We intend to devote a separate discussion to the evils of a nation-state because it contains unique problems. Before we come directly to the issue we think it indispensable to stress the difference between holding the common county a valid factor of founding a nation and founding a nation primarily on the basis of political boundaries. The former is only natural. We know that everybody loves his home and is attached to each and every corner of his abode. He is always willing to sacrifice all his possession in guarding his home. He maintains his right over it at all costs. It would be only just to consider this attachment with one’s home a virtuous act worthy of praise. Similarly, every nation loves its homeland. It is considered their motherland and cradle of their civilization and culture. Different heroic works of their forefathers are seen imprinted on every inch of the land and it is taken as the original history book which contains memories of their great ancestors. Its rivers and mountains and its plains and steppes house and express their traditions and lore. Its mountains are sources of the national life. Its orchards and agricultural fields are their economic and financial resources. Its hills and the wadis are the springs of their happiness. Individuals consider their country a collective asset. This feeling and common attachment with their country gives birth to the sense of nationality in all the people. This sense, in turn, binds them together in protection of the common asset, the state, and also in sharing the benefits equally. This phenomenon is but natural. It goes neither against reason nor religion and ethics.
However, founding a nation only on the basis of a shared country and binding different nations in this manipulated nation is a different phenomenon marred with obvious flaws.
The united nationalism highlights the factor of common abode and founds the nation alone on it. It doing so, it naturally, targets curbing all other factors working behind formation of a nation like race, language, culture, customs and religion, which work to attach distinct identities to these different nations and lend to those people a sense of individuality. They are then forced to give up their identity of race, language, culture, customs and religion and to replace these with a mixed origin, a common artificial race, culture and religion. This superimposed idea of a mixed nation is absurd when stated as it is quite impossible to be materialized. This point is not lost upon the originators of this idea. They, therefore, put it differently as follows.
Different member nations can preserve their identity only to a certain limit. They have to emerge as a single nation at a large political and collective level. They may not let their individuality interrupt in the process of realization of a grand nation.
Before the eighteenth century, this ideal was possible for the dominant nations. For in those times such dominant powers were able to erase all the national identities of the subject nations which could keep their sense of individuality and national pride alive. After the Napoleon’s conquests, the First World War, dealt with elsewhere in the discussion in detail, strengthened the impulse of nations to retain their national identity and their individuality to the extent that the dominant powers were no longer able to deprive them of such a national sense. Now, though, it is an established theory that every nation has the right to retain their identity, language, culture and religion, and this seems quite appealing, yet, all its beauty is limited to the books on political theories. In practice it loses all its attraction and all the shortcomings in it spring forth clear and naked. Here we will allude to some of the shortcoming inherent with the theory of a geographic nation or a nation-state consisting of originally different national identities.
First, nation-state is a blend of mutually opposing components. These components are apparently forced together by a common binding force. Yet the individual identities of the components continue operating in the minds of the people who continue cherishing their original identity. A hidden battle between these factions goes on. In the face of these grave racial, lingual, civilizational, cultural and religious differences, common country, the only cohesive force, fails to keep the different peoples together as single national entity. Different factors of dispute and dissention among them continue to operate as opposing forces and never let the nation work for a national target with complete solidarity. Such a nation can be successful only in case when the above mentioned factors of opposition and dispute are very superficial and are curbed completely. Another situation when nationalism can survive is when the opposing factors are so insignificant that they can never rise against it and find it convenient to accord with its demands.
Second, the different components of such a geographical nationality are forced to abandon rich heritage of their national customs, literature and religion from their social and political life. They are forced to let this heritage die its own death and replace it with a superficial one. It is not only these oppressed minority components which have to give up these things. Rather, the majority which has overpowered the small and minority factions too has to sacrifice its customs, culture, literature and language in order to appease the minority. Literary tendencies change, language is jeopardized, customs are amalgamated, traditions are mixed, history takes a new turn, mere figures are considered heroes, and heroes of the past are erased from not only the books but also minds of the people. This confusion exposes the religion to the gravest kind of distortion. Religion, we know, is one of the most powerful factors of founding a nation. It seldom bows before the threatening temporary and superficial benefits of its adherents. Therefore, it has been considered the most stubborn hindrance in the way of a nation-state. However, a cure has been devised. Religion is to go into exile from the social and political life of a people. It has to be limited to the temples, churches and mosques. For without toppling the religion the edifice of nation-state cannot be erected.
Third, if religious and racial feelings have firm roots in the dominant nation, it, even after disguising itself in the garb of a nation based on country, continues to guard its interest in all spheres of collective and political affairs and to dominate the other minority partners in the national alliance. If the minority groups try to protect their rights, give importance to their language, preserve their civilization or adhere to their religion, their pleadings are considered dissension, discrimination, and rebellion against the interests of the nation while the dominant nation goes on doing all these things without impunity. No one is allowed to criticize it.
Fourth, in some circumstances the dominant nation too gets hurt. This happens when the dominant nation, though great in number, lacks inner unity and organization and suffers from economic crisis and political dissonance. Its political leaders are either purblind or timeserving. With the emergence of many political parties, seeking various interests, the political power of the nation is greatly injured. Such parties, in order to secure their limited interests and to get to power, can even work as quislings collaborating with the enemies of the nation. In this state of affairs the dominant nation can easily work as a puppet in the hands of a courageous and well organized minority nation of the country. A united and politically well organized minority can exercise influence over the dominant nation through political manoeuvres and can attain its goals through them which it cannot attain on its own. It can do so with even great convenience when the dominant nation is docile and can be influenced and blackmailed at the time of national election.
Fifth and the worst shortcoming of such a nationality as composed of different small nations is that it proves extremely weak and hollow in the face of difficulties and crisis. Generally a national crisis proves to be the most powerful factor uniting small nations and bind them together as a nation. But it can work only when all the participant nations are ensured equal share in the intellectual and material gains of the county. If it is not possible (we have already pointed out that such an example is a rarity) oppressed factions consider this common crisis a blessing and at times do not hesitate to join hands with the foreign aggressors. If the foreign invaders are clever and apply mind they can take great advantage of the inner dissension and disruption of the state. Therefore, we see that, when during the First World War, the coalition forces declared that their war was a war against oppression fought for the oppressed nations, they secured great benefits. However, after successfully using this slogan they disregarded what it entailed altogether. Seen in this perspective a nation founded on the notion of common country is awfully hollow and weak and cannot fulfil the basic purpose of its creation. It however, proves to be an optimal place of growth for the fifth column, namely the hypocritical factions. We would here reiterate the fact that, if all the components of such a nation are kept satisfied being granted equality of opportunity whereby they have share in the national assets and resources and are given opportunity to participate in the national affairs, this limitation can be easily mended. However, this limitation is inherent in the nation formed of different small nations bound together merely by their common habitation and this makes removing the limitation a practical impossibility.
Translated from Islahi's Islami Riyasat by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi.