muslim needs to get the fuck out ASAP if they can (many hindus are leaving sindh). then the deobandis, barelvis and shia can go at it i guess. it’s a barbarian land with barbarian ways :-)

  • omar

    Razib, There is no question about the fact that the official ideology of Pakistan is a one-way ticket (on a relatively slow train) to ethnic cleansing and religious oppression. But as you have pointed out in many other posts, advertised ideology is one thing, what people actually do is another. In this case, the official/dominant ideology of Pakistan is a disaster, while the official ideology of India is quite enlightened and liberal (secular democracy and all that). And these ideologies are not without consequence. BUT, if you look at what actually goes on in both countries, the differences are not as stark as one would expect.
    There is a long history of fairly significant “communal riots” in India, usually with the police standing aside or (as in Gujarat) actively helping the rioters to kill Muslims. And muslims have not been the only victims (Sikhs were massacred in good numbers in Delhi in 1984). Beyond that, the same level of oppression, denial of rights and abuse of power can occur under different labels (so its not about religion, but its about caste, or its just poor people getting screwed by the police and local gangsters).
    In Pakistan, the formal status of minorities is pretty much hopeless(in modern liberal terms; of course, it seems perfectly reasonable to people who believe in shariah law), but the HUGE difference in official/dominant ideology does not translate into an equally huge difference in actual treatment of groups and individuals. None of this justifies the religious separatism and supremacism that characterizes the state, but I am just trying to point out that conditions on the ground (especially for poor people) are less different than you may imagine.
    In the long run, the Islamist project (and Pakistan is a child of that project, among other things) is bound to fail. There is no there there. Teams of Western academics keep finding this or that enlightened Islamic theology, but its a dead end and will remain one (it can be sidelined and secularised, but no “Islamic state” is going to be liberal or rational enough for 21st century purposes)..Iran is the best you can get and even that is only possible in Shia Islam. The cultural home of Punjab and Sindh is in Indian civilization. Those ties are going to prevail even if the bordes remain unchanged. The Western half is closer to Afghanistan in cultural terms and will probably link up with home in some fashion (some would argue, has done so already). The state will probably survive in present form (because most powers local and distant have no desire to see a nasty unpredictable breakup), but on the ground both Eastern and Western borders will soften. Or at least, that is what I hope will happen. The alternative is a good solid war which will probably destroy Pakistan and damage India for decades. I guess it depends on what the Chinese want, since they will be paying the bills in Pakistan once the current round of US subsidies is withdrawn.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    omar, good point. the gujarat riots convinced me of the barbarism at the heart of indian society. the organized killing of thousands, ultimately rooted in primitive superstitious identities, is savage indeed.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    @ Razib thanks for the Zee link – this is shocking I have publicised this story. I had not read it and its a disgusting incident of how prejudice is so corrosive; particularly to defile someone after death (and I imagine he was a youth since he was a member of the Youth Parliament).

    Pakistanis have become very defensive and everything is “Stani bashing”; well that’s because advocating illiberal values garners no sympathy!

    ““It was shocking. He could have been marked as Hindu or non-Muslim, but using the word ‘kafir’ is the worst example of intolerance.’’ Muneeb Afzal, a Member of the Youth Parliament (MYP) was quoted as saying.”

    Erm what’s the point about labelling the body at all? Is there a reason religion has to be involved in the morgue? Its interesting how even the “liberal” perspective is barbaric (imho).

    When the path gets rough its an indication its the right one and yes the Bengali genocide is a key point in our national reconciliation. I’m very convinced its something we need to do as a nation to heal.

    Also I love Urdu (I speak it badly) but I don’t think it has to be at the exclusion of other languages. Also I believe in a South Asian context one language must predominate and that is English; I detest our chattering classes (across all borders) who fight for their language rights but chuck their kids at English speaking schools. I detest that hypocrisy; English is the language of the world and I want desi kids back home (of all classes not only our chattering classes) to have that tool to compete in a global environment.

    @ Omar I agree about the points vs. Indian & Pakistan national ideology. But India’s positive vision provides an aspiration despite the mushrooming of “vegetarian colonies”.

    Also I think the whole “two Pakistanis” (Pashtunistan vs. Punjab) is slightly overhyped in reality but I take your point. NWFP is very “Indian” and the Punjab is very “Afghan”; Pakistan can be best though to be a medial zone.

