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Impacts of the ‘War on Terror’ on the (De-)Humanization of Christians in Pakistan: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Media Reporting


Journal abstract

Religious minorities have been persecuted in Pakistan since the country’s creation in 1947. However, the rise of Islamization in the 1970s and 1980s added to the intensity of discrimination, prejudice and violence against religious minorities. Widespread structural violence meant that religious minorities experience marginalization and violation of their civil rights. As witnessed around the world, the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed global dynamics, with negative effects on Muslim–Christian relations. Since the onset of the US-led war in Afghanistan and drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, there has been a rise in anti-American/anti-Western sentiment among Pakistani Muslims. Consequently, some extremist groups view local Christians with suspicion, labelling them Western agents. While the backlash against the US-led war in Afghanistan is seen as a major factor behind violence against Christians, deep-rooted socio-economic dynamics also contribute to the vulnerability of Christians and other religious minorities. Drawing on statements from two prominent Pakistani newspapers, this research employed critical discourse analysis and the framework of (de-)humanization to examine changes in newspaper reporting about Christians before and after 9/11, finding that there was a decrease rather than an increase in the level of dehumanization of Christians after 9/11, and an increase in humanization compared to pre-9/11 reporting.

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