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Department of Politics and International Studies

Ms Najia Mukhtar

BA Honours Economics (Cantab), MSc Comparative Politics - with Distinction (LSE)


Najia Mukhtar
Ms Najia Mukhtar
Email address:
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Office Hours:
By appointment
Thesis title:
Discourses of resistance? Examining spaces of religious tolerance in contemporary Pakistani society.
Year of Study:


Najia has an MSc. in Comparative Politics - Conflict Studies from LSE and a BA Hons in Economics from the University of Cambridge. As a PhD candidate here at SOAS, she focuses on Muslim societies in South Asia, including issues of religious extremism, sectarianism and countervailing forces. Prior to this, she has worked for 8 years as a management consultant focused on financial sector firms in London.

PhD Research

Since 9/11, the phenomenon of religious violence has preoccupied academic, policy and media debates about Muslim societies across the world, from Africa to Asia and the Middle East and extending to diasporic communities in the West. Pakistan, with its dubious “front-line” position in the “Global War on Terror” has scarcely received more global attention than on this issue. Religious intolerance and extremism is an increasingly prominent problem in current-day Pakistani society and it doesn’t merely afflict Pakistan’s non-Muslim minorities (who comprise less than 5% of the population). Instead, there seems to be a broader tendency amongst individuals and groups to treat as reprehensible (and more and more often, take violent action against), all those who are deemed to hold ‘different’ religious or sectarian views, whether or not they officially belong to a different faith or a different Muslim sect or sub-sect (malsak).

Against this backdrop, Najia’s research seeks to analyse the ways in which the ideas and practices of religious ‘tolerance’ or ‘intolerance’ emerge and spread in society. What shapes people’s attitudes and behaviours towards religious and sectarian difference? In pursuing this puzzle, she treads a different path from that posited by the vast majority of current literature that tends to emphasise conventional, security-centric themes such as regional geo-politics and “Talibanisation” without conceptually disentangling these specific issues from broader societal trends. Taking a wider view of society, her research explores the role of elite led discourses about how a “good” Muslim must think and act towards the religious and sectarian “Other” and the deployment of these discourses through institutions such as the mosque, madrasa and media. By positioning her research within a deeper and broader framework that combines discursive, institutional (and coercive) means of social control and domination, Najia seeks to emphasise the ideational and conceptual underpinnings of  ‘intolerance’ as wells as ‘tolerance’ in society. Particularly focusing on the neglected space of tolerance, her research examines discourses that possibly resist and critique potentially hegemonic intolerant interpretations of Islam. These include the discourses of moderate Muslim scholars such as Javed Ahmed Ghamidi and separately, Dr Tahir-ul-Qadiri, as well urban, youth initiatives such as the popular Sufi and fusion music project Coke Studio.

Through an analysis of specific sites of discursive activity (mosque, madrasa, media) in contemporary Pakistani society, her research endeavours to reveal insights into what constitutes the spaces in which counter-hegemonic and hegemonic narratives emerge, what is the content and modus operandi of these narratives, what is the interplay between coercive and discursive power in this context and what happens at the intersection of hegemony and resistance? Moreover, by conceptualising both domination and resistance (intolerance and tolerance) within the language and framework of Islam, her research avoids secularised notions of religious tolerance commonly found in liberal theory and hopes to deliver new ways of thinking about the possibilities of religious tolerance in non-Western, non-secular settings.

PhD Conferences

SOAS Politics MPhil Students Conference 2012


Royal Society of Asian Affairs (RSAA)
British Association for South Asian Studies (BASAS)
Association for Asian Studies (AAS)