    We’re are an Indian cleft region and I am proud to be Indian though as a Pakistani I don’t subscribe to the vision of “Bharat”.

    I could rant on but I’m going to stop.

  • Sandgroper
  • omar

    Razib, its no more violent than Chinese culture (the body count in India in the 20th century is far less).
    Its true that its loaded with primitive superstition but the worst violence has been in the name of modern notions of national pride, exclusive religious identity and fascism (not just the 20th century western form imported by Hindutva leaders, but the somewhat older dream of one folk, one leader, one law idealized in wahabi and proto-wahabi Islam).
    Like so many other things Indian, there is always more to the story: If you ignore radical Islam and Hindutva fascism (both imports in some sense) the folk culture is radically tolerant of diversity. A million superstitions coexist with surprisingly little friction with scattered examples of extremely rational thought. Your experience is your experience, but a billion plus people make a very full life in the middle of the whole mess. The culture looks rotten at times, but has surprising strength and depth….. with more intact traditions of music, dance, “folk philosophy”, mysticism and poetry than the equally great traditions of China (where large numbers of Chinese are now connected to their own tradition only via westernized, jingoistic notions of national pride), and so on…..if you look at it sympathetically, you may change your mind.
    On the other hand, I am with you in the urge to step away from a lot of sentimental mush and say WTF IS this unholy mess…..

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    I know the Indian government used to consider Sikhs a serious internal problem. Haven’t heard much of that since. I suppose the precedent should give one hope.

    The partition of India is supposed to have introduced artificial separation between what was previously a unified society. So I wonder if in Pakistan there is the same sort of legacy of caste. It’s not part of their religion, but you’d think a lot of them would have lived with it and found it normal anyway.

  • prasad

    Omar, Razib, Zachary

    Thanks for all the gyan !
    “the gujarat riots convinced me of the barbarism at the heart of indian society. ”
    the mumbai riots in 1991 convinced me of the same story – i was a student in bombay and a sena shakha member then – just a couple of years ago, i shifted to singapore and found razib :D
    20 years after bombay 91, i am not sure about the “barbarism”. the sena has moved on to bashing biharis in a quest for right wing votes that got exhausted in the guj 2002 mayhem. in fact, muslims fled to bombay during gujarat 2002 and were, by and large, welcomed. just as the rest of india welcomed sikhs who fled punjab and haryana in 1984.
    nowadays, i accept the paradigm ““India” is many nations”. but i suspect this is another bandwagon and we will see more nuanced understanding as india opens up further to scrutiny.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    “…when dogma enters the brain, all intellectual activity ceases. ”

    — Robert Anton Wilson (Cosmic Trigger 1: Final Secret of the Illuminati)

  • onur

    I think the root of the inter-population disputes in India-Pakistan-Bangladesh (IPB) is Islam. Without Islam being introduced to South Asia, there would also be no Sikhism or anything remotely similar, as Sikhism is certainly the result of a syncretism of Hindu and Muslim beliefs and practices. So the only religions in IPB would be Hinduism and Jainism with very small pockets of Christians and Jews. If Islam didn’t spread in Iran and as a result push some of the Zoroastrians living there to South Asia, there wouldn’t exist in IPB the very small Zoroastrian pockets that now exist. Buddhism may or may not have gone extinct in IPB without Islam, but its extinction (until its ” revival” in modern times by some low caste groups) during the Middle Ages in IPB may be at least partially connected to the spread of Islam and its suppression of local faiths, so I am not so sure about Buddhism, but most probably it would only exist in small pockets if it survived throughout the Middle Ages into the modern times.

    So without Islam, the overwhelming majority of the populations of today’s India, Pakistan and Bangladesh would all now be Hindu, so there would be no Pakistan and Bangladesh as their territories would be loyal parts of India (without Islam, Baloch and Pashtun parts of today’s Pakistan may or may not have joined the Indian realm), and no important religious friction, maybe even ethnic friction, so very probably also no barbarism.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    Onur – funnily enough on the tube to work this morning I was ruminating on alt. history; if Iran had stayed Zoroastrian and consequently Islam would have stayed as an Arabian/Middle Eastern religion.

    As far as I can see Islam “consumed” the Indo-Malaya world; almost in its entirety. I was at a talk of the Shahnameh (the Persian epic poem) and how the Mongols actually triggered the use of the Shahnameh as a national epic to legitimize their reign (propaganda basically).

