Pakistan is both the embodiment of national ambitions fulfilled and, in the eyes of many, a failed state. Muslim Zion cuts to the core of the geopolitical paradoxes entangling Pakistan to argue that it has never been a nation state in the conventional sense. It is instead a distinct type of political geography, ungrounded in the historic connections of lands and peoples, whose context is provided by the settler states of the New World but whose closest ideological parallel is the state of Israel. A year before the 1948 establishment of Israel, Pakistan was founded on a philosophy that accords with Zionism in surprising ways. This book understands Zion as a political form rather than a holy land, one that rejects hereditary linkages between ethnicity and soil in favour of membership based on nothing but the idea of belonging. Like Israel, Pakistan came into being through the migration of a minority population, inhabiting a vast subcontinent, who abandoned old lands in which they feared persecution to settle in a new homeland. Just as Israel is the world's sole Jewish state, Pakistan is the only Muslim country to make religion the sole basis for its nationality. Revealing how Pakistan's troubled present continues to be shaped by its past, Muslim Zion is a penetrating critique of what comes of founding a country on an unresolved desire both to join and reject the world of modern nation-states.
Faisal Devji is Reader in History at St Antony's College, University of Oxford. He is the author of three books, Landscapes of the Jihad, The Terrorist in Search of Humanity and The Impossible Indian, all published by Hurst.