Indian Muslims Choose Loyalty to Country


By Wajahat Ali and Ahmed Rashid

Whilst all fingers are pointed at Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks, eminent Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, and Islam Advance’s contributor Wajahat Ali, argue that the Indian government needs to address discrimination of Muslims at home for the lessons of the attack to be learned.

In the aftermath of the Mumbai tragedy, Indian Muslims have been marching overtime on the streets to demonstrate solidarity with fellow citizens and denounce the attacks. At the rallies, such as the 5,000 march by Indian Muslims in Mumbai last week, Indian Muslims held placards that read “Our Country’s Enemies are Our Enemies,” “Killers of Innocents are Enemies of Islam,” and a few believe “Pakistan Be Declared Terrorist State.”

As observers of Indian politics know, such declarations are an important act of self-defense in a country where communal tensions between the country’s 140 million Muslims and 900 million Hindus periodically flare. Muslims, more often than not, are the targets of these attacks. While international attention has focused on Pakistan, where the attackers hailed from, it’s important we don’t paper over the iniquities faced by Muslims in India, which spawned home-grown version of al-Qaeda in recent years, and where resentment is growing.

The discrimination can be subtle. Zahir Jan Mohammed, an eye-witness to the 2002 Gujarat pogrom/riots and a director at Amnesty International, explains that to succeed in India, Muslim Indians often felt they had to prove they were “Indian” – now they must also prove they are not “Muslim terrorists or Pakistani sympathizers.”

“Indian Muslims who want to break into the upper echelons of Indian society need to abdicate their allegiance to their faith and proclaim their faith towards India as their belief system…it implies the notion that Muslim Indians are less Indian or perhaps ‘suspect’ because they really have allegiances elsewhere,” Mohammed said.

More overt discrimination was uncovered by the 2006 Rajinder Sachar Committee, formed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to investigate and solve the social, economic and educational problems of Indian Muslims for the purpose of including them in the mainstream population.

It concluded that Muslims, who comprise 11 percent if the population, account for 40 percent of the prison population, face rampant discrimination in housing, receive substantially lