Posted by: Dawud Israel | June 8, 2009

The Power of Poverty: The Pakistanification of the West

“Well Toronto has more mosques than New Delhi. There were 1 or 2 in 1980s and now, there are 90+.” And then the joke went further, “Londonistan” and how Princess Diana fell madly in love with a Pakistani doctor. And then the discussion moves to Dubai, and how the ratio of immigrant workers to natives of UAE is 8 to 1.

Why Pakistan?

Pakistan as a metaphor for the rest of the Ummah. Whatever happens in Pakistan…the other Muslim nations will inevitably follow that same pattern if what is happening in the world continues to happen. The same struggles Pakistanis face are similar to those Muslim countries face: struggle between tradition and modernity, militancy and war with the West, preserving identity and the sacred, the advancement of technology and self-sufficiency. The second reason is people look for what is apparent. Arabs can hide their Islam by posing as Caucasians (Lebanese especially) but Pakistanis can’t hide it. The more obvious distinctions can be noticed- the food, clothes, the more likely one’s identity is to survive and remain intact because the less likely they can successfully assimilate and please the kuffar therefore.


What is Pakistanification?

Pakistanification, then is the idea of Muslims leaving their homeland to immigrate for a better life in the West. It may be as refugees or as capable students, but largely it is to avoid poverty. In doing so, they are asserting a new type of colonialism, a colonization fueled not by conquest, but motivated by survival. In doing so, they have left behind and given up on the idea of Pakistan- a united, multi-ethnic, multicultural Muslim nation and as they settle and expand in the West, they are faced with establishing themselves and maintaining their identity and Islam and hence, they re-embrace the idea of Pakistan. This is the Power of Poverty. The difference here is, they are forced to work with other Muslim groups and the milieu has expanded to not just include Indo-Pak people but Arabs, Somalis, Malays, etc.

With all this in the backdrop, as the idea of Pakistan dies in the land of its birth- a land (idealized) to represent Islam and the rights of Muslims…the idea of Pakistan could spread overseas. A continuing surge in Indo-Pak numbers in London and Dubai could signal the creation of  ‘satellite’ states of Pakistan. The trend seems to speak to the phenomenon of the Pakistanification of major cities. This reminds me of a quote, by a shaykh:

“If they want to turn Mecca and Madinah into Paris and London, we’ll turn Paris and London into Mecca and Madinah!”

The idea of being a minority imposes certain mental stress. It is like being in a mental prison to some extent. The sociologist Bauman discusses the idea of how “space wars” (a separate discussion) results in people becoming either “tourists” or “vagabonds”- the tourist travels recreationally, but the vagabond is displaced from his home and either wanders or if in the same location is still somewhat displaced. While, Muslims traveling around the world could be classified as either, most people are said to be in between these two extremes and because they aren’t quite at home (in a Muslim environment) they are said to be at constant unease. Muslims as minorities may have money and freedom, but still never feel at home. You always get the feeling they plan on moving back to Pakistan any day now…and are just kind of on an extended vacation, since they don’t firmly establish their roots into the country. Now, if they don’t feel comfortable and even though they may have money, they don’t feel they are in an “ideal” situation, even though they may have their own ethnic and cultural enclaves, they still feel they lack something. It is the spirit of their tradition that is suffering and the ultimate expression of this is in Islam. So while the body is free, you have food and security, but because of our society’s taboo against religion- a person cannot give Islam the full space it demands in one’s life. Sooner or later, the tension between the “Islamic desires” and the societal desires…and so this is where the faceoff happens.

The pressing question then is if this “power of poverty” and the ensuing Pakistanification…could poverty exert a power, more powerful then colonialism? Is it achievable for this to manifest in an assertion of Islamic identity?


  1. I don’t know what ethnicity you are, but your analysis of the problems that face immigrants is off. I don’t understand how you equate poverty with being Pakistani. There is reason why our “Muslim” nations have fallen behind: they range from economic disparity to political repression.

  2. He’s obviously at least a little Pakistani, chill dude – i think you’re missing the overall point of the post.

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