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Jessica Lee Rehman
December 2012
This study focuses on mass rape during war and genocide, utilizing a synthesized
model that conceptualizes rape as religious terrorism. The model is demonstrated at the
micro level with the case study o f the 1971 war between East and West Pakistan; focused
on the dehumanization of Bengalis, and the havoc wreaked by this process on Bengali
women during the war. The model explains rape as terrorism, that is, a form of
performance violence carried out by men seeking empowerment. Rapists are terrorists;
in this case, men are engaged in a cosmic war with women, who are considered the
evildoers. Rape becomes a tool for good in this paradigm. Rapists seek empowerment
and de-humiliationthe restoration o f honorfor themselves and men in general.
Applying a synthesized model to this ongoing global gendered conflict sheds light on
how religion has been instrumental in both aiding and hindering womens plight,
specifically when it comes to sexual violence.



Presented to the Department of Religious Studies
California State University, Long Beach

In Partial Fulfillment
o f the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts in Religious Studies

Committee Members:
Sophia Pandya, Ph.D. (Chair)
Carlos Piar, Ph.D.
David Tabb Stewart, Ph.D.
College Designee:
Mark Wiley, Ph.D.

By Jessica Lee Rehman

B.A., 2004, California State University, Fullerton
December 2012

UMI Number: 1522254

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UMI 1522254
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Copyright 2012
Jessica Lee Rehman

For the men in my life who told me who I should be, and for the women in my
life who have shown me who I want to be. For my Mother who has shared all my
burdens, my sisters who have lightened them, and for my Father who has carried us all.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.................................................................................................... iii
1. INTRODUCTION.......................................................................................................... 1
Considering Theory......................................................................................................... 7
Violence...................................................................................................................... 7
Religious Violence....................................................................................................10
Gendered Religious Violence.................................................................................. 14
Main Theoretical Framework........................................................................................17
Chapter Overviews........................................................................................................23
2. HISTORY..................................................................................................................... 26
Islam Conquers India.....................................................................................................27
British Imperialism in South Asia................................................................................31
An Independent Islamic Republic................................................................................33
1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War................................................................................ 36
3. THEORETICAL MODEL...........................................................................................46
Introduction................................................................................................................... 46
Ervin Staub.................................................................................................................... 47
Social Goal Theory.................................................................................................. 47
The Escalation o f Aggression.................................................................................. 48



Mark Juergensmeyer.....................................................................................................52
Perceiving W ar.........................................................................................................52
The Theatre of Violence..........................................................................................54
The Model.....................................................................................................................55
Part I: Cultural Knowledge.................................................................................... 56
Collective identity............................................................................................... 58
Dehumanization.................................................................................................. 60
Symbolic domination........................................................................................ 64
Self-doubt fuels violent defense...................................................................... 66
Borderline masculinity..................................................................................... 68
Authority and blind obedience........................................................................ 70
A hostile w orld................................................................................................. 72
Part II: Social Order................................................................................................ 74
Inflexible institutions........................................................................................ 75
Hypnotic authority............................................................................................ 76
Pakistan's inflexible institutions...................................................................... 77
Pakistan's hypnotic leaders............................................................................... 84
Leaders with personality.................................................................................. 86
Part III: Circumstances...........................................................................................91
Limited Resources............................................................................................ 92
Collective chaos..............................................................................


Unsettling disasters........................................................................................... 96
4. INTERGENERATIONAL LEGACY OF VIOLENCE.........................................101
Introduction.................................................................................................................. 101
The Soldiers................................................................................................................103
India Our Eternal Adversary................................................................................103
Nothing Lower than a Bengali.............................................................................108
Lazy Leadership.....................................................................................................112



Dancing W hores.....................................................................................................116
Their Sons.................................................................................................................... 120
Glorious Pakistani History.................................................................................... 121
Bangladesh, Insignificant Trash ........................................................................ 123
India, Still the Real Enem y................................................................................... 127
The Whores are Still Dancing!.............................................................................. 129
Rape and War are Natural......................................................................................134
Conclusion................................................................................................................... 135
5. CONCLUSIONS....................................................................................................... 137
Further Applications....................................................................................................139
Darfur...................................................................................................................... 139
Future Resistance and Prevention.............................................................................. 143
Preventing Religious Terrorism............................................................................143
The Abeyance o f Genocide...........................................................................


The Cessation o f R ape........................................................................................... 152

BIBLIOGRAPHY................................................................................................................. 157


Growing up as a girl with two sisters, my mothers favorite advice was and still is
be careful. No matter where we were going or who we were with, be careful was
always her parting statement. I never heard any o f the other parents who had sons use
this line; it was always have fun or enjoy the party. I grew up wondering why my
sisters and I were always being told to be careful, and then one day I realized what
everyone seemed to already understand, my mother was afraid, afraid something would
happen to her girls. The word rape never crossed her lips, nor was it ever discussed
openly. I did not fully understand my mothers fear until I was sitting in an
acquaintances apartment one night, during my third semester o f college.
My boyfriend at the time and I were visiting a few o f his friends: a mixed group
of college guys, some Indian, some Pakistani, and some Bengali. We were drinking
coffee and having a typical idealistic college-kid conversation about how we all wanted
to save the world, and somehow we stumbled onto the topic o f war and which country
had the best army. All the men boasted that the army from each o f their respective native
countries could not be beat. Then someone mentioned how Pakistan lost a war in 1971,
and that India and Bangladesh had kicked Pakistans butt. My ex-Pakistani army
officer boyfriend retaliated by saying that Pakistan may have lost the war, but had won
Bangladeshs women. I innocently asked what he meant. He looked at me along with

the rest o f the guys in the room as if I were an idiot and bluntly stated, You have no idea
what men are capable o f doing to women; you are so naive.
At that very moment everything seemed to make sense, and I also became acutely
aware that I was the only woman in the apartment. My boyfriend quickly changed the
subject and we all moved on to a lighter topic, but what I realized was why my mother
kept telling me all these years to be careful: it was because I had no idea what men
were capable o f doing to women, including me. Later that evening my boyfriend gave
me the Readers Digest version o f what happened during the 1971 war between Pakistan,
India, and Bangladesh. Below is a similar account with a few more details.
On December 7, 1970 free elections were held in East and West Pakistan. In
West Pakistan the front runner was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with the Pakistan Peoples Party
and in East Pakistan Sheikh Mujibar Rahman with the Awami League. Sheikh Mujibar
Rahman won the majority, but was not allowed to take power as West Pakistan believed
they had the legitimate right to rule based on the necessity o f a concurrent majority of
broader regional representation.1 With both parties claiming legitimacy, West Pakistan
ordered a military crackdown on March 25, 1971, starting a civil war and forcing the
Awami League to flee to India. West Pakistani soldiers already stationed in East
Pakistan were told to take control of the territory while additional troops from the West
Pakistani Army were on their way. This nine month civil conflict ended on December
16, 1971 with West Pakistans agreement to a cease fire. The approximate death toll o f
Bengalis was anywhere from 26,000, according to the Pakistani Government, to reports

1 Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose, War and Secession: Pakistan, India, and the
Creation o f Bangladesh (Los Angeles: University o f California Press, 1990), 2-5.

o f 3,000,000 by the Bangladeshi Government.2 In addition to the systematic murder of

civilians, the West Pakistani Army also engaged in widespread sexual violence. It is
estimated that anywhere from 200,000 to 400,0003 women were raped during the course
o f the civil conflict; however, this is completely denied by the Pakistani Government.4
The war resulted in the liberation o f East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh.
There is much more to this conflict than a dispute over an election. This case
study is one of few that exemplify an intra-religious conflict intertwined with widespread
sexual violence. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh were and are Muslim countries.
Therefore this case study reflects how the process o f othering women, regardless o f
likeness to self, occurs as a useful weapon and strategy in armed conflicts and genocide.
Furthermore, this project sheds light on how a deeply engrained heritage o f violence and
rape not only influenced actions during the war, but has come to define the gendered
attitudes and ideals of later generations. This conflict in South Asia also illustrates how
rape can be understood as genocidal within certain cultural contexts; an act o f violence
with the intention o f destroying a group. In addition, the South Asian conflict elucidates
the performative aspects o f mass rapemeaning that this form o f rape is religious
terrorism because it is performance violence, carried out in the public sphere intended to

2 The Government o f Pakistan, Hamoodur Rahman Commission Supplementary

Report: To the Commission's Official Inquiry into the 1971 India - Pakistan War
(Rockville Maryland: Arc Manor, 1974), 42.
3 Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (New York:
Fawcett Books, 1975), 80.
4 Pakistan, Hamoodur Rahman Commission, 43.

terrorize an entire community. It is also a symbolic act that empowers the perpetrator and
his group, serving to erase individual and collective feelings o f humiliation.
The case study and model that are discussed below understand religion as a major
contributing factor of a cultural system. Religion, as defined by Ninian Smart, is multi
dimensional and therefore cannot be identified by alluding to an elemental essence.
Smart contends that there are seven dimensions o f religion: doctrine, mythology, ethics,
ritual, social institutions, religious experience, and material.5 Not all o f these dimensions
o f religion are engaged in this project; for example, I am not concerned with individual
religious experience here. Jack David Eller sums up Emile Durkheims sociological
definition o f religion as: a unified system o f beliefs and practices relative to sacred
things, that is to say, things set aside and forbiddenbeliefs and practices which unite into
one single moral community.6 Staying in line with this sociological approach it is
understood here that religion contributes integration and cohesion. However, Durkheims
allusion to the sacred is where this analysis o f religion departs. This study focuses on
religion as a component o f a cultural system, and therefore Clifford Geertzs definition of
religion is a better fit for here. Geertz states:
Religion is a system o f symbols which acts to establish powerful,
pervasive, and long lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating
conceptions o f a general order o f existence and clothing these conceptions

5 Ninian Smart, The Phenomenon o f Religion (London: Macmillan, 1973).

6 Jack David Eller, Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence Across
Culture and History (New York: Prometheus Books, 2010), 48.

with such an aura of actuality that the moods and motivations seem
uniquely realistic.7
Religion establishes and perpetuates shared norms and values within a group. Taking
these multiple definitions into account, religion is an abstract moral guideline, a power
structure that dictates social interaction, bringing order and understanding to individuals,
and communities.
This study utilizes a cultural approach to religion, largely relying on the socio
cultural aspects and functions o f religion. Culture is the umbrella under which societies
are formed; it is comprised o f behaviors, beliefs, and objects common to members o f a
particular group. Culture is a total way o f life that provides social heritage and guidelines
for appropriate behavior.8 Religion could very well take the place o f culture when
considering this definition; however, it is understood here that religion and culture inform
one another, as well as operate as justifying structures for each other.
Defining violence is somewhat of a tricky task, albeit a necessary one. Scholars
have defined this concept in a myriad o f ways. Violence is understood by the general
public as harm enacted on an individual by another.9 Secondly, the term was expanded
by Johan Galtung to include structural violence. Violence, as defined by Galtung,
refers to social structures and institutions that prevent individuals from meeting their
basic needs. Both are relevant definitions, and both are used within this study. Violence

7 Clifford Geertz, Interpretations o f Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973).

8 Linda L. Lindsey, Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective, 15th ed. (Boston:
Prentice Hall, 2011), 482.
9 Eller, Cruel Creeds, 12.

is also used here as part of a progressive pattern that begins with aggression and has the
potential to end as genocide.10 Genocide is both violence and structural violence. When
combined with specific intent to destroy a group, it results in humanitys most
unacceptable atrocity, and is therefore prosecuted as a war crime. Acts o f aggression
and/or violence with the intention of destroying a group constitutes the crime of
Within the construct of genocide, this study focuses on violence against women.
Feminist scholar Catharine A. MacKinnon explains that violence against women is the
aggression and exploitation of women because they are women.


The type o f violence

explored here is sexual in nature. Rape has had many definitions and been theorized in
numerous ways, some o f which will be discussed below, but for the purposes o f clarity
rape is defined here as the imposition o f a sexually penetrating act on an unwilling
woman or girl.13
Here I am specifically interested in the intersection between religious violence
and rape within the construct of genocide. Religious violence refers to aspects o f religion
that are used to justify and legitimize violence. Under the umbrella o f religious violence,
religious terrorism is the specific type o f violence that has our attention. Mark

10 Ervin Staub, The Roots o f Evil: The Origins o f Genocide and Other Group
Violence (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 27.
11 Ben Kieman, Blood and Soil: A World History o f Genocide and Extermination
from Sparta to Darfur (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 17.
12 Catherine A. MacKinnon, Are Women Human? And Other International
Dialogues (Cambridge: The Belknap Pres o f Harvard University Press, 2006), 29.

Ann J. Cahill, Rethinking Rape (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), 11.

Juergensmeyer, sociologist and scholar o f Global and International Studies, defines

terrorism as performance violence. He states that violent acts of religious terrorism are
a performance: symbolic statements aimed at providing a sense o f empowerment to
desperate communities. 14
Rape, within specific cultures, can render female victims worthless in the eyes o f
the men in their communities. A raped woman can lose her marriageability and therefore
her ability to produce culturally legitimate children. Rape effectively impedes the
procreation o f the group. It is an imposed action intended to prevent births within a
group, which is the very definition o f genocide found in Article 11(d) o f the 1948 United
Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. That is to say, rape
is a religiously symbolic statement, justified by religion and culture, with the intention o f
destroying a group, while offering empowerment to perpetrators and their community.
Thus, rape is genocidal and an act of religious terrorism.
Considering Theory
Many disciplines have taken up the task of theorizing violence and its origins. A
review o f this scholarship takes place below and will help explain the overall arrival at
the framework I used for this project. Religious studies scholar, Hector Avalos, offers a
useful summary o f the state of theory concerning violence. Avalos begins with Luigi
Valzelli who takes a Darwinist approach when explaining the origins o f violence. In
Valzellis psycho-biological view, aggression was developed over time in order to ensure

14 Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind o f God: The Global Rise o f Religious
Violence, 3rd ed. (Los Angeles: University o f California Press, 2003), xi.

the survival o f the species.15 Human aggression and violence contradicts this theory
precisely because it does not act to preserve the human species, it serves to annihilate it.
Religious terrorism is human on human violence, which directly contradicts the primal
impulse for survival that evolutionary theories o f violence use to explain human
aggression. Evolutionary perspectives on the origins o f violence reduce aggressive
human behavior to genetic impulses for survival. This assertion is negated by the
phenomenon of suicidal bombing and the absence of self-interest in such acts.16
Therefore psycho-biological theories o f violence are not applicable to this project and do
not offer a valid framework for understanding religious terrorism.
Psychological theories of violence are useful on an individual and group level
when discussing violence. Sigmund Freud believed that the death instinct, the thanatos,
is an inner drive toward self-destruction. This death instinct accumulated and grew over
time in the body, like a toxic drug. Avalos interprets Freuds concept o f the death
instinct, explaining that eventually its accumulation had to be purged, which resulted in
self-destructive acts. However, this cleansing process, in some instances, finds an outside
target, taking the form o f violence or aggression.17
The basic psychological theory engaged in my study was postulated by John
Dollard. Dollard understood aggression as a repercussion o f frustration.18 Frustration

15 Hector Avalos, Fighting Words: The Origins o f Religious Violence (New York:
Prometheus Books, 2005), 56.
16 Ibid., 57-58.
17 Ibid., 59.
18 Ibid.

refers to the obtaining of goals. If the path to goal obtainment is blocked or disrupted,
frustration occurs, causing aggression. Leonard Berkowitz adds to this theory by stating
that perceived obstacles are just as likely to create frustration as actual obstacles.19
Berkowitzs updated theory is the basis for Ervin Staubs social goal theory model that
seeks to explain genocide, in part, as a repercussion o f frustration. Staubs model is an
elemental component of the framework for my study. These psychological theories fall
short in that they do not take into account religion and therefore must be combined with
other theories that directly engage religion in order to create a comprehensive theory of
religious violence.
Sociological theories o f violence are useful to us because they address group
behaviors and can therefore be applied to institutions and governments. Richard B.

Felson and James Tedeschi believe that violence can be approached through social
interactionism. Social interactionism understands aggression to be a tool in achieving
goals and values. Violence is an instrument wielded to obtain resources. In this way it is
similar to Berkowitzs psychological approach that sees violence as a reaction to goal
obstruction. However, it differs in that it stresses the influence of social norms and a
sense o f justice as motivating factors within situations and contexts that move individuals
and groups towards violent behaviors in pursuit o f their goals.20 Felson and Tedeschi do
not specifically address religion in their works. An expansion o f this theory is utilized in
this study with the understanding that social norms and social justice are in large part
dictated by religion.
19 Ibid., 59.
20 Ibid., 60-61.

Anthropological approaches to violence vary widely. Biological anthropology

offers explanations that reduce the instance of violence to physiology, such as Marvin
Harriss who suggested that a protein and meat deficiency was the cause o f Aztec


Roy A. Rappaport proposed that war functioned as population control.


Robert Ardrey believed that the main cause for aggression is the human need to defend
boundaries, territoriality. Territoriality is an important aspect of this study, since the
defense of sacred space is profoundly apparent in religious violence.23
Religious Violence
The theories discussed below focus on explaining the relationship between
religion and violence. Rene Girards theory postulates that the practice o f sacrifice is an
attempt at curbing violence. The threat o f reciprocal internal violence forces a society to
enact that violence on a chosen victim, therefore protecting the society as a whole.24
Communal sacrifice avoids the danger o f murderous reprisals acted out by individuals
that plunge society into chaos. In short, religion seeks to quell violence by using
violence. Girard believes that the root cause o f this need for violence is desire, not
necessarily o f an internal autonomous desire for an object, but desire bom from
mimicking the desire o f another. This process o f imitating, called mimesis, joins with

21 Ibid., 63.
22 Ibid.
23 Ibid.
24 Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: The
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972).

desire to form what Girard terms mimetic desire.


This leads directly to conflict over

whatever is desired. Sacrifice is a preventative tool in avoiding this conflict, as it allows

individuals to act out violent urges without consequence or guilt.

9 f\

Everyone participates

in sacrificing a chosen victim; therefore no one is guilty o f murder.

Girard also discusses victim choice, including the key concepts o f scapegoating27
and the monstrous double,28 the latter of which is applied to the case study o f this thesis.
Many components o f Girards theory are applicable and will be utilized in this study.
However, his overall theory, that sacrifice is a response to an internal need, is
presupposed by a set o f religious beliefs that create the need for sacrifice, and therefore
sacrifice is a secondary reaction, and not the origin o f violence.


According to Avalos,

Girard states that the origin o f violence lies in desire; a desire that religion seeks to cure.
However, Girard ignores that religion creates desire, and therefore feeds the need for
violence while simultaneously trying to curb it.
Jack David Eller brings to our attention the important component o f ethnicity in
religious violence. Ethnicity, as he states, is a process of group identity creation.
Groups create defining boundaries founded on perceived difference, versus kinship
groups that are based on objective blood relationships. Ethnicity is an imagined identity
25 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 146.
9 f\

Avalos, Fighting Words, 76.


Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 77.

28 Ibid., 162.
29 Avalos, Fighting Words, 77.
30 Eller, Cruel Creeds, 210.

rooted in symbolic aspects of culture.


Culture and religion act on one another, both

helping to create ethnicity. Eller contends that in any ethnic conflict the opposing sides
will share some cultural characteristics, and therefore each groups distinct identity is not
completely based on absolute objective differences.


The concept of perceived

difference is especially apropos considering the case study concerns two different regions
o f the same country that share in a common culture and religion, so much so that Rene
Girards concept o f the monstrous double, which I will refer to as twinness, is largely
Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark attribute the source o f religious violence to
religious particularism .33 Religious particularism is the belief that there is only one true
faith, there are no truths, only one Truth. Religious particularism naturally leads to
religious hostility, and thus violence. Religious particularism is not an autonomous cause
o f religious violence; however I will show that it is a contributing factor.
Regina M. Schwartz takes religious particularism a step further by focusing on the
identity that religious particularism helps to create. Schwartz feels that the origins of
violence lie in the act of creating identity, in the processes that distinguish one group
from another thus causing separation and boundaries, which leads to insiders and
outsiders.34 Schwartz ties this to competition over resources, the resource being identity.
In this way Schwartz concludes that the source of violence is due to the scarce resource
31 Ibid., 209.
32 Ibid., 210-211.
33 Avalos, Fighting Words, 78.
34 Ibid., 82.

of identity. Hector Avalos adopts this approach, but instead o f focusing on the
commodity o f identity, he specifically looks at how religion, not just monotheism, creates
scarce resources.

'J C

Avalos defines religion as a mode o f life and thought that

presupposes the existence o f unverifiable forces and/or beings, explaining that religion of
any kind creates scarce resources, thus creating violence.36 The verifiability of religious
components does not concern us in this project, as it is human perception that governs the
presence or scarcity of a resource, and thus the result of violent conflict. Scarce resource
theory is engaged as part o f the model for this study, and is applied to economic, social,
and religious resources, as well as gender.
The two fields o f psychoanalysis and international relations are merged in Jessica
Stems theory o f religious violence that focuses particularly on terrorism, concluding that
religious violence is caused by territoriality and humiliation.


She engages scarce

resource theory when discussing competition for territory, and her assertion that engages
humiliation as an important motivator for religious violence is the main component of
Mark Juergensmeyers ideas about religious terrorism.
Mark Juergensmeyer takes pains to distinguish between religious and secular
violence. His cultural approach to religious violence understands terrorism as a
performance intended for a global audience that empowers the perpetrators and their
communities. This need for empowerment stems from a deep historical legacy o f
humiliation that is harbored and then passed on to future generations, ensuring the

35 Ibid., 83.
36 Ibid., 19.
37 Ibid., 84.

persistent existence o f religious terrorism. It is Juergensmeyers cultural framework that

is wholly engaged in this study; however, here a different lens is applied. With the
intention o f magnifying gendered religious violence, I categorize rape as religious
terrorism, a violence rooted in humiliation and the male need for empowerment.
Gendered Religious Violence
Religion has been used as a tool to justify a variety o f forms of violence towards
women and is still used as such. As Christine E. Gudorf points out, Patriarchy preceded
the origins o f even the oldest o f the contemporary world religions, so that contemporary
religions came into being in cultures already imbued with patriarchy, a patriarchy that
had often been legitimated by prior religious traditions now extinct.

Gudorf has laid

out the six most common forms o f violence against women that have been legitimated by
world religions: (1) Marital rape and/or enforced pregnancy, (2) wife beating, (3)
limitations on, or exclusion from, property ownership, (4) sexual harassment and/or the
restriction o f women to domestic space, (5) religious exclusion from both positions of
leadership and access to religious knowledge, and (6) spiritual inferiority.

"5 Q

It is the first

category that concerns us, and I expand this category below to include rape o f all
varieties, not just marital rape, however all o f these categories above share the common
religious goal of devaluing women to a sub-human level.
Academic analyses o f rape were scarce before the 1970s. This changed when
Susan Brownmiller wrote Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape in 1975. She gave
38 Christine E. Gudorf, "Violence Against Women in World Religions," in
Violence Against Women in Contemporary World Religions: Roots and Cures, ed. Daniel
C. Maguire and Sadiyya Shaikh (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2007), 12-13.
39 Gudorf, Violence Against Women, 10-12.

rape a new voice and the world a new understanding of a crime that was seen mostly as a
sexual act. Brownmiller confronted the world with the idea that rape was in fact, not
sexual at all, but an act of power in which the perpetrator seeks to dominate his victim.
The violence in rape may seem obvious to us now, but only because o f Brownmillers
work. She defines rape as a deliberate, hostile, violent act o f degradation and possession
on the part o f a would-be conqueror, designed to intimidate and inspire fear.40 Her
theory sent shockwaves across academia as well as the legal system, resulting in rape
being classified as a violent assault. According to Ann J. Cahill, a professor of
philosophy specializing in feminist theory, Brownmiller sees rape as inherently political,
and as having two primary functions. The first function is to ensure female dependency
on male protection, thus legitimizing the necessity o f marriage.41 The second political
function is that it keeps women as a type of currency, an owned commodity, meaning that
female sexuality has value, and therefore in the context of violent conflicts between men,
her rape is tantamount to theft, a violation o f male ownership.42 These political functions
help to legitimize the enduring systems o f patriarchy around the globe.
Brownmiller took the sex out o f rape, rendering the victims attractiveness,
including her behavior and dress, irrelevant to the issue of culpability in her own rape. If
sexual attraction and women flaunting short mini-skirts and low-cut tops are the
motivating factors for rape, then rape victims would not range in age from one to ninety.
Brownmiller made it apparent that rape is not the victims fault, placing the responsibility
40 Brownmiller, Against Our Will, 391.
41 Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 17.
42 Ibid., 18.

where it belongs, with the rapist. However by treating rape as purely violent and not
sexual, the special nature of the crime is denied, and likened to taking a few punches.
Cahill points out that the sexual nature of rape is important, stating that it matters
that sexuality is the medium o f the power and violence that are imposed on the victim.43
Catharine MacKinnon expands on Brownmillers school o f thought by theorizing rape as
an extension o f heterosexual intercourse, due to the inferior status o f women in society.44
However, instead o f capitalizing the sexual component of rape, MacKinnon concludes
that heterosexual intercourse is about power in general and is consequently violent.45
Thus, according to Cahill, both Brownmiller and Mackinnon follow a strict distinction
between sex and violence, concluding that if rape is about power then it is not sexual.
This dichotomous relationship between violence and sex is supported by the
understanding that violence is strictly political, which then essentializes sex as natural.46
Sexuality is assumed to be a biological matter. The nature/culture dichotomy leaves no
room for the possibility o f female sexual agency; the female body is inherently rapable
and the male body is inherently capable of rape.47 The dichotomous relationships
postulated by conceptualizing rape solely as violence fail to take into account the sexual
hierarchization, which results from the interplay o f social and political power.

43 Ibid., 27.
44 Ibid., 3.
45 MacKinnon, Are Women Human?.
46 Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 4.
47 Ibid., 5.

