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Discourse of Identity among Religious Minorities in Pakistan

Imran Tariq


Religious minorities have proved to be having profound impacts on the socio-political as well
as the economic lives of nations, Pakistan is no exception in this regard and the concept of
religious Minorities in modern Pakistan has become a question of perpetual discussion. In
contrast identities do not have an objective existence that naturally arises out of an essential
and distinct package of traits, rather they results from boundaries that are constructed by
human actors who choose to identify themselves with some people and differentiate
themselves from the others. Religious interaction is always a prerequisite for the existence of
religious identities.

The cultural space of a nation is based on multi-layered identification of a community and an

individual in it. Reflecting on his values, habits, and beliefs that differentiate his community
from the neighbouring one, the individual is able to identify himself. Self-recognition is a
complicated process that comprises religion, language, literature, rituals and history. Groups
with certain characteristics tend to relate themselves primarily to the particular community
they belong to, rather than to the nation and country in which they live in. The analysis will
compare and contrast how these groups respectively understand and speak of themselves.

Religious identity is an ascriptive attribute inherited from our parents and family. For most
people it remains as a part of their heritage. It is not a biological phenomenon, but a socially
constructed reality that gives stability and meaning to a persons conception and expression of
selfhood. The reason for its remarkable stability and permanence, as pointed out by Emile
Durkheim, is that it displays societys power over individuals.

The construction of religious minorities identity in Pakistan has a long history, particularly in
relation to the way it was used by the Islamists majority. In Pakistan there has been an
emerging sense of national identity following the division of sub-continent and the birth of new
independent states. For the titular majority, such as the Muslims in Pakistan, extra effort was
put into reiterating history, folk heroes, language and the formation of national identity.

Minorities in Pakistan, especially the older generation, tend to integrate wholly into the
Pakistani society without losing their unique history and traditions. Preserving the identity of
each distinct religious minority community is a basic human right and the basis for a flourishing
multi-religious yet united country. For the population, to be Pakistani, and at the same time
Christian, Hindu or of another faith, these are not mutually exclusive factors, on the contrary,
they enrich the national identity. At the same time, especially in the face of conflict, extreme
or specific circumstances, the historical commonality is the reference of all peoples of a

Although it may be true to say in the south Asian scenario that to be Pakistani is to be Muslim.
Questions remain, what does it mean to be Muslim? What does it mean to be Pakistani? In
the case of Pakistani religious minorities, what happens, when a person no longer considers
him/herself to be Muslim? Do Pakistan religious minorities stop being Pakistani because they
no longer identify themselves as Muslim, or because they also identify themselves as being
others? Or, indeed, do Pakistani religious minorities see themselves as embracing Muslim
culture and religion and leaving their own ways? Or is there an alternative understanding of
this phenomenon.

Discourse is a place of construction of identity. Discourse of identity among religious minorities

is a widely practiced scholarly and critical endeavor. The presupposition of such analyses is that
identities of speakers or writers may be uncovered by close reading, understanding or
systematic analysis, if language users explicitly or unwittingly express their identities through
language and communication.

I will undertake a critical analyses of discursive practices pertaining to identity among religious
minorities in Pakistan. The goal is to develop an explanation showing that the implications of
these practices go beyond discourse and into the realm of social construction of reality in
general, and among religious minorities in particular. Among the critical questions to answer
while explaining any social practice is not only what is being done but perhaps more
importantly, why it is done and what is being achieved through this practice.

Research questions:

This study will be a discourse analysis of the narratives of different minority religious groups in
Pakistan. The research questions focus on how the hermeneutical practice of self, bases for
the construction of identity among religious minorities in Pakistan. The rhetorical analysis will
examines how the grounding texts of religious groups are involved in identity constructions,
especially in contexts of difference.

The research questions around which it will be organized are, therefore:

How do religious minorities in Pakistan construe their identities?

What is relationship between the grounding texts, narratives and knowledge claims of
each of the interpretive religious minorities in Pakistan?
How these discourses intersect with other public sphere discourses about religious
minorities in Pakistan?


The methodology to determine the identity of religions minorities will be as follows:

Historical and documentary methods will be adopted in the perusal of the various historical
documents and books which have been documented about religious minorities. The
methodology will assist this study in understanding the origin and growth of the religions
minorities in Pakistan. The major past events which are responsible for the present status
of religions minorities. The constitutional development, legislation and various books on
these issues will also be analyzed.

Analytical method will be used to deduct the philosophy of identity of religions minorities,
based on the ideology of different groups who have engaged in shaping this concept. This
will help to determine the identity of religious minorities based on the majority domination
phobia and to abstain subjugation by ruling class. This will also help in realizing the
construction of religions minorities in Pakistan by analyzing the arguments, objections and
debates that have taken place in the country.

The discourse-historical approach (DHA) will also be used to investigate language use
beyond the sentence level, as well as other forms of meaning-making such as visuals and
sounds. Some tools of analysis and principles of DHA

Having identified the specific contents or topics of a specific discourse,

Discursive strategies are investigated.
Linguistic means are examined as types, and the specific, context-dependent
linguistic realizations are examined as tokens