Illiberal liberalism of Islamophobia

December 17, 1999

We are extremely angry over the review by Radhakrishnan Nayar of the three different titles recently published by us focusing on diverse issues in Pakistan's career since its independence in 1947. The review barely touches on the issues raised in these volumes. Instead, the reviewer is more interested in giving his own harangue on Islam, democracy, Pakistan and the Indo-Pakistan relationship.

He begins by denouncing Pakistan's creation and by apportioning blame solely to Jinnah for causing the major catastrophe - a rather simplistic and now obsolete position - besides misattributing several things to us that do not exist in our texts. Instead of evaluating our thesis dispassionately, he denigrates us as a "trio" of "apologetic historians" or "Pakistan's exponents" or "advocates of peculiar type" whose observations are "grossly misleading" and so on, which is all in bad taste and smacks of some personal rancour rather than any pure intellectual discourse.

To him, one author's text "seethes with ill-considered Islamist polemics" since he is characterised as the monopoliser of the "true believers". Such offensive language aided with a venomous view of Islam is not only below the belt but is also a very illiberal sort of liberalism. On the contrary, we authors have professionally and diligently avoided falling prey to any communalist rhetoric and we do not, unlike Nayar, subscribe to a very lowly and dangerous temptation of "othering" Hinduism or India to build up Islam and Pakistan. We believe such countries should be mature enough to stand on their own without denigrating their neighbours or their own plural heritage. We have discussed Islam, nationalism, democracy, pressure groups and religious elements within their own respective societal and ideological constructs and have avoided taking sides.

Raising academic controversy is one thing but providing space to personalised attacks through misattribution or misinterpretation is unacceptable.

Lawrence Ziring West Michigan University Iftikhar Malik Bath Spa University College Ian Talbot Coventry University

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