    At any rate I think Hinduism and India’s problems go a bit more than Islam; caste really is a serious issue and can’t be glazed over. In fact Razib mentioned (I think in conversation with you) that South Asian Muslims take it to the next level.

    I have been reflecting on this off the cuff remark quite alot the past few weeks and been noticing it. Its a real pleasure having dinner with “religious” Iranians in London, most of the time you wouldn’t guess that they are actually religious. Not to generalise but they are so rational and tolerant and “presentable” its incredible.

    The flip side is that similar religious South Asian Muslims in England wear beards, dress in odd ways and just stick out as a sore thumb and embrace this ghetto culture.

    There are many reasons; Iranians are a homogeneous Shi’ite nation so there is no “Other” to prove their Muslimness (as there is in the Subcontinent). Furthermore South Asian Muslims are undergoing a transitory shift from folk practises to “True Islam” (the literal version as opposed to lite Sufi); the lower middle class are always the most radical. In Pakistan the peasants are tolerant esoterics, who follow their pir (as Hindus do the Guru), the middle classes are religious and educated and by the book and the elite just all jump on the “Sufi” bandwagon as a way to reconcile their faith and decadence :)

    If the Subcontinent had been all Muslim for instance; we could have seen the same embrace of “Pre-Islamic” history as in Indonesia or Iran perhaps? Also in color conscious South Asia there is a definite and strong trend to identify with the invading Muslim forces; every other Punjab I know is a “Quraysh”; didn’t know they settled en masse from Mecca to the Punjab (sarc mark needed again) But then again there is this “nativist” pride in Pakistan between ahl-e-zameen and ahl-e-zaban (people of the land vs. people of the language). So in a way regional and ethnic pride is at an all time high despite overarching Muslim unity.

    Anyway I find South Asia fascinating and love to talk about it; rates almost as highly as the Middle East. Also I think it is important for Diasporas world over to be the “moral conscience” of their homelands otherwise what’s the point?

    Also “Hinduism” basically is not Islam, Xtianity, Judaism, Parsis, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs in South Asia. Everyone else is a Hindu and Sanskritisation can be a very corrosive process; the Naxalites almost can be seen as tribals rebelling against Sanskritisation.

    South Asian Islam is more fervent because of our atavistic Hinduism, which is more “ritualistic” and also quite “traditional”. Usually I find with Arabs, being Arab is almost enough to being a good Muslim while Persians have such strong pre-Islamic identities (real or imagined – I was scolded last night for using “Inshallah” by a Zoroastrian convert) that they don’t need to prove anything. Turkishness is almost all-encompassing so the only peoples in the Muslim world who are unsure about their identities really are the South Asians (the Malay peoples do exhibit this insecurity but they are still quite far and their genealogies can’t be cooked up quite as easily).

    This is all from interaction and intuition; I seem to have given up on facts & figures a long time ago :P

  • onur

    At any rate I think Hinduism and India’s problems go a bit more than Islam; caste really is a serious issue and can’t be glazed over.

    Caste is a very natural part of the tradition of the people of the Subcontinent, so much so that castes correlate very well with genetics. I don’t think Hindus – even irreligious ones – have any objection to the caste system except some modernies among them.

  • onur

    The flip side is that similar religious South Asian Muslims in England wear beards, dress in odd ways and just stick out as a sore thumb and embrace this ghetto culture.

    There are many reasons; Iranians are a homogeneous Shi’ite nation so there is no “Other” to prove their Muslimness (as there is in the Subcontinent).

    This situation is very normal, as Islam tolerates other religions reluctantly at most, and only when it is the religion of almost everyone in a region or country it softens it tone.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    “At any rate I think Hinduism and India’s problems go a bit more than Islam; caste really is a serious issue and can’t be glazed over.

    Caste is a very natural part of the tradition of the people of the Subcontinent, so much so that castes correlate very well with genetics. I don’t think Hindus – even irreligious ones – have any objection to the caste system except some modernies among them.”

    Onur, with respect, caste violence in the rural areas is a serious issue. Its a series of daily humiliations, particularly in Bihar. It can’t be treated so glibly that some how “caste is accepted”.

    Yes in an urban neutered form its perhaps okay (replaced by communalism and language) but in rural north India (punjab, rajasthan, hindi belt basically) caste and folk Hinduism are a real problem.

    We forget India is a very Hindu country and also the Muslim population is urban not rural. Rural India is overwhelming Hindu except in some bits of the Hindi Belt and Mappilastan.

