A Contest over The ‘Islamic’ Ideal

Religion is a contested space in the Pakistani public sphere  reflecting the aspirations of a society as currently being in search of a religious ideal. Some scholars even go to the extent to say that the very act of ‘the creation of Pakistan inaugurated the aspiration to strive to be Muslim’ even as they observe that such ‘religious striving’ possessed a  certain ‘quality of restlessness’ (Khan 2012: 202-203) . Given such aspirations various religious factions  can be presently seen as  competing over the creation of  the perfect religious ideal in Pakistan. The creation of the ideal can also be seen as a necessity because ‘a society can neither create nor recreate itself without creating some kind of ideal’ by which a society becomes conscious of itself, in order ‘to maintain and strengthen at regular intervals the collective feelings and ideas that provide it’s coherence and its distinct individuality’ (Durkheim 1995: 429). The construction of this ideal is also important because ‘a society is not constituted simply by individuals or groups but ‘ above all by the idea it has of itself’ ( Durkheim 1995: 425). In this context given their domination over the public sphere both the agenda religious and socio-political elite, who uphold a unitary and institutionalized view of Islam, seems to have a hegemonic influence over the nature of this religious ideal.    Continue reading

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Excess as ‘Moderation’ – Islam in Pakistan’s Mediatized Public Sphere

The advent of the introduction of private electronic media networks in 2002, which is frequently described as a ‘media revolution’ in Pakistan, enabled a new order of social connectivity and induced far-reaching changes in the public sphere at a very historically significant moment. Previously the state owned Pakistan Television (PTV) was the only local television outlet available to the viewers. According to a Gallup poll, there were over 43 million television viewers in Pakistan by 2003, with over 75 percent of urban dwellers having access to television as compared to 30 percent print media readership (Rizvi 2003). By 2009 there were around eighty private television channels, only twelve of which were dedicated to news and current affairs. By 2012, almost 86 percent of Pakistani  population had cable-television access, suggesting that this form of media could be a significant tool for influencing public opinion. Public debate on television, which many people were critical of and uncomfortable with, hence emerged as ‘a new power tool’ in Pakistan (Lieven 2011: 233). Continue reading