Susan Griffin does just that by suggesting that rape be understood as a culturally
taught behavior.48 This cultural approach allows this act to be perceived in its uniqueness
as both violent and sexual. As Cahill poignantly states: A rapist not only succeeds in
physically harming a woman, in degrading and humiliating her, he also derives sexual
satisfaction. Rape provides what the simple pleasures o f the flesh cannot; but in turn, it
also provides what a simple act o f violence cannot.49 With this cultural understanding
o f rape it is apparent that its social acceptance is rooted in familiar gender stereotypes.
Religion is a critical element in the construction o f these stereotypes and social norms,
thus determining acceptable forms o f gender and sexuality, while marginalizing others.
Brownmiller brought to the forefront the importance o f the violent aspects of
rape. However, I agree with Cahill that Brownmiller and MacKinnons notion that rape
understood as purely violent act without any sexual component, ignores the sexual
hierarchy o f male dominance as a motivator for rape.50 Gender, sexuality, and patriarchy
are all important dimensions that need to be considered when discussing rape. Both the
violent and sexual aspects o f rape will be engaged in this study.
Main Theoretical Framework
All o f the scholars discussed above have influenced their fields of study in
astonishing ways. Their work has informed my work, and now I wish to weave together
the many separate threads that these scholars have spun. By re-focusing and interlocking
these theories, it is the aim o f this study to extend the term religious terrorism to the
48 Ibid., 28.
49 Ibid., 29.
50 Ibid., 32.

phenomenon of rape. By engaging Ervin Staubs model for genocide, Mark

Juergensmeyers cultural theory for religious terrorism, and with a special emphasis on
gender, I argue here that rape can be understood as a form o f religious terrorism. The
theories engaged in my model are incomplete when applied separately and are inadequate
when framing religious motivations for mass rape. By synthesizing the above referenced
theories, I rectify their inadequacies concerning sexual violence.
Ervin Staubs social goal theory o f genocide and his psycho-social model, brings
with it an understanding o f a continuum o f destruction resulting in genocide, that is to
say that genocide is not something that just occurs out o f the blue. There are
recognizable steps that lead to genocide. By identifying these markers I hope to
illuminate the process by which genocide becomes a conceivable option. Staubs model
takes into account social, cultural, and psychological factors as well as historical events
that contribute to a groups potential for genocide. However, he does not specifically
focus on religions determining power or its role as a commodity, nor does he directly
address violence towards women. Staub also maintains that complicit bystanders are an
important component in the success o f genocide. Mary Brabeck, professor o f applied
psychology, points out that passivity amongst bystanders is the norm in most societies,
and yet many o f these societies do not engage in genocide.51 While Brabecks assertion
about the scarcity of genocide within the global context may well be true, it is not true o f
rape, and therefore this slight deficiency in Staubs model is remedied with my special
attention to sexual violence that is globally prevalent. By supplementing Staubs model

51 Mary Brabeck, Review o f The Roots o f Evil, by Ervin Staub, Journal o f

Moral Education 20, no.2 (May 1991): 218.

with scarce resource theory, I will show that religious legitimacy is an important
resource for which groups are willing to kill. I will also expand Staubs model by adding
another layer to his cultural and social understanding o f the formation o f ingroups and
outgroups by emphasizing gender. The socio-cultural processes that create ingroups and
outgroups, resulting in aggression and possible genocide towards the outgroup, can be
applied to gender. The result is that women and girls are the targeted outgroup, making
their burden during war and genocide twofold in that they not only suffer at the hands o f
the external enemy, but are also targets for their own men. This concept offers insight
into the phenomenon o f rape during peacetime and victim choice; because in the end to
men women and girls are never one o f us they are always the other.
The expanded model for genocide described above will be understood in
conjunction with Mark Juergensmeyers theory o f religious terrorism. Juergensmeyer
understands religious terrorism to be performance violence', violence motivated by an
overarching concept that he calls cosmic war. By framing religious violence with the
concept of cosmic war, Juergensmeyer shows us that there is no such thing as
peacetime for the terrorist. Performance violence (i.e. terrorism) is not motivated by
the quest for real-time victory, it is violence aimed at obtaining empowerment for the
perpetrator and his community. Juergensmeyer focuses his theory on modem acts of
terrorism that include bombings, assassinations, suicide missions, and chemical acts of
terrorism, directly engaging the religious motivations o f individuals and groups. He also
employs gender as a lens by alluding to a masculinity that is created by a warrior culture
perpetuated by cosmic war. While this is very useful in understanding that humiliation
and emasculation are factors that motivate perpetrators to choose to participate in

terrorism, Juergensmeyer does not specify his scope o f violence to include sexual
violence and/or violence against women and girls. Furthermore, Julius H. Rubin, finds
Juergensmeyers analysis o f terrorist masculinity to be superficial and unconvincing as a

motivator to engage in violence.

The deficit in Juergenmeyers gender analysis is

addressed in this study with supplemental theoretical concepts that are inclusive and more
sensitive to gender. Therefore, Juergensmeyers contention that religious terrorism is a
special type o f violence, motivated and executed with different goals and intentions when
compared to other acts o f violence; becomes applicable to my gender sensitive contention
that conceptualizes rape. By applying Juergensmeyers definition o f religious terrorism as
performance violence to rape within the construct of cosmic war it becomes clear that
rape is also a special type o f violence.
By synthesizing my model o f genocide with Juergensmeyers religious terrorism
theory and a refocus on rape, I will demonstrate that the mass rapes during the 1971 war
between India and Pakistan were genocidal. While this incident o f genocide is used to
demonstrate the synthesized model, it is also my desire to shed light on its usefulness in
identifying and potentially preventing future genocides and gendercides. Acts o f violence
that the general public and its agents perceive as wrong and unprovoked are labeled
terrorism; however, war makes murder heroic, which in turn makes other forms of

violence permissible. Rape thus becomes an inevitable by-product o f war.


mentality that rape is no big deal has been academically justified by the argument that
52 Julius H. Rubin, Terror in the Mind o f God: The Global Rise o f Religious
Violence, International Journal fo r the Psychology o f Religion 12, no. 4 (October
2002): 291-292.

Brownmiller, Against Our Will, 32.


it is a biological phenomenon and a structural issue concerning sexed bodies, an idea that
continues to persist.54 The goal in re-classifying rape as religious terrorism is to imprint
the wrongness and unprovoked perception of terrorism to rape, in hopes o f altering
the general publics mentality that rape is permissible. Just as acts o f terror from the
perspective of the perpetrator are religiously and morally justified, rape can also be seen
as religiously condoned. Religion supplies the ideology, motivation, and organizational
structure for terrorism, and I argue here also that religion provides these very same things
for rape.55 This study, in part, attempts to eradicate the acceptability o f rape in the shared
social conscience o f humanity.
For this study I used several qualitative research methods. I surveyed the relevant
secondary sources that contain information about the war, and conducted interviews to
obtain primary data. I interviewed twenty Pakistani Muslim men; ten from between the
ages o f eighteen to forty-five, and ten from between the ages o f sixty-one to ninety-five.
All o f the men from the older group were bom in Pakistan, from a variety o f regions, and
now all live outside o f Pakistan.56 Some served in the military during the time o f the
1971 war, others were civilians. Of the younger group of men, several were bom in

54 Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 21.

55 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind o f God, 5.
56 Due to the sensitivity o f the issues discussed during the course o f the interviews,
I have chosen not to give any identifying information, such as city and state o f residence.
All names of interviewees have been changed. No consent forms were signed, as these
forms breach the level o f confidentiality necessary to protect the identity o f the
respondents participating in my research. The interviewees responses were
grammatically corrected to ensure their clear conveyance.

America, some were bom in Pakistan. A number of the younger group o f men also
served in the Pakistani military before coming to America. Students on university
campuses throughout California provided this study with a rich resource in finding
interviewees. All interviews were conducted in English. No translator was necessary as
all interviewees speak English. Respondents were asked open-ended questions from a
semi-structured interview schedule that I constructed that is as follows:
1. What do you remember about that time period in general?
2. Do you remember witnessing any violence, or hearing about stories that
involved violence?
3. When you were a soldier did you hear of any violence towards women or
know anyone who was violent towards women? How did they justify their use o f
4. Why do you think this violence occurred?
5. What is/was your perception of East Pakistanis/Bengalis?
6. Do you know o f any stories about relatives participation in any violence
during that time period?
7. How was the war explained to you?
8. Do you have any lingering animosities because o f the war?
9. How has the war influenced and/or shaped you?
The goal of these interviews was to shed light on the overall mindset o f these Pakistanis
regarding the violence during the war. Of particular interest were the soldiers who
participated in violence during the war, and who were witnesses to the violence. I also
wanted to examine later generations o f men who were influenced by these soldiers and

witnesses. I pay special attention to the collective memories that survived about the war
and how they have influenced the newer generations o f Pakistanis that I interviewed. I
have constructed the case study by creating a historical summary which includes the
voices of the interviewees. Staub and Juergensmeyer both conduct interviews in order to
demonstrate their theories with case studies. I follow their lead by engaging these
interviewees in my active process of historical reconstruction. This offers a glimpse into
the larger mindset o f Pakistanis and their perceptions concerning war, women, and rape.
The findings gathered from primary data sources that are discussed later, demonstrate
how shared cultural memories ensure the intergenerational and transnational legacy o f
sexual violence.
Chapter Overviews
This first chapter briefly reviewed some theories relevant to the previous and
contemporary discourse concerning violence, religious violence, and gendered religious
violence. I also identified the shortcomings in these theories when applied to sexual
violence. Staub largely ignores religion as a specific motivator for genocide;
Juergenmeyer does not fully address violent modes that target women, nor does he
address issues o f genocidal intent; neither theorist takes into account rape, and its
uniqueness as a crime able to forcefully bring together the horrors o f genocide, religious
terrorism, and sex. This theoretical framework will be further explored in the following
Chapter 2 offers a detailed history of the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War. This
includes the events leading up to the war, during the war, and the repercussions
immediately following Bangladeshs independence. In addition to these historical

happenings, I review history o f the pre-1971 period in order fully understand the context
in which the 1971 atrocities occurred, such as the effect colonization had on the entire
region of South Asia, as well as other cultural conditions and their historical origins that
have divided and united the region.
Chapter 3 is devoted to laying out my theoretical model that encompasses psycho
social aspects of genocide57 coupled with the cultural conception o f terrorism as
performance violence.58 I then color these merged concepts by looking through a
gendered lens, focusing specifically on sexual violence, mainly rape. Here I intend to
demonstrate my new understanding that rape is religious terrorism and genocide. This
new model is then put to the test using the case study of the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation
War. When applying the model to this historical summary reconstructed from primary
and secondary sources that create the case study, the results will show that rape is
terrorism and genocide.
Chapter 4 explores the possible inter-generational legacy o f sexual violence and
hatred that stems from the atrocities committed during the war. By conducting interviews
with members o f the Pakistani diaspora, including participating soldiers and the
generations that followed them, the scars o f this war will be exposed. The potential for
this type o f violence in the future may then become recognizable, and thus, perhaps
I conclude in chapter 5, and discuss other possible applications o f the model and
its potential for foretelling conflicts and types o f violence. Here I address solut ions and
57 Staub, The Roots o f Evil.

Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind o f God.


avenues to avert violence, as well as offer final thoughts about the classification o f rape
as terrorism and the possible implications o f such a classification. While chapter 5 deals
with the future, we must first delve into the past, and so now we move on to a detailed
history of the events encompassing the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War.


In this chapter I review several periods o f history concerning the Indian
subcontinent. This is not an exhaustive historical chronicle or analysis; but rather a
review which provides background and context for the main historical event of this
project, the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War. This brief historical review will help
explain the religious and ethnic divides that played a part in the atrocities committed
during the war. It is my contention that the sexual violence that occurred during the 1971
war was partly justified in the minds o f the perpetrators by their understanding that East
Pakistans Islamic identity was not pure, but rather tainted with Hinduism. This
perception was part of the dehumanization process o f Bengalis that stripped away any
equalizing qualities between East and West Pakistan. Therefore the instinct to protect
fellow Muslims, specifically Muslim women, was canceled out and replaced with the
instinct to exploit. These women were not considered real Muslims by their fellow
countrymen; they were seen as Hindu transplants masquerading as Muslims. To
comprehend how these perceptions act as justifications for the mass rapes it is necessary
to understand the negative views that Islamic Pakistani ideologies harbor for Hindu
Indians. These feelings are mutual, accounting for Indias motivations and actions during
the 1971 civil conflict.
This history begins with a brief overview o f Islams appearance on the Indian
subcontinent. It mentions relevant religious developments and the downfall o f Islamic

rule. I then turn to the breakdown o f British imperialism and its policies, which leads to
the section about the Great Partition. After offering an understanding o f the violence that
took place during Partition, I focus on the independent Islamic Republic o f East and West
Pakistan. In this section a more detailed history is necessary as these are the actions that
directly preceded and led to the secession o f East Pakistan. After this period is
chronicled I expound on the 1971 War and its result, the creation o f Bangladesh.
Islam Conquers India
South Asia has for centuries been a region rife with conflict. The first Arab
invasions on the subcontinent date back to the year 711 when Islamic rule was
established in Sind.1 The Ghaznavids, a post-Abbasid Muslim military regime from
Afghanistan, invaded an already cultivated civilization with agriculture, urbanization, and
political regimes. The Indian subcontinent was defined by the Hindu caste system, which
organized society as well as politics into strict hierarchies. Muslim conquerors inserted
themselves above this caste system by implementing pre-Islamic Persian concepts o f
kingship. This concept o f kingship emphasized this form o f authority that was
demonstrated through lavish public works. This in turn prompted the exaltation o f rulers
on the part o f the general population. Muslim rulers stressed loyalty, service, honor, and
patron-client relations. These attributes were in line with Hindu political ideals, and so
the Muslim regimes held a degree of appeal for Hindu lords. The conquering o f the
Indian subcontinent was different from other Islamic conquests like those o f the Safavid

1 Ira M. Lapidus, A History o f Islamic Societies, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2002), 356.
2 Ibid., 360.

or Ottoman empires. The Middle East and Indonesia were almost completely converted
by their Muslim invaders. This was not the case in India where the indigenous

population remained substantially non-Muslim. Historian Ira M. Lapidus explains, In

India.. .a pluralistic religious society escaped bureaucratization and state control. The
special cultural qualities o f Indian-Islamic civilization, and the autonomy and plurality o f
religious tendencies, made it a distinctive variant of the universal Islamic pattern.4
However, nearly three hundred years after the first Muslims came to South Asia,
Mahmud of Ghazni and his soldiers ventured out o f Sind and into Punjab in a series of
raids that began in 997. They smashed Hindu temples and looted Indias cities, carrying
back jewels, indigenous wildlife, and women through the Afghan passes.5 There are
other instances o f violence between Muslims and Hindus; however, the two communities
were synthesized to a certain degree through centuries o f interaction.
From the Delhi Sultanates (1206-1526), to the Mughal Empire (1526-1707) there
have been periods o f Islamic aggression. However, Islamic rulers absorbed the Hindu
elite by allowing them to retain their beliefs. In return the Hindu elite pledged their
loyalty to their Islamic rulers. This made for a powerful and strong pluralistic political
structure.6 The import o f Muslim scholars, poets, scribes, and Sufis blurred the
boundaries of Islam and Hinduism at the popular level. Sufi teachings were enticing to

3 Ibid., 364.
4 Ibid., 356.
5 Stanley Wolpert, A New History o f India, 6th ed. (New York: Oxford University
Press, 2000), 106-107.
6 Lapidus, A History o f Islamic Societies, 360.

non-Muslims and not at odds with Hindu metaphysical concepts of the universe. Popular
religious culture was flexible, allowing participation in rituals and practices without
change of religious identity.7
The multiple Delhi Sultanates were finally consolidated by the Mughal Empire
under the rule of Akbar, a philosopher-king, who believed in the synthesis between
Hinduism and Islam, and was himself the Sufi-Master of a new state religion called Din iO

llahi devoted to reconciling the two faiths. Not all Muslims and Hindus believed in this
syncretism. Muslims o f lower status felt that Islam should cut through the present caste
system, linking men through religion instead o f political station or inherited lineage.9
They wanted the state enforcement o f Islamic law (sharia), and state subordination of
Hindus to Muslims through government ordered restrictions and discriminatory taxes.10
Akbar did not acquiesce to these demands, but when Aurangzeb became ruler he
opted for state policies that enforced Islamic supremacy. Aurangzeb even sought to
expand the already vast Mughal Empire to the Deccan. His regime absorbed East Bengal
as well as the Northwest Frontier.11 Aurangzebs policies are summarized here by
In 1659 he forbade drinking, gambling, prostitution, the use o f narcotics,
and other vices. In 1664 he forbade sati, the Hindu sacrifice of widows,
7 Ibid., 360-363.
8 Ibid., 372.
9 Ibid., 377.
10 Ibid.
11 Ibid., 379.

and abolished taxes that were not legal under Muslim law. In 1668 he
banned music at court, imposed the poll tax on non-Muslims, ordered the
destruction o f Hindu temples, and sponsored the codification o f Islamic
laws. The religious climate o f his reign reversed the tendency toward
syncretism in favor of exclusivist Muslim policies.


These reforms provoked and alienated some Hindus, and were not stringent enough to
satisfy some Muslims. The Empire became decentralized with local rulers using their tax
collecting powers as leverage.
Aurangzebs death left the subcontinent with no strong central regime, allowing
for independent lords in different regions to take power. The Mughal Empire was
breaking down internally. Externally, Iran invaded in 1739, taking Kabul and Delhi.


The Sikhs expanded in Punjab from 1750 to 1799 claiming Lahore as their capital. This
chaos opened the door for the British who had been doing business on the subcontinent
since 1600.14 Through a series o f eighteenth century wars, the British beat out the French
for control o f the subcontinent. Then in 1757, and again in 1764, the British defeated the
Nawwab o f Bengal, establishing themselves as the de facto rulers o f Bengal.15 Governor
Warren Hastings in 1772 consolidated privately owned British factories in Madras and
Bombay creating a unified British regime on the subcontinent.16

12 Ibid., 379.
13 Ibid., 380.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.

British Imperialism in South Asia

Governor Hastings was replaced by General Lord Cornwallis in 1786.


Cornwallis was both the governor-general o f Bengal and the armys commander-in
chief.18 He firmly believed that the British were the best qualified to rule all peoples. He
went to South Asia holding fast to this idea. Cornwallis Permanent Zamindari
Settlement o f 1793 enforced private ownership o f land instead of traditional Indian rural
interdependence. This settlement made Zamindars (tax collectors) actual landowners
with the power to do whatever they wished on their land as long as they gave the British a
percentage.19 The Zamindars mostly comprised the old Mughal aristocracy. The
immediate years following the settlement brought a poor return due to floods and bad
crops. This forced the Zamindars to sell their land deeds to Hindu bankers and
moneylenders, thus reversing a religious hierarchy that had been in place for a thousand
years. Muslims were no longer part o f the ruling elite.


This led to resentment among

disenfranchised Muslims, which culminated in a strong disgust for their new Hindu
On June 3, 1947, South Asia was informed by British, Hindu and Muslim political
leaders, that the subcontinent would be dismantled. The British Indian Empire was to be
partitioned. This announcement came via radio, newspaper, and later by government
17 Ibid., 381.
18 Wolpert, A New History o f India, 195.
19 Ibid., 197.
20 Ibid.

pamphlets.21 An independent South Asia resulted in a two-state solution. This solution

created India and Pakistan, while dividing the highly controversial provinces of Bengal
and Punjab between the two nations. The self-determination o f each region was the
process that decided each provinces membership in either India or Pakistan according to
majority religious populations. This led to mass exodus: over twelve million people
relocated. Muslims crossed the new international border into Pakistan leaving the newly
independent India behind, while Hindus made their way in the opposite direction.
The violence that occurred during Partition is legendary. Somewhere between
500,000 to one million people were killed, and twenty million Hindus, Muslims, and
Sikhs became refugees.22 Rape was widespread and as Yasmin Khan puts it, Rape was
used as a weapon, as a sport and as a punishment. It sparked the deepest feelings of
revenge, dishonor, and shame.


Rape was commonly accompanied by disfigurement.

The fear of unwanted pregnancy became a reality with women trying to induce
miscarriages and seeking out illegal abortions.24
Many women remained silent concerning their rape, because o f the fear that
suicide might be forced upon them by male family members grasping to maintain their
honor. As Khan appropriately states, The women themselves now became mere shell
like repositories o f the new national identities when attacks on themor threat o f attacks21 Yasmin Khan, The Great Partition: The Making o f India and Pakistan (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 1.

Sumantra Bose, "Decolonization and State Building in South Asia," Journal o f

International Affairs, no. 58, no.l (Fall 2004): 96.
23 Khan, The Great Partition, 133.
24 Ibid., 134.

-were used to prise families from their homes, to punish, mark out and terrify.



women decided to blend into the society o f their rapists, rather than go back to their
families and face the shame. Others were never afforded the opportunity o f escape and
therefore remained permanent hostages. These women are generally referred to as the
abducted women.26 Men across the subcontinent, whether Hindu or Muslim, whether
new residents o f India or Pakistan, both shared similar attitudes o f misogyny and
patriarchy, making womens transitions on both sides difficult.


Rape was no longer an

individual tragedy; it became an unspoken national scar and foundation o f hatred for both
Pakistan and India.
An Independent Islamic Republic
The violent legacy established by Partition remains ever-present in the minds of
Pakistanis, Indians, and Bengalis. The use o f rape as punishment and as a way o f
maintaining identity is a tactic that would make its resurgence in 1971. Violence became
a common recourse for Pakistan when dealing with matters that concerned India. The
pre-Partition heritage that founded the independence o f British India was characterized
by two parties, the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress. These two parties
were established on the idea that Hindu and Muslim communities, within British India,
constituted two different nations with different cultural, social, and religious beliefs.
Subsequently Hindus and Muslims could not live together under a united political
regime. This ideal and the consequent rhetoric that founded India and Pakistan have

25 Ibid., 133.
26 Ibid., 135.
27 Ibid.

survived through the decades, remaining a constant theme for new generations o f both
Indians and Pakistanis.


Pakistans Muslim League firmly rejected secularism. However, it was fervently

adopted by the Indian National Congress. Pakistan strictly adhered to the ideal o f a
Muslim nation, denying membership to any non-Muslims. In West Pakistan this was a
non-issue because after Partition very few non-Muslims remained. This was not the case
in East Pakistan where twenty percent o f its inhabitants were non-Muslim, mostly Hindu.
This fact caused sectarianism to rear its ugly head whenever unrest occurred. West
Pakistan contended that it was the influence o f India, and of the Hindus in East Pakistan,
who they believed were stirring up trouble and trying to sabotage the Islamic regime.
This view o f East Pakistan as a Hindu infiltrated and poisoned territory prevailed in the
thinking o f West Pakistanis. This contributed to the 1971 war and the creation o f
The perceived threat o f Indian hostility became a reality immediately following
Partition in October 1947 when the first Indo-Pak War took place.

This conflict is also

known as the First Kashmir War. The skirmish was caused out o f fear that the
Maharajah Kashmir and Jammu might decide to join newly independent India instead of
Pakistan.31 Pakistani tribal forces attacked and occupied the state, which resulted in the
Maharajah acceding to India. The United Nations resolved this conflict with Resolution
28 Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 35.
29 Ibid., 37.
30 Ibid., 39.
31 Ibid., 37.

47 on April 21, 1948, which split Kashmir in two. Pakistan would control the north and
west territories, while India lorded over the central, east, and south.


This was not a

victory, but definitely not a loss either. It is collectively remembered as a win by

Pakistanis. Pakistan believed that with this war their military superiority was established.
In their eyes, violence solved national problems and resulted in beneficial outcomes. The
belief that violence works was thus implanted in national memory.
In addition to this, Pakistan concretized its independence in response to Indias
assertion that Partition was temporary; a British ploy to enact a divide and rule
policy.33 Early Indian leaders believed that the subcontinent would eventually be united
under one regime, absorbing East and West Pakistan to form one Mother India. While
this belief may have dominated the Indian elite then, it did not endure the test o f time.
However, the damage was already carried out by the early regimes o f both nations,
resulting in Pakistans unwavering perception that India has and will always try to
destroy their sovereign Islamic state.34
The Second Kashmir War was initiated by Pakistan in September 1965. Pakistan
sent forces into Kashmir to create an insurgency against India. India responded by
attacking Pakistan with full military force. The war lasted for five weeks, resulting in
numerous deaths on both sides. No clear victor emerged after the dust cleared. It was the
U.S.S.R. this time that helped negotiate the terms o f peace in February 1966. The
Tashkent Declaration reinstated the previous international borders and the 1949 cease-fire
32 Ibid., 37.
33 Ibid., 43.
34 Ibid., 44.

line of control in Kashmir. This forced India to give up several territorial advances
obtained during the five week conflict.


The war can be seen as a nothing gained,

nothing lost situation. However, in the national consciousness o f Pakistan it is

understood as another win, a victory that reasserted Pakistans military might just as the
First Kashmir War did in 1948. The Pakistani cultural perception that violence produces
positive national results prevailed once more.
1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War
While West Pakistan was the larger territory, East Pakistan constituted 54 percent
o f Pakistans total population. The two territories comprising the Islamic Republic o f
Pakistan were geographically and ethnically divided. The ethnic divide is appropriately
summed up by historian and genocide studies professor Ben Kieman: West Pakistans

military-dominated Islamic elite comprised mostly ethnic Punjabis


and Pathans,


considered East Pakistans Bengali Muslims to be insufficiently martial, insufficiently

35 Ibid., 40.
36 The term Punjabis is a reference to peoples from the province o f Punjab
which is centrally located within Pakistan. This province is home to the nations capital,
Islamabad. The original territory o f the Punjab was split in half during Partition, with a
borderline cutting straight through its major city Lahore. As such, Punjab suffered great
violence on both sides o f the border during the mass migrations when both countries
became independent from British rule.
37 The term Pathans, also known as Pashtuns, is a reference to peoples with
Afghan ethnic origins. Pashtuns have Diasporas in several different countries; dominating
Afghanistan and its ruling class, the Taliban. However, Pakistan has the largest Pashtun
community, which is located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, formerly known as the
North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Pathans also distinguish themselves through
language, speaking Pashto, in addition to the other dominant language in Afghanistan
Dari (Persian).

