- Paperback: 328 pages
- Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; New edition (1 November 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812215923
- ISBN-13: 978-0812215922
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 499 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 132,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fighting for Faith and Nation Paperback – 1 Nov 1996
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"Highly recommended."--Library Journal
"Mahmood brilliantly interweaves Sikh militants' narratives--their aspirations, fears, beliefs, and actions--with an understanding of India's Khalistan movement in particular and of contemporary political conflict in general. . . . Fighting for Faith and Nation provides the theoretical and methodological tools for understanding the politics of violence and militancy and the troubled concepts of nation and freedom. More important, it provides a sensitive and responsible approach to difficult and contentious issues--to matters, literally, of life and death."--Carolyn Nordstrom, University of California, Berkeley
"A stunning presentation of narrative ethnography, achieving the remarkable feat of forcing the reader to enter into the world--and the world view--of those whom most of us would regard as terrorists. The issues this book raises cannot be ignored."--Mark Juergensmeyer, University of California, Santa Barbara
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More importantly, it has reinforced my belief that uncovering the truth of the very human circumstances that lead to such violence can help us build bridges of understanding and hope for preventing such tragedies in the future. It is too easy to simply brand one's enemy as a terrorist, religious fanatic, or political extremist--but we must exert a bit more effort to see past such overly-simplistic labels--to see that our enemies are complex humans like ourselves, with many of the same hopes, values, concerns, fears, strengths and weaknesses.
Jesus called upon us to love our enemies, and this book, in my opinion, begins to uncover some of the difficulties and revelations one might encounter in such a pursuit. As with most worthwhile pursuits in life, such attempts at uncovering the truth beneath both sides of an issue can be a complex, difficult, even dangerous paths to tread, but ones that we must traverse if we truly seek peaceful resolution of conflicts between people, countries, religions and cultures now and in the future.
Mahmood treads this difficult path to uncover the human side of the Sikh militants, and in my opinion, succeeds admirably. To be fair, I'd like to read more accounts of the events at Amritsar, to gain a more complete perspective of the thoughts and feelings of all those involved. Because the Indian government apparently made great efforts to conceal the truth behind the events of 1984, it seems finding more books that do as well as Mahmood's at shedding light on the violence may be difficult. Hopefully I'll find more gems like this one. Highly recommended.
I believe that my excitement over this elusive information overshadowed at least one major deficiency in the book. The author, an ethnographic anthropologist, spends quite a bit of time talking about her academic discipline and its various theories. That's fine -- this is an academic book, after all.
However, I believe she allowed her integrity to be compromised to a certain but significant degree. There are a number of potential factors: fear of being viewed as sympathetic, or even objective towards a group of people that most call "terrorists" mostly due to propaganda; her own issues and experience with violence in her life (she talks about it briefly in the book); etc.
I don't profess to know which one, but the symptoms litter the book. In fact after two chapters I grabbed a highlighter and marked in the margins where I saw these symptoms. Let's just say I haven't highlighted that much since my undergrad days. When she has something positive to say about the Sikh militancy (and often Sikhs in general), it is generally somewhat curt and almost always qualified. When she has something negative to say, she seems to dwell on it longer than it needs to be, and often lacks any sort of footnotes. She also contradicts herself on a regular basis, and most times it is because she appears to be trying to please her academic colleagues.
Unfortunately, this deficiency is a critical one.
Despite this, I urge Sikhs to read it. I think that one thing that will startle you is how much propaganda there is about Bhindranwale, even among Sikhs. I say that because you will learn that, per the evidence out there, Bhindranwale did virtually nothing wrong but love his people -- quite literally -- to death. You will also learn that even in this book, where the author unfortunately shows a strong bias, evidence of violence towards innocent people is scarce.
So again, if you're a Sikh or want to learn more about a tragically overlooked incident in world history, check this book out.
One final note -- I recently read a more recent book by the author about the role of women in Sikhism. In the introduction, she complains about the heartbreak caused to her by the lack of any serious feedback or communication from the Sikh community after the publication of "Fighting for Faith and Nation."
I suspect that most of the people she speaks of agree with me.
Although Mahmood makes it very clear in no uncertain terms about her disagreement in regards to the route the Sikh militants have taken up to seek justice, she still manages to bring together a very unbiased and objective account. This book sheds light on the history and politics behind what led to the disaster of 1984 in India. And then the aftermath is recounted by the eye witnesses and victims now settled in the US.
Inder Malhotra, one of the most distinguished journalists of that time, compared Sant J.S. Bhindrawale to Khoemini and Frankenstien but this first hand accounts of people who grew up with, lived with, and fought with Bhindrewale show a different picture. After reading this book, it is up to the reader to decide which account to believe.
Finally, a version that tells the story on behalf of the militants, their justifications, and their ideology. The first hand accounts of people who were directly involved and affected during the Blue Star operation are extremely moving and shows the image in different light than what one has seen before. The bravery of Sikh men, women and even children is amazing. The illustrations, some provided by the international documentation of human rights violation in India, are tremendously moving.
This is a read that will take a while due to its poignant nature, but worth the time to understand the depth and dimensions of this problem
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