    The South doesn’t so bad but would love to know more. I know Arundhati Roy really focuses on this region but I guess I’m morphing into a South Asian Liberal.

    I would like a capitalist, confederal and English speaking South Asia respecting (but not defined) by historical, cultural and religious mores. I am dreaming away now :P

    Indian hegemony so often translates to Hindu upper caste hegemony; which is why I’m glad now democracy is propelling untouchable leaders throughout even though they are bad for the economy (Mayawatis constructing a palace in UP – how weird is that?).

  • Yawnie

    Unless something is done to stop China’s growth it will become a megastate, Pakistan will leave the orbit of the USA entirely and become even more closely allied to China. There will probably be a limited conventional war over the Siachen glacier between India and Pakistan.

    India will become part of the anti China alliance joining the USA and Russia

    India is unlikely to ever rival China because of places like Uttar Pradesh

    LAST year Karla Hoff,
    Karla Hoff, an economist at the World Bank who is currently working at Princeton University, and her colleagues reported the results of experiments conducted in villages in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (American Economic Review, vol 98, p 494). In these tests, two players started out with 50 rupees each. The first could choose to give his to the second, in which case the experimenters added a further 100 rupees, giving the second player 200 rupees in total. The second player could decide to keep the money for himself, or share it equally with the first player. A third player then entered the game, who could punish the second player – for each 2 rupees he was willing to spend, the second player was docked 10 rupees.

    The results were startling. Even when the second player shared the money fairly, two-thirds of the time the newcomer decided to punish him anyway – a spiteful act with seemingly no altruistic payoff. “We asked one guy why,” says Hoff. “He said he thought it was fun.”

    Hoff found that high-caste players were more likely to punish their fellow gamers spitefully than low-caste players, leading her to suggest that context is everything. It is not that people in Uttar Pradesh are nastier than elsewhere, but rather that the structure of their society makes them acutely conscious of status. The sensitivity of higher castes to their position makes them tend not to support any changes that threaten to level the social hierarchy, such as development projects. But higher castes can also put others down, safe in the knowledge that “untouchables” are unlikely to strike back. “If you’re low caste it’s dangerous to rise in status,” says Hoff. “You’ll get beaten up or worse.” ‘

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    Amazing study and makes sense.

    This is what is happening in India.

    Sikhs, Hindus Help Rebuild Mosques Destroyed during Partition
    http://www.radianceweekly.com/212/5744/TARGETING-MUSLIMS-A-Bane-of-Plural-Bharat/2010-07-11/Cover-Story/Story-Detail/212/5747/TARGETING-MUSLIMS-A-Bane-of-Plural-Bharat/2010-07-11/Communal-Harmony/Story-Detail/Sikhs-Hindus-Help-Rebuild-Mosques-Destroyed-during-Partition.html

    One fine morning, a group of boys decided to clear the muck. Within days, the entire village – now made up of Hindus and Sikhs – joined them. Says 20-year-old Laddi: “We were never short of money or material. Anyone who passed this way would contribute in cash or kind. Someone brought five bags of cement, another donated bricks and so on….”
    This, when there were no permanent Muslim families left in the village. But, once repaired, the mosque began to be used. A few Muslim migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, labourers and petty trades-people began praying here. A maulvi from a neighbouring village now comes to lead Friday prayers. To the delight of 80-year-old Nachattar Kaur, who was born and brought up here, the sound of the azaan (call to prayer) is being heard again, after decades. “We have always believed in this shrine,” she says. “It is a house of God. God bless these boys for restoring the oldest relic of our village.”

  • Yawnie

    They’re nice people, but look how some are interpreting their actions – “We have now realised that not Muslims, but Hindu-dominated parties like the BJP are the real threat to our identity.”

  • Kaushik

    the post and the comments were interesting, but I feel one aspect of caste in India was not addressed. Its effect on electoral democracy.

    If an alien were to define the word ‘politcs’ by observing its practice in India it would be “The exchange of electoral support for patronage of a caste”. This is true across India, national and state level politcs, urban and rural, north and south. *All* caste leaders engage in it, high or low, so it creates a prevese incentive for lower caste leaders to perpetuate the system. It also removes the incentive for long term infrastructre development, and encourages public spending on handouts. Appointment to lower level goverment jobs is almost completely based on caste. This entangelment of caste and politcs looks like it will be a perpetual pain to India as there seems no way to reverse it.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    and only when it is the religion of almost everyone in a region or country it softens it tone.

    that isn’t the case for pakistan. the % of non-muslims keep declining, and it gets nastier and nastier. it also wasn’t the case in the early muslim period. as the % of dhimmi’s dropped their debilitations increased.

