The State, Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan

The State, Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan

The State, Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan

The State, Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan

Excerpt

In no region of the world have changes in religion and ethnic identity had a greater impact on political life than in the three countries that are the subject of this book.

In Iran, the Pahlavi state, which for over half a century had sought to build its foundations and claim to legitimacy mainly upon a pre-Islamic Persian heritage, and to strengthen that heritage in relation to the country's myriad linguistic and tribal minorities, collapsed in the face of a mass-based, religiously inspired, and popular revolution. In contrast to its predecessor, the new theocratic state founded by the Islamic clerics is seeking to build its foundations upon an Islamic identity and to eliminate, neutralize, or weaken those who do not closely follow its fundamentalist line or those who choose to adhere to secular or non-Islamic identities.

In neighboring Afghanistan, a Soviet-dominated Afghan state replaced a secular, but weak, tribal-based regime and is promoting a Marxist political ideology as a means of creating greater loyalty to the state. Opposition to the state comes primarily from the tribes and ethnic groups, as well as the urban middle classes, for whom an Islamic identity has served as a rallying point capable of unifying otherwise antagonistic ethnic communities and other groupings.

In Pakistan, one ethnic group, the Bengalis, successfully tore the Pakistani state in two. And now, some decade-and-a-half after the secession of 55 percent of the country's population and a sizable segment of its land, the ruling Punjabi military elite still views the country's non-Punjabi ethnic minorities as a potential threat to the . . .

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