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The relations between the politics and religion have been much debated throughout the history. The extent to which religion should be involved in political affairs as well as the extent to which the state should be involved in religious matters has always been contested. The birth of nation states has even broadened this discussion. It is widely argued that state should have control over the temporal or earthly matters and the religion should be an instrument of eternal grace or the moral sphere of life. In this way St. Augustine favored the division and sharing of sovereignty. ‘In my research work I will explain the effectiveness of the application of religious values to the government polity that becomes state support of religion which then further elaborates whether religion has a legitimate right to influence state politics, proposing an alternative pattern by taking the cases of different nations like Israel, Pakistan, Iran and India’. Then I will attempt to give an answer to the question about the exact role of religion in the nation building processing. The research will also analyze the clash between the religious identity and the national identity. Samuel S.Mushi claims that throughout the history the state or the religious organizations have contest mainly for citizens’ primary loyalty, control of political process and authority over economic resources. [1] It will reveal the fact that religion is a vital instrument to create unity, but it is not able to define completely the national identity and the nation building process. However, the significant and functional role of religion cannot be denied.

The findings of the research are worth exploring because currently the world is torn between national versus religious identities. Individuals in different parts of the world are still facing this dilemma – whether to opt for primordial ties or religious identities or national identities, when it comes to represent themselves.  Countries like Israel and Pakistan seem to share nothing in common except the similar holy mission to secure a homeland for their communities. We see the crisis of their national identities in both countries because of the clash between state and nation. Both countries are experiencing an ambiguous role of religion in their national building. The paper argues that the role of religion can be best understood by analyzing its role in the homogenization process during nation consolidation. The main hypothesis of this paper which I attempt to explore is that the role of religion in the nation consolidation can be understood as a complex process but I believe that it has the capacity in providing the ideological glue that holds a nation together by creating a modern religious society. It is because political authorities try simultaneously both to empathize and to deny its salience to the construction or consolidation of the new state. The relation between the religious values and the political affairs can be discussed in two distinct phases. Firstly, it can be argued that a homogenous society can be created through the religious values and its applications by excluding the non-religious elements. Secondly the incorporation of the community to the majority one identified by civic, linguistic and other state features. It also attempts to explain different types of religious involvement in politics such as religion-state politics, intra-religion politics and inter-religion politics.

The war on terror after the 9/11 has fueled the discussion about the extent of role of religion in the political affairs. Western scholarship holds that Islamic civilization fuses religion and politics and this is main reason for the religious values to define and heavily influence the affairs of the state. Mohammad Waseem calls this an overly intellectual attitude towards Islam that mistakes values for facts, norms for practices and vision for reality. [2] This approach can be traced back to the classical Muslim thinkers where state was viewed as a mechanism through which the rule of Islamic law could be established but historical evidences defy this argument since Islamic movements in Muslim countries including Pakistan are seldom led or governed by any cleric in the pre modern age. The West claims to be the champion of the separation of the church and the state but we observe for the greater part of late fifteen hundred years that this separation, once alien to the political doctrine of Islam, has been the practice in most Islamic societies. However, history witnesses that in recent times ruling elites have appealed more and more often for the support of the clergy or Islamic organizations in their struggle to retain power in the face of grave challenges rooted in populist politics. Religious values and its application are being used as a tactic to consolidate the process of nation building by those who want to gain power or to remain in power. The politics of religion varies with social, economic and political conditions of a country making an attempt to choose among progressive, liberal and conservative which I will discuss in detail in my research work. I will focus on the ‘Religion and Comparative Perspective’ session of the course pack where the article by Samuel S. Mushi and Mohammad Waseem will be discussed in detail.

The problem of Identity in the Nation-Building Process:
It is being observed that, since 1980s and particularly after the end of cold war era, there has been the resurgence of religious movements worldwide. These religious elements claim to be instrumental in the identity formation and the cohesion of the communities. They are generating state-transforming effects in both national as well as international level so there is a need to uncover this interconnection between the religion and politics. It has the potential to exacerbate the regional disputes and may lead towards what Samuel Huntington has apocalyptically called ‘the clash of civilizations.' [3] We observe some impressive results like the case of Iran where religious parties are now firmly established in addition to other cases from the third world where religion is heavily involved in state politics in case of Pakistan, Sudan, Algeria, Afghanistan, and Egypt.  One can dismiss these religious uprisings as fundamentalists but their goals as well as motivations are as political as they are religious. Therefore they may be called as ‘religious nationalists’ because these forces strive to attain a national order based on religious values (the first phase as discussed above).

