Saadia Toor, author of The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan, talked to the international current affairs website Jadaliyya about the extension of the Afghan war into Pakistan, the legacy of Cold War politics and the rich but hidden history of popular left-wing movements in the country:
I felt compelled to write this book because of the increasingly disturbing discourse on Pakistan in the West, both within the media and within academia. There is a mixture of incomprehension and hawkishness in this discourse when it comes to Pakistan, which is extremely dangerous given the increasing extension of the US/NATO war in Afghanistan into Pakistan. I believe that the ease with which even anti-war liberals (and sometimes Leftists) support, explicitly or implicitly, the covert war in Pakistan has to do with the fact that Pakistan has been constructed within media and academic circles in the West as a place overrun by extremists, as a place without culture (unless we are talking about raves or fashion shows being organized by the youth belonging to the elite classes) and, crucially, as a place without a history of popular struggle. The fact that it becomes very easy to bomb such a place is being borne out by the intensification of drone attacks under the Obama administration and the tacit or open support for them among liberal hawks both in the West and in Pakistan.
I wanted to subvert this discourse by highlighting the complexity of Pakistan’s history and the primacy of people’s struggles within it, as well as the role of the US-aligned establishment (and, at key junctures, liberals) in quashing these struggles and the alternate political and cultural visions they embodied.
Visit Jadaliyya to read the interview in full.
Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan
Studies Pakistan through the lens of the Cold War and the War on Terror and sheds light on the processes behind the rise of militant Islam.
“”A deeply informed study of Pakistan’s unfinished journey, marked by the historical suppression of its vibrant Left, Toor’s book is part of the current re-emergence of a foundation for progressive politics in Pakistan. … Read it, argue over it, and be part of the journey to renew Pakistan.”
“Saadia Toor reveals a country that is nothing like the hotbed of Islamic extremism and military dictatorship we read about constantly. … This book is a powerful antidote to reactionary stereotypes of Pakistan that dominate academic research and popular media.” – David Ludden, Professor of History, New York University, author of India and South Asia: A Short History