| Sep 25, 2010 | Comments 0
seyyed vali reza nasr
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 dwells on these issues considerably. This book is rather a social scientific inquiry into the phenomenon of secular postcolonial states becoming agents of Islamization, and more broadly how culture and religion serve the needs of state power and development. The analysis here relies on theoretical discussions
in the social sciences of state behavior and the role of culture and religion therein. More important, it draws inferences from the cases under examination to make broader conclusions of interest to the disciplines.