Patriotism and chauvinism


“Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -how passionately I hate them”- ALBERT EINSTEIN

We always flee to our nationalism and patriotism when someone invokes in us the fear that we are on the losing side of the war between two nations/groups/cultures/religions. The very fact that it is unclear what constitutes a nation is why I refer to nations and groups and cultures et al. In order to placate our anxiety and nervousness, we try to form groups at an inter-, intra- and individual level.

In his classic essay on the topic George Orwell defines nationalism and a nationalist: “A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him.”
In India and Pakistan, this seasonal fervor of patriotism is at high at only sporadicintervals of time. The only time an Indian is an Indian and a Pakistani a Pakistani, is when there is a war going on in the battlefield or in the cricket field with the neighboring country. There are clear testaments to this epiphany of finding the patriotic self at these odd times. For example, patriotism in Germany before World War I ranked at or near the top, whereas today it ranks at or near the bottom of patriotism surveys. Yes there is a ranking of countries according to how proud their residents feel. And no surprises there:India ranks third. The constant war in between the two countries leaves their citizens high on patriotism.

Clearly in this game of ‘Monkey in the Middle’ between the two countries euphemistically referred to as patriotism and nationalism, a Kashmiri is playing the one in the middle. It is India and Pakistan who are holding the ball all the time and enticing a Kashmiri every now and then to have a go. The gullible Kashmiri tries to befriend Pakistan at one moment and India at other to catch hold of the ball.

The recent furor over the ouster of sixty odd Kashmiri students from an Indian university apparently over supporting Pakistan in an India-Pakistan cricket match made me to question the pragmatism of the actions of not only these students and the authorities but also myself. I am not questioning the reasons as to why a Kashmiri would support Pakistan because the answer is quite obvious. Rather, I want to know what good it brings to a Kashmiri to chant pro-Pakistan slogans in an Indian setting. I even want to go to the extent of questioning patriotism in the first place whether it be towards any country in the world.

I want to see nationalism from a point of view of religion today. Rather interestingly, Islam denounces patriotism for a single country and stresses the fact that the country for a Muslim should be Islam. No doubt we as Kashmiris cheered for Pakistan in the Pakistan-Bangladesh cricket match because we based our patriotism on the basis of countries rather than religion.

“ Whosoever fights under the banner of the blind, becoming angry for partisanship (‘asabiyah i.e tribal-ship), calling towards it, or supporting it and then dies, he dies a death of (one in) the Days of Ignorance (Jahiliyah).” [ Sahih Muslim(6/21)]

Once the Muhajireen and the Ansar argued, such that one of the Muhajireen yelled at his tribesmen: “O Muhajireen!” (come to assist me) And one of the Ansar said: “O Ansar!”Upon hearing this, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Is it with the calls of Jahiliyah (ignorance) that you cry out, while l am still amongst you?!” [Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (8/137)] And he became very angry at that.”[Majmoo’-ul-Fatawa (3/456)]

“Those who believe fight in the cause of God, and those who disbelieve fight in the cause of rebellion. Then fight the allies of Satan; indeed, Satan’s strategy is weak”
[Quran 3:78]
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another”[
Quran 49:13]

We as Muslims represent different countries in the whole world and differentiate ourselves as Saudis, Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Kashmiris et al. We are not patriotic towards our religion rather have created idols out of our countries and unknowingly commit shirk in the name of nationalism. Had all the Muslims been proud of their religion rather than their citizenship, we would have had our path a long time ago. I leave the reader with some beautiful quotes from Allama Iqbal(r.a).

In Taza Khudaon Mein Bada Sub Se Watan Hai
Jo Pairhan Iss Ka Hai, Woh Mazhab Ka Kafan Hai

Country, is the biggest among these new gods!
What is its dress is the shroud of Deen (Religion)

Bazu Tera Touheed Ki Quwwat Se Qawi Hai
Islam Tera Dais Hai, Tu Mustafavi Hai

Your arm is enforced with the strength of the Divine Unity
You are the followers of Mustafa, your country is Islam

Ho Qaid-e-Maqami To Nateeja Hai Tabahi
Reh Behar Mein Azad-e-Watan Soorat-e-Mahi

The limitation to country results in destruction
Live like the fish in the ocean free from country

Hai Tark-e-Watan Sunnat-e-Mehboob (S.A.W.)-e-Elahi
De Tu Bhi Nabuwwat Ki Sadaqat Pe Gawahi

Renouncing the country is the way of the God’s Beloved (PBUH)
You should also testify to the Prophethood’s Truth by similar action

Guftar-e-Siasat Mein Watan Aur Hi Kuch Hai
Irshad-e-Nabuwwat Mein Watan Aur Hi Kuch Hai

In political parlance country is something different
In Prophet’s command country is something different

Aqwam-e-Jahan Mein Hai Raqabat To Issi Se
Taskheer Hai Maqsood-e-Tajarat To Issi Se

The antagonism among world’s nations is created by this alone
Subjugation as the goal of commerce is created by this alone

Khali Hai Sadaqat Se Siasat To Issi Se
Kamzor Ka Ghar Hota Hai Gharat To Issi Se

Politics have become bereft of sincerity is by this alone
The destruction of the home of the weak is by this alone

Aqwam Mein Makhlooq-e-Khuda Batti Hai Iss Se
Qoumiat-e-Islam Ki Jar Katti Hai Iss Se

God’s creation is unjustly divided among nations by it
The Islamic concept of nationality is uprooted by it


3 thoughts on “Patriotism and chauvinism

  1. Desdemona

    Any kind of collectivism is bound to take a side. Individually we have a choice. Interesting to see how you have battered Einstein with Orwell, added a pinch of Hadith, 1 tbs each of India,Pakistan,Kashmir condiments and finally served it all on an Iqbal platter. You’re against patriotism but I have a feeling that subconsciously you yourself are a chauvinist too, my guess is an Islamic chauvinist! 😀

  2. I come from a place where my patriotic belongings always vacillate from one country to another because we don’t have a country of our own. In such a scenario you cannot blame me for clinging onto my religion to find companions and friends. I try to pacify the void by bringing religion on the plate.

  3. Desdemona

    Now ain’t religion a nice dish? Sure is! Clinging onto religion for pacifying the void? I guess there shouldn’t be any void in your case, for even if you do have a country of your own, wouldn’t you still criticise nationalism, patriotism, chauvinism? Wouldn’t it be shirk anymore? And yeah one more thing, you necessarily don’t have to cling onto religion for finding companions and friends as long as you’re not the orthodox type, which I believe you’re not, otherwise you wouldn’t have quoted Einstein who btw was an atheist. Haha 🙂

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