'J o

Islamic, and overly influenced by Indias Hindu culture.

This sense o f superiority in

the western region was present since the birth o f Pakistan and the source o f the
inequitable distribution of resources, economic exploitation, restrictions on Bengali
speech in public, and the lack o f Bengali representation in Pakistans parliament.


Pakistans parliament chose Urdu as the official language o f the nation, a language
foreign to Bengalis. Bengalis were unwilling to accept Urdu as their official language
and riots ensued. However, this did not change the parliaments decision.40 The language
divide meant that Urdu-speaking West Pakistanis had greater access to state power
structures, including the military.41
In the wake of the Tashkent Declaration o f February 1966, Pakistan held its
general elections. Nearly a month before the elections in early November, East Pakistan
was hit by a major natural disaster: the Bhola cyclone. This cyclone was devastating,
killing approximately 500,000 people and destroying 65% o f East Pakistans fishing
capability.42 Eighty percent of protein consumed in East Pakistan comes from fish; in the
months following the storm 75% o f East Pakistans population was relying on aid relief
for food. There are conflicting reports about the Pakistani governments response to this

38 Ben Kieman, Blood and Soil: A World History o f Genocide and Extermination
from Sparta to Darfur (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 573.
39 Yasmin Saikia, Women, War, and the Making o f Bangladesh: Remembering
1971 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 35.
40 Ibid., 35.
41 Ibid.
42 T.S. Murty and R.A. Flather, Impact o f Storm Surges in the Bay o f Bengal,
Journal o f Coastal Research 12 (1994): 149-161.

disaster. Some say that President Yahya Khan unnecessarily delayed sending aid relief to
East Pakistan,43 while others state that President Khans response was compassionate and
timely, because the President declared a national day of mourning just ten days after the
cyclone hit. Regardless, the governments response was severely criticized by Bengali
political leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. His party, the Awami League, used the
governments lack of response as another rallying point for the coming elections.
A month after the cyclone, general elections were held in December 1970. The
Bengali leader o f the Awami league, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won in East Pakistan with
160 seats, while Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, head of the Pakistan Peoples Party, won the
majority in West Pakistan with 81 seats.44 The Awami League had clearly won the
election, but West Pakistan refused to accept a Bengali as prime minister. Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto blatantly refused to participate in Sheikh Mujibur Rahmans inaugural session.
Furthermore there was no attempt to work out any power sharing solutions. Therefore
the current president and martial law administrator, General Yahya Khan, deployed the
Pakistan Army to the East Pakistan territory. As in previous conflicts, a military solution
was thought to be the only viable option.45
On March 25, 1971 the nation declared war against East Pakistan, classifying
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Awami League members as rebels. The Pakistan Army
disarmed its Bengali units and any Bengali police, in addition to dismembering any

43 Lieutenant-General A.A.K. Niazi, The Betrayal o f East Pakistan (New York:

Oxford University Press, 1998), 37.
44 Saikia, Women, War, and the Making o f Bangladesh, 38.
45 Ibid.

Bengali student organizations and eliminating intellectuals o f Dhaka University. On the

evening o f the 25th o f March the Pakistan Army attacked specific dormitories at Dhaka
University killing over 200 students and faculty.46 It is well known by Bengalis that
during the Dhaka University Massacre, the rape o f female Bengali students was
widespread. However, this fact is vehemently denied by the Pakistani Government.47
March 25th and the Dhaka University Massacre mark the beginning o f the nine month
civil conflict with West Pakistans military Operation Searchlight.

The civil conflict

was seen by India as an opportunity to dismember Pakistan and gain an ally on their
northeastern border. Pakistans neighbor and sworn enemy decided to support the
Bengali Awami League, giving them asylum in India, as well as lending a hand to the
Mukti Bahini, the Bangladeshi militia. India saw this as a chance to help Bengalis
separate from West Pakistan, turning the civil conflict into an international war overnight.
Professor of history and peace studies, Yasmin Saikia, describes Indias involvement in
the civil war:
From early 1970, the government of India became actively involved in
destabilizing East Pakistan. Using intelligence agents and the Border
Security Force for creating panic, India lured the Hindu Bengalis to leave
East Pakistan. Rumors o f forcible occupation o f Hindu properties and
conversion to Islam, disrespect o f religious places, molestation o f women,

46 Jag Mohan, The Black Book o f Genocide in Bangla Desh (New Delhi: Geeta
Book Centre, 1971), 5.
47 Saikia, Women, War, and the Making o f Bangladesh, 221.

Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 157.


robberies, and similar harassment and crimes were circulated. Propaganda

that refugees would be given land in West Bengal was used for enticing
landless cultivators to crossover.49
These covert tactics were a precursor to an overt frontal attack on the Pakistani Army in
East Pakistan by the Indian Army on November 26th, 1971. Pakistan retaliated by
launching an attack on the border o f Punjab in West Pakistan on December 3rd. This
international war was also part of a series of cold-war conflicts being waged with the
support of the Soviet Union and the United States.50
The death toll o f Bengalis ranges anywhere from 26,000, according to the
Pakistani Government,51 to reports o f 3,000,000 according to the Bangladeshi
Government. There is still bitter controversy over the actual death toll, which is
unknown. However, R.J. Rummel, a political scientist specializing in collective violence,
estimates the death toll at 1,500,000.52 Roughly 300,000 Biharis53 became stateless,
and ten million people became refugees.54 It is estimated that anywhere from 200,000 to

49 Saikia, Women, War, and the Making o f Bangladesh, 44.

50 Yasmin Saikia, Overcoming the Silent Archive in Bangladesh, in Women and
the Contested State: Religion, Violence, and Agency in South and Southeast Asia, ed.
Monique Skidmore and Patricia Lawrence (Notre Dame: University o f Notre Dame
Press, 2007), 66.
51 Pakistan, Hamoodur Rahman Commission, 42.
R.J. Rummel, Death by Government (New Jersey: Transaction Publishers,
1994), 331.
53 The term Biharis is in reference to a variety o f Urdu-speaking people who
migrated from India to East Pakistan during Partition.
54 Saikia, Overcoming the Silent Archive, 66.

400, OOO55 women were raped during the course o f the civil conflict, however, this is
completely denied by the Pakistani Government.56 During the war women were abused
by men on all fronts: the invading Pakistani Army, their own Bengali Militia, the Mukti
Bahini, and the civilian neighbors who took advantage o f the chaos o f war. The military
strategy of rape was put into practice by both opposing sides, leaving women with no safe
places. There are no official numbers for how many women the Mukti Bahini raped. The
Pakistani Army systematically kidnapped Bengali Muslim women and built rape camps,
holding women for months on end as sex workers. The Mukti Bahini were driven
underground when the war started, so they were unable to set up camps like the Pakistani
Army. However, that did not stop them from terrorizing and raping Bihari women, or

anyone suspected o f collaborating with the Pakistani Army.

West Pakistan implemented martial law in East Pakistan, but complete military
and administrative control was never fully obtained. The brutality o f the Pakistani Army
only fueled the anger o f local Bengalis, adding additional forces to the insurgency. With
the help of Indian troops, the Mukti Bahini triumphed over the Pakistani Army. A cease
fire agreement was reached on December 16, 1971 with the Pakistani Armys full
surrender. Historians Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose appropriately describe a religious
dimension o f the surrender: Ironically, it was here too that General Niazi, commander
o f the forces o f Muslim Pakistan, surrendered his arms to three generals o f Hindu India55 Brownmiller, Against Our Will, 80.
56 Pakistan, Hamoodur Rahman Commission, 43.
57 Nayanika Mookherjee, Remembering to Forget: Public Secrecy and Memory
o f Sexual Violence in the Bangladesh War of 1971, Journal o f Royal Anthropological
Institute (2006): 437.

-one a Parsi, another a Sikh, and the third a Jew.58 General Yahya Khan, at the time
President o f Pakistan, was forced to resign because of the defeat, handing power over to
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto had Khan arrested, stripping him o f his military title and
honors. Khan was placed under house arrest for nearly a decade until Bhuttos death in
The Peoples Republic o f Bangladesh was now an independent nation; however,
the destruction o f the war produced a new country in a dilapidated state. The mass rapes
left many women pregnant; therefore, one o f the first decrees o f the new government was
to order mass abortions across the country, to root out any bastard Pakistani blood.59 A
rape victim recalls her trip to the rehabilitation center describing her surroundings:
Girls were strapped to stretchers and taken for abortions. They were like cattle.60
Some 25,000 abortions were documented by international agencies.61 This number does
not include the back alley abortions or self-inflicted abortions that occurred in the months
following the war.
In an effort to reintegrate these women into society the Bengali Prime Minister,
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, declared them Biranganas, meaning female heroes. The
government offered dowries to any men willing to step forward and marry a Birangana.
After using the female heroes to gain international sympathy and aid, the Bangladeshi

Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 234.

59 Saikia, Overcoming the Silent Archive, 72.

60 Saikia, Women, War, and the Making o f Bangladesh, 144.
61 Brownmiller, Against Our Will, 84.
62 Ibid., 83.


government destroyed any documentation that identified and/or reported the plight of
these women. The government claims that this was done in an effort to protect the
Biranganas, but in truth it was intended to silence this national source o f shame.63
The Birangana title was supposed to help these women gain re-acceptance into
their communities. They were promised money, land, and work, but the government kept
none o f these promises. Once labeled a Birangana, these women were again shunned by
their communities, their land was taken away, and their husbands divorced them after
receiving financial benefits from the government.64 Birangana became a profane slur
hurled at women, synonymous with prostitute, whore, and loose woman.65 The
humiliation of being raped was continued by the very government meant to protect and
rehabilitate the victims. The only recourse left to these women was silence, and so the
price they paid for nation building was forgotten.
The 1971 war resulted in the emergence o f Bangladesh as an independent nation,
but this came at a high cost. The label o f genocide has not been officially ascribed to
the atrocities. This term carries with it a certain weight, not dependent upon numbers or
statistics, but on the perpetrators intent. The problem with labeling the 1971 war as
genocide is that there were perpetrators o f war crimes on both sides. It was not just the
Pakistani Army that committed ethno-religiously motivated violence. The Indian Army,
the Mukti Bahini, Biharis, and the Pakistani Army all engaged in violence that can be
labeled as genocidal. Genocide historian Ben Kieman is adamant about classifying this
Brownmiller, Against Our Will, 86.
64 Saikia, Women, War, and the Making o f Bangladesh, 57.
65 Saikia, Overcoming the Silent Archive, 73.

war as genocide, stating that: From the beginning, West Pakistani regimes set out to
cleanse East Bengals language and culture of Hindu influences.66 While Kiemans
conclusion may be warranted, it does not take into account the violence perpetrated by
groups other than the Pakistani Army. This creates a monolithic aggressor and a wholly
innocent victim, which is inaccurate and misleading. Yasmin Saikia offers a more
complete narrative, chronicling victim and perpetrator stories from Bengali, Pakistani,
and Bihari communities, specifically focusing on violence against women. However, she
prefers to avoid the label o f genocide, and writes: Rather than confining ourselves to the
debate surrounding the naming o f this event, the focus should be on what lessons we
learn from the violence.
I agree with Saikia that we must come to a greater understanding o f these events
before we label them. She asserts that the debate regarding whether or not we can call
the 1971 war a genocide, has caused our global community to ignore the particularly
heinous violence o f mass rapes committed by the perpetrators involved on all sides. This
assertion is appropriate and disturbing. Kieman and Saikia represent the scholarship
currently available concerning the atrocities o f the 1971 war. Intellectual schools of
thought, thus far, have either chosen to offer a historical account o f the facts, swayed
by their respective economic, linguistic, feminist, and/or ethnic concerns, or they have
engaged in throwing around labels that create unsubstantiated dichotomies. For instance,
works such as those by historians Sisson and Rose68 and Sufia M. Uddin,69 ignore sexual

66 Kieman, Blood and Soil, 573.

67 Saikia, Women, War, and the Making o f Bangladesh, 51.
/: o

Sisson and Rose, War and Secession.


violence and womens experiences altogether. The scholarly neglect o f rape in general,
and mass rape during genocide and war, has left the overall picture of 1971 incomplete.
Saikia tries to correct this by telling the untold stories o f women and giving the voiceless
a voice. However, she offers little framework for understanding such violence, leaving
the reader horrified and confused.
The goal o f this project is to offer a framework for understanding rape during war
and genocide. This study concentrates on the religious motivations and justifications
present within culture that contribute to a communitys propensity for these crimes.
Kieman focuses on categorizing instances o f genocide and awarding this label o f special
status. While Saikia concentrates on completing the historical narrative o f 1971 by
including the memories of both victims and perpetrators from the different groups
involved in the atrocities. This project will put to good use the information offered by
both of these scholars and others who fall into their line o f thinking. By combining the
theory of performance violence with a model for framing genocide, the mass rapes during
the 1971 war become understandable; not just as a label seeking ploy, or as a horrifying
chronicle, but as a form o f religious violence that is meant to terrorize. In addition, this
study also explores the inter-generational effects of this legacy o f violence among the
Pakistani diaspora. The inter-generational component is an important key to developing
preventative measures against rape and genocide. This theoretical model is fully
explored in the next chapter and structures mass rape and individual instances o f sexual
violence in a way that clarifies the genocidal intent behind such acts.

69 Sufia M. Uddin, Constructing Bangladesh: Religion, Ethnicity, and Language

in an Islamic Nation (Chapel Hill: The University o f North Carolina Press, 2006).

This theoretical model is meant to act as a framework for understanding violence.
Several forms of violence are included in this model: rape, religious terrorism, and
genocide/war. These types of violence are intellectually addressed by theorists such as
Juergenmeyer, Staub, Cahill, and MacKinnon. Juergenmeyer focuses on religious
terrorism; Staub concentrates on genocide; and Cahill and MacKinnons emphasis is
rape. Each tackles one variety o f violence, not focusing on their intersections. It is my
intention to do exactly this; to concentrate on the intersections between rape, terrorism,
and genocide, paying special attention to the role that religion plays in motivating these
types of violence. The ultimate goal is to extend the term o f religious terrorism to rape
during genocide/war and peacetime. My assertion is that rape is religious terrorism, with
genocidal intentions.
Several theories are synthesized within this model, creating an overall
understanding o f how different forms o f violence feed off o f similar sources. The
proposed model is divided into three different sections: cultural knowledge, social order,
and circumstances. These components are the sources that determine a groups
propensity for violence, while also offering a framework for understanding how groups in
the past arrived at a decision to engage in these types o f violence. In each section the

model is applied to relevant data from the case study, the 1971 war between East and
West Pakistan. This serves as a hands-on illustration of the model and its ability to
organize information into an understandable pattern that ultimately supports my
There are two theorists whose work is the foundation for the model I propose.
Explaining their overarching theoretical concepts before diving into specifics will help
clarify the parameters o f this project. These two theorists are Ervin Staub and Mark
Ervin Staub
Social Goal Theory
Staubs psycho-social model for understanding genocide is based on social goal
theory, which is an expansion o f personal goal theory. This concept is used to explain
personal actions and their supporting motivations.1 Personal goal theory states that
individuals possess a hierarchy o f goals, popularly understood as priorities. Staub writes
that this hierarchy describes how individuals select goals to actively pursue and suggests
ways to determine when it is likely that they will act to fulfill them. When applied to
cultures, communities, and societies, social goal theory facilitates an understanding of a
cultures goals, and the importance o f attaining each goal based on its placement in the
hierarchy. More simply put, social goal theory offers a framework for comprehending
group motivations that determine objectives, and therefore decide a groups priorities.

1 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 22.

2 Ibid., 23.

Certain circumstances affect the urgency with which goals are attained, as Staub
explains: The lower a motive is in a cultures hierarchy, the more extreme the life
conditions needed to make it active and dominant.3 The lower a priority rests in a
groups hierarchy o f goals the less important it is to obtain. The social goals or cultural
priorities that are violent in nature are what concern us here; specifically which
characteristics determine social goals that reflect a propensity for aggression, violence,
and ultimately, genocide. Staub emphasizes the importance o f understanding the
circumstances that activate and prioritize these goals within the motivational hierarchy.
The Escalation o f Aggression
Aggression, violence and genocide are understood here as forming a type of
progression; what begins as aggression has the potential to result in genocide.4
Aggression, violence and genocide share a common thread, and are points along the same
path toward destruction. Staubs model operates under the assumption that genocide is a
type o f war; war with specific intent, the intent to destroy. War, regardless of official
declarations, is also understood as acts of aggression and violence. It has been defined in
different ways, for example: as a conflict that claims more than a thousand lives, an
armed competition between two political groups, or as combat between territorial teams.5
As defined by cultural anthropologist Jack David Eller: War is a phenomenon

3 Ibid., 22.
4 Ibid., 27.
5 Eller, Cruel Creeds, 243.

conducted by groups, supported by societies, and led by authorities.6 In other words,

war is organized and coherent violence conducted between established and internally
cohesive rival groups. In contrast to numerous other modes of violence, war is not
individual, spontaneous, random, or irrational. War involves destructive action, whether
on a massive or miniscule scale. It can have many motives and many intentions, such as
economic gains and political status. However, when war is coupled with the intention to
destroy a group, it is genocide and genocide is a punishable crime. Genocides
classification as a crime signals to humanity that it is an unacceptable type o f violence.
The jurist Raphael Lemkin introduced the term genocide in 1933. His
definition o f this concept is the international legal definition used when prosecuting the
crime o f genocide. This definition is found in Articles II and III o f the 1948 United
Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment o f the Crime o f Genocide:7
Article II describes two elements o f the crime o f genocide:
1.the mental element, meaning the intent to destroy, in whole or in
part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such, and
2.the physical element which includes five acts described in
sections a, b, c, d and e. A crime must include both elements to be called

6 Ibid., 244.
7 United Nations, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment o f the Crime o f
Genocide, in The Specter o f Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, eds.
Robert Gellately and Ben Kiernan (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 38184.

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any o f the following
acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical,
racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members o f the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to
bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children o f the group to another group.
Article III describes five punishable forms o f the crime o f genocide: genocide;
conspiracy, incitement, attempt and complicity.
Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:
(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.
This explanation is widely debate, particularly because of the description o f targeted
groups; national, ethnical, racial or religious in Article II. This delineation excludes other
types o f groups, such as political groups and groups based on gender. Genocide, defined
for the purposes o f this study, is comprised of acts of aggression with the intention to
destroy a group. This is a simplification o f the UNs definition as well as an expansion of


it to include all types o f groups. Whether targeted groups are political, religious, cultural,
national, or ethnical, it is the intention to destroy that distinguishes genocidal acts of
aggression from other acts of violence. The crime of genocide is determined by the

perpetrators conscious desire to destroy a group. Staub acknowledges the importance

o f intent when recognizing genocidal acts. He understands that this intent is present at
the multiple stages of decision making that ultimately leads to violence.
Aggression, a common human behavior, can be a stepping-stone on the path to
genocide. It is an important characteristic in recognizing the potential for genocide
within a culture, society or individual. Staubs model tackles cultural, social, and
psychological components at the micro and macro levels. His model and overall
perspective is engaged in the new model that I am proposing, albeit with a skewed lens
towards gender and religion.
Staubs theory and model are constructs for analyzing instances o f mass violence,
and is therefore a good starting place for any discussion concerning genocide. However,
his theory and model fall short for this study because they do not include the two other
types o f violence addressed in this paper; rape and terrorism. Staub disregards gendered
violence and does not distinguish terrorism as a special kind o f violence. Mark
Juergensmeyers cultural theory of cosmic war bridges the theoretical gap between
genocide and religious terrorism. This theory is the other base component o f the model,
and I now turn to discuss it.

Kieman, Blood and Soil, 17.


Mark Juergensmever
Perceiving War
Juergensmeyer and Staub both ground their theories in concepts o f war.
Juergensmeyer points out that being in a state o f war is a matter o f perception.
Perception is important because it goes straight to the issue o f acceptable forms of
violence during war and peacetime. During times o f war, acts o f violence become
acceptable to individuals, communities, nations, and the world; they are seen as a
response to violence that has already been experienced.9 Violent acts performed during
peacetime are perceived as unprovoked; and therefore unacceptable and labeled as
terrorism. Juergensmeyer explains: If the world is perceived as peaceful, violent acts
appear as terrorism. If the world is thought to be at war, violent acts may be regarded as
legitimate. 10 Applying the terrorism label to particular acts o f violence is usually a
job procured by a communitys public agents, such as the news media.11 Terrorism has
been popularly presented as rogue acts of irrational violence, however this is not true.
Acts o f terrorism are not individual deeds o f violence. It takes the strength o f a
commonwealth, and often, a sizable nexus for an act o f terrorism to prevail.



who are the perpetrators o f this type o f violence, together with their supportive
communities, share common worldviews. Commonly shared worldviews comprise what

9 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 12.

10 Ibid., 9.
11 Ibid., 5.
12 Ibid., 11.

we know as culture, which determines how acts of violence are labeled; as acceptable or
unacceptable, as legitimate or terrorism. Thus, the labels themselves are social
Juergensmeyers theory points out that shared perceptions are shaped by a shared
culture. These perceptions and collective thoughts within a community are provided by
the mechanism o f culture. Terrorism is not a lone act; it draws support from the
collective ideas of a community, which are determined through culture.



widespread cultural perception o f a Cosmic War provides the context in which acts o f
religious terrorism occur. Cosmic War is divine warfare, a struggle and conflict that go
beyond the territorial borders o f this world. Juergensmeyer describes the depth of
Cosmic War with the following explanation:
What makes religious violence particularly savage and relentless is that its
perpetrators have placed such religious images of divine strugglescosmic
warin the service o f worldly political battles. For this reason, acts of
religious terror serve not only as tactics in a political strategy but also as
evocations o f a much larger spiritual confrontation.14
Terrorists perceive the world as already engaged in warfare. Juergensmeyer notes
that: the activists thought that their acts were supported not only by other people but by
a widely shared perception that the world was already violent: it was enmeshed in great

13 Ibid., 10.
14 Ibid., 149.

struggles that gave their own violent actions moral meaning.15 These communal
perceptions allow for the understanding that violent acts are provoked and warranted.
The Theatre of Violence
Juergenmeyers theory of Cosmic War as a collective cultural perception that
determines the acceptability o f violence explains the overarching worldview of
terrorists. Within this framework, Juergensmeyer further distinguishes acts o f religious
terrorism by defining them as performance violence. Religious terrorism is a theatrical
display o f violence. Its purpose in the long run may be political, economic, cultural,
territorial, and the list could go on and on. However, these justifications for violence are
not the immediate goal, as isolated acts o f religious terrorism do not carry those
advantages. According to Juergensmeyer, incidents o f religious terrorism are acts of
purposely exaggerated violence, meant to be horrifying and mesmerizing. He explains
that they are: acts not only o f destruction but also of bloodshed executed in a
deliberately intense and vivid way. It is as if these acts were designed to maximize the
savage nature o f their violence and meant purposely to elicit anger.16 The world is a
stage and religious terrorists are putting on a show.
Juergensmeyers contribution to my overall model for violence is two-fold. By
using his cultural perception theory o f Cosmic War to frame Staubs model the
religious motivations and justifications for genocide become clear. Within the
framework o f Cosmic War and the model for genocide, Juergensmeyers theory o f

15 Ibid., 12.
16 Ibid., 121.

religious terrorism as performance violence then becomes applicable to rape.

Juergensmeyer demonstrates that because of the perception o f Cosmic War there is no
peacetime for terrorists; they are forever engaged in a never-ending battle, with no
expectation of a real-time victory. The purpose of performance violence is to obtain
empowerment for the individual perpetrator and his community. It is this understanding
o f terrorism that I apply to rape, concluding that rape is an act o f violence that seeks to
empower the rapist. Juergensmeyer does address gender in that he recognizes
emasculation and humiliation as root motivators in seeking empowerment; however, he
never extends his understanding to any type o f sexual violence. Juergensmeyer contends
that religious terrorism is a special type of violence, motivated and executed with
different goals and intentions when compared to other acts of violence. I argue the very
same is applicable to rape. Furthermore, Juergensmeyers understanding o f terrorism as
culturally perceived unacceptable violence, makes extending the term o f religious
terrorism to rape particularly appropriate, as rape is unacceptable violence under any
The Model
Two main theories are engaged in this model. Firstly, Ervin Staubs social goal
theory, which will shed light on social, cultural, and psychological factors that lead to
aggression and could possibly result in genocide. Secondly, Mark Juergensmeyers
cultural concept o f Cosmic War which frames religious motivations and shared
perceptions that govern violent actions. I also engage Juergenmeyers understanding of
religious terrorism as performance violence, which is violence motivated by the quest for


empowerment. The new synthesized model incorporates additional theoretical concepts

that allow for a new understanding o f rape, terrorism, and genocide. In addition to
detailing these other theories, each section o f the model will be illustrated with context
from the case study, the 1971 war between East and West Pakistan, furthering my thesis
that rape can be a form o f religious terrorism.
Part I: Cultural Knowledge
Culture, as understood by Juergensmeyer, encompasses the ideas o f episteme,
habitus, and cultural systems, terms used and defined by other influential scholars.
Juergensmeyer summarizes Michel Foucaults episteme as a world view, or a
paradigm o f thinking that defines the conditions.. .of all knowledge.17 This term
episteme surrounds Pierre Bourdieus habitus, which Juergensmeyer states is a
socially constituted system of cognitive and motivating structures.18 Habitus and
episteme combine to form a cultural system. Juergenmeyer offers Clifford Geertzs
definition o f a cultural system as follows: the patterns o f thought, the world views, and
the meaning that are attached to the activities o f a particular society.19 A cultural system
is inclusive o f both secular and religious ideologies. I interpret Foucaults episteme,
Bourdieus habitus, Geertzs cultural systems, and Juergenmeyers understanding o f
these terms as attempts to define culture, in a way that is inclusive of all cultures
moving parts. The sum o f these terms arrives at the definition o f culture used in this

17 Ibid., 13.
18 Ibid.
19 Ibid.

study: Culture is the umbrella under which societies are formed; it is comprised of
behaviors, beliefs, and objects common to members o f a particular group. It is a total
way o f life that provides social heritage and guidelines for appropriate behavior.


