Political Fields and Religious Movements: The Exclusion of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan

Publication Date: 
January 2012
Political Power and Social Theory 23 (2012): 189-223.


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This paper examines the Pakistani state’s shift from the accommodation to exclusion of the heterodox Ahmadiyya community, a self-defined minority sect of Islam. In 1953, the Pakistani state rejected demands by a religious movement that Ahmadis be legally declared non-Muslim. In 1974 however, the same demand was accepted. This paper argues that this shift in the state’s policy toward Ahmadis was contingent on the distinct political fields in which the two religious movements were embedded. Specifically, it points to conjunctures among two processes that defined state–religious movement relations: intrastate struggles for political power, and the framing strategies of religious movements vis-à-vis core symbolic issues rife in the political field. Consequently, the exclusion of Ahmadis resulted from the transformation of the political field itself, characterized by the increasing hegemony of political discourses referencing Islam, shift toward electoral politics, and the refashioning of the religious movement through positing the “Ahmadi issue” as a national question pertaining to democratic norms