In recent times various movements of religious nationalism have been witnessed by humanity. Hindus and Sikhs in India in early 1980s for a separate state, militant Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Mongolia, Christian fundamentalist movements in Europe and in America, the famous Zionist movement in Israel and Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Middle East and Central Asian states are obvious examples of religious nationalist movements. Unlike most of the developed countries where homogeneity of population exists, majority of these developing or third world states lack population homogeneity. Their population experience diversity in terms of ethnicity, linguistic, tribes, castes, etc. Religion therefore comes as a unifying factor in the nation building process and consolidates their identity.

The Case of Pakistan and Israel:
As earlier stated that Pakistan and Israel share a little in common except the similar holy mission to protect their own communities on the basis of religion they pursue. Israel, being a small country, has gone through a rough face since its independence but it has been able to pursue the democratization process in addition to its economic development. On the other hand Pakistan, once part of a much larger territorial and cultural entity i.e. Indian Subcontinent and British Raj, is still struggling to find a unifying force to consolidate the whole nation and to pursue the goal of democratization and economic development but it has remained a volatile and weak state through out the history. Some pundits even call it a ‘Failing State’ because of its persistent political, social and economic instability. The main common notion between the two countries is the crisis of national identity and it manifests the clash between state and nation. ‘Both countries are struggling through the ambiguous role of religion in the nation building and its capacity to affect the political process.’ [4]
For any state the notion of national identity is the key element towards the national building process. The crisis of national identity emerges when confusion prevails within the society as which is the powerful force in unifying the whole nation. Religious affiliations, castes, tribal identities, linguistic identities and most importantly ethnicity play a vital role in the national unity. In the case of Pakistan, according to Maryam Khan, it has always been a victim of ‘sub-nationalism’ i.e. we observe four main nations within the whole phase of Pakistani nationalism besides others. The dominant ideology is ethnicity where Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochis and Pakhtuns, give priority to their own ethic group unlike nationalism. Each group identifies itself through its ethnic identity and then through their national identity i.e. Pakistanis. However each group firstly identities itself as a Muslim identity and hence religious affiliations play a dominant role in the national identity process. The society at large is religious but the state’s outlook is secular or moderate and this creates the difficulty for the state to exercise its duties freely and pursue the agenda of national unity. ‘According to Stephen Cohen, Pakistan’s most distinct feature is not its potential as a failed state but its intricate interaction between the physical, political and legal entity known as the state of Pakistan and the idea of the Pakistani nation and this makes it more complex as Pakistani state often operates at cross purposes with the Pakistani nation.’ [5] He further points out that several concepts of Islam exist and state could not find a way to implement its Islamic identity. Hence the crisis of identity exists between the leaders who believe in liberal democracy and the Islamists who want a religious state.

Like Pakistan Israel too has experienced an extensive discord about its national identity in order to define the interconnection between the Israeli national identity and Jewish identity. We observe a clash between the secular Israeli national identity with a religious manifestation of Israeli national identity i.e. Judaism. The Zionist ideology plays a dominant role in the case of Israel. ‘The conflict exists between those who advocate a civic Israeli national identity (Israelis) and those who support an ethno religious identity of the Israeli community (Jews). Israeli identity accommodates all citizens of the Israel i.e. Jews and non-Jews while Jewish means an identification with a primordial mainly religious featured national identity (only Jewish).’ [6] Hence, the process of secularization on one hand and the growing religiosity is currently observed in the Israeli state.

Whether Religion has a legitimate right to influence State politics?
As stated earlier, according to Samuel S.Mushi, three factors play a crucial role in the consolidation of a nation i.e. citizens’ loyalties, control over political and economic resources. Religious elements as well as the state in complex milieu attempt to influence these factors and try to legitimize their role. Both of them draw their legitimacy from the collective loyalties of the citizens. States follow this pursuit through the democratization process and religious elements try to influence the primordial ties that exist among various communities and this creates a complex process. According to the primordial model (conservative view), nationalism is a process involving collective loyalties and identities and religion is considered as an important component of the national building process. ‘Scholars like A. Hastings explain the emergence of nationalism with regard to religion as they suggest a certain transformation of traditional religion that eventually leads to the birth of the nation states (nations and nationalism)’. [7] The modernist model (secular perspective) on the other hand considers religion which inhibits the growth of a nation and suggests the decay of religion. ‘Scholars like Gellner advocate that national movements have furthered the secularization discourse where idealized ethnic culture plays the central role rather than religion.’ [8] Nationalism, according to the nationalism literature, thus takes the place of religion and scholars like Greenfeld (1996) calls it a modern religion and we observe this from the example of France where if one calls religion bad then it is fine but if someone calls the nation bad then it is highly discouraged and repudiated.