Shared perceptions and collective thoughts within a community are referred to as

cultural knowledge, which is provided by the mechanism o f culture. Culture and
religion are inherently connected. Just as culture provides collective knowledge, religion
is also a source for group knowledge. Religion is an abstract moral guideline that brings
order and understanding to individuals and communities. 21 Culture and religion
profoundly inform each other.
In some regions o f the world the two are indistinguishable; this is true of the
region that concerns the case study o f this paper, as scholar Monique Skidmore explains:
In South and Southeast Asia religious traditions are inseparable from the social and
cultural fabric of family, community, and national life.


Sudhir Kakar, writing about

contemporary violence between Muslims and Hindus in India, echoes Skidmores

assertion with his belief that in South Asia, groups, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim,
ascribe to what he terms communalism. Communalism signifies a strong identification
with a community o f believers that encompasses religious, social, political, and economic

20 Lindsey, Gender Roles, 482.

21 Monique Skidmore, Religion and Women in Peace and Conflict Studies, in
Women and the Contested State: Religion, Violence, and Agency in South and Southeast
Asia, ed. Monique Skidmore and Patricia Lawrence (Notre Dame: University o f Notre
Dame Press, 2007), 4.

Skidmore, Religion and Women in Peace and Conflict Studies, 4.


interests. These interests are inseparable from one another, and according to Kakar,
communalism is a specifically South Asian concept.


The reciprocal relationship o f

religion and culture creates a seamless identity in nations like Pakistan. This results in
the collective understanding that to be Pakistani is to be Muslim, and if not a Muslim
then one cannot be a Pakistani. Islam and regional ethnic traditions have fused together,
forming a pool o f collective knowledge that has created Pakistani cultural identity.
Collective identity. Shared knowledge constitutes what is important and valuable
for the group, which determines the groups goals. Identity formatipn is a process of
inclusion and exclusion. Cultural knowledge and identity are shaped by developing a
collective understanding o f what we are and what we are not. During Partition in
1947, when the nation o f Pakistan was being created, its founding father, Mohammed Ali
Jinnah and his followers were operating with the understanding that Pakistan was to be a
Muslim nation, and an Islamic Republic. This understanding, that we are Muslim,
was/is also coupled with the assertion we are not Hindu. As this example
demonstrates, the identity formation process is simultaneously inclusive and exclusive,
with Pakistan including all South Asian Muslims while excluding all Hindus.
Groups and individuals that do not fit the criteria o f the group are excluded from
the moral domain.24 People use available information, regardless o f its accuracy or
relevance, to create distinctions between themselves and the other. The information


Sudhir Kakar, The Time of Kali: Violence between Religious Groups in

India, in Social Research 67, no. 3 (Fall 2000): 878.
24 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 19.

used to construct these boundaries is most often based on negative stereotypes and
images perpetuated through propaganda. Staub states: Related sources o f ingroupoutgroup differentiation are fear as a common human response to the unusual, unknown,

and different and the tendency to like and prefer what is familiar.

Identity is also

about group perception; it is how a culture/group sees itself. This identity, in the
collective consciousness o f a group, needs to be defended, protected from outside
influences that could possibly change the groups identity.
It is not always the different or the unusual that an ingroup devalues the most. In
some cases, the ingroup most strongly devalues a group that is highly similar to its own;
this instance is referred to by Rene Girard as the monstrous double.

The monstrous

double is a type o f ingroup/outgroup differentiation that can occur when the similarities
o f two groups far outweigh the differences. When a culture views itself as extremely
similar to another, there is a lack o f distinctiveness that can motivate a culture to take the
moral high ground to protect its unique identity. The sameness o f one group to another
threatens the fabric o f perceived distinctive identity, therefore the ingroup creates an
outgroup, through a process o f devaluation, utilizing negative stereotypes and images to
do so. The monstrous double is in fact a case o f twinness. Take into consideration the
idea o f warring brothers, twins perhaps. They are both alike in so many instances that
they are not perceived as individuals with unique characteristics. Neither twin has an
individual legitimate identity. The individual need for a distinct and independent identity

25 Ibid., 59.

Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 161.


causes the brothers to push one another away. Mentally they each begin to distinguish
between themselves and the other brother. Psychologist Dr. Barbara Schave Klein, a
specialist in child development, states that siblings desire individuality, and thus actively
seek different interests, friends, and romantic partners in an effort to separate their lives
and firmly establish uniqueness.27 In search for recognition of uniqueness, each brother
forces the other away from himself, in order to prove his superiority and authenticity.
Violence is a tool for gaining this legitimate authentic identity. East and West Pakistan
were in a sense twins, bom from the same necessity, and trapped by one identity.
Dehumanization. Protection and defense of identity often take the form o f violent
and aggressive action. There are several cultural characteristics that make the decision to
act violently more probable. Groups that vehemently believe in their superiority find it
easier to engage in dehumanization o f other groups. Dehumanization is a stripping away
o f the human label from a group or individual. When a group is constantly devalued
through negative stereotypes and images, and targeted for discrimination by social
institutions and charismatic leaders, this leads to dehumanization and eventually
complete moral exclusion.28 Constant bombardment with negative propaganda pushes
the dehumanization o f a group in an other-worldly direction, where in addition to the loss
o f the human label the group is demonized and re-labeled as immoral to the highest
level. This process o f satanization is focused on reducing an enemys power, discrediting

27 Barbara Schave Klein, Not All Twins Are Alike: Psychological Profiles o f
Twinship (Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2003) 105.
9 Q

Linda M. Woolf and Michael R. Hulsizer, Intra-and Inter-Religious Hate and

Violence: A Psychological Model, Journal o f Hate Studies 2:5 (2003): 16.

them, and ultimately imbuing them with the essence of evil so that any loss of life is
seen as a step towards the greater good.


The satanization process religiously

delegitimizes a group. This allows aggressors to color all their violent actions as
righteous and divinely condoned. Once this occurs, the loss o f humanness, perpetrators
are no longer bound by their moral values, as moral values are only applicable to human
beings.30 Group superiority paired with the devaluation of others accounts for the
phenomenon o f genocidal perpetrators who feel they hold themselves to the highest
moral standards. Most would see this as a contradiction, but consider a rapist who
boasts that he respects women. The heroic rapist is a picture of gallantry, the
manifestation o f chivalry, a man held in honored esteem by his society for fighting the
good fight and displaying his courage whenever necessary.


The heroic rapist is a

man who aggressively defends what he holds dear, and in the process of that defense,
rape is sometimes necessary; therefore rape is not in contradiction with personal and
social morality. This mode o f thought is because o f victim choice. If the raped woman is
part o f a devalued group; then she is not considered to be a woman at all, and therefore
her rape is not considered a crime. This leaves a rapists morality and respect for
women intact.
This was certainly the case with East and West Pakistan during the 1971 war.
West Pakistans claims o f superiority, rooted in their pure Islamic identity and non-Hindu

29 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 186.

30 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 71.
31 Brownmiller, Against Our Will, 291.

tainted culture, since its inception in 1947, justified West Pakistans hoarding of
resources, dominance in government, and their overall exploitation o f East Pakistan.


This is easily demonstrated by a popular saying still alive and well among new
generations o f Pakistanis after the war: The streets of West Pakistan are paved with jute
from East Pakistan. Jute was the main cash crop o f Pakistan in 1971. Seventy percent
o f Pakistans export earnings originated in East Pakistan, and only one third of those
earnings were nationally allocated to the east. Language is also tied to West Pakistans
superior Islamic attitude. East Pakistans request for Bengali to be deemed the national
language was rejected. Urdu was made the official national language, justified by the
argument that Bengali is not a Muslim language, it is not pure. On the other hand, since
Urdu is similar to Arabic, utilizing the same alphabet, it is pure. Scholar Sufia M. Uddin
explains West Pakistans sentiments about their superiority: Muslims o f West Pakistan
generally frowned on Bengali-informed Muslim culture, ultimately deeming many
practices un-Islamic. Bengali language too was criticized for being foreign to Islam.33
West Pakistans belief in its superiority was clearly displayed during the atrocities o f the
1971 war, not only on Bengalis in general, but specifically on Bengali women.
West Pakistanis feelings o f religious, ethnic, and linguistic superiority drove their
military action, while blatant sentiments o f male superiority fueled their sexual violence.
Belief in its cultural superiority sustained West Pakistans process o f dehumanization
towards Bengalis, which latched onto an already existing group superiority complex.

32 Saikia, Women, War, and the Making o f Bangladesh, 35.

33 Uddin, Constructing Bangladesh, 119.

When coupled, cultural and male superiority made for a devastating combination,
resulting in the mass rapes o f the 1971 war. Rape is often rationalized with the
explanation of male supremacy.34 The dehumanization of women is a process that
happened long before the 1971 war, and the belief in male sovereignty and female
inferiority has tenaciously survived in Pakistani culture. Women were/are classified as
non-human.35 Cahill explains the gender hierarchy: To be a man is to be a member o f
the dominant class and thus to have nearly limitless power, or at least power extensive
enough to include the power over the bodies o f women; to be a woman is to be constantly
subject to that dominant power and unable to protect oneself from its reach.36 The
conclusion of this, when applied to the mass rapes in 1971, is that no crimes, no atrocities
were committed. Bengali women were perceived as economically, religiously,
ethnically, and sexually inferior, and thus made for exploiting, not protecting. However,
within the structures of these dehumanizing sexual hierarchies there is room for degrees
o f agency. Not all women viewed themselves as powerless during the war. Some
women exercised agency by perceiving their rapes as a contributing act o f resistance that
helped to gain Bangladesh its independence. This retroactive agency helps victims come
to terms with their rapes by actively seeking recognition and compensation from their
government for their sacrifice during the war.

34 Brownmiller, Against Our Will, 16.


MacKinnon, Are Women Human?, 9.

36 Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 19.


Symbolic domination. There is another element at work here that is helpful to

explore why the mass rapes took place in 1971: the political and military purpose of
rape. Women here can be considered as symbols and a type o f currency; ownership o f
women and sexual access to them represents male potency.


Rape is a demonstration of

loss of ownership, loss of male potency; it is an act that emasculates the enemy. Raping
enemy women establishes political dominance. Feminist scholar Ann J. Cahill
explains that rape is not individualistic, meaning: Rapists do not rape individuals, but
members o f a class; the act o f rape, then, becomes a reminder to both assailant and victim
that membership in one o f these classes is the defining element o f identity.

In 1971,

the Pakistani Army established their dominance by abducting and raping thousands of
Bengali women and denying Bengali men sexual access. Rape rendered Bengali men
powerless in maintaining sole sexual contact with Bengali women; they were incapable
o f protecting their most highly coveted prize.
The protection o f female sexuality, or rather the male control o f female sexuality,
is directly associated with honor in South Asian culture. Male honor is retained by
keeping firm control over the sexuality of female family members.


Any unsanctioned

sexual encounters results in a loss of this control and therefore familial dishonor.40

37 Ibid., 18.

Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 19.

39 Mahnaz Afkhami, Faith and Freedom: Women's Human Rights in the Muslim
World (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1995), 161.
40 Afkhami, Faith and Freedom, 163.

Women are not imbued with honor or purity; honor is about the control that men possess
over women, she has no autonomous or inherent value. It is the male family members
constant control over her sexuality that determines her value and their honor. The
association between female sexuality and male honor means that rape not only destroys
the individual victim, but it also destroys the honor o f the family and the larger kin group.
Rape and any other forced or consensual sexual acts, committed outside the institution of
marriage, equals a loss of honor, rendering a woman valueless and the source of great
shame.41 This loss o f value translates into a loss o f marriageability, and thus the inability
to produce legitimate children. The chain reaction set off by rape within an honor
culture, that ends in a loss to produce legitimate children is where the genocidal intent
behind rape is realized.
In the instance o f the mass rapes in 1971, the whole of East Pakistan lost control
over its women. Failure to protect and maintain female sexual integrity resulted in
nationwide shame and dishonor. Thousands o f women lost their ability to produce
legitimate children due to their rejection by men in their own society. Article II o f the
1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment o f Genocide, states:
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group is a feature of genocide.
The 1971 mass rapes were part o f a total plan to destroy the Bengali people. By raping
and thus destroying female Bengali marriageability, West Pakistan in essence prevented
the births o f future Bengalis. West Pakistans intent to destroy the Bengali people was

41 Mookherjee, Remembering to Forget, 439.


not folly realized through their policy o f rape; however, a Bengali generation was
Self-doubt fuels violent defense. The interlocking ideologies that contributed to
West Pakistans mentality o f superiority led to an explosive situation. West Pakistans
cultural knowledge maintained a religious, ethnic, linguistic, and gender hierarchy with
Pakistani Muslim men at the top and Bengali Hindu-tainted women at the bottom. West
Pakistan used rape to establish its dominance and profoundly damage the Bengali people,
jeopardizing their future existence. However, belief in ones cultural superiority is not
enough to orchestrate genocide or mass rape o f this scale. There are other cultural
predispositions that propel a group to violent ends. Belief in collective eminence directs
a group to constantly protect and defend their supreme identity, and the need to defend
can lead to internal group doubt. This doubt intensifies a groups need to guard its
supremacy. Staub explains that the presence o f these two components within a culture
can have explosive ends: When a sense o f superiority combines with an underlying (and
often unacknowledged) self-doubt, their contribution to the potential for genocide and
mass killing can be especially high.42 Nationalism is, in part, bom from this
combination of group supremacy and self-doubt. Nationalistic cultures express their
feelings o f superiority through territorial expansions, imposition of beliefs, and
purification of community.43 Pakistans identity is based on its contention that it is a
legitimate Islamic nation. Here again, Rene Girards concept of the monstrous double

42 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 19.

43 Ibid.

comes into play. East Pakistan threatened West Pakistans legitimacy as a true and
superior Islamic nation by challenging its authority in matters of religiosity, ethnicity,
politics, and language. The looming creation of another Islamic nation in the South
Asian region corroded West Pakistans distinctiveness. West Pakistans vehement belief
in its own superiority roused it to violent conflict, and its underlying and unaddressed
internal doubt intensified and quickened its response.
Pakistani Muslim men were challenged on different levels, which forced them to
internally ask questions, such as: is our Islam truly untainted; are we as Pakistanis really
ethnically superior; is our language pure; are we as men more intelligent than women?
These questions strike at the heart o f cultural identity. Juergensmeyer addresses the
issue o f internal group doubt in relation to masculinity. Fear of social marginality, and/or
past experiences o f emasculation engrained in the cultural conscience, evoke the need for
empowerment. Terrorist acts are acts of symbolic empowerment in response to
humiliation. Overcoming humiliation is what drives terrorists. They were usually at one
point in their life, soldiers, and now inactive, they continue their warrior identity by
finding new battles to fight.44 When looking at the 1971 war the sentiments of
humiliation and the experiences o f emasculation drove the violent actions o f West
Pakistani soldiers. British domination during the colonial age painted South Asian men
as inherently effeminate.45 The violent outbursts from this period till present day can be
viewed as a response to the humiliation of effectively being effeminized, and an attempt

44 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 192-193.

45 Ibid., 208.

to reclaim masculinity.46 East Pakistans uprising, in parallel fashion, was also a

challenge to West Pakistans masculinity. The possibility of becoming marginalized
citizens in a Bengali dominated nation intensified West Pakistans response. The internal
questioning o f their right to rule and o f their obvious superiority as men was quelled with
the over-assertion o f violence and rape.
Borderline masculinity. Threats to masculinity can also be interpreted as
challenges to sexual competence: the ability and capacity to have sex.47 Juergensmeyer
explains the perception of such an insulting threat: Nothing is more intimate than
sexuality, and no greater humiliation can be experienced than failure over what one

perceives to be ones sexual role.

Sexual frustration due to poor economic status and

no prospects for marriage within sex-segregated societies draws men towards violence.
Juergensmeyer elaborates on this point stating that: sexual frustration leads to a
fascination with phallic-shaped weaponry that explodes in a way that some men are
unable to do sexually.49
Juergensmeyer also draws a connection between symbolic acts o f violence,
terrorism, and the womens rights movement. Feminism breached the boundaries o f

46 Peter Van Der Veer, Contesting Traditions: Religion and Violence in South
Asia, in Women and the Contested State: Religion, Violence, and Agency in South and
Southeast Asia, ed. Monique Skidmore and Patricia Lawrence (Notre Dame: University
o f Notre Dame Press, 2007), 16.
47 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 201.
48 Ibid., 198.
49 Ibid., 201.

traditional gender roles, merging public and private domains, blurring the rigid borders o f
the feminine and the masculine. Traditionally speaking, men inhabit the public sphere
and women fulfill their role in the private sphere as homemakers.50 These traditional
ideals are constructs created during the process o f identity formation. However, tradition
can be perceived as the uncorrupted and prototypal way of life initially ordained. Thus
tradition is a tool for fighting the imposition of modernity and its components, such
as: democracy, capitalism, secularism, and womens rights.51 Western feminism sought
to erase the strict public/private boundaries enforced through tradition, and thus confused
the distinctions between male and female. The loss o f distinctiveness, as previously
explained by Rene Girards monstrous double is applicable to gender norms. A loss of
distinctiveness is a loss of identity, which is usually met with hostility, in this case radical
patriarchy and terrorism. Terrorists see feminism as a Western imposition, as a de facto
imperialistic attempt, and as a threat to their manhood. During 1971 first wave feminism
was in full swing, and these concepts o f defending masculinity are applicable to the
conflict between East and West Pakistan. The challenge to West Pakistani masculinity
and the subsequent formation o f internal group doubt in addition to being faced with
misplaced gender roles, culminated in an over assertion o f masculinity through rape.
West Pakistani soldiers maintained their countrys public virility and reinforced

50 Sue Ellen Charlton, Development as History and Process, in The Women,

Gender and Development Reader, ed. Nalini Visvanathan et al. (New Jersey: Zed Books
Ltd.: 1997), 12.
51 Talal Asad, Formations o f the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 13-15.

traditional gender roles by engaging in mass rape. These soldiers fortified their identity
as fighters for Pakistan and fighters for Islam by humiliating Bengali men and
reestablishing their superiority. The mass rapes symbolize true Islamic male potency,
thus empowering the whole of West Pakistan.
Authority and blind obedience. Warrior cultures such as that described above,
instill strong respect for authority, which breeds obedience. Warrior culture is not only
applicable to the warriors themselves, it is a mentality shared by the entire group,
including civilians.52 This means that violent actions committed by soldiers are
condoned and supported by the non-military community.


Non-pluralistic societies have

only one shared worldview, one pool o f information to draw cultural knowledge from and
therefore only one truth available; making for rigid boundaries o f right and wrong.
Monolithic cultures that have but one truth produce comp licit bystanders.54 These
bystanders, in a pluralistic society, might offer some opposition along the path towards
destruction, but in a monolithic culture the option for such opposition is erased.
In general, it can be argued that Pakistani culture uniformly idolizes military
mentality. Over seventy percent o f Pakistans national budget is allocated to the army
and defense.55 Blind obedience clears an unopposed path to violence. West Pakistans

52 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 43.

53 Ibid., 63.
54 Ibid., 62.
55 Ayesha Siddiqa, Military, Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy (London:
Oxford University Press, 2007), 183.

inclination towards obedience is twofold when considering the role that religion plays in
Pakistani identity. West Pakistans core foundation rests on Islamic legitimacy. This
connects Pakistan to a legacy o f cosmic warfare between the forces o f good and evil.
The inheritance o f violence through religion establishes the tradition o f righteous warfare
within the cultural conscience. This historical link to violence allows future violent
action more probable. Pakistans history of violence that is imbued with religious merit
has resulted in a cultural idealization o f aggression.56
This idealization was ritualized by the naming o f fallen Pakistani soldiers as
shaheed, meaning martyr. Shaheed is an Arabic word, and a term reserved for holy
warriors who have fallen in battle defending Islam. A soldiers willingness to sacrifice
everything, even life itself, for Islam is rewarded with eternity.57 Shaheed status is the
highest military award that exists in Pakistan. Being awarded this honorable title meant
special treatment for the families of the soldiers, including government financial
assistance.58 The valorization o f these soldiers with a sacred Islamic title justifies their
violent actions. Pakistans actions are inherently religious because its identity is
inherently Islamic, therefore soldiers are not only soldiers in a national army, they are
soldiers for Islam; they are warriors of God. Respect for authority translates to respect for
the divine. Military orders are thus righteous, and carried out in the service o f the

56 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 52.

57 John L. Esposito. Islam: The Straight Path, (New York: Oxford University
Press, 2005), 14.

Siddiqa, Military, Inc. ,121.


ultimate good. Religion injects meaning into violent acts, ordering the chaos o f war and
making it understandable. Through the process o f transforming these violent acts into
symbols the real and revolting nature of violence is cleansed. Juergensmeyer properly
deduces that: These acts, although terribly real, have been sanitized by becoming
symbols; they have been stripped o f their horror by being invested with religious
meaning.59 The mass rapes during the 1971 war were thus divinely ordained, committed
so that good could triumph over evil.
A hostile world. Juergensmeyers cosmic war concept, used to explain
terrorism, is an example of what Staub calls perceived threat orientation. Perceived
threat orientation is the viewing o f the world as hostile. In this instance a group does not
attribute actions to individuals, but blames another group and sees that group as a
constant threat. This concept is often applied to social groups, but it is important to note
that religion can operate from a perceived threat orientation as well, especially in the
absence o f information and in the face of distorted knowledge. When a religious group
insists their beliefs are the absolute Truth then the mere existence of other religious
groups threatens their claim.60 Following this line of thinking, West Pakistan was
operating from a perceived threat orientation by claiming it was the only True
Islamic state. East Pakistans refusal to conform to West Pakistans Islamic vision
threatened West Pakistans religious legitimacy and authenticity. A continuous
perceived threat orientation is often the result o f an initial threat. This hazard may or

59 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 163.

60 Woolf and Hulsizer, Intra- and Inter-Religious Hate, 8.

may not have been substantiated; however, it progresses into an ongoing perception of
danger. Therefore protecting ones way of life and culture from this supposed imminent
danger becomes a priority. Pakistans internal threat in the East was mirrored by an
external threat from India. The historically tumultuous relationship between Islamic
Pakistan and Hindu India had already led to multiple violent conflicts that established a
pattern of violence as a problem solver. During Partition Indian leaders vocalized their
intentions to unite the entire subcontinent, absorbing East and West Pakistan to create one
Mother India.61 This goal may have died off over the years; however, this initial threat to
its existence remained and still remains ever-present within the Pakistani conscience.
Pakistanis perceive India as a constant threat, the two countries are forever locked in a
cosmic war; Muslim against Hindu, good against evil.
The components that comprise cultural knowledge, discussed above, determine a
groups propensity for violence. Cultures that display these characteristics: feelings of
superiority, unaddressed collective doubt, and warrior mentality, all o f which are
imbedded within a history o f religious warfare and ultimate truth; are cultures that have a
strong need to defend their ideological boundaries and are inclined to do so with
violence. These elements reinforce one another, creating a self-supporting and self
validating cultural system. The cultural features identified and explained with the case
study o f the 1971 war between East and West Pakistan and India, demonstrate the
application o f this section o f the model. Identifying these markers within other systems
o f cultural knowledge is one part o f recognizing a groups potential for violence. This

61 Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 71.


model is applicable to groups o f all kinds, and as is demonstrated above, can be used to
understand different types o f group violence, such as genocide, terrorism, and mass rape.
Cultural knowledge alone is not solely responsible for propelling groups to mass
violence. Culture exists in conjunction with other group structures that make violence
possible, such as social order. Social order is the second section o f the model and I now
turn to shed light on that facet o f my topic.
Part II: Social Order
In this section I explain the theoretical components that create a social order prone
to violence, while intermittently illustrating these theoretical features with sociohistorical information from the case study of the 1971 war between East and West
Pakistan. Social order is the composition of institutions and powerful individuals that
control and influence social climate. It determines how social interaction ensues.


Social institutions and powerful leaders engage in a reciprocal relationship. These

institutions produce powerful individuals, who in turn create social institutions. Both
influence social climate, and both maintain and create cultural knowledge. Institutions
and influential individuals are structures o f power that act as filters o f information,
deciding what truth is for society as a whole.


Particular institutional forms and

62 Walter H. Capps, Religious Studies: The Making o f a Discipline (Minneapolis:

Fortress Press, 1995), 161.
63 Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings
1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. Colin Gordon, Leo Marshall, John Mepham and
Kate Soper (New York: The Harvester Press, 1980), 52.

specific types o f leaders have a higher inclination towards aggression because their power
and control goes unchecked.
Inflexible institutions. The rigidity or adaptability of social institutions
determines how a society handles change. When institutions are rigid and support an
inflexible worldview society is more disturbed by change.64 Government is a social
institution imbued with great control and power over society. Specific types of
governments, such as dictatorships and totalitarianisms, have historically been repressive.
Repressive governments have a tendency to use fear as a tactic to hamper opposition;
opposition that might stop possible violence. These types o f administrations, operating
within monolithic cultures, leave people no alternative avenues o f thinking and no
options o f protestation. Staub states: If everyone seems to be thinking the same way, it
may stifle doubt or resistance, even inner resistance.65 Fear squashes free expression
thus ensuring alternate views o f reality remain unvoiced. Hierarchical religious
organizations can also be repressive as they posit their perspective as divine truth. This
rigid stance promotes demonization o f individuals and groups that have opposing
In addition to controlling social climate, institutions also provide the machinery
capable o f carrying out violent acts. Juergensmeyer argues: It takes a community o f
support and, in many cases, a large organizational network for an act o f terrorism to

64 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 14.

