WASHINGTON - The world should be worried about religious majoritarianism across South Asia, fuelled by the politics of hate, as it raises questions about the strength of democracy and nation states, says Pakistani-American writer Farahnaz Ispahani.
Across the region, the idea that the majority feel a sense of grievance or that they are under threat, or will soon be threatened – by even a small minority – and must therefore assert themselves, has strengthened and taken the form of right-wing religion-based majoritarianism.
“You have gradations (of religion-based majoritarianism) all over South Asia,” said Ms Ispahani, a former member of Pakistan’s Parliament and currently a senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington.
“But why do we care about South Asia? It is two billion people. It’s an important part of the world. Some of it is sinking and some is swimming to the top. So it’s a part of the world that more people need to really pay attention to,” she noted.
Ms Ispahani was speaking to The Straits Times in its latest Asian Insider video and podcast, alongside Mr Salil Tripathi, author and member of the board of PEN International, which promotes literature and defends freedom of expression.
Ms Ispahani is the editor of a new book from HarperCollins India, titled Politics Of Hate: Religious Majoritarianism In South Asia. It contains 11 essays on India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The biggest danger that she sees in South Asia is the conflation of religion and the state.
“What we (in South Asia) have always worked towards in a democratic framework is the separation of church and state,” she said.
But instilling fear in the majority and the othering – in extreme cases, the obj...