Hence one can argue that religion exclusion lies in the homogenous population of the developed world which formed the basis of western civic nationalism. On the other hand the literature of ‘Religious Nationalism’ elucidates the public sphere and the collective national identity as religious and we witness this experience in the third world countries like Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, etc. These third world countries have religious histories (national heritage and tradition), thus religion could not be ignored. Its proponents claim that religion can create a national identity and thus it is crucial to draw boundaries between religious and secular nationalism. This relation is more multifarious than it is generally assumed to be. Both these approaches respond to the same sorts of needs for collective identity, national consensus, ultimate loyalty and moral authority.

The Case of India and Iran:
Iran represents a complete example of a dominant religious society which was established by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 by ousting the Shah dynasty of Iran. Iran derives its national identity through religion (Shiite Political Philosophy) which has immense influence over the affairs of the state s well as over Iranian culture. The basic idea was to establish an Islamic state similar to the one which existed during the time of Prophet PBUH. In recent time Iran is showing the signs of change and elements within this theocratic state are demanding liberal and democratic pursuits and a balance between religious and secular ideals. The religious forces in Iran are quite strong that voices of change are easily suppressed by this democratic theocracy. According to Khomeini who argues that the qualified Islamic Jurists (the concept of velayat-e faqih) have the potential to lead the nation in the process of national consolidation by pursuing the Islamic ideals.  ‘In his 1970 book, Hokumat-e Islami: Velayat-e faqih, Khomeini argued that government should be run in accordance to sharia, or Islamic law. For that to happen, an Islamic jurist—or faqihmust oversee the country's political structure.’[9]

In the case of India, its leaders were wise enough to realize and understand this intricate relationship between religion and politics. India, a majority Hindu state, offers little to religion and pursuing accommodative policies since India is a very diverse country in terms of language, ethnicity, caste system and religious identities.  Its leaders seemed allergic to religion and followed the ideals of secularism as their political agenda. ‘Yet there have been times when they have been forced to make concessions to religious forces almost against their wills. Indian constitution and subsequent parliamentary actions have given a great deal of public support to religious entities.’ [10] Even these accommodative policies and concessions have not been sufficient to curb the tide of religious politics in India and the events of 1980s and early 1990s (Hindutva movement, Operation Blue Star, Assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi,  Babri Mosque tragedy) witness this statement. These events for the first time in the Indian history brought the Hindu right into the power and marked the dominant role of religion in the national consolidation.

The discussion so far brings us to the point where we can confidently argue that the religious values in any society cannot be taken lightly and this intricate relation between religion and politics must be defined and refined in the context of a particular society. ‘Religious nationalism (collective identity), unlike the West where separation between Church and the State exist, is not alien to the formation of the modern nation state. Non-Western modern national identities and nationalist movements provide religious narrative and myth, symbolism and ritual in the case of Iran, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Israel.’ [11]
Currently the nation state plays a crucial role in the world politics and its encounter with the religion has given birth, in some parts of the world, to a creation, in which religion has become the new ally of the nation state. The paper explains that the national identity crisis emerges because of the complex relationship between the state and the nation which is defined culturally, ethnically and more importantly religiously if we take the cases from the third world countries, some of which discussed above. The religion is a powerful instrument which creates a unifying force but it is not able to define completely the national identity. The functional role of religion can’t be denied sine it has the potential to solve the identity crisis. When a state fail to define national identity, when erosion of the power of the state occurs, and when the state is torn among different power groups, the state loses the ability to control the national identity crisis then religion comes into play to solve this dilemma of identity. It becomes easy for the religious elements to play the politics of the national consolidation when the state is incapacitated to create a unifying sense of national identity. The example of Pakistan and Israel clearly supports this notion. It is evident that this crisis exists because of the historical inability to separate religion from the national consolidation process in the developing nations.  Hence it can be concluded that the politics of religion varies with social, economic and political conditions of a country making an attempt to choose among progressive, liberal and conservative.

About The Author: Hamid Khan is a an alumni of Lahore University of Management Sciences. He received his Master's degree in Economics from LUMS. His areas of interest includes economics and social science. He can be reached at 2hmdKhan(at-the-rate)gmail.com..

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