65 Ibid., 65.

succeed.66 Individual motivations to cause harm do not alone manifest organizations

capable o f enacting it. When machinery o f destruction is present, mass violence has the
option o f being fully realized.
Hypnotic authority. Leaders o f repressive social organizations often insist on
unconditional belief and support.67 Behavioral social scientists, Linda M. Woolf and
Michale R. Hulsizer argue: Leaders who demand unconditional belief and support are
in a position to manipulate not only the information received by their followers, but also
whether the group functions to promote religious tolerance and constructive action or

hatred and destructive violence.

Religious organizations are intensely impacted by

their leaders who can push a group towards religious tolerance or hatred.69 Not every
leader is capable of instilling such passionate loyalty. Culture figures prominently in the
success and acceptability o f any leader. Staub states: Because o f shared culture, what a
leader offers often naturally fulfills cultural requirements. Leaders also intentionally
adjust their style and vision to the group.70 Their ideals can also express common public
sentiments. According to Juergensmeyer leaders reflect an attitude held by many within
their cultural community.


Shared cultural knowledge increases a leaders appeal. This

66 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 11.

67 Woolf and Hulsizer, Intra- and Inter-Religious Hate, 15.
68 Ibid.
69 Ibid.
70 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 23.

Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 175.


mass appeal and subsequent effectiveness has largely to do with the social acceptability
of his style.72 This is not a mere beauty contest; charismatic leaders have a mesmerizing
effect, which results in blind support. Lome L. Lawson, sociologist o f religious studies,
points out that laying sole responsibility for violence, at the feet o f charismatic leaders
reflects an archaic desire to personify evil. According to Dawson brainwashing by
charismatic leaders is not an assumption that holds any answers when speaking about
religious violence. However, Dawson does support Staubs emphasis on the impact o f
charismatic leadership in influencing violence. But it is not as simple as flashing a smile
and having mindless drones do your violent bidding. Dawson states that a charismatic
leaders success is directly linked to his or her assimilation to one or more o f the cultural
myths o f the society.73 It is this assimilation that gives a leader his true power and ability
to sway the masses. This allows a leader to push destructive agendas, possibly genocide,
without opposition.
Pakistans inflexible institutions. Pakistan is a military state combined with
traditional legalistic Islam.74 In 1971 the martial law regime was preparing to hand
government over to civilian authorities pending a general election.


This election was

72 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 23.

Lome L. Dawson, Crisis o f Charismatic Legitimacy and Violent Behavior in
New Religious Movements, in Cults, Religion and Violence, eds. David G. Bromley and
J. Gordon Melton (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 83.
74 Leonard Binder, Islam, Ethnicity, and the State in Pakistan, in The State,
Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, ed. Ali Banuazizi and
Myron Weiner (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1986), 259.
75 Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 1.

the result o f over nine years of political unrest and debate concerning a working
constitution in addition to the issue of widespread political corruption.


In 1958 chief

martial law administrator, Mohammed Ayub Khan ousted the civilian regime of President
Iskander Mirza.77 Ayub Khan stated that the military takeover was to protect the nation
and the people from the uncontrolled machinations o f dishonest politics.78 His military
regime was later toppled by General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan on March 26th, 1969
who promised a return to a representative form o f government.


These historical events

show that the military reigned supreme in Pakistan. Pakistani government was not a
separate autonomous branch; it was a direct extension o f the hierarchical military
structure. The ultimate authority in Pakistan was the army; an elite institution organized
on the basis o f exclusivity. Policies o f exclusivity marginalize the groups they have
chosen to exclude, causing social discontinuity and a hostile social climate. 80 The
Pakistani Army was dominated by the West Pakistani elite, mainly Punjabis and Urdu
speaking peoples, alienating East Pakistanis and Bengali-speakers. This process of
inclusion and exclusion that creates dominant and inferior groups is socialization. The
socialization process is where cultural knowledge and social order collide to create

76 John L. Esposito, Islam: Ideology and Politics in Pakistan, in The State,

Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, ed. Ali Banuazizi and
Myron Weiner (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1986), 336.
77 Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 17-18.
78 Ibid., 17.
79 Ibid., 2.
80 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 66.

identity. The dominant social group exercises power thus controlling knowledge; cultural
knowledge determines which groups possess superior qualities and therefore the right to
dominance; this relationship is reciprocal, with culture reinforcing social order and vice
The Pakistani army encompassed social order, especially since the government
was absorbed by military leaders. The bureaucracy and the military in Pakistan have a
deep mutual interdependence.81 Religion is also a power institution that dictates social
interaction. The ties between Islam and national identity in Pakistan are inseparable.82
From the beginning, the Punjabi and Pathan-dominated army stressed that the virtues of
Pakistan were also their virtues and that the Islamic character of Pakistan was reflected in
the Islamic character of the military.83 Political scientist Stephen P. Cohen describes this
relationship: In popular publications as well as in the military schools the history o f
Pakistan was traced to Muslim dominance in South Asia, and Pakistanis were portrayed
as the natural conquerors o f the region by virtue o f their purer religion and their martial
characteristics.84 Islam also permeated the constitution, stating that the head o f state

81 Binder, Islam, Ethnicity, and the State, 261.

82 Skidmore. Religion and Women in Peace, 4.
83 Stephen P. Cohen, State Building in Pakistan, in The State, Religion, and
Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, ed. Ali Banuazizi and Myron Weiner,
(New York: Syracuse University Press, 1986), 317.
84 Ibid.

must be a Muslim, and that no law can be instituted that is contrary to the Quran and the
Sunna o f the Prophet.85
The religious Ulama in Pakistan acted as Islamic advisors to the government in all
matters o f state. In the decade preceding the 1971 war General Ayub Khans regime
adopted a modernist approach to the incorporation o f Islam and government. This
approach often clashed with the Ulama who wanted government provisions that would

enable Muslims to live in conformity with the tenets o f Islam.

The Ulama resisted

Ayub Khans modernist approach by denouncing the Commission on Marriage and

Family Law Reform, claiming that the commissions purpose was to limit traditional
male rights and strengthen womens rights. Even so, Ayubs regime was able to enact

the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance o f 1961.

This ordinance states that grandchildren

may receive a share of inheritance from grandparents. It requires marriages and divorces
to be registered with the state, and special permission from the state and the first wifes
consent must be obtained for any polygamous marriages. The ordinance also banned
child marriage, setting a minimum age o f marriage for men at eighteen and women
sixteen. The Ulama strongly disagreed with this ordinance and remained steadfast in
their opinion that it was in direct contradiction with the Quran, in an attempt to preserve
patriarchal norms that subjugate women.

85 Esposito, Islam: Ideology and Politics, 336.

86 Ibid., 337.
87 Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, 198.

Other Islamic organizations with political aspirations, such as the Muslim League,
voiced strong opinions about East Pakistan in the year preceding the 1971 war. The
Muslim League President, Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, accused Sheikh Mujibar Rahman,
head o f the Awami League in East Pakistan, of leading a hate campaign against West

Pakistan and o f trying to create a greater Bengal.

Qayyum publicly claimed that if

the Awami League won the elections the noble fight for Kashmir would be forgotten and
the new traitorous Bengali government would join forces with India.


The Jamaat-I

Islami, another Islamic political organization, led by Mawlana Mawdudi, declared that an
Awami League triumph would mean the collapse of Pakistan.90 Opinions o f religious
leaders preceding the war appear to be seamless with those o f the military; helping to
maintain West Pakistani ideals o f superiority.
The army was the institution that dictated social interaction and is also the
institution capable o f carrying out violence. Military structures are hierarchical,
demanding obedience and respect for authority. These types o f structures attract certain
individuals, usually the same type of individual; and only individuals that fit the strict
mold are accepted. Obedience is aided through group pressure to conform, and ritualistic
behavior helps to perpetuate conformity.91 Pakistani military identity is grounded in
Islam, just as general national identity is. Islams presence ritualizes military practices,

88 Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 31.

89 Ibid.
90 Ibid.
91 Woolf and Hulsizer, Intra- and Inter-Religious Hate, 11.

imbuing actions and soldiers with religious value. This results in the virtual homogeneity
o f the military.


The Pakistani armys overarching presence as the conductor o f social

order resulted in the general publics adoption o f the values o f obedience and respect for
authority; consequently reducing variances in worldviews. When the West Pakistani
government made the decision to violently suppress East Pakistan, it already had a group
o f trained, capable men at its disposal, willing to enact violence without question. The
armys experience in previous conflicts had also desensitized the soldiers to violence,
again diminishing possible opposition to ordered acts o f aggression.


can also take place through propaganda that utilizes negative images and stereotypes.
This is apparent through the connection between pornography and acts o f sexual
violence. Feminist scholar MacKinnon explains: Pornography increases the perceptions
o f men, who are not predisposed to sexual aggression, that women want rape and are not
injured by rape. It increases their view that women are worthless, trivial, nonhuman,
object-like, and unequal to men. Pornography makes men hostile and aggressive toward
women, and makes women silent.94 The adoption o f military values by the general
population also meant that the Pakistani army and government had mass support for their
violent campaign in East Pakistan.
The Pakistani army is an exclusive group dominated by upper-class, Punjabi and
Pathan, Urdu-speaking males; their policies o f exclusivity marginalize several groups:

92 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 70.

93 Ibid.
94 MacKinnon, Are Women Human?, 117.

the lower classes, non-Punjabis/Pathans, Bengali speakers, and women. The armys
superior identity relies on the belief in the inferiority of these marginalized groups, which
is maintained through dehumanization. Mass rape and killing during the 1971 war was
legitimized because the non-humanness o f Bengalis and women had already been
engrained in the armys identity. Bengalis and women were excluded from the moral
domain, perceived as inferior, sub-human, and therefore propriety did not apply. In
Pakistan, government, military, and religion are inseparable. All three o f these
institutions partake in the socialization process that elevates one group while subjugating
the others. Pakistan is an Islamic nation governed by its military, which is therefore an
Islamic institution. This culminates into one overarching dominant identity and therefore
one prevailing worldview.
Pakistani culture and social order maintained a near monolithic identity; however
there were differing opinions among leaders concerning Islams incorporation in matters
o f state. Pakistans strong respect for authority places an insurmountable amount of
power in the hands of leaders. But when a leaders ideals contradict cultural values,
turmoil can materialize. General Ayub Khan was in favor o f a modernist approach to
Islam. He believed that Pakistan needed to liberate the spirit of religion from the
cobwebs o f superstition and stagnation which surround it and move forward under the
forces of modem science and knowledge.95 These modern ideals were met with some
opposition; however, Pakistani identity remained intact because Islams presence within
state structures was not questioned. The extent to Islams incorporation was always an

95 Esposito, Islam: Ideology and Politics, 336.


issue, but the understanding that Pakistan was an Islamic nation remained steadfast.
General Ayub Khans lack o f emphasis on traditional Islamic values and his inability to
produce an acceptable constitution led to such unrest that he insisted General Yahya
Khan, commander and chief of the army, decree martial law and assume power.96
Pakistans hypnotic leaders. General Yahya Khan, president of Pakistan during
the 1971 war, fulfilled the cultural expectations o f an acceptable leader. He was a
seasoned army officer who had been present at the birth o f Pakistan and could trace his
family origins back to Persia, a true Muslim. Yahya Khan had the respect and support of
the army whose general beliefs concerning military action in East Pakistan and possible
involvement o f India are summed up by historians Sisson and Rose:
Pakistani military leaders commonly believed that the armies o f Hindu
India, as they were referred to in common parlance, were no match for
those o f Islamic Pakistan. Pakistan had been created in the face o f Hindi
opposition; its independence had been successfully defended against
Indian machinations; and the larger Indian armies had been unable to
defeat the smaller ones o f Pakistan in battle. Any effort on the part of
India to take territory in East Pakistan would be countered by Pakistani
occupation o f Indian soil in the west; and the Indian army had to labor
under the control o f a civilian government headed by a woman. 97
General Yahya Khan was the living embodiment of Pakistani superiority.

96 Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 23.

97 Ibid., 5.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the leader o f the Pakistan Peoples Party, was the other
charismatic leader that pushed West Pakistan to violence in 1971. Bhutto, a Westerneducated Sindhi landowner turned politician, was West Pakistans leading candidate in
the general elections.98 In the years preceding the election Bhutto served as the nations
foreign minister under Ayub Khans regime for nearly eight years.99 Bhutto, however,
was not a military man, nor was he a member o f the Punjabi elite. His party enjoyed
strong support in Punjab, but Bhutto himself was from Sind. Bhuttos political platform
was Islamic Socialism. He presented himself as one o f the people and as a brave
champion o f Islam.100 Bhutto boisterously declared that he was first a Muslim and then a
Pakistani.101 His Islamic identity was rooted in strong nationalism, and he publicly
shared his anti-Indian sentiments with this Islamic perspective stating that India is the
enemy o f Islam.102 Bhuttos Islamic nationalism encompassed the strong Pakistani
Muslim identity posited by Pakistans founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

10 1


allusions to Islam and his antagonistic attitude towards India gained him mass support in
West Pakistan. The combination of these two charismatic culturally supported leaders

98 Binder, Islam, Ethnicity, and the State, 262.

99 Anwar H. Syed, Z.A. Bhuttos Self-Characterizations and Pakistani Political
Culture, Asian Survey 18.12 (1978): 1255.
100 Ibid., 1260.
101 Ibid., 1259.
102 Ibid., 1260.
103 Ibid., 1252.

resulted in the 1971 war. General Yahya Khans absolute belief in Pakistani military
superiority and Bhuttos refusal to accept a Bengali as prime minister jolted West
Pakistan into violent conflict with East Pakistan.104
Leaders with personality. The actions of General Yahya Khan, Minister Bhutto,
and Pakistani soldiers demonstrate certain personality traits that mark a higher inclination
towards aggression. These individual personality traits are the result o f the socialization
process. The socialization process is where culture and social order merge, creating
group and individual identity. According to Staub particular cultural knowledge and the
types of social order that have been discussed above, socialize individuals with
characteristics that incline them towards violence.105 Woolf and Hulsizer also address
personality traits that contribute to an individuals desire to be part o f groups that engage
in violence.106
Staub labels individuals with an inclination towards violence as having an
antisocial value orientation. 107 These individual characteristics attached to this type o f
personality are how cultural knowledge and social order manifest at the personal level.
Social institutions that discriminate/privilege one group over another create individuals
incapable o f empathy for other individuals outside of their group.108 Perpetrators are not

104 Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 5-34.

105 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 67.
106 Woolf and Hulsizer, Intra- and Inter-Religious Hate, 11.
107 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 68.
108 Ibid.

able to comprehend the effect that their actions have on victims. They are incapable o f
mental vicariousness that would allow them to experience the feelings and thoughts of
another. Groups that experience constant devaluation through negative stereotypes and
discrimination by social institutions are being engaged in a process o f dehumanization
that leads to complete moral exclusion.109 Once this occurs, the loss o f humanness,
perpetrators are no longer bound by their moral values, as moral values are only
applicable to human beings.110 A groups de-legitimization simultaneously occurs with
the perpetrators inability to empathize. The bridge to empathy is likeness, and
dehumanization strips away that likeness, leaving one group perceived as human and the
other not human. Perpetrators lack self-awareness and acceptance, which allows this
disconnect and pushes an individual to gain acceptance from outside sources, such as
leaders and groups. This drive for acceptance deepens an individuals inclination to
Juergensmeyer and Staub both address an additional personality type prone to
violence: the fanatic. This type o f individual subordinates everything to a system o f
beliefs; therefore any means are justifiable in service o f realizing ideologies and goals.


Actions not in the best interests o f the group or the individual but perceived as progress
towards ideological goals become acceptable for fanatical groups and individuals.

109 Woolf and Hulsizer, Intra- and Inter-Religious Hate, 16.

110 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 71.
111 Ibid., 72.
112 Ibid., 76.

Emotional conversion experiences and/or gradual involvement with fanaticism are the
two avenues that Staub believes produce fanatic personalities.



Juergensmeyer offers another explanation, the cultural belief in a cosmic war. Cosmic
war, the view that the world is at war, invokes images and language that are part o f a
heritage o f religious traditions. Juergensmeyer explains that: These images o f divine
warfare are persistent features o f religious activism. They provide the content and the
themes that are played out in the grand scenarios that lie behind contemporary acts o f
performance violence. 114 The imagery o f cosmic war ties together a groups past,
present and future; it conjures up images o f great battles from the legendary past, gives
purpose and direction to continue the fight in this time, and makes promises o f a better
world that will be inherited in the future. Fanatical groups offer individuals the chance to
experience love, connectedness and caring through the group. There is a shedding of
inhibitions and limitations of individual identity, which results in emotional openness.115
Diffusion o f responsibility, a sense o f de-individuation, also occurs. This sense o f
anonymity and de-individuation can lead to violence; Woolf and Hulsizer explain this
relationship: By stripping individuals o f their identities through increased anonymity,
de-individuation causes people to become less self-aware, feel less responsible for their
actions, and be more likely to engage in violence if placed in a provocative situation. 116

113 Ibid., 76-77.

114 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 149.
115 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 77.
116 Woolf and Hulsizer, Intra- and Inter-Religious Hate, 11.

Rene Girards theory o f sacrifice includes this concept of de-individuation stating that for
violence to be quelled the entire society must participate in the ritual murder. The
involvement o f each individual guarantees that responsibility and guilt are equally
diffused throughout the community. This eliminates the possibility o f revenge killings
that would plunge society into the chaos of war. The loss o f individual identity and the
adoption o f anonymity allow violence to occur without responsibility or guilt. The group
is responsible, the group is guilty. Unanimous group violence means that everyone was
involved, everyone is guilty and therefore there is no one left to blame.117 Each time a
fanatical group engages in violence the responsibility o f such acts are diffused, the group
is further desensitized to violence, and their cosmic war perceptions are maintained by
any retaliatory acts committed by outsiders.
Cosmic war transcends space and time, it is a metaphysical and eschatological
conflict between good and evil.118 The face o f evil may change over time. This allows
communities engaging this cultural perception to target different groups depending on
their circumstances and needs. Defeats are not devastating, as one war can be viewed as
a minor battle within the timeless conflict between good and evil. What is important is
that the fight continues, so that good eventually triumphs.119 Chaotic acts o f violence that
seem at odds with self-interests become understandable when placed in the context of
cosmic war. These fanatical incidents o f violence are battles in the fight against good and

117 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 101.

118 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 153.
119 Ibid., 164-165.

evil. Real-time losses and self-sacrifice are insignificant in cosmic struggles. The
ideological conquest o f good requires that the battle be waged, not necessarily won. In
this case war is the reason for violence, as well as its circumstance.


The world is in a

state of utter desperation, therefore acts of desperation are warranted in order to remedy
the situation. In Juergensmeyers explanation of cosmic war, he is again partially
engaging Rene Girards theory of sacrifice and violence, which postulates that violence,
can only be quelled by violence. 121 Cultures engaging in perceptions o f cosmic war see
the world as constantly hostile and chaotic. This justifies their violent actions that can
also be viewed as an attempt at ordering the perpetual chaos.
It is easy to see how cultural perceptions and social processes mass produced a
specific type o f individual in Pakistani society capable o f the atrocities during the 1971
war. The blatant belief in their superiority by Pakistani leaders, the exclusionary
practices o f the army and its previous experience with violence, and the discrimination
against Bengalis and women in government, economy, and religion created a social group
o f butchers and a flock ripe for slaughter. Pakistani culture was engaging the cosmic war
paradigm, with the constant perception of a hostile world. Since Pakistans inception
India has been viewed as the ultimate enemy, not only as the enemy o f Pakistan, but as
the enemy o f Islam.122 The 1971 war was a battle between ultimate good (Islamic
Pakistan) and the ultimate evil (Hindu India and its East Pakistani disciples). This

120 Ibid., 152.

121 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 26.
19 ?

Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 5.


perception allowed any means necessary to ensure victory. Mass rape and murder
became acceptable and individual accountability disappeared as guilt was diffused
because o f the involvement o f the entire army. Individual perpetrators became faceless,
and their crimes cleansed by religious rhetoric.
Social order and cultural knowledge melt together creating socialization processes
that produce individual identity. Cultural continuity is obtained through socialization by
creating individuals that have synchrony with cultural norms and values. There is
individual responsibility for acts of violence; however, an individuals propensity for
altruism or aggression, for tolerance or hate, is largely determined through social order
and cultural knowledge. Shared group hatred motivates collective violent action that is
religiously justified, and when group anonymity diffuses responsibility the conclusion is
a guiltless group o f individuals willing to harm others. These cultural and social
conditions set the stage for violence; however, they do not ensure the absolute
performance o f it. In many cases extenuating circumstances that force change can spark
mass violence. These circumstances will now be discussed in the third and final section
o f the model.
Part III: Circumstances
Circumstances are conditions that lead to frustration, or the failure to fulfill
goals.123 This failure results in humiliation; and according to Juergensmeyer individuals
and groups seek to cast off this humiliation by engaging in acts o f symbolic

123 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 35.


empowerment, de-humiliating acts o f violence.124 Circumstances, that frustrate goals and

lead to humiliation, act as catalysts for violence, but they are not the sole cause o f it.
Socio-cultural systems, as those mapped out above, are prepared to engage in mass
violence; frustrating circumstances initiate the aggressive and violent policies already in
Limited resources. Staub breaks down relevant circumstances into three sub
categories: competition for resources, social disorganization, and destabilizing crises.
Competition for resources includes economic, political, cultural, and spiritual needs.
Economic hardships can lead to starvation and long term deprivation, which threatens
physical well-being. Realistic conflict theory states that competition for scarce resources
results in prejudice between groups.125 This theory is usually applied to groups
competing for land, employment, and other economic resources; however, it can also be
applied to cultural and spiritual assets.

Competitions for cultural and spiritual needs

are perceived as a threat to identity. East and West Pakistan, in the years leading up to
the 1971 war, were competing not only for economic resources, but for cultural,
linguistic, and religious legitimacy. West Pakistan was always the victor in these
competitions; dominating the government and the military, distributing national profits
unequally, making Urdu the national language, and constantly claiming that East Pakistan
was not Islamic enough and tainted with Hinduism. East Pakistan was experiencing

124 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 187.

125 Avalos, Fighting Words, 83.
126 Woolf and Hulsizer, Intra- and Inter-Religious Hate, 12.

long-term deprivation on all o f these avenues. In an effort to regain some legitimacy East
Pakistan rallied behind the Awami League, winning the general elections. West Pakistan
saw this as an attack on their authentic Islamic identity. East Pakistan was lobbying for
an autonomous government, which would create two Islamic countries in the region.
This was unacceptable to West Pakistan, whose identity rested on the fact that it was
explicitly created for Muslims, a true Islamic state.


East Pakistans defiance

undermined West Pakistans Islamic legitimacy.

East Pakistans constant rebelliousness was a challenge to West Pakistans
superiority and thus masculinity. The loss o f control and dominance that culminated in
East Pakistans victory in the general elections was humiliating and damaging to West
Pakistans self-perception o f superiority. This humiliation could not be tolerated,
therefore West Pakistan maneuvered violently to reassert its masculinity. In this case
masculinity, as a metaphor for power, is the scarce resource being fought over. East
Pakistans defiance to West Pakistani authority sparked collective memories o f the
historical humiliation o f being labeled inherently effeminate; resulting in the hypermasculine violence that occurred during the 1971 war.


Rape became the apropos

response to this humiliation o f being effeminized. It satisfies the urge to enact violence,
dominance, and power. Rape is one way in which men effectively compete with one

127 Cohen, State Building in Pakistan, 301.


Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 208.


another to show superior strength and virility.


It is the theft and assault enemy

property. This symbolizes the enemys loss o f control over his womenfolk and his
inability to protect, the ultimate dishonor.


The mass rapes were acts o f symbolic

empowerment, sexualized de-humiliation that reasserted West Pakistans manliness.

Male Pakistani appropriation o f resources was also threatened by womens
increased presence in the public sphere, in addition to the Muslim Family Laws
Ordinance o f 1961. Women were granted suffrage in 1947 when Pakistan won its
independence, and the reservation o f seats in Parliament for women existed from 1956 to
1973. During this period women were also granted the right to attend the Islamic
University, although educated in separate facilities.131 The Muslim Family Laws
Ordinance o f 1961 further increased womens rights by requiring that marriages and
divorces be registered with the state, mandating men to gain special permission for
polygamous marriages from the state in addition to obtaining their first wifes consent. It
banned child marriage, and set the minimum age of marriage for women at sixteen.

The Ulama saw this as a diminishing o f mens rights and vociferously objected to the
Ordinance on the grounds that it was in direct contradiction to the Quran. In the fifteen
years leading up to the 1971 war women were increasing their presence in parliament,

129 Joanna Bourke, Rape: Sex Violence History (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2007),
130 Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 8.
131 Esposito, Islam: Ideology and Politics, 359.
132 Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, 198.

workforce, and higher education, which are all public arenas traditionally reserved for
men. The presence of women in the public sphere clashed with the traditional practice o f
purdah, 133 the norm in Pakistani society. Women in male spaces and the granting o f
rights traditionally reserved for men can be seen as a loss of distinction between the
sexes. This loss of distinctiveness is an encroachment on male identity, creating another
instance of Rene Girards monstrous double. Male frustration over this breach of
boundaries found an acceptable outlet during the 1971 war. Male anxiety over womens
rights could be vented without reprisals because their victims were properly chosen from
a dehumanized group, Bengali women. Rape serves the unique purpose o f symbolically
reestablishing the sexual hierarchy, while empowering not only the rapist, but the entire
male population that he represents.
Collective chaos. Social disorganization is another circumstance that can
instigate aggression. The advent o f a new political system can further cultural and social
characteristics that contribute to violence.134 New political systems and social
reorganization affect projected paths to goal satisfaction. Social disorganization or
change can be interpreted as an attack on a way o f life that certain groups see as part of
their identity. This attack thus warrants violent defense. After nine years o f martial law,
West Pakistani government was preparing to hand over the reins to a civilian regime.

