This study focuses on a series of events related to the sudden disappearance of bloggers in Pakistan on 7 January 2017. Following the incident, the broadcast media reported that the bloggers were sharing blasphemous content and were involved in anti-state activities. This revelation triggered online conversations that questioned their sympathizers’ patriotism and loyalty to Islam. The study locates how this led to the emergence of several hashtag-led publics on Twitter. While focusing two hashtags that polarized the publics on the issue, the study utilizes discourse analysis to evaluate the discourses generated by the conservative and the liberal publics on patriotism and national identity. This study finds that while conflating national identity with Islam, the conservative discourse constitutes angry, threat-like closed statements that allowed no room for disagreement. Liberal publics, on the other hand, use strategic speaking to create anti-state discourse on patriotism. Despite the heated exchange between the two publics, I argue that on this occasion (event-led), Twitter offered the opportunity for initiating counter-narratives that refuse to translate patriotism in the idiom of religion. I see this as an occasional, episodic, yet unprecedented form of public sphering in Pakistani context that brings both liberals and conservatives in direct contact with each other.
|Number of pages
|Journal of Arab & Muslim Media Research
|Published - 2020