The Islam of the Afghan-Pakistan Borderlands

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In this episode, we explore the interplay between religion and geography through a case study of the mountain regions that formed the borderlands between Afghanistan and British India then, from 1947, Pakistan. In recent years, the region entered the headlines through its association with the so-called Pakistani Taliban. But this was only the latest in a series of movements to emerge from a region whose innate social structures and enforced political autonomy fostered a distinct trajectory of religious development. Beginning with the formation of this ‘tribal borderland’ through the cartographic boundary-marking of the colonial Great Game, we’ll trace the interplay of religion and geography from the mid-nineteenth century to the present-day as British rule was replaced by Pakistan. Along the way, we’ll follow the transformation of this borderland Islam as traditional Sufi leaders lost influence to reformists associated with the Deoband movement of the lowlands, which was in turn forced to adapt to what had become local religious as well as political modes of self-rule. Nile Green talks to Sana Haroon, the author of Frontier of Faith: Islam in the Indo-Afghan Borderland (Columbia University Press, 2007).

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