133 Purdah refers to the seclusion or separation o f the sexes. It refers to womens
modesty and is associated with the wearing o f the burqa or chador (veil). Veiling and
seclusion are not truly Islamic practices; however they are the norm in Pakistani
society. Esposito, Islam: Ideology and Politics, 358.
134 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 14.

General elections were being held, and East Pakistan was lobbying for autonomy.
Society was being re-ordered. West Pakistans defeat in the general election threatened a
major power shift, putting East Pakistan in the drivers seat, which would result in West
Pakistans subjugation. A complete reversal of the existing hierarchy would occur, hence
the call to arms.
Unsettling disasters. Destabilizing crises are events that help create competition
for resources and further social disorganization, which are both interpreted as threats to
identity and thus result in self-defense. Woolf and Hulsizer explain that, In a crisis,
groups can pull together and engage in remarkable constructive action. Unfortunately,
groups can also respond by engaging in destructive actions. 135 Economic, political, and
environmental changes can all spur aggression. Threat o f conflict or war, famine,
drought, land sovereignty, and third party interference or dominance are threats that can
either bond or split groups. The Bhola cyclone hit East Pakistan one month before the
general elections, killing 500,000 people and destroying 65% o f East Pakistans fishing
capability that constitutes 80% of its protein consumption. West Pakistans response to
the crisis was interpreted as lacking compassion and timeliness, and used as a rallying
point for Bengali political leaders inciting discontent and seeking support.


disaster and the subsequent perception o f West Pakistans mismanagement helped push
Bengalis to the voting polls the next month. The outcome o f this vote threatened to flip
the power dynamics in all o f Pakistan.

135 Woolf and Hulsizer, Intra- and Inter-Religious Hate, 14.


Niazi, The Betrayal o f East Pakistan, 38.


According to Staub circumstances obstruct presumed paths to goals, which are
then perceived as attacks that require defense. Difficult circumstances naturally cause
stress, which induces hedonic balancing. 137 This term refers to the relativity o f others
well-being, meaning that if we judge our own well-being to be worse than the others we
are unlikely to help and more likely to harm.


This judgment is based on perceptions;

perceptions that are governed by cultural knowledge and social order, which determine
identity. The interaction between cultural knowledge and social order that creates group
identity is responsible for socializing individuals towards violence. When the stress o f
difficult circumstances is present an explosive situation can occur. In 1971 the conditions
were such that genocide and mass rape became realized options for conflict resolution.
Cultural knowledge, which is shared perceptions and collective thoughts within a
community, determines what is important to a group. Religion is inseparable from the
cultural fabric that determines this collective knowledge in South Asia.


In 1971 West

Pakistani culture was operating under the assumption that its legitimate Islamic identity
was being threatened. East Pakistanis had been engaged in the dehumanization process
enforced by the martial law government and religious organizations since Pakistans birth
in 1947. These social institutions vehemently propagated West Pakistans supremacy
through economic, religious, linguistic, and ethnic policies that created a homogenous

137 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 38.

138 Ibid.
139 Skidmore, Religion and Women in Peace, 4.

ruling body, idealized in the Pakistan Army. These social institutions and cultural norms
also instilled patriarchy, reducing women to inferior sub-human creatures. Bengali
women were the superlative outlet for West Pakistani aggression. Within this context
West Pakistan was faced with circumstances that threatened to change their way o f life.
East Pakistan was challenging West Pakistans authority, threatening to reverse the social
hierarchy, delegitimizing Pakistans Islamic foundation. Women were increasingly
breaching the gender boundaries by venturing into the workforce and higher education
defying male control. Women were beginning to subvert the sexual hierarchy. West
Pakistanis were being humiliated; their authority and superiority was being questioned.
West Pakistani soldiers answered these questions by reasserting their masculinity. The
Pakistan Army symbolically empowered the whole o f West Pakistan through the mass
rapes o f 300,000 Bengali women. The dehumanization process o f East Pakistanis and
women made Bengali women an apropos scapegoat for West Pakistans aggression. The
mass rapes reestablished religious, ethnic, linguistic, and sexual hierarchies in all of
Pakistan. The incorporation o f Islam into Pakistani identity links the mass rapes to the
perception o f cosmic war. The Pakistan Army is an Islamic institution, its soldiers are
warriors of God, and their actions are divinely sanctioned. They rape in Gods name.
Therefore the raping o f girls and women, the forced bodily transgressions, and the
mutilations are considered to be a triumph for good.
This model interprets rape as an act o f religious terrorism. Terrorism is
understood as symbolic empowerment; violence that seeks to undo humiliation.
Terrorism is understood as acts o f unacceptable violence performed during peacetime;

however, the case study o f the 1971 war between East and West Pakistan demonstrates
that the label of terrorism is appropriately applied to rape within the construct o f war, as
it is an unacceptable violence with similarly rooted motivations in symbolic
empowerment. Rape, understood within the socio-cultural model articulated in this
chapter, can also be considered genocidal. The honor and warrior culture of East and
West Pakistan weaponized rape, making it an effective tool aimed at future generations of
Bengalis. The breed them out mentality was literally enforced. Rape within this
culture is an attempt to render the victim worthless. She loses her marriageability and
therefore her ability to produce culturally legitimate children. Rape effectively stops the
procreation o f the targeted group; it is an imposed action intended to prevent births within
a group, which is the very definition of genocide found in Article 11(d) o f the 1948 United
Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. The model
organizes information in a way that makes the violent elements o f cultural, social, and
circumstantial constructs understandable. While the model is applied to the 1971 war
between East and West Pakistan, it can be applied to other instances o f violence, and is
meant to help organize information that governs groups and is thus responsible for
violent behavior. The ultimate quest o f this model and its demonstration with the case
study of West Pakistan is to redefine rape as religious terrorism. By redefining rape in
this way it is my greatest hope that rape will begin to be understood as unacceptable
violence under all circumstances.
The history o f aggression is an important component in understanding a groups
decision to engage in violence. The historical use o f violence desensitizes groups,


making their propensity for violence higher than groups who have historically chosen
non-violent paths for conflict resolution. Historical use of aggression also refers to
collective memories that are passed down from generation to generation. The prevalence
o f these memories in identity formation will be explored in the next chapter through
interviews with the generation of Pakistanis who participated in the 1971 war and the
generations o f Pakistanis that have only known East Pakistan as independent


This chapter focuses on how the violence o f the 1971 war has shaped two
generations o f Pakistani men. The Pakistani soldiers that fought in this war are both
perpetrators and witnesses. They have carried with them violent memories o f their own
actions and the actions o f their comrades, which are now part of their identity. Violence
has molded these individuals and they have helped to form later generations of
Pakistanis. By examining these two different groups o f men, we start to see how a socio
cultural history o f violence prepares generations for the future use o f violence.
The first group of men I interviewed consists o f ten Pakistani men, all ex-soldiers
in the Pakistani army who fought in East Pakistan in 1971. They are o f varying ages,
ranging from 67 to 78, they self-identify as Muslim, and all are o f Punjabi ethnic origins,
as is the majority of the Pakistani army. All o f them lived the majority o f their lives in
West Pakistan, with some migrating from India during Partition. These men come from
upper-middle class economic backgrounds and were all officers in the army, some of
whom had fathers that served in the British army before Partition. They are educated
men, meaning that they are holders o f Bachelors degrees from a variety o f fields. Some
were educated abroad, others stayed in Pakistan for their education. Each one was/is


married and has children. Many left Pakistan to come to America at the behest o f their
children who had already come to the U.S.A.
The second group o f men is chiefly comprised of the children o f the first group of
men illustrated above; three o f the ten men in this group are not children o f any o f the
interviewees in the first group; however they do have strong familial ties to the military.
They are the direct offspring; and they are representative o f the generation that the first
group o f Pakistani soldiers fathered. The ten men from this second generation range in
age from 19 to 38, self-identify as Muslims, and are ethnically diverse in that six are
Punjabi and four are Pathan. All were bom in Pakistan, although three out often have
lived more than half their lives in the U.S.A. They are formerly educated or in the
process o f obtaining a bachelors degree, usually in one of three areas: engineering, law,
or medicine. Two of them are themselves ex-Pakistani army officers; all have had direct
contact with ex-military members. Six out o f the ten are married; some with small
children, while the rest are enjoying college life as single men in California.
The interviews are confidential, and random pseudonyms with no connection to
the actual respondents were chosen for each interviewee. The interview contained
several questions concerning direct experiences during the war, violence witnessed, and
personal opinions about the violence. The questions touched on the impact o f the war
and its place in personal as well as national history. The interviewees were asked about
their general views concerning sexual violence and why it occurred so frequently during
the war. I asked questions concerned with remembering and relaying the war, and how it
had shaped personal identity. The interviews took an average o f three to four hours to

conduct. They were not recorded. I took notes throughout the course o f the interviews, as
long as the interviewees were comfortable. Each respondent was provided information
concerning resources for help in the instance o f any mental or emotional disturbances that
might arise from the interview. The interview questions led naturally to free flowing
conversation and dialogue concerning the war as well as other personal experiences of
the interviewees. These interviews reflect a facet of Pakistani culture and cannot be
understood as representative o f all Pakistanis. The picture that these interviewees painted
is indicative o f how the violence during the 1971 war is preserved in the cultural
knowledge o f Pakistanis. It is passed on from generation to generation ever present in the
Pakistani social consciousness. This cultural knowledge is expressed below as the
findings o f the interviews are conveyed.
The Soldiers
India Our Eternal Adversary
The men that I interviewed, who fought in the 1971 war, were preoccupied with
conveying Indias involvement during the conflict. They were also concerned with
transmitting knowledge about the atrocities committed by civilian Bengalis and the Mukti
Bahini against Biharis and West Pakistanis living in East Pakistan. These soldiers see the
1971 war not as a lost civil conflict, but as an international war between India and
Pakistan that resulted in the loss o f territory.
A Pakistani officer that I will refer to as Abdul, explains the war as follows,
India played its game and we lost, it is that simple. We were waiting for China and the
US to send support, and while we were waiting India was playing its hand, training the


Bengalis and using propaganda to turn them against us. India got what it had always
wanted. This viewpoint allows Pakistanis to keep their superiority complexes intact
along with preserving their place within the South Asian hierarchy. Abduls absolute
belief in Indias involvement and orchestration o f the war is a clear cut case o f belief
perseverance, which is a groups extreme reluctance to modify its beliefs even in the
face o f conflicting information. Woolf and Hulsizer state that once beliefs are formed,
individuals and groups sometimes refuse to incorporate new information that is
incompatible with already existing beliefs. They argue, This phenomenon, referred to as
belief perseverance, can account for the tenacity with which religious groups hold onto
their beliefs - even if these beliefs are shown to be without factual basis. 1 If Abdul and
his comrades were to concede that Bengalis had the capacity to be a real threat, they
would be contradicting core elements o f their identity rooted in the forever joined
dichotomy o f West Pakistani superiority and Bengali inferiority.
The 1971 war with India is seen as another battle within a cosmic struggle
between good Pakistani Muslims and evil Indian Hindus. Syed, another Army
officer, articulates this mindset o f cosmic warfare by contextualizing the 1971 war as
merely a small battle. He says:
East Pakistan may have been lost in this battle, but we fought India before
that and we won. We will fight them again, and they will lose. India is
always trying to breakdown Pakistan because we are a strong Muslim
people and we are a threat to their border, we are their enemy, we cant

1Woolf and Hulsizer, Intra- and Inter-Religious Hate, 10.


live with them. They are Hindus, we are Muslims, they worship cow and
we eat it.
This last line o f Syeds I heard many times when Pakistanis described the reasons behind
Partition. It is a saying that for Pakistanis sums up the blatant religious differences
between Hindus and Muslims, thus barring the path to peaceful coexistence.
Dawood, another soldier, explains that Bengali cowardice and fascination with
outsiders is how India played their game and influenced them to betray Pakistan, which
is how the 1971 war was lost. He expounds:
Bengalis, they have mob mentality, they are revengeful, and cowards, they
will never fight a single man to man, but they hold on to their revenge
forever and they come back with more Bengalis, so it is never an equal
fight. And they always welcome the outsiders, foreigners I mean. Thats
how the British got in, in the East in Calcutta because they just let them in;
they are so very influenced by the foreigners.
Here again there is a blatant disbelief in Bengali ability to wage war or orchestrate any
type of rebellion against West Pakistanis on their own. It is evident these soldiers are
operating from a perceived threat orientation, also known as an ideology o f antagonism.
In other words, these soldiers view the world as constantly hostile, and India as the
instigator; they operate under this assumption in the absence o f information and in the
face of distorted knowledge. They refuse to recognize the actual individuals, in this case
Bengalis, as committers o f rebellious violent acts. Instead they attribute any hostility to

2 Ibid., 7.


groups already accepted as the enemy within their cultural conscience.

Dawood refers

to India when he uses the term foreigners and compares India to the British alluding
to the cultural memories o f colonization. Dawood blames Bengali weakness and their
fascination with foreigners for over two centuries of humiliation brought on by
imperialists, saying that it was the Bengalis who just let the British take over the whole o f
South Asia without even one word o f protestation. Dawood conjures up the cultural
memories o f emasculation experienced by his people under British rule, and places the
responsibility o f that shame and pain at the feet o f weak Bengalis.
Overcoming these collective memories o f humiliation, according to
Juergensmeyer, is what drives symbolic acts o f violence.4 Rape becomes an apropos
tool: at once empowering Pakistani men, thus surmounting this cultural humiliation. At
the same time it emasculates Bengali men by stealing their property and appropriating
sexual access to Bengali women. The fear of becoming a marginalized group in a Hindu
Indian colony is also present in the above comments o f the interviewees, and is another
driving force behind their violent actions. This is in line with their foundational belief
that India orchestrated the 1971 war, and that India was the actual aggressor looking to
implement de facto imperialism through feeble Bengali agents.
These Pakistani soldiers do recognize that Bengali agents did engage in violence.
In fact all ten o f these soldiers are steadfast in their assertion that it was the Bengalis who
started the senseless killing and raping. Each soldier went into a detailed account o f the

3 Ibid., 8.
4 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind, 208.

atrocities inflicted on West Pakistanis by Bengalis, saying that the Bengalis even had
slaughterhouses for killing off West Pakistanis. Zafar recalls his first encounter with this
type o f violence:
I was standing at the dock watching the tide go down, and the whole
village was empty, we could not find the people, they were nowhere, a
whole village deserted, then we saw them. As the tide gradually went
down all the dead bodies we saw were stuffed under the dock; men,
women, children, all dead. The Bengalis had no mercy, women were cut
up, missing breasts and other body parts; it was horrible what they did.
Zafar and the other soldiers go on to explain that the Bengalis did this to all the West
Pakistanis and Biharis in East Pakistan, and that they had to be stopped and taught a
lesson. At the end o f each interview I asked each soldier if they had any animosity
towards Bengalis now and they each said in his own way that he did not. Most o f them
expressed disinterest in Bangladesh, alluding to their belief that Bengalis are cowards and
therefore a non-threat, reiterating that India is the real enemy.
This viewpoint is again mirrored in the Pakistani Governments inquiry report, as
is evident in the title which labels 1971 as an India-Pakistan War and not an internal
conflict.5 The soldiers were adamant that it was the following factors that culminated in
the 1971 loss: Bengali weakness, Indian involvement, and the laziness o f Pakistani

5 Pakistan, Hamoodur Rahman Commission.


Nothing Lower than a Bengali

It was made starkly clear to me by these Pakistani soldiers that they feel Bengalis
were and are incapable o f truly waging a war o f their own volition against Pakistanis and
that Bengalis are inferior in every way possible, which is why they were so easily
manipulated by India. This view o f India, as an eternal Hindu (and thus evil) enemy,
crept through to West Pakistani perceptions o f East Pakistan. East Pakistan did have a
Muslim majority, however, twenty percent o f its population was non-Muslim, mostly
Hindu, thus their Islam was seen as tainted, impure, and their culture as overly influenced
by India.6
Faisal, a Pakistani officer who had been in East Pakistan for almost a year, prior
to the breakout of the war, described Bengali culture to me, so that I would understand
the major differences: Their food is fish and rice, not meat and roti like in Pakistan.
They cook, clean, shit, all in the same water.
Irfan, a mid-ranking army officer, highlighted the differences between Pakistanis
and Bengalis by focusing on differences in physical appearance, saying that:
They are short, dark, thin, very small people. We are tall, light, and
strong. You can see the difference. We have Persian blood and the
influence of Afghanistan and Iran, true Muslim fighters and we grow
wheat. They are more like other rice eating countries, like Burma and
Thailand and India and that is how they look, very dark and very poor.

6 Sisson and Rose, War and Secession, 37.


Irfan mentions darkness, which has held an important place in many social hierarchies.
Mark E. Hills research on the perception o f beauty and skin color among African
Americans describes the behavioral attributes inscribed through colorism: Whiteness
is idealized with all that is civilized, virtuous, and beautiful; blackness, in opposition,
with all that is lowly, sinful, and ugly.7 This concept o f colorism, may also be applied
beyond the American racial context. It is demonstrated through the interviewees
descriptions o f Bengalis. Irfans physical description of Bengalis, attributes a set o f
characterizations associated with darkness, meaning Indian, and thus Hindu. He is
alluding to his belief that Bengalis are dark, like Indians, like Hindus who are considered
to be the arch enemy o f Pakistani Muslims. Here again he engages the violent religious
history of cosmic warfare. Andrea Smith explains the link between darkness and
rapability during the American Indian Genocide: Because Indian bodies are dirty, they
are considered sexually violable and rapable. That is, in patriarchal thinking, only a
body that is pure can be violated. The rape of bodies that are considered inherently
impure or dirty simply does not count.8 The connection between darkness and rapability
can also be applied beyond the context o f the American Indian genocide. The impurity o f
Bengalis is expressed by the interviewees descriptions. This discernment of Bengali

7 Mark E. Hill, Skin Color and the Perception o f Attractiveness Among African
Americans: Does Gender Make a Difference? Social Psychology Quarterly 65, no. 1
(March 2002), 77-91.
8 Andrea Smith, "Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide," in
Remembering Conquest: Feminist/Womanist Perspectives on Religion, Colonization, and
Sexual Violence, by Nantawan Boonprasat Lewis and Marie M. Fortune, (New York: The
Hawthorn Press, Inc., 1999), 35.

dirtiness expressed through the simple phrase they are dark led to the perception that
Bengali women were rapable.
The constant comparisons between Indian and Bengali culture allow Pakistani
soldiers to engage Bengalis in the dehumanization process that was continuously being
applied to Indians. The transference o f this process categorizes Bengalis as sub-human,
in spite o f their right to equality ostensibly based on their religious status as fellow
Muslims. As Zafar, one o f the older officers I interviewed, poignantly states, We never
made them our equals; we looked at them like slaves and not as our Muslim brothers.
These ten soldiers all justified the violence of the Pakistan army as a mere
response to the atrocities first committed by the Mukti Bahini and civilian Bengalis.
Zafar again emphasizes his perception of Bengalis as slaves, saying, They were our
slaves, the Bengalis, and we treated them bad, so they were revengeful, this is why they
did these things, and they would not stop, so we did the same to them, humiliated them,
and showed them their masters, and that they are slaves. Dawood, Faisal, and Rehan all
echoed Zafars feelings, making references to teaching Bengalis their place, showing
them how real Muslims fight, and gaining back their honor.
Irfan also brought up slave imagery when I asked him why East Pakistan was so
much poorer than West Pakistan. He alluded to Bengalis oversexed nature. This
explanation was repeated by Rehan, a lower-ranking officer stationed at Eastern
Command Headquarters in East Pakistan three months before the war broke out. Rehan
explained to me that East Pakistan was poor because they had no other entertainment
except for women. He pronounces that:

East Pakistan was a very fertile land, rich in resources, but population
makes them poor. They entertain themselves by having relations. They
cant help it. Their houses are little bamboo huts, and each house maybe
has one or two beds for the whole family, so they sleep close to one
another, then they get aroused, that is why they have ten or fifteen
children, and their diet, only having fish and seafood this makes them
crave for women.
The imagery o f the Bengali as an uncontrollable, oversexed, dark, impoverished
weakling, invoked here by Rehan, is an image commonly summoned throughout history
to delegitimize targeted groups. Charles I. Glicksberg, writing about African Americans
in the 1950s iterates the following when discussing the virility myth o f enslaved males.
He writes the slave is seen as a lusty stallion, disgustingly sexual in his inclinations.9
The concept o f the virility myth is reflected in Rehans comments. The ability to control
inner desire is what some think defines a member o f the human species. Ann J. Cahill
explains the role o f the body in twentieth century philosophical thought, writing: If
being human was defined as the mastery of the intellect over the body, then it was only
right and justit was only humaneto have those more intellectually capable rule over
those incapable o f transcending their bodily being.10 Lyndal Roper also addresses the
importance o f the body in relation to male versus female honor in early modem Europe,

9 Charles I. Glicksberg, Bias, Fiction, and the Negro, Phylon 13, no.2 (2nd
Quarter 1952), 128.
10 Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 52.

stating, Symbolically, masculinity was guaranteed when a man took up weapons and
defended his city, so that the insult traitor, often used against men, was a devastating
blow against a mans honor. By contrast, the insult most frequently used against women,
whore impugned a womans chastity, her bodily integrity and not her deeds.11 The
obvious intellectual inferiority o f other groups validated their submission to superior
beings. The belief in the oversexed nature o f Bengalis is also part o f the dehumanizing
effeminization process. Women have been thought to be more inherently tied to the
body; menstruation and childbearing are offered as evidence to this fact. The argument
that women are unable to intellectually transcend their bodies has been used many times
over to vindicate patriarchy and imperialism. This alludes to womens and also colonized
peoples innate inferiority, and thus the need for constant male supervision and
protection.12 Rehan and his comrades are invoking this historical hierarchy by likening
Bengalis and their oversexed nature to uncontrollable females, and therefore Pakistani
supervision over Bengalis was not only warranted, but necessary.
Lazy Leadership
The Pakistani soldiers considered themselves greater men; however, they did
express a belief that their commanding officers displayed a lack in judgment during the
war. When I asked the interviewees specifically about the sexual violence that occurred
during the war, they became eager to discuss the behavior o f their senior officers.

11 Lyndal Roper, Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Religion, and Sexuality in
Early Modem Europe ("New York: Routledge, 1994), 108.

Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 52-53.


Several o f them mentioned Lieutenant-General A.A.K. Niazi, the commander o f Eastern

Command (East Pakistan Headquarters) during the war. Majid, an officer almost at the
end o f his two year East Pakistan rotation when the war broke out, described Niazis
behavior as follows: The General was a good man, but a womanizer and he would drink
a lot. Every day I saw a different woman coming in and out o f his compound. He was a
good General but very weak habits.
This impression o f General Niazi was echoed by almost all o f the interviewees
and is also addressed in the Pakistani Governments official inquiry report about the 1971
war. The report states the following about General Niazi:
That he was guilty o f conduct unbecoming an Officer and Commander of
his rank and seniority in that he acquired a notorious reputation for sexual
immorality and indulgence in the smuggling o f Pan


from East to West

Pakistan, with the inevitable consequence that he failed to inspire respect

and confidence in the mind o f his subordinates impaired his qualities of
leadership and determination, and also encouraged laxity in discipline and
moral standards among the officers and men under his command.14
Umair, another officer stationed in East Pakistan the same time as Majid, explained that
this type of behavior was common for the officers, and that sexual impropriety was even
encouraged. He recalled that when he first arrived in Dacca and reported to his senior

13 Pan, also known as Paan or Betel Quid, is a combination o f betel leaves, areca
nut and tobacco. It is chewed then spat or swallowed, producing a euphoric effect.
14 Pakistan, Hamoodur Rahman Commission, 56.

officer, the officer said, Welcome, welcome, have you raped a woman yet? You go, go
and enjoy. By these soldiers placing the blame on higher ranking officers for
encouraging and engaging in such violence, they are relinquishing their responsibility for
the sexual violence that occurred during the war.
Abdul also said this type of conduct was normal, and that the attitude o f the senior
officers encouraged lower ranking men to engage in similar behavior without fear of
punishment. This viewpoint, of rape as normal, is not contained to times o f war. T.
Walter Herbert states, Sexual coercion is portrayed as normal, even amusing, in a wide
range o f popular entertainments and that rapist fantasies capture the imaginations of
law-abiding men. 15
Irfan proceeds to tell me a story about one o f his juniors (a lower ranking soldier
under his command):
My junior had such a lust for women, I know he raped many o f them and
nothing was ever said to him by our seniors. But one day after he had
been sent to Chittagong my senior commander came to me saying do you
know what that idiot of yours did, that friend o f yours, he got killed, could
not control himself and he was such a stupid man that they killed him. I
later found that when he was on his way to Chittagong on the train, he had
seen three Bengali women on the side of the tracks, bathing, so he stopped
the train, and he raped them, and the villagers came after he was done with

15 T. Walter Herbert, Sexual Violence and American Manhood (Cambridge:

Harvard University Press, 2002), 32.

the girls and they cut off his head. He had no other soldiers with him
because he was delivering a message, so they just killed him. I know he
should not have done the rapes, but they should not have killed him, he
was a good man.
Irfan was very upset about his friend, and did not really seem to understand why the
villagers were so upset. In one breath he conveys that rape is wrong but does not
understand why the Bengali villagers were upset with his friend. This illustrates how the
dehumanization process transforms rape into an acceptable action: there is no crime, no
violation because the victims are not considered human.
Umair explains that for Pakistani soldiers, life in East Pakistan was very luxurious
before the war, he says:
Everything was cheap, food was cheap, women were cheap, no discipline,
all was easy, and we were all enjoying, and the place was beautiful. There
were luxurious palaces with naked statues of women, naked paintings of
women left by Britishers and rich Hindus, the whole place was green and
lush with red tulips the color o f lipstick.
Umair smiled while describing his time in East Pakistan, and said that those were the
easy times, and he thinks of those years with fondness. This lackadaisical attitude,
according to Umair, is also why they lost the war. He says the senior officers were so
used to this lifestyle that they lost the will to fight. This phrase lost the will to fight
was commonly repeated by other interviewees and is used throughout the Pakistani


Governments report to describe several senior army officials. For example, the first
chapter o f the report begins by addressing moral aspects of the war and asserts:
That due to corruption arising out of the performance o f Martial Law
duties, lust for wine and women and greed for lands and houses, a large
number of senior army officers ... had not only lost the will to fight but
also the professional competence necessary for taking the vital and critical
decisions demanded o f them for the successful prosecution o f the war.16
This general mindset o f the senior commanders had a profound effect on their discipline
o f the troops, as is clearly shown above; however, this luxurious lifestyle and perspective
o f East Pakistan as a paradise, was shattered when the killing started.
When 1 asked each interviewee if he had raped anyone during the war, they all
said no and that rape is wrong; however, they understood why other soldiers did and that
under these circumstances it was not abnormal or condemned.
Dancing Whores
The dehumanization of Bengalis was in full swing, and it was two-fold for
Bengali women, who were perceived as wanton prostitutes who welcomed sexual assault.
Bengali women were constantly being imbued with Hindu values, which thus erased any
consideration for their Muslim status that might hinder a perpetrators violent actions.
Faisal, a Pakistani officer who had been in East Pakistan for almost a year prior to the
war breaking out, describes Bengali culture in terms of differences between East and
West Pakistani women, stressing the open promiscuity o f Bengali girls:

16 Pakistan, Hamoodur Rahman Commission, 15.


The women bathe openly so that men walking by can see them, and they
wear saris that with one pull fall off their body, like Indians. They are
very attached to music, like Hindus, and they have their daughters dance
for guests, they take pride in this dancing and music, like prostitutes. My
daughters do not dance, neither does my wife, this music and dancing is
not Islamic. Our women are not prostitutes like Bengalis.
Abdul echoed Faisals description o f Bengali culture saying that:
They are always playing some kind o f instrument and music all the time, it
is their profession this music, and there are so many prostitutes that would
dance for us. All you do is check into a hotel and they have a whole staff
o f girls waiting for you, they are paraded in your room and you just pick
one, this is normal for them, this is how they are.
Rehan also addresses the conduct o f Bengali women and Hindu influence, he
Their women love to dance for them and play music, and wear revealing
clothes, dancing encourages sex. This is just like Hindus, you know
Hinduism encourages sex. You know they have temples in India that have
the male organ as statues, and the women go to the temple naked and do
rituals on the statues so that they have children, this is why Bengalis are
like this, cause of Hindu influence.