  • onur

    that isn’t the case for pakistan.

    Pakistan is a very young country and it still behaves with the reflexes of the pre-”independence” times, as if it is still a part of India. The territorial conflict with India has a very big role in this situation.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    onur, can you elaborate on your assertion? i know a fair amount of history and geography and i think you might be wrong. do a verbal scatterplot. though i do find it interesting you know a fair amount about the political history of pakistan, i thought you weren’t up on south asian hisotry :-)

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    good point Onur – Pakistan is “haunted” by India which is why the Muslim identity is so stressed.

    For instance Jinnah & Iqbal wanted us to engage with the Muslim world more fully so I’m sure if we had not had Kashmir (don’t want to go into that) and did not have outlying issues with India we would have been much much more desi. We haven’t had a clean separation yet; the question is would ever have had one.

    In the Gulf for instance Pakistanis embrace desiness avowedly as they realise that erm they’re not allowed in the fraternity :P

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    and only when it is the religion of almost everyone in a region or country it softens it tone.

    that isn’t the case for pakistan. the % of non-muslims keep declining, and it gets nastier and nastier. it also wasn’t the case in the early muslim period. as the % of dhimmi’s dropped their debilitations increased.

    Now its no longer the non-Muslim minorities but what “type of Muslim” are you.

    Interesting enough though my friend was telling me that 500 Ahmadis were denied flood rations because of course they had Ahmadi on their identity card (this was in response to the Premchand issue I’ve been publicising).

    But again daily interaction of minorities is very class dependent; the elite religious (Parsis, some Christians, Shi’ites) are assimilated. Pakistan is very very class dependent like most of South Asia and communalism exacerbates it.

  • onur

    onur, can you elaborate on your assertion?

    Zach has already excellently clarified it (I admit that my wording was a bit ambiguous) with these words:

    “Pakistan is “haunted” by India which is why the Muslim identity is so stressed.

    For instance Jinnah & Iqbal wanted us to engage with the Muslim world more fully so I’m sure if we had not had Kashmir (don’t want to go into that) and did not have outlying issues with India we would have been much much more desi.”

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    no, this:

    and only when it is the religion of almost everyone in a region or country it softens it tone.

  • onur

    My thesis is that in the absence of a significant non-Muslim population within a Muslim country or region, local Muslims generally tend to identify themselves more with the land than with religion and this is reflected in their attitudes toward religion. They generally tend to be more relaxed in their practice of Islam, while Muslims living in a county or region with a significant non-Muslim population generally tend to identify themselves more with religion than with the land and take religion more seriously.

    So why are Pakistani Muslims closer to the religionist model rather than the landist model in their behaviors and thinking while being the vast majority of the population of Pakistan? My answer is that they still feel themselves in the minority because of the very recentness of their partition from India and the territorial and social conflicts between the two countries that have been poisoning the minds of Indians and Pakistanis, Hindus and Muslims ever since the partition. Pakistani Muslims don’t feel themselves secure; they are bordered by an overwhelmingly non-Muslim nation that threatens even their very existence. So they choose to identify themselves with religion much more than expected from their demographics in Pakistan and become fervent Muslims ready to fight for Islam in any part of the world.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    onur, i was asking for you to test the thesis. it’s plausible enough. here’s something which supports your thesis: the proportion of persian names in iran among officials in the governments after the islamic conquest shot up *after* the number of non-muslims declined. the model then is that before majority islamicization persians had to use arab names to indicate their affiliation with the new religion, as a persian name indicated affiliation with the old order.

    but i don’t think it holds up really.

    1) before the 20th century the only non-muslims in the arabian peninsula were jews in yemen, and isolated communities of non-muslim merchants in the ports. was arabian islam notably forward? no. wahhabism grew out of the hanbali tradition.

    2) nations with large non-muslim populations like malaysia, nigeria, etc., would be hotbeds for fundamentalism. are they? to some extent nigeria is. and malaysia is on average more rigorous than indonesia. but none of these nations are nearly as backward as the core muslim world.

    3) afghanistan has almost no non-muslims now that hindus, sikhs, and jews have left. was it more extreme in the past than now?

