Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power

Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power

Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power

Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power

Synopsis

Islamization is commonly seen as the work of Islamist movements who have forced their ideology on ruling regimes and other hapless social actors. There is little doubt that ruling regimes and disparate social and political actors alike are pushed in the direction of Islamic politics by Islamist forces. However, Islamist activism and its revolutionary and utopian rhetoric only partly explain this trend. Here, Nasr argues that the state itself plays a key role in embedding Islam in the politics of Muslim countries. Focusing on Malaysia and Pakistan, Nasr argues that the turn to Islam is a facet of the state's drive to establish hegemony over society and expand its powers and control.

Excerpt

In 1979 General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, the military ruler of Pakistan, declared that Pakistan would become an Islamic state. Islamic values and norms would serve as the foundation of national identity, law, economy, and social relations, and would inspire all policy making. In 1980 Mahathir Muhammad, the new prime minister of Malaysia, introduced a similar broad-based plan to anchor state policy making in Islamic values, and to bring his country's laws and economic practices in line with the teachings of Islam. Why did these rulers choose the path of “Islamization” for their countries? And how did one-time secular postcolonial states become the agents of Islamization and the harbinger of the “true” Islamic state?

Malaysia and Pakistan have since the late 1970s–early 1980s followed a unique path to development that diverges from the experiences of other Third World states. In these two countries religious identity was integrated into state ideology to inform the goal and process of development with Islamic values. This undertaking has also presented a very different picture of the relation between Islam and politics in Muslim societies. In Malaysia and Pakistan, it has been state institutions rather than Islamist activists (those who advocate a political reading of Islam; also known as revivalists or fundamentalists) that have been the guardians of Islam and the defenders of its interests. This suggests a very different dynamic in the ebbs and flow of Islamic politics—in the least pointing to the importance of the state in the vicissitudes of this phenomenon. What to make of secular states that turn Islamic? What does such a transformation mean for the state as well as for Islamic politics?

This book grapples with these questions. This is not a comprehensive account of Malaysia's or Pakistan's politics, nor does it cover all aspects of Islam's role in their societies and politics, although the analytical narrative . . .

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