The perception o f Bengali girls and women as prostitutes meant they were spoiled
women that could not be harmed by intercourse, forced or not. According to Bourke, by
labeling women as whores, consent becomes a moot point.17
Naveed, a soldier who arrived in East Pakistan six months before the fighting,
told me about his expectations when he first arrived in East Pakistan. He was married
with one son before he went on rotation to East Pakistan, which traditionally lasted for
two years. When he did arrive in East Pakistan he saw that it was commonplace for
soldiers to take one or even two Bengali wives for the duration of their rotation. Naveed
explicates that, it was normal to see soldiers and officers with Bengali wives, not one
but even two, and they would have a house and have children with them, like a real
family. But one morning they would get up early, pack all their things, and leave their
wives and children without a word, because they are going back to their real family in
West Pakistan.
Dawood, another soldier, told me that this pattern of behavior, this practice of
taking wives and then leaving them, was a definite source of contention between
Pakistanis and Bengalis. These soldiers paint a bleak picture of what it was like for
Bengali women under West Pakistani de facto imperialism as well as during the 1971
war. These soldiers clearly uphold ethnic, religious and gender hierarchies that they used
to justify Pakistani conduct before and during the war. They chronicle the West Pakistani
perceptions o f their times: that Bengali rebelliousness, instigated through Indian
involvement, was a source o f humiliation. This warranted sexual acts o f violence that

17 Bourke, Rape: Sex Violence History, 80.


reversed humiliation and empowered the West Pakistanis. In their minds it is evident that
rape was an effective tool o f empowerment, reestablishing the proper order o f their
The socio-cultural elements that prime a group to engage in violence are
illustrated through the statements o f this group o f men. These men state that they harbor
no ill will towards Bengalis. However, their experiences with violence in East Pakistan,
within the cultural, social, economic, and religious context described by them, has clearly
had an impact. This generation o f soldiers and civilians that experienced the 1971 war
are transmitters o f knowledge and have determined how this violent part o f Pakistani
history is remembered. Cambodian genocide scholar Burcu Munyas brings to our
attention the generations following a trauma saying, They are dependent on transmitted
knowledge: family narratives, school curricula, and the culture in which they grow up
in part defined and shaped by the genocidehelp mold their understandings o f it.


They are responsible for the memories about the 1971 war that are present in the cultural
conscience. These memories influence the current collective climate concerning related
issues, such as war, genocide, rape, and persistent feelings o f cultural superiority. The
way these soldiers memorialize and justify the violence during the 1971 war, has
desensitized current Pakistani generations to violence, specifically rape and genocide.
This is apparent in the following interviews with the newer generations o f Pakistani
youth below. The impact o f trauma from the war has clearly gone beyond the generation

18 Burcu Munyas, "Genocide in the Minds o f Cambodian Youth: Transmitting

(hi)stories o f Genocide to Second and Third Generations in Cambodis," Journal o f
Genocide Research 10.3 (2008): 414.

that experienced it firsthand. The communal exposure to violence memorialized in the

collective conscience has increased Pakistani propensity for violence, thus making
Pakistanis more likely to engage in violent atrocities such as rape and genocide. The
intergenerational legacy o f rape and genocide becomes apparent as the younger
generations illustrate that the dehumanization o f Bengalis and women has not yet ceased.
This impact o f the 1971 war and its reverberations throughout the latter generations is
now explored.
Their Sons
According to Munyas,
Conflict is reproduced through layers and memories of trauma, through
stories and texts that transmit images o f the other, through perceptions
o f grievance and experiences and retellings o f oppression, violence and
lack o f economic opportunity. To compete with the discourses and values
that sustain division and are pregnant with future conflict, it is necessary
to know what kind o f discourses and values youth have ingested and how
they reproduce or transform them.19
These interviews are a glimpse into the mindset o f the new generations o f Pakistanis, and
into how the 1971 atrocities are remembered by the perpetrators. These interviews are
revealing in that they allow us to see the transference of culture and how collective
memories persist within the mindset o f individuals.

19 Ibid., 414.

This newer generation o f Pakistani interviewees was much more concerned about
how Pakistan as a country would be represented in my research. They seemed to be more
acutely aware o f the negative attention that Pakistan had received during the past few
decades and they were determined not to contribute to it. Most o f them wanted detailed
information about my research, which I gave, before agreeing to participate. This was
not the case with the latter generation o f interviewees who seemed disinterested in the
public opinion of their actions, holding true to their belief that they were right in their
conduct. As a result of these differences the older generation of Pakistani interviewees
was much more generous with their information, while some of the younger generation
interviewees were much more controlled in their responses. The overall sense that I
gathered from this younger group o f men was that violence, in general, was revered and
glorified; and a main ingredient at the core o f their Pakistani identity.
Glorious Pakistani History
These young men echoed the previous generations understanding o f the war as
an international conflict between India and Pakistan, with the result o f lost territory that,
in their minds, was not truly detrimental to Pakistan as a whole. This group o f Pakistani
men began each interview by laying out the facts for me; in short, they each gave me a
history lesson that iterates how the events o f the 1971 war are remembered and preserved
in official Pakistani educational materials and curricula. This history lesson was best told
by an interviewee I will refer to as Waseem, a thirty-four year old engineer who served in
the Pakistani Army and has been in the U.S.A. for over a decade. Waseem told me that
the 1971 war is not something that people regularly talk about; however, it is part of

official textbooks for the course Pakistani Studies which is a required class for all
learning institutions starting from fourth grade. Waseem states:
Yes, we take Pakistani Studies, which is also called the Social Studies, in
which we are taught about the nation. Part o f this course is the Glorious
Muslim History to the Indian Era and then to the Pakistani Era and
all o f Indo-Pak History. Throughout the history it is clear that Pakistan is
represented as perfect and there is never a bad word said about Pakistan
or the army, or its conduct. We are always in the right.
Waseem goes on to make a distinction between private and public education concerning
these courses, saying:
This is how it is taught in public schools, that Pakistan is perfect, but those
o f us that went to private schools had access to oxford texts because we
are on the Brittisher school system, and in those texts they just talked
about the facts o f the war, like when it happened and who fought, not
about who was right or wrong, so those of us who went to private schools
have a more even perspective. It is different now though, Musharraf20 is

much more liberal. I grew up under Zia military rule which was much
more strict.

20 Musharraf is in reference to Pervez Musharraf, a retired Pakistani army general

who was the President o f Pakistan from 2001 to 2008 and has a reputation for being more
liberal due to his approach to womens rights, the War on Terror, and international
relations with India.
21 Zia is in reference to Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who was President o f Pakistan
from 1977 to 1988. Zia forcefully retired President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and instituted

The distinction that Waseem makes between private and public education reveals his and
his familys economic status in the upper class of Pakistan. Many o f the other
interviewees reiterated this very same distinction, boasting about their access to private
educational institutions. This access to private education for many o f the interviewees
was determined by the fact that their fathers were army officers, and thus part o f the elite
who could afford to send their sons to private schools. Private education is one o f many
perks that army families receive. Free medical care for life, even after their fathers are
retired or discharged, access to vehicles and fuel, army housing and halls for social
functions are some o f the benefits that army families exclusively enjoy. All o f these
perks help to continue the elitist mentality that is prominent throughout the army and thus
the ruling classes o f Pakistan.
Bangladesh. Insignificant Trash
When the interviewees started to breakdown the reasons for the war, their
responses stressed the geographical distance between East and West Pakistan in addition
to cultural differences and East Pakistans insignificance. Hassan, a twenty-two year old
student who came to California just three years ago, expounds: Pakistan and
Bangladesh split because we didnt give a shit about them. I mean we were not even
physically close to them; we were separated by a thousand miles with India in between.
But if Kashmir had been lost then that would be really bad. Bangladesh was nothing, is
nothing, it was no big deal.

martial law in Pakistan implementing a strict religious conservatism under his military

Another interviewee, who I will call Tariq, recites the following almost as if it
was memorized out of a history book: East Pakistan did not have the same language,
culture, or traditions, and was geographically estranged from West Pakistan, we were
only joined through religion, and that was not strong enough to keep East and West
Pakistan together. Both Hassan and Tariq demonstrate through their comments that the
dehumanization process of Bengalis has continued within Pakistani culture. The belief in
Bengalis as an insignificant, non-threatening group continues to persist.
The interviewees stressed the same differences in culture that the older generation
explained. They mention that Bengalis eat fish and rice instead of meat and roti, and how
they teach their daughters to dance like Indians. They also described physical differences
between Bengalis and West Pakistanis in a similar manner as the previous generation.
One interviewee, who I will refer to as Imran, went into detail about these physical
They are short, dark, and very ugly, but the women have beautiful hair,
long and black because they eat a lot o f coconut and use coconut oil in
their hair. I remember hearing a news report about how a Bengali official
said that half o f their population was Pakistani, but I think this was just
propaganda, because if that was true then they would look like us. I mean
we are much taller, and lighter, we are good looking people, we Punjabis
are strong, look at them they are nothing like us.
An interesting fact about Imran was that shortly after he described these differences in
physical appearance he admitted to never actually having met any Bengalis himself, but


he reassured me with the utmost confidence that what he was telling me was absolutely
true. Imran is demonstrating how propaganda becomes truth in the absence o f firsthand
knowledge. His beliefs about the differences in physical traits between Pakistanis and
Bengalis were absolutely supported by the rest o f the interviewees.
Waseem stressed the difference in blood origins, saying, We are descendants of
Persians, the Bengalis are from South Indians. This is another reference to darkness
illustrating that the hierarchy o f skin color continues to survive within Pakistani culture.
Another interviewee, who I will refer to as Jawad, clearly described differences in
personality and character between Bengalis and Pakistanis, asserting the following:
They are hard workers, but they conspire a lot. They hold onto a grudge and they will
never let it go. They are cunning, and very cheap, greedy, and very poor, always running
after food. When my mom wants to insult my father she calls him a Bengali.
Ali, another interviewee, in his early forties blatantly stated:
I dont like them, I dont socialize with them, they like to conspire, and
they are always talking in Bengali, even over here, never in English so no
one can understand. Bengali is not a harsh sounding language; it is ok and
some Bengali music is good, but Urdu is evolved from Persian, it is pure,
beautiful, very poetic, not like Hindi. I dont like Hindi; it is dirty, a
smelly language, kind o f like Bengali.
Ali has transplanted the colorism hierarchy to language, associating darkness
to dirtiness and applying it to speech, as if speaking the very language o f Bengal
would pollute the mouth. This is evident in Jawads comment that illustrates how

the word Bengali is an insult, an assault on ones masculinity, much like the
historical use o f traitor to affront male honor.


Tariq mirrored this assertion o f having nothing in common with Bengalis by

telling me about his current work situation:
I have two co-workers, we all have our cubicles in a row, I am in the
middle and the one to my right is a Hindu Indian, and the one to my left is
a Bengali Muslim. I never talk to the Bengali, I cant understand him, and
he always smells like fish. I talk to the Indian; he loves it when I speak in
Urdu because it is so poetic. The Bengali says he cannot understand Urdu,
but I think he is lying; I think he can.
Tariqs description o f his co-workers and his place among them disclosed a pecking order
commonly expressed by the interviewees, mainly that Indians, while despised, were still
a formidable adversary worthy o f attention, while Bengalis were so low on the totem pole
that even mere acknowledgement o f their existence was not warranted.
Saqib illustrated this mindset by verbalizing his general feelings towards
Bengalis, I honestly dont think much o f them. They are cunning and
always conspiring and if you smell fish Bengalis are there. They are
always breeding like animals and they are so poor. They are not
important, not to me, they are insignificant trash. I mean their women are
those Bollywood actresses, so cheap, and if you throw a banana peel on

22 Roper, Oedipus and the Devil, 108.


the ground two Bengali kids pop out and fight over it. Even Indians are
not that cheap. I mean, yah, we did wrong to them, but they need to get
over it.
Saqib is reiterating the very same sentiments expressed by the soldiers who fought in the
1971 war: that Bengalis are not a threat, and their women are like prostitutes. In this
case, Saqib refers to Bengali women as actresses, who dance for an even greater
international audience in the new media age. He also mentions that Bengalis are
extremely poor, which is why they breed like animals and are therefore not worthy o f
acknowledgement. Saqibs last assertion, his admission to Pakistani wrongdoing, is
devoid o f any feelings o f responsibility or guilt, attesting to his acceptance o f Pakistani
conduct during the war. Saqibs sentiment that Bengalis harbor hostility towards
Pakistan that needs to be relinquished was reiterated by many o f the other interviewees;
however, they did not apply the same live and let live philosophy to their own feelings
o f animosity towards India.
India. Still the Real Enemy
Ali, and the other interviewees, expressed similarities between Indians and
Bengalis by comparing elements of culture, language and tradition. These comparisons
help lead to the conclusion that Bengalis, although Muslim, are really more Indian than
Pakistani, more Hindu in their way o f life and are therefore an enemy just like India. As
a result, the 1971 war is explained with the perspective that India is the ultimate culprit,
and thus the interviewees emphasize Indias involvement in the war just as their


forefathers did. Saqib, a thirty-seven year old software engineer visiting a relative in
California and now a French citizen, conveys the extent to which India was involved:
With India geographically and culturally tied to them (Bengalis) it was
(the war) bound to happen. Pakistan and India play games with each other,
when you dont have your house in order you get played, and that is what
happened. India did a lot o f propaganda, taking advantage o f all the
political unrest, telling Bengalis that they should not stay with Pakistan
and get equal rights, that they should just get their independence. India
does these things because they like to see Pakistan in turmoil. They are
Hindus we are Muslims; we cant live next to each other. This is why they
did the 1971 war.
Bilal, an interviewee around the age o f thirty-nine who had served in the Pakistani army
before coming to the U.S. recalls a rally speech that one of the senior officers would give
him and his corps-mates before going out on border patrols:
The seniors used to use a lot o f bullshit and propaganda for the recruits to
get a rise out o f us juniors. Like they would say Remember when Niazi
had to surrender his side arm to those bloody Indians? Well do you? It is
now in some Indian Museum, and you have to get it back from those
bloody Indians, you have to go get it, go get back our honor. We used to
get very riled up with these kinds o f stories.
This reference to General Niazi invokes the collective memories o f lazy army leadership
that many Pakistanis blame the loss o f the 1971 war on. The important fact here is that it


is not Bengalis that the General surrendered to, it is not a Bengali museum harboring his
side arm; it is the Indians who are still invoked as the eternal enemy o f Pakistanis, India
is still thought o f as the orchestrator of the 1971 war in the shared cultural consciousness
of the new generations. This allows the dialogue of a cosmic struggle between good
Muslim Pakistanis and bad Hindu Indians to endure, thus engaging the rhetoric of
hundreds o f years o f violent conflict.
The Whores are Still Dancing!
When I asked Bilal if he had heard any other stories about the sexual violence
during the war he was very nonchalant in his response. He said that there are lots o f
stories from that time, but that he feels most o f them are just propaganda by Bangladesh
and India. He did suggest that sexual violence might have occurred by making the
following general statements: Military, where ever they are things are going to happen.
I am sure things may have happened, but the jury is out, things were not well
documented. There were certain admissions by our government that things did happen,
but I dont think so. But you cant watch all the soldiers all o f the time, I am sure things
could have gotten pretty bad. Bilal is displaying the same acceptance for rape as the
previous generation o f perpetrators, while simultaneously discarding any cultural
responsibility by asserting that any admission to atrocities are in fact fabrications
concocted by India and Bangladesh. The tactic allows Bilal to keep the reputation o f the
Pakistani army intact, and therefore not rock the foundation o f his own Pakistani male


A rather young Pakistani student only twenty years old, who I will call Farid, told
me about a diary that his uncle had kept during the war. He said that this diary was
actually a collection of the letters his uncle had written to his wife while he was fighting
in East Pakistan and then later when he was a prisoner o f war in India. Farid recalls a
section of one o f the letters:
I remember flipping through this diary and reading one of the letters. My
uncle was an officer who I know won many medals for his service in the
war, and he tried to escape as a POW so he had a very gallant reputation.
In this letter he was talking about one o f the camps or his headquarters
while they were fighting. He was describing some o f the behavior o f other
officers and o f the common soldiers. He briefly mentioned that some
Pakistani soldiers would take Bengali women, keep them at the camps,
and make them serve the soldiers their meals naked and that these women
were being treated very poorly, and he said that it was shameful and he
felt bad, but there was nothing he could do as some o f the soldiers were
his seniors.
When I asked Farid what he thought about that and how it made him feel, he said that he
felt these actions were normal during war and were carried out in retaliation. I asked him
what he meant by this. He expresses that:
Retaliation is what motivates these sexual humiliations by the soldiers.
Losing your fellow soldier, your friend in the fighting, we cannot imagine


the mindset o f the soldiers, but that is why the women were taken and
abused, to get back at the enemy.
Khan, another interviewee whose father fought during the war articulates similar feelings
about wartime rape:
Anytime you put a man with a gun and give him power and control these
things will happen. There are all kinds o f men, some use it in a wrong
way. People abuse power, abuse is justified by environment. They are not
thinking right; retaliation has no end, so it just keeps escalating, some
misuse power, abuse power, just because they could, because they were
away from home. It happens in any war setting. Anywhere where one
power is too strong, it is bound to happen.
Hassan was very assertive about his feelings concerning rape: In every war women get
raped, raping women is wrong, but if I was a soldier I would do it, but not in front o f my
family. But I dont think the Pak Army did do that. Hassan went on to explain that
Bengalis are low class people, they are maids, so who cares if they get raped. He
continued to tell me that his father used to tell him dont be a Bengali when he would
act scared and how his father would mistreat the maids in their house, grabbing them and
molesting them, even the young girls who were only thirteen and twelve.
Waseem told me similar stories about his father and how he was aggressive
towards women who were in the lower classes, revealing his own basic understanding of
rape in general: Sexual frustration is what leads to rape; rapists are aggressors. Rape is
aggression, which is part of nature. My father always portrayed himself as the aggressor


so that is what men are, that is how I am. Waseem goes on to divulge a personal sexual
experience that was forced on him by his father, a tale that was also pronounced by four
other interviewees. Waseems story is about how he lost his virginity or what he refers to
as when he became a man:
When I was thirteen, my father hired a prostitute and made me have sex
with her in front o f him. It was his birthday present to me. When we first
went to the hotel room my father back handed her, you know slapped her,
the prostitute, and told her to do whatever I wanted. I was scared at first
and I didnt want to, but I am glad now that my father made me. It made
me understand women better and showed me how to be a man. My father
did the same thing with my two brothers.
I was taken by surprise that Waseem and the other interviewees were being so open about
their personal sexual experiences, but they seemed proud of this story, and expressed
great confidence in their ability to handle women and their sexual performance.
According to sociologist Fred E. Markowitz, exposure to violence during childhood
increases an individuals likelihood to engage in similar violent acts as an adult.


Therefore, Waseems exposure to his fathers violent tendencies toward women might
make Waseem more likely to treat women violently during the course o f his interpersonal
relationships and sexual encounters with women. According to Herbert, when male
children are socialized, they are taught to reject the inner feminine and to embrace the


Fred E. Markowitz, "Attitudes and Family Violence: Linking Intergenerational

and Cultural Theories," Journal o f Family Violence 16, no. 2 (2001): 205-218.

program o f masculinity: As he comes to maturity in the culture o f code manhood, and

increasingly makes war against his susceptibility to emotional distress, the young man
acquires a maddening inner bitch, which voices the distraction, humiliation, and panic
that bedevil his masculinity, and he sees this bitch in actual women when they stir up
his persistent inner pain. 24 By denying the inner feminine boys become men; and by
hating the inner feminine men embrace hatred o f women, which manifests through rape.


When I asked Waseem if he would treat his wife the way his father treated that
prostitute he was blatantly shocked by my question. He said, O f course not, I am not yet
married, but when I do marry it will be with a respectable girl, not a low class whore.
That girl was nothing, she had no family, and she was very ugly, not worthy. I will love
my wife, and it will be my place to protect and provide for her, because women are not
strong, and they are a bit stupid so I must protect her. Waseems belief in female
stupidity and weakness justifies a common myth that serves male dominance, just as the
act o f rape does. Herbert refers to this myth as the male protection racket: which
The dread o f sexual assault limits the physical mobility o f women,
restricts their occupational opportunities, hampers their exercise of
political rights, and injures their psychic well-being. Rapists make women
dependent for protection on men: boyfriends, husbands, brothers, and
male law enforcement officers. A tacit collusion keeps rape alive in order

24 Herbert, Sexual Violence and American Manhood, 48.

25 Ibid., 52.

to maintain the male protection racket, encouraging and excusing

offenders even as they are tracked down and punished.


I proceeded to ask Waseem if he would ever marry a Bengali girl. He seemed to be

confused by the question, answering: I cannot connect culturally with Bengalis, they
have a different language. There is only a small religious connection with them because
they are technically Muslim, but not Muslim like me, so no I do not have much in
common with them, so how could I marry one o f them. I have never seen a Pakistani
marry a Bengali. Waseems convictions concerning cultural difference were echoed by
all o f the interviewees in both groups o f men, attesting to the widespread and long-term
process of dehumanization well rooted within Pakistani culture.
Rape and War are Natural
I asked each interviewee if the 1971 war had shaped their identity in any way.
Seven o f the ten men made allusions to the grandeur o f war. Hassan retorts, Yes the war
shaped me, I think war is cool, I always wanted to fight a war against India. The others
expressed the idea that war was part o f being a man, an animal instinct and a need that
must be filled from time to time. Imran and Tariq both conveyed the belief that war like
rape, was a basic instinct of men that could be controlled most o f the time, but would run
wild if given the opportunity.
Ali states, War and rape are just the needs of men, they happen because o f our
inner animal, and this is normal, this is how things are. We rape and kill because it is our
physical power, and rape is just normal because you get turned on. It is like hunting,

26 Ibid., 36-37.

there is charm in it, and to be honest most men have a fantasy about hunting, and killing
and raping. Alis point of view is shared by almost all o f the interviewees; however, it
is not transferrable to women o f their own class, meaning they abhorred the idea o f any
type of physical or sexual abuse visiting their mothers or sisters. They were adamant that
nothing o f the sort would ever befall the women in their family because they would
protect them and because they were women with morals and money, not low-class
fish eating prostitutes. It would appear that for rape to be conscionable some degree o f
difference in the mind o f the perpetrator must be present; however, it is evident that in
many cases the justifiable difference for rape is simply that the victim is a woman.
Looking at these two groups o f Pakistani men, it is clear that there is a measure of
desensitization to violence because of the exposure the previous generation had during
the 1971 war. The dehumanization o f Bengalis remains constant within Pakistani culture,
and the devaluation o f women is evident in the testimonies. For some, Pakistani
masculinity honors violence as power, and thus rape as an empowering act. It appears
that the atrocities committed by the Pakistani army in the 1971 war have had a profound
influence on the generations following the actual perpetrators. These young Pakistanis
not only view rape as an acceptable practice, but fantasize about enacting it. Rape, for
them, validates male power.
This intergenerational study demonstrates how cultural knowledge and social
order prepare individuals to engage in violent acts. Pakistans history o f aggression and
violence towards India has socialized generations o f Pakistanis with the perspective that


they are engaged in a cosmic war. Pakistani Muslims stand on one side o f this conflict
with Indian Hindus as their opponents. The legacy of the multiple wars fought between
these two nations and cultures has produced individuals prepared to enact violence in the
name o f their righteous divinely ordained identity. This perceived threat orientation
allowed Pakistanis to legitimize the mass rapes o f Bengali Muslims as they were and are
viewed as Hindu tainted vessels. The perception o f Bengali Muslim women as impure
Hindu receptacles created a situation where Pakistani soldiers could reestablish cultural,
religious, and gender hierarchies through the bodily boundary transgression o f rape. The
legacy o f rape as a means o f regaining power and asserting authority has produced
generations o f Muslim Pakistani men that connect their masculinity with their willingness
and ability to commit acts o f sexual violence. These men are callous to the damage that
rape can cause and are deaf to the plight of women whom they do not consider as their
own. The next chapter discusses overall conclusions o f this project with special attention
to religions place as a causal factor in genocide and rape. It also addresses possible
interjections to the processes o f dehumanization and desensitization towards violence and
rape are addressed with the aim o f drawing out preventative measures that can stop these
atrocities in the future.