    4) the record of the islamic caliphates is clear that they became progressively narrower and more sectarian with the centuries, as non-muslim communities also declined

    5) the copt community in egypt is shrinking due to emigration and lower fertility. are egyptians getting more mellow?

    6) lebanon’s muslim community is growing. probable majority. is lebanese islam becoming more relaxed and forward, as opposed to its strident past when christians were at parity?

    7) syria has a large minority of heterodox muslims and christians. therefore is it more islamist than iraq, whose minorities except yezidis have left?

    8) african nations south of the sahara often have large muslim and non-muslim communities together. are they the hotbeds of hyper-islamic identity? no. in africa muslims convert to christianity in many regions, including heads of state.

    9) in indonesia hindus are concentrated in bali and east java. are muslims more conservative as one moves toward bali and east java along the island of java? no. from what i know the more orthodox/santri islam is concentrated in the west of the island, which has been muslim longer (at least deeply). the most orthodox muslims indonesia are the achenese, who’ve been muslim for 1000 years, as opposed to 500 or so in java.

    10) are chinese muslims very islamist? not that i know of. are they becoming more muslim? yes. why? the usual reason given are hajjis, who came back with an arabian form of islam.

    11) is east bengal/east pakistan/bangladesh getting more chilled out about islam now that it is only 10% non-muslim, as opposed to ~40% in 1900, and 25% in 1950? no, it’s getting more islamist (albeit slowly).

    and so on. when you make an assertion like that i do a quick mental check to see if there are lots of exceptions. there seem to be, to the point where i have a slight tilt to the other direction. that muslims get more nuts as they gain more and more commanding power in a society through numbers.

    there counter examples i can think of. and in east bengal/pakistan/bangladesh, i know that many intellectuals switched identities (muslim, bengali, bangladeshi, etc.) based on local situation. i don’t think your model is implausible a priori, but i don’t buy it.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    Great post Razib; around the Muslim world in 11points.

    Very interesting about Persian naming convention I’ve always been trying to find out about that but could never get a good response.

    point 11) it is really shocking about the “wipeout” of minority populations in the “wings of India” (both Bengal & Punjab); where concomitantly the Muslim population of India has been burgeoning (the eyes do not lie even after account for regional/linguistic/class difference they are consistently pro-natalist than the Hindu pop).

    It would be interesting to see the growth of Islamic populations of South over a period of a couple of situation.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    “It would be interesting to see the growth of Islamic populations of South over a period of a couple of situation.”

    It would be interesting to see the growth of the Muslim population as a % of South Asia over a period of the past few centuries (perhaps since the arrival of Islam).

    Will there ever be a time when Hindus in South will a plurality and not a majority.

    I personally think its a far way off, if ever. Even if we were to assume 30% Muslim population (which is the uppermost limit by any stretch of the imagination); thats 360mn Muslims in a population of 1.2bn (rounding up).

    I would estimate the Muslim population of Undivided India to be around 30-40% but at the end of the day numbers aren’t as weighty as influence. For instance in Lebanon even though the Christians are clearly in the minority (demographically) because of their disproportionate economic and political weight (apparently a third of the land is owned by the Maronite church or so I was told) they’re treated as parity.

    The “Muslim demographic majority” of Lebanon is basically the underclass fighting over in the slums (the green line has shifted to between the shi’ite/sunni line) and the upper classes emulate the Christian elite. Muslim upper classes, thankfully are very liberal (or so I find); its just their morally vacuous content to oppress the lower orders through silent dogma (allow the mullahs to do their job for them). Sort of like high status caste Hindus; its more important to be the big fish in a small lake than a little fish in a large ocean. These “national elites” are actually the ones who arrest their countries development since unless they are incentivised they’re happy with the status quo.

    Numbers matter but not pure demographic weight I would argue its more to do with the “economic weight” of a minority; therefore I would hazard in British Pakistan (punjab and sindh) the minority population was around 20% but the economic weightage could have been as high as par (if not higher) since Hindu/Sikhs were the mercantile classes.

    I like Amy chua’s book world on fire; I really think intermarriage ameliorates minority situations, endogamy exacerbates it (for instance Indians in East Africa). So what ideally minorities want to aim for is a healthy rate of intermarriage, which assimilates them into the mainstream but at the same time low enough to preserve some sort of cultural identity through the generations.

