Every generation needs to reinterpret its great men of the past. Akbar Ahmed, by revealing Jinnah's human face alongside his heroic achievement, both makes this statesman accessible to the current age and renders his greatness even clearer than before.
Four men shaped the end of British rule in India: Nehru, Gandhi, Mountbatten and Jinnah. We know a great deal about the first three, but Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, has mostly either been ignored or, in the case of Richard Attenborough's hugely successful film about Gandhi, portrayed as a cold megalomaniac, bent on the bloody partition of India. Akbar Ahmed's major study redresses the balance.
Drawing on history, semiotics and cultural anthropology as well as more conventional biographical techniques, Akbar S. Ahmad presents a rounded picture of the man and shows his relevance as contemporary Islam debates alternative forms of political leadership in a world dominated (at least in the Western media) by figures like Colonel Gadaffi and Saddam Hussein.
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August 1997 marked the 50th anniversary of India and Pakistan's independence from Great Britain. That hard-won independence, however, came with a high price: a bloody partition of the subcontinent into Hindu-majority India and the Muslim state of Pakistan. Almost as soon as Jawaharlal Nehru pronounced India a new nation, the butchery began--a bloodbath in which millions perished and for which there are still no exact figures. What Mohandas K. Gandhi was to India, Mohammed Ali Jinnah was to Pakistan--the architect of its statehood. In Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity, Akbar S. Ahmed shines the spotlight on a man whose character, he feels, has been distorted by the official Pakistani line. Though Jinnah was clearly interested in ensuring a homeland for Muslims, Ahmed's book makes clear that this London-trained lawyer was no Islamic fundamentalist. The author's take on Indian-Pakistani history, his account of Jinnah's involvement, and his ideas about the future of Pakistan and the Islamic world are both thought-provoking and important.Review:
Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity virtually explodes with provocative ideas and new ways of looking at partition, at Jinnah, and at South Asia as a whole. [Ahmed] is passionate about his subject, but also able to stand back when necessary, especially when analyzing where Pakistan and the larger Islamic world are going.
–The New York Times Book Review
...Ahmed has written a discursive, provocative book.... a stimulating, and often arresting read.
–World Policy Journal
Ahmed's distinct contribution is his attempt to relate [Pakistani nationalism] to the larger subject of Islamic identity.
Akbar Ahmed's book looks at Jinnah from Pakistani, Indian and Western perspectives. It reveals a highly complex figure little known in the annals of India'a independence movement, which included Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi F.A.O. Journal .
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