When Pakistan finally broke free from the British Empire and achieved its independence in 1947, it was hailed as a nation-state established for Muslims, by Muslims. Its creation was framed in religious dialogue which highlighted the spiritual unity of its people and celebrated their seemingly inevitable separation from the ideologically incompatible Hindu community which dominated neighboring India. For many, the birth of this new state finally gave millions of South Asian Muslims a homeland to call their own and govern as they please. However, to state that theological differences between British India’s two most prominent communities were the sole cause of their proverbial parting of the ways represents an egregious oversimplification of history which neglects a nuanced, contextual analysis of the social and political movements ofthe time. Indeed, despite his repeated characterization as the leader of Pakistan’s independence movement and the “Father of the Nation,” Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the nation’s first Governor-General, actually spent much of his time diligently pursuing compromises to keep the two communities united. For him, the partition of the subcontinent was an avenue of last resort pursued because of political failures rather than an inevitable outcome of a deep-seated ideological conflict. As a whole, the division of Pakistan and India, although influenced by theological differences, was actually more rooted in historical political conflicts and contemporary world crises than theological clashes. Ultimately, secular power struggles between the Hindu and Muslim communities, heavily influenced by British colonial hegemony and two world wars, destroyed the dream of a United India and gave way to the creation of two nations whose rivalry can still be felt today.
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