    Also it could be that certain minorities (Parsis) can drop the whole “genetic exclusiveness” thing and actually start welcoming mixed marriages and redefine the culture. I have Persians friends who converted to Zoroastrianism and they dare not walk into a Parsi temple.

  • milieu

    An excellent discussion about Pakistan and a good positioning of pakistani islam in the context of islam worldwide by Razib.
    While the motivations of many “liberal” friends and commentators in Pakistan is laudable, I find it a bit irritating when they talk about Gujarat Riots and the casteism prevalent in India. I admit all these bad things (and worse) exist in India, but at the moment atleast it doesnt look like that these events will threaten anybody else. And for all its painfully (and inhumanely) slow process, it does seem that justice will take its own course. Eg, in Gujarat the CM is still being haunted by his political opponents using these riots as a tool.

    But what amazes me is that the events in Pakistan have such broader ramification. And when something goes wrong there, it will affect India as well as other countries (for no fault of theirs). In case of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation war, you have to acknowledge that there was a tremendous burden of refugees coming to India from BD (even if you are willing to be casual about the genocide).

    In short, I would humbly request the “liberal” and “progressive” bloggers to place urgent emphasis of their criticism on the situation in Pakistan. If that is serious and persistent enough, then their laundering of the Indian dirty clothes will be better understood.

  • onur

    When proposing my thesis I had in mind the historical and modern situations of West Asian and North African countries, but unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no statistics to test my thesis. Your Saudi Arabia example is a marginal example given the known religious developments in the Islamic world, as Salafism (the more proper name of Wahhabism) was very revolutionary for Islam (as revolutionary as the Protestant Reformation was for Christianity if you ask me), it can’t be seen as a natural offshoot of Hanbalism, it is much much more than that. So is also your Afghanistan example, as the rise of the Taliban and fundamentalist Islam in Afghanistan is more to do with the power politics of the superpowers than anything else. Your other examples also are about the rise of fundamentalist Islam, more or less, but fundamentalist Islam is a very recent development and confined to the modern era save for Salafism, which is from the 18th century, a time that is technically pre-modern for the Islamic world, but obviously more modern compared to the previous centuries of Islam. More importantly, fundamentalist Islam is still pretty limited in its sphere of influence and the majority of Muslims throughout the world continue to follow the traditional ways, even if influenced by fundamentalist Islam to some extent.

  • onur

    A factor is very important in my thesis: while becoming established in a country or region by staying there for centuries and meanwhile spreading among the majority of the population, Islam develops its local varieties and flavors and becomes more compatible with the local culture by absorbing many elements of it and consequently becomes an inseparable part of it. So Islam gradually turns from something foreign to something local.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    A factor is very important in my thesis: while becoming established in a country or region by staying there for centuries and meanwhile spreading among the majority of the population, Islam develops its local varieties and flavors and becomes more compatible with the local culture by absorbing many elements of it and consequently becomes an inseparable part of it. So Islam gradually turns from something foreign to something local.

    i think you describe a real dynamic. but i don’t think history is ‘whiggish’ here. localism is now shifting to internationalism in many places. ‘world normative islam’ is spreading (see indonesia, south asia, africa). ‘world normative’ being of a arab-persian-turk kind.

  • onur

    i think you describe a real dynamic. but i don’t think history is ‘whiggish’ here. localism is now shifting to internationalism in many places. ‘world normative islam’ is spreading (see indonesia, south asia, africa). ‘world normative’ being of a arab-persian-turk kind.

    What you say is now spreading isn’t the Arab-Persian-Turk kind Sunni Islam, or as the Turk element here is actually just an offspring of the Persian (Sunni Persian of course) element, the Arab-Persian kind Sunni Islam. The Arab-Persian kind Sunni Islam had already spread during the Middle Ages throughout the Muslim world with the spread of madrasahs and international Sufi orders. But after their spread, every country or region largely went their own way creating a rich and diverse variety of religious beliefs, interpretations, practices, Sufi orders, etc. This diversification continued to accumulate into the modern times. But with modernization and the subsequent birth of fundamentalist Islam (again a Sunni form of Islam), the trend began to reverse and everything that creates diversification in the Sunni Muslim ummah began to be viewed as bid’ah (innovation) by the fundamentalists, and especially Sufi Islam (the dominant form of Islam before modernization, but still strong in many places) began to be condemned harshly by the fundamentalists.

