Young Pakistani men live in no-man’s land, according to Rice sociologist

Many young Pakistani men are living in a no-man’s land, according to a new book from Rice sociologist Craig Considine. These individuals feel that they do not belong in Pakistan, but do not feel welcome in the U.S. or Europe.


“Islam, Race and Pluralism in the Pakistani Diaspora,” a new book published by Routledge, examines the lives of young first- and second-generation Pakistani Muslim and non-Muslim men living in Boston and Dublin. Considine chose to focus on Pakistanis because they represent the largest population of Muslims in the U.S. and Ireland. He said the book is intended to provide readers with an original and enlightening insight into the complex lives of young Pakistani men living in Western societies.

“Many of the young men that I met see Pakistan, their country of origin, as being alien to them, but at the same time, they feel increasingly ‘othered’ in Boston and Dublin,” Considine said. “This sense of otherness is fueled largely by racism, ethnocentrism and Islamophobia.”

At the time of Pakistan’s independence in 1947, Considine said, its secular founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, intended to create a “homeland” for South Asian Muslims, not an Islamic state.

“Jinnah declared that non-Muslims would be equal citizens in the newly independent country,” he said. “In his first presidential address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947, he stated, ‘You are free; you are free to go your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.’”

Considine said that at that time, Americans and Europeans — broadly speaking — did not have the negative perceptions of Pakistan and Pakistanis that they do today.

“The country was heralded by Western countries as a symbol of democratic progression in a largely autocratic Muslim world,” he said.

Unfortunately, Pakistan today is a far cry from what it was at its founding, Considine said. Campaigners from religious communities are asking for the execution of “blasphemers,” from Muslims to Christians, and the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately 3 percent.

Considine said that for decades, Pakistanis have been leaving Pakistan in droves. Although they have been living in the U.S. and Europe for several decades, it was not until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that these individuals’ lives changed.

“The ‘war on terror’ narrative associated Pakistanis with Islam, and in turn, Islam with violence,” Considine said. “Suddenly, Pakistanis were lumped into the same category as ‘Muslim terrorists’ — brown, bearded, Islamic, backward, violent, anti-Western and so on. “

Considine said that Pakistanis are still often ridiculed as backward, anti-freedom, religious extremists and are broadly reduced to unassimilable migrants standing in the way of Western values.

“These narratives of Pakistan and the Pakistani people as potentially violent and intolerant have considerable staying power, drawing strength from Western media that frequently reinforces them,” he said.

Considine said that in reality, the majority of Pakistanis in the U.S. and Ireland are integrated, well-educated and affluent, and they make great contributions to both countries.

“Prior to 9/11, Pakistanis tended to fly under the radar in the U.S. and Ireland,” he said. “But after that day, Pakistan and the ‘Muslim world’ were depicted as diametrically opposed to the U.S. and ‘the West.’ The clash-of-civilizations thesis gained worldwide currency, and Pakistani communities in diaspora were forced to grapple with issues like racial profiling and denouncing ‘radical Islam.’”

Considine said he hopes the book will provide a framework for examining the science behind intolerance, the obstacles to overcoming that intolerance and the tools to dismantle those obstacles that negatively impact the lives of Pakistanis in the U.S. and Ireland.

“Pakistan, the U.S. and Ireland need to reimagine what kind of countries they want to be,” he said. “These countries can rectify their fear and confusion by returning to the pluralistic vision of their ‘founding fathers.’”

For more information on the book, visit

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.