Nationalism can be based on racial, religious, ethnic or geographical grounds. I was a nationalist once. My nationalism was based on the propaganda of the Bengali nationalists during and after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.
But, as a believer in science, facts, truth and honesty, I later found most of the claims of Bengali nationalists to be false and untenable – such as on ethnic and cultural identity; the nature and origin of Bengali/Urdu controversy; the cultural differences between Pakistanis and Bengalis; history of Bengal and so on and on.
But my theoretical understanding of the problems of nationalism and where its virulent energy comes from was developed over the years by reading materials, engaging with the thoughts of others and reflecting on society and cultural diversity from personal experiences. When I came to London as a child and mixed with Pakistani people, I found much common culture between us, and I could immediately relate to many things with Pakistani people in East London. I found some words that ordinary people use in our village in Bangladesh were used by Pakistani people I met but not in the standard Bangla. In the same way, I found many things in common with the Gujaratis, Sikhs and Malayam young people I met.
One element of the origin of nationalism is how it emerges from the question of whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. And then there is nationalism that seeks to dominate and nationalism that develops to liberate. But unfortunately, both are grounded on false generalisations.
Certain ideas, insights and explanations of Syed Hussain Nasr, Ali Shariati and Karl Popper had helped me develop a profoundly critical, nuanced and complex understanding of nationalism. As a result, I understand the nationalist mindset quite well, how it grows and develops, and the false foundations – mostly mythical and invalid generalisations – on which it rests and does its dirty work – divide people, cause divisions and conflicts, and include and exclude people on arbitrary and inconsistent grounds.