The theories synthesized in this study that conceptualize rape as religious
terrorism give us a new and valuable insight into sexual violence and its place in our
world. While this study focuses on mass rape during war and genocide, the synthesized
model can be applied to different situations, so that rape is not a forgotten harm within
society. The model is demonstrated at the micro level with the case study o f the 1971
war between East and West Pakistan; however, one possible macro application would be
the general violent conflict between men and women. When this conflict evolves into
mass violence with the intent to destroy a group o f women in their entirety, it is labeled
gendercide. In applying the synthesized model to the ongoing global conflict between
men and women, we see how religion has been instrumental in both aiding and hindering
womens plight, specifically when it comes to sexual violence.
The case study addressed in this project focuses on the dehumanization of
Bengalis, and the havoc that process wreaked on Bengali women during the war. This is
a modest examination o f one group of women during a specific time period that gives us
a glimpse of the horrors that women face in war. More research is needed into the ways
this model could be expanded towards understanding the universality o f womens
experiences in warzones, and o f rape as terrorism within all contexts, even when rape
occurs during peacetime. Simply put, rapists are terrorists. Male rapists are engaged in a

cosmic war with women, who are considered to be evildoers, and thus rape transforms
into a tool for good in this paradigm. Rapists seek empowerment and de-humiliation
for themselves and men in general.
Rape is a behavior that is widely accepted both in peace and war time because of
the dehumanization processes with which women have been inflicted. It is a type o f
religious violence because religion is used to justify and legitimize it. More simply put
religion can serve to dehumanize women. As a socio-cultural establishment, religion is
not solely responsible for the classification of women as non-human. Other socio
cultural structures, such as government including the legal system, also devalue women.
The reciprocal relationships between religion, culture, and society that weave the tangled
web of patriarchy continue to delegitimize women. Women exist within a global rape
culture as defined by feminist scholar Ann J. Cahill. It is a social environment where
the crime o f rape is not only assumed, but necessary for the perpetuation of other, more
subtle forms of gender inequity. Women are both members o f culture and its victims.27
Rape empowers the rapist and humiliates the victim, just as terrorism empowers the
terrorist and humiliates the victims and their communities.
Terrorism, for the past few years, is at the forefront o f discussions about violence.
Whether one is discussing a state sanctioned war or an act o f suicide bombing, religious
terrorism is a hot button issue that has spumed public awareness, political action, and
legal reform. By conceptualizing rape as religious terrorism it is my genuine hope that
these same responses occur concerning rape within a global context take. Women are

27 Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 4.


universally devalued and until this changes rape will remain in many ways a globally
accepted norm. Feminist scholar Catherine A MacKinnon poignantly explains why rape
and violence against women is casually brushed under the carpet:
When no war has been declared and still women are beaten by men with
whom they are close, when wives disappear from supermarket parking
lots, when prostitutes float up in rivers or turn up under piles o f rags in
abandoned buildings, these atrocities go unmarked entirely in the record o f
human suffering because the victims are women and it smells o f sex.
What happens to women is either too particular to be universal or too
universal to be particular, meaning either too human to be female or too
female to be human.


The genocidal element of rape focused on in this study brings attention to the harm that
rape causes, not only to the individual, but her community as well. Rape is often seen as
a singular attack perpetrated by one person and suffered by one individual. The truth is,
just as terrorism and genocide need communal structures o f support to succeed, rape is
only possible with a community that supports such violence; the repercussions o f rape are
felt by both the individual victim and her commonwealth, such harm is irreversible.
Further Applications
The Darfur region in the Sudan is plagued by an ongoing conflict. The violence
in this region is genocidal and terroristic; as such it is another apropos case study for the
28 MacKinnon, Are Women Human, 142.

model o f violence proposed in this project. Like East and West Pakistan, the civil
conflict in Darfur is based on perceived ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences.


The aggressors view themselves as pure Islamic Arabs, highly prizing their ability to
speak Arabic, and claiming their direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad; they call
themselves Arabs. The victims are those who do not belong to the social elite. Their
Islam is seen as corrupted by tribal traditions; they do not speak Arabic, their blood is not
pure, and their skin is dark; they are called Black Africans.30 The labels o f African
and Arab are imposed differently depending on the circumstances, but there is no
actual religious difference, Arabs and Africans are both Muslim; and as far as skin
color, everybody is black.31 The new Arab leadership in Khartoum focused on enticing
foreign investors to the Sudan with promises o f oil. However, rebellion in Darfur led by
Africans threatened to tamish the polished image o f the Sudan as a friendly Arab
nation, that the new government was presenting to the world. This rebellion was spumed
by neglect, drought, and famine, in addition to the spillover of war and unrest in the
bordering nations o f Chad and Libya, all seriously affecting the Darfur region.



Khartoum government armed a band o f horseman, commonly regarded as thieves, but


Gerard Prunier, Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide (New York: Cornell

University Press, 2005), x.
30 Ibid., 77.
31 Ibid., 4.
32 Ibid., 43.

often used by several other regimes in the past, to help suppress the rebellion. These
horsemen were historically and are currently known as the Janjaweed.
The Sudanese genocide in 2003 was carried out by the Janjaweed, a Sudanese hit
squad comprised o f former bandits, demobilized soldiers, common criminals, and young
Arab tribesmen. This group of men was previously established in the 1980s to do the
governments dirty work.33 In 2003 the relationship between the government and the
Janjaweed was renewed. The Sudanese government used the Janjaweed like Nazi
Germany used the SS, as a privately owned militia and murderous branch o f the army.
The Janjaweed was charged with the task o f murdering all African Sudanese to help
bring about the governments genocidal vision o f a purely Arab Sudan. The Janjaweed
and regular army troops would ride into battle, crying out as you are black, you are like
slaves.34 If the Janjaweed had not been previously formed in the 1980s and desensitized
to the idea of ethnic cleansing, the governments genocidal vision could not have been
made a reality. The attacks are brutal: they shoot anyone who cannot runaway, bum the
houses, rape the girls and women, and small children, who weigh very little, are often
tossed back into the burning houses if they try to ran away. If they did not kill the
women and girls during or after raping them, some would be abducted to be used as
sexual toys for a few days, and then either let go or murdered.35 The women that
survived their rapes were usually branded with a hot iron by their attackers, symbolizing

33 Ibid., 97.
34 Ibid., 101.
35 Ibid., 100.

that they were now spoilt women, and therefore no longer marriageable and able to
produce legitimate children.36 The scar o f the brand announced a woman/girls rape to
her community, making her an outcast and a source o f shame. The genocidal element of
rape in the Sudan is apparent, and a gainfully employed tactic o f both the government
supported Janjaweed and the regular army. Rape empowers the Arab militiamen,
while simultaneously humiliating the Africans. Rape terrorizes one community, while
uplifting another.
This is a brief and short synopsis o f the atrocities in Darfur. A complete analysis
with the proposed model for violence would provide a much more thorough
understanding o f how Darfur became such a hostile conflict zone. The 1994 genocide in
Rwanda would also be an appropriate case study and would engage a different faith
tradition, Christianity. The recent conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina would also offer
insight into how rape is simultaneously terrorism and genocide. The Eastern Congo and
Uganda are at the top of Genocide Watch for current atrocities and massacres targeting
women as o f February 2012. Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea,
Burma, and Ethiopia are currently engaged in some type o f violent conflict that has the
potential to result in mass atrocities; Nigeria, Libya, Yemen, China, Colombia, Equatorial
Guinea, Chad, and Haiti are also possible sites for massacres according to Genocide
Watchs Countries at Risk Profiles 2012 report. This same report lists another twentyfour countries at risk due to polarization. While this report does not specifically classify

36 Ibid., 100.

women as specified targets, it is clear that women in conflict zones are at a higher risk of
Future Resistance and Prevention
Rape is a fact of life for women, a threat that governs their behavior worldwide.
The world has been in a constant state o f genocide for the past hundred years.

It is clear

that rape is a global phenomenon that humanity must deal with. One in every five
women in the world is raped or experiences attempted rape in her lifetime;38 rape and
other forms of sexual violence are increasing worldwide.


How do we stop it? How do

we implement measures that will protect women from this type o f violence? What can
we do to halt the devaluation o f womankind, so that women everywhere can enjoy full
Preventing Religious Terrorism
Juergensmeyer offers several scenarios for responding to religious terrorism,
keeping in mind that terrorists in the contemporary world would do virtually anything if
they thought it had been sanctioned by divine mandate or conceived in the mind o f
God.40 He understands that not everyone who is part of a culture of violence absolutely

37 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 3.

38 "Statement on Gender-Based Violence," International Medical Advisory Panel,
London International Planned Parenthood Federation, accessed June 2, 2012,
http ://www. ipp f. org/imap/gb v2000/index. htm.
39 Violence Against Women: Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Against
Women Factsheet, World Health Organization, last modified September 2011, accessed
June 2, 2012,
40 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind o f God, 219.

agrees with violent acts of religious terrorism. However, terrorists rely on violent
precedents set within religious traditions to justify their own acts o f religious violence.41
Applying these arguments to sexual violence, a form o f terrorism, it is understood that
religion acts as a legitimizing structure for rape. Juergensmeyer lays out five possible
outcomes for snuffing out religious terrorism, some of which might help formulate
possible solutions to end sexual violence.
Juergensmeyers first possible response to religious terrorism is brute force. He
states: It encompasses instances in which terrorists have literally been killed off or have
been forcibly controlled.42 The ultimate conclusion o f this response is more hatred, and
given the reality that it is impossible to kill all the terrorists, or in our case all the rapists,
the result is that violence begets violence. The second scenario is to use punishment
against the terrorists by using the threat o f violence or imprisonment to scare religious
activist into inaction.43 This scenario is implemented by legal and justice systems
internationally. The fear o f punishment acts as a deterrent for bad behavior. However, it
is obvious that this solution is not stopping rape. According to the United States of
Americas Federal Bureau o f Investigation 2010 National Data Report fo r Crime in the
Nation a woman is raped every six minutes in the U.S.A. Juergensmeyer suggests that
terrorists can frighten themselves back into reality by being confronted with the harm

41 Ibid., 221.
42 Ibid., 233.
43 Ibid., 236.


their violent actions could cause;44 however, this is dependent on the individual, and his
personal perceptions about the actual harm that rape inflicts. The third possible solution
is the use o f diplomacy and political negotiations that diffuse violence, a scenario not
applicable to the violence o f rape. Juergensmeyer points out that these diplomatic
solutions are often short term compromises that do not stop violence, but only postpone
it.45 The fourth outcome, as explained by Juergensmeyer, is the separation o f religion
and politics, thus removing the absolutism o f the struggle.46 Religion is retired to the
private sphere in its totality, removing the construct o f cosmic war from the violent arena.
This approach suggests moderate responses to terrorism in order to foster goodwill and
other arenas o f social competition between opponents. However, moderate responses can
also increase a groups audacity to commit violent acts.47 Applying this solution to
sexual violence would mean reducing punishments for rape, thus increasing rapes social
acceptability. The separation o f religion and politics to quell violence is somewhat of a
confusing proposition, as religious terrorists often justify their actions as an attempt to
centralize religion in the public sphere. In part the Western imposition of the separation
o f religion and politics caused the fundamentalist backlash that fueled contemporary

44 Ibid., 238.
45 Ibid., 239.
46 Ibid., 240.
47 Ibid., 243.

religious terrorism.48 Juergensmeyers final possible solution is one o f healing, stating

that the fifth solution is when secular authorities embrace moral values, including those
associated with religion.49 In other words, opponents of religious terrorism who are
trusted and respected need to embrace a religious and moral stance, in recognition that
politics is not devoid o f all morality. This is an approach that uses religion to redefine the
established structures of politics and government. It is the most fruitful approach
Juergenmeyer offers when applied to rape. Just as rapists use religion to justify their
actions, other powerful men need to use religion to re-define rape as a serious harm and
to re-educate the public in this new way o f thinking. This solution requires a re-reading
o f religious texts that recognizes positive female archetypes and condemns sexual assault.
New interpretations o f religious texts can spawn new ways o f thinking within religious
communities, with the ultimate goal o f reversing the sexual hierarchies that have robbed
women of their full human status.
Different hermeneutical strategies can produce readings o f scripture that
champion women instead o f caging them. One tactic is to renounce metaphors that
depict women as the victim-survivors o f rape and murder. Biblical scholars Pamela
Gordon and Harold C. Washington advocate this approach suggesting that the raped
woman not be used as a metaphorical figure for something else, such as a feminine city

48 Rosemary Radford Ruether, Integrating Ecofeminism Globalization and World

Religions (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005), 27.
49 Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind o f God, 244.

assaulted by an army o f men.50 Rape metaphors are rejected because they are inadequate,
unacceptable, and hateful language about raped women.51 The answer is not to dismiss
religion completely, but to harness its power. As comparative religion scholar Arvind
Sharma discusses violence against women, she appropriately states: The bad news is
that religion has a role to play in it: the good news is that if it is part o f the problem, it
can also be part o f the solution.52 The reinterpretation o f scriptures that inform the main
ideologies o f religious traditions is a first step towards restructuring the sexual hierarchies
that place women on a sub-human level. In a way it is a remodeling o f the laws that have
helped create modem legal systems all over the globe.
This study is also aimed at altering the law, by framing rape as religious terrorism.
It is my hope that rape and sexual assault will be legally classified as forms o f terrorism
at the global level. In order for rape to be prosecuted in the international courts it must be
charged as an act o f war, genocide or a crime against humanity.

Within the global

context o f prosecuting genocide and crimes against humanity, rape is separated from the
discussion because o f the issue o f consent. The precedent set by the International

50 Pamela Gordon and Harold C. Washington, Rape as a Military Metaphor in

the Hebrew Bible, in A Feminist Companion to the Latter Prophets, ed. Athalya Brenner
(Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 325.
51 Susanne Scholz, Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 2010), 206.
52 Arvind Sharma, Conclusion: The Role o f Religion in Violence Against
Women, in Violence Against Women in Contemporary World Religions: Roots and
Cures,ed. Daniel C. Maguire and Sadiyya Shaikh (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2007), 238.
53 MacKinnon, Are Women Human?, 238.

Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal
Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) address two genocides that employed mass sexual atrocities
towards ethnic destruction in the 1990s. Both the ICTY and the ICTR drew on
definitions o f rape that excluded ideas o f mass coercion through military presence,
superseding issues o f individual consent.54 This reduced the mass rapes to individual
cases o f sexual assault where nonconsent to rape had to be proved. These criminal
tribunals also limited the definition o f rape to only include penile-vaginal penetration,
therefore discounting rape victims who were sexually assaulted with objects, other male
body parts, or those forced to perform fellatio.55 This internationally accepted definition
o f rape leaves many victims completely voiceless. Classifying rape, as it has been
defined in this study, as religious terrorism, would help prosecute sexual atrocities that
have up until this point been ignored. While an ambitious project it is this ultimate goal
which will change the way individuals understand the harm that rape causes. By
applying terms such as terrorism and genocide to the crime o f rape, the repercussions of
rape are thus revealed and laid out in plain sight.
The Abeyance o f Genocide
Terrorism, rape, and genocide are interconnected concepts. Legal scholar Joseph
J. Lador Laderer evocatively defines terrorism as bit by bit genocide.56 Rape is

54 Ibid., 242.
55 MacKinnon, Are Women Human?, 241.
56 Joseph J. Lador Lederer, A Legal Approach to International Terrorism, Israel
Law Review no.9:194, (1974): 211.

performance violence, like terrorism, and it is genocidal given certain cultural

environments. Juergensmeyer has given us thoughts on how to stop terrorism, which are
helpful when discussing solutions for rape. However, rape can also take the form of
genocide, therefore a discussion on solutions for genocide will also help raise ideas
regarding rape prevention.
Staubs model for genocide focuses on the negative connective tissue within
cultures that produce sub-groups. This process is the beginning of dehumanization, and
begins with the marginalization o f a group which makes it a target. They are then
excluded from social institutions and separated from the dominant group through the use
o f propaganda and negative stereotypes. Eventually this works its way down to the
individual socialization process shaping individuals with a sense o f superiority over the
marginalized group. By extension, this process is already in place between men and
women. Staub believes bringing the process o f dehumanization to an end involves a
reinterpretation.57 In other words, positive connections between different groups need to
replace the negative connections. Staub explains this as follows: To evolve an
appreciation o f alikeness and a feeling o f connectedness, members of subgroups of
society must live together, work together, play together; their children must go to school

together. Members of different nations must also work and play together.

By creating

connectedness, separation based in differentiation is stopped. Groups need to learn to

foster trust through positive interaction, embracing a learning-by-doing attitude. Positive

57 Staub, The Roots o f Evil, 275.

58 Ibid., 274.

interaction needs to be employed at the institutional level, with agencies adopting

inclusive rather than exclusive policies. Parents, families, and individual adults need to
contribute to childrens empathy, positive self-esteem, and a sense o f security, which
create benevolence. Adults must show concern for others, as this will instill empathy in
the future generations that they influence.59 Staub also stresses the importance o f
language and its connection to ideas, understanding that language helps to construct ideas
that can be destructive. He explains the importance of language:
Language shapes experience. Those who destroy often use euphemisms.
The language o f nuclear policy creates illusions: by referring to shields,
umbrellas, deterrence, and defense, it implies a security that does not
exist. A language true to reality will motivate people to join in efforts to
eliminate the potential o f nuclear destruction. Presenting to people the
realities o f torture and atrocities will motivate them to work against their
Divisions and differences are created and furthered through language, paying attention to
how we as the human race label things, thus creating divided categories that can result in
destruction. Imposing gender neutral language could be effective in ending the sexual
hierarchies that subordinate women within our global community. Staub also recognizes
the impact o f social media: Books, films, and other cultural products sometimes have

59 Ibid., 280.
60 Ibid., 282.

substantial influence on whole societies.61 Engaging social media at the individual level
to foster discussion on cultural bases o f violence shapes public awareness and influences
Religion can play a part in these solutions, helping to close the gap between us
and them. Eller agrees that religion has the ability to minimize the distance between
groups by implementing policies o f integration rather than championing segregation.
Carol Rittner, scholar o f genocide and religious studies, emphasizes the powerful
combination o f language and religious institutions, understanding that religious
establishments have the power to choose expressive language that can either
acknowledge or renounce individuals, groups, and ideas. For example, according to
Rittner, the leadership o f the Roman Catholic Church Failed to hear the cry o f complaint
Gods people (women) uttered against the men who used rape as a weapon o f war and
genocide in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, and failed, failed utterly to know well what Gods
people (women) were suffering in the 1990s, and still suffer today.63 Religious
institutions and their leaders can choose to perpetuate the sexual hierarchies o f their
forefathers, or break new ground and promote an even playing field that will help reverse
the dehumanization o f women.

61 Ibid.
62 Eller, Cruel Creeds, 362.
63 Carol Rittner, Rape, Religion, and Genocide, in Confronting Genocide:
Judaism, Christianity, Islam, ed. Steven Leonard Jacobs (Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield
Publishers, Inc., 2009), 302.

The Cessation of Rape

The solutions for religious terrorism and genocide discussed above merge on an
important plane, dehumanization. Both genocide and terrorism involves the procedure o f
dehumanization o f both men and women at all levels of the socialization process.
Women have been debased to the level o f a thing, objects that are merely possessed and
discarded. Martha MacCaughey offers some poignant words when describing womens
place in the sexual hierarchy and why rape is such a damaging act:
This is precisely why rape is harmful and worth fighting against: It
reduces a womans mode o f being-in-the-world from an absorbed lived
body to a broken body with a self somewhere else or a self-reduced to a
body-thing. Women are regarded by men who rape (and, regrettably, by
many others) as things, void o f a moral will or a body-self distinct from
the rapists, or they are reduced to his (mis) interpretation: She really
wants it. Rape is harmful because it imposes an ownable status,
effectively construing women as passive and as property.. .Rape is
harmful not only because a man claims sovereignty over that which
belongs to a sovereign womanthe female body or female sexuality. The
body is a form of social expression and rape makes the womans body into
an object or possession o f the rapist rather than a lived body. Social


identity is the body-self. A broken body is the collapse o f ones social

Rape is a special torture, one that survives long after the physical effects can no longer be
seen. It is a unique crime used as a threat to women everywhere to keep the sexual
hierarchies in place, therefore keeping women in their place. Training women to defend
themselves is a short term solution that ultimately fortifies victim culpability. This
solution does not get at the heart o f the problem, which is that rape and sexual violence is
perceived as natural, innate, and a mere side effect o f difference in structural integrity
o f sexed bodies. This perception transforms into the present-day reality where rape and
sexual violence are threats that every woman must face. Women restrict their
movements, watch what they wear, and they constantly heed my mothers words to be
careful, knowing full well that even with all these precautions true safety is unobtainable
if I am the only one making the effort. Sociologist Edwin M. Schur, the author of The
Americanization o f Sex (1988), sums o f the problem: Not everyman is a rapist, but if we
were to say that every man in our society is a potential rapist, that might not be so far
afield. If every man is a potential rapist, due to social structures that dehumanize
women thus socializing men to devalue women, then there are no possible precautionary
measures that any woman can take to guarantee her safety. The rape epidemic is
everywhere because men are everywhere. Rapists are fathers, brothers, uncles, friends,
coworkers, colleagues, they are the men ever-present in our daily lives; they are the men

64 Martha McCaughey, Real Knockouts: The Physical Feminism o f Womens SelfDefense, (New York: New York University Press, 1997), 171-73.

whom we seek protection and whom we invite into our homes. Historian Joanna Bourke
puts these issues bluntly into focus: Readers should not be fooled by intimations that
the rapist-murderer is despised, tabooed and reviled by patriarchal culture. The
superficial negative stereotypes applied to aggression are hypocritical, since the violent
male is actually societys ultimate man.65 Displacing the gender hierarchies that
contribute to rapes social acceptability requires legal and social reforms that allow for
both the violent and sexual nature of rape to be represented in the courtroom and other
social forums.66 Legal reform is jump-started through social awareness; this awareness is
dramatically increased through storytelling. Raising social consciousness about rape
entails breaking the unholy silence that surrounds sexual violence. The truth o f the
matter is that no one wants to talk about rape, the very mention o f the word makes people
cringe; in some ways this speaks to the horror attached to such an act, in other ways it
pushes rape into a dark comer so that its victims are hushed and disgraced. Terrorism, on
the contrary, is a word that recently is on everyones lips. Terrorists are despised and
hated for their violent acts against seemingly innocent civilians.
The disgust we have been trained to feel towards terrorists is a disgust that should
also surface for rapists; however, instead questions such as Well what was she
wearing? Is she a good girl or a slut? What was she doing in that part o f town?
These questions plague rape, insisting to find fault with the victim rather than the
perpetrator. When the twin towers on September 11th crumbled because of an act of

65 Bourke, Rape: Sex Violence History, 414.

66 Cahill, Rethinking Rape, 199.

religious terrorism no one asked what the victims were wearing or if they were good or
bad people. They were victims o f a horrible crime and their lives were stolen. What they
were wearing and why they were in the towers did not and does not matter because it was
not their fault the Towers were bombed. Blame lies with the terrorists. It does not matter
what a woman is wearing, what part of town she is in, if she is a good girl or a bad
girl. Rape is not her fault, she was not asking for it because the rapist thought her
skirt was too short; blame lies with the rapist, with the one who stole and defiled her very
being. Terrorism, when understood as performance violence, is a stage, a show put on
for communities and countries, a moving picture show o f terror and horror, instilling fear,
vividly executed, that demonstrates the savage nature o f violence itself; with the intention
o f destroying people, not property.

Terrorists engage as actors in these repulsive horror

movies because it empowers them and their communities. Every rape is a horrible
moving picture show, terrifying and vivid, reminding women that they are perceived as
inferior objects, and that possible humiliation is always just around the comer. Each rape
acts as a cautionary tale, reinforcing the sexual hierarchies that assert female inferiority
and the necessity o f male protection; empowering the very men that seek to harm. Rape
is humiliating; it is a boundary transgression o f the body, mind, and soul. By
understanding rape as religious terrorism the larger effects o f an individual rape come
into clear focus. Rape is not a harm perpetrated by one individual and admonished by
society; it is an injury that perpetuates and supports socio-cultural and religiously
justified norms through fear and the uneven transfer of humiliation and power. Terrorism

Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind o f God, 121-123.


shocked New York City with fear after the attacks of September 11 and this was just
one act o f violent religious terrorism. Every rape cripples the global community of
women with fear, leaving us cowering at the hands of the very men we live with every
day. New Yorkers found their solace and relief, the city is safe, but women have found
no such relief from the terror that is rape. This project is meant to be a step towards
alleviating the debilitating fear that plagues womankind.




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