Internalized Colonial Narratives in Pakistani Cinema: Liberalism, “Good Muslims,” and the War on Terror

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If colonialism is characterized by the denial of independent personhood to the colonized, and the consequent desire to be accorded existence through the gaze of the colonizer, Khuda Ke Liye expresses an aspiration to be recognized as good in the War on Terror calculus. If Zero Dark Thirty and its genre demonize Pakistanis, Khuda Ke Liye responds that not all Pakistanis are demons.

Instead of offering rebuke to the ideological colonialism of the War on Terror, the film remains firmly rooted within the war’s good and bad Muslim framework. In Mansur’s undeserved capture and torture, it laments that imperial power cannot distinguish between allies and adversaries. Recognize me as liberal like you, the film seems to plead, and spare me, the good Muslim, for I too am in battle with the bad one.