Friday, October 17, 2014

Why India’s Muslims Haven’t Radicalized

By Jake Flanagin, NYR
October 16, 2014 3:38 pm

Though Muslims make up only 14.4 percent of India’s total population, the country maintains “the world’s second-largest Muslim population in raw numbers (roughly 176 million),” according to a 2013 report by the Pew Research Center. That’s a little more than 11 percent of the world’s total Muslim population, according to another report from Pew’s Religion and Public Life Project.

Despite the enormity of India’s Muslim community, one finds little mention of them in Western media reports on modern Islam. Perhaps because, in the wake of Sept. 11 and in the midst of the war on terror, the West’s chief concern with the global Muslim community has been its capacity for fostering extremism — and India’s Muslims remain largely un-radicalized.

“A combination of factors explains it,” reads an editorial in The Economist. Religious intermingling has roots that run deep in India: “Islam in South Asia has a long history, over 1,000 years, but was long dominated by Sufis who integrated closely with non-Muslim Hindus, sharing many cultural practices.” The Taj Mahal, arguably the most globally recognizable structure in India, was built by the Muslim Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in memory of Mumtaz Mahal, his beloved wife who died in childbirth. Shah Jahan was himself the son of a Muslim father and a Hindu mother, the Emperor Jahangir and his wife, the Rajput princess Taj Bibi Bilqis Makani.

Back in 2009, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman reported on a growing trend among Indian Muslims wherein community members refused to bury the bodies of suicide bombers. “That’s why India’s Muslims, who are the second-largest Muslim community in the world after Indonesia’s, and the one with the deepest democratic tradition, do a great service to Islam by delegitimizing suicide-murderers by refusing to bury their bodies. It won’t stop this trend overnight, but it can help over time,” he wrote.

(More here.)


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