Historical Social Research

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Maleeha Aslam: Islam and Masculinity: Case Study Pakistan [Abstract]

In Muslim societies, men use Islamism and its variants as means of self-actualization and directly in service of matters associated with personhood, masculinity, and particularly honor. This expressive trajectory i.e. exercising masculinity via Islamism holds true in Pakistan and can be broadly attributed to three elements. First, Pakistan’s postcolonial baggage – a well-documented history of rise of Muslim nationalism, and Islamism in the subcontinent; second, western domination and interference in Pakistan’s socio-economic and political domains (as in competition with Islamic heritage and governance frameworks) affecting some segments (and not all) among Muslim youth; and third, decades of authoritarian rule taking turns with weak democratic governments who have largely disappointed in terms of alleviating absolute to relative poverty, marginalization and alienation troubling Pakistani society. Pakistan’s history and contemporary settings both reveal a dissonance between the prescribed, normative and idealized Muslim masculinity imperatives – and the socio-economic and political location of Pakistani men in the real world. Mostly leading dangerous, disenfranchised, and economically deprived lives it is difficult for them to uphold, for example, Quran’s masculine imperative of being a qawwam or an ethnic normative of honor. Islamism becomes one such avenue that increases the possibility of self-assertion and actualization of masculinity imperatives and as they appear in religious and cultural texts, narratives and anecdotes – for instance the theme of martyrdom. The resulting death will not only be divine, but also heroic. In the presence of precedence i.e. in form of documented history highlighting jihadism – this becomes plausible and ultimately adds to individual and collective rationality among Muslims. To develop these ideas further, this article draws upon empirical data sets and historical archival records.

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