Many people look at Pakistan and Iran and they see both these countries to be non-Arab, Muslim, and with a government called Islamic Republic; and they expect that the two should be similar, and are surprised when they observe how different they are, and even to some extent, opposite they are.


Actually to understand it better, let me say that I think in the whole world there are two countries that have substituted RELIGION for NATIONALITY. The first one is PAKISTAN and the second one is ISRAEL. Actually, Iran, EVEN under Islamic Republic is NOT such a nation-state.


This is how Pakistan was formed. Pakistan is ruled by Sunni Muslims who are the majority. They do not have a national identity as such and what they have is actually a religious identity.


This is why the Sunnis of Pakistan, in contrast to Arabs, are more identified as Sunni-Islamic than Arabs in any Arab state. I mean for Arabs, lot of Islamic traditions are NATIONAL traditions. For Pakistanis, they are understood as purely religious mores. This is why one sometimes sees Sunni Pakistanis as kAseh DAgh tar az Ash as compared to Sunni Arabs.


The Shi’a of Pakistan view Iranian Shiism the same way. The Shi’a in Pakistan are about 30%, as far as I know. The Pakistani Shi’a observe Norooz as a religious holiday. Many Shi’a traditions, that are considered more as national traditions in Iran, are understood as purely religious traditions by Shi’a Pakistanis. This is why again one sees them as kAseh DAgh tar az Ash as compared to Shi’a Iranians.


So Pakistan has a lot of similarity with Israel, they both have substituted religious identity for national identity. It is ironic that they hate Israel more than any other country that I know!


But what are nation-states and why Shiism became the flag of unity in the 1979 Iranian revolution? I will have a separate post to respond to this question.


Sam Ghandchi

May 11, 1994






* The above article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on  May 11, 1994

Go to Discovery for Unique Gifts