Jinnah and the Quest for Muslim Identity

How Islamic was the founder of Pakistan? Akbar Ahmed offers a radical reassessment of his life and motives - and the forces that propelled his change of course.

The understanding of why Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted Pakistan, the nation he created, is crucial to an understanding of the nature of South Asian politics even today. Like other fathers of the nation – Washington for the USA, Lenin for the former Soviet Union, Mao for Communist China and Khomeini for Islamic Iran – Jinnah is central to Pakistan. Indeed his impress was probably greater as he actually created a country that did not exist.

Yet almost half a century after his death Jinnah remains 'enigmatic' and 'inscrutable' (Tan Talbot, 'Jinnah and the making of Pakistan', History Today, February, 1984). The power of popular Indian and British journalism and the audio-visual media ensure that Jinnah continues to be cast as the villain of the drama of the last days of the Raj: the man who shattered the unity of India. This has become the agreed version of history. Attenborough's film, Gandhi, shot through a romantic Raj haze, ensured that millions and millions of people came away with the impression that Jinnah created Pakistan because he was jealous of Gandhi and a villain at heart.

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