    So, what you say is now spreading isn’t the Arab-Persian kind Sunni Islam, which had already spread throughout the Muslim world beginning from a little more than a thousand years ago, but fundamentalist Islam, which is a modern creation and much more exclusively Sunni than the former. But as I said in my above post, its influence is still limited. Only time will tell which form of Sunni Islam will triumph or whether any form will triumph or not.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    re: #39, there’s some aspect that’s fundamentalism. but not all. e.g., not all santri muslims in indonesia are fundamentalists. most probably are not. in much of bengal hanafi-normative islam was deeply rooted only among the literate and well off. it’s spreading now and becoming the background result impulse of a broader swath.

  • onur

    in much of bengal hanafi-normative islam was deeply rooted only among the literate and well off. it’s spreading now and becoming the background result impulse of a broader swath.

    That is a natural result of the increasing literacy and religious education rate (until secularization, in the Muslim world religious education was always at the heart of education, and was the only form of education in more rural places), as literate and educated people were generally more “normative” in their practice of Islam than the illiterate and uneducated also during the pre-modern times.

  • onur

    the record of the islamic caliphates is clear that they became progressively narrower and more sectarian with the centuries, as non-muslim communities also declined

    Islam was in its formative stage all through the Rashidun, Umayyad and early Abbasid Caliphates, so one mustn’t evaluate those times with the relatively stable Islam of the later centuries, that would be anachronistic.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    early Abbasid Caliphates, so one mustn’t evaluate those times with the relatively stable Islam of the later centuries, that would be anachronistic.

    no it wouldn’t. your opinion differs from mine. which is fine, just don’t assume that i take your assessment as authoritative in future discussions. i don’t have the time/inclination to get into why i think the abbasid example is very informative for later muslim polities, but i do. i grant the umayyad case to some extent, and because the rashidun period may as well have been mythological for purposes of historical analysis i never even include that implicitly.

  • onur

    I have to disagree, as the early Abbasid period was maybe the most influential period in the formation of the relatively stable Islam of the later centuries. All of the Sunni madhhab imams lived in this period (partially or fully), Ja’far al-Sadiq, one of the most influential of the Shi’a imams, lived partially in this period, all of the Sunni and Shi’a hadith collections were written in this period, formalization of the Islamic “sciences” and Shari’ah also occurred in this period, need I continue?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    right, and that’s one reason why i think the abbasids are particularly informative. might write a post on that in the future, but right now focusing on other things….

  • Pingback: India’s Deep North | Gene Expression | Discover Magazine

  • Manoj Upadhyay

    I would like to point out that dangerous subcultures do exist in India .. and will continue to exist in the future … but by and large i think the future of the muslims in india will continue to improve unlike what some people would want us to believe … currently 50% of MPs from Assam are muslims …and with muslim population in Assam hovering around 50% is not necessarily a bad thing as some would like to point out ….it is easy to guess i am from assam.. muslims have ruled india in the past and have done a good job compared to the ugly politics we get to see these days …some people would want us believe indians are all BJP, RSS type but they seem to forget that in it took them 60 years to get elected and got kicked out before their term ended … yes u would see the occasional flares of violence … but that does not mean people sympathize with these thugs ….

  • omar

    Zachary, I see that you still think “Iqbal and Jinnah” can be held out as the modern, progressive, liberal leaders we have “sadly” left behind in Pakistan. My friend, that is the root of the problem. Iqbal was a confused philosopher and worse politician. He was a hugely talented poet (HUGELY) but his philosophical mishmash of Bergson, Nietzche and Spengler could never totally cover his convert’s zeal for Jihadi Islam (his famly were recent converts, with a branch of the family still being Hindu). It is true that he never espoused the kind of primitive fascism that is the trademark of the Jamaat e Islami, but all that tells you is that he was not far-sighted enough to see that his mythmaking about Islamic history and Jihad will lead to this. Keep in mind that he was the one who selected Maudoodi as the best candidate for a plum job in Dar ul Islam trust in Punjab, so his responsibility goes deeper than you seem to think.
    About Jinnah bhai, the less said the better. He was a successful lawyer, but no one has ever accused him of being a deep thinker. He naively imagined that Pakistan would be British India without the pesky Hindus; same AC and DC sahib, same district police officer, same assemblies and constitutions and the rule of the superior people over the rabble. Being out of touch with ordinary people and totally ignorant about Islam, his lack of foresight can be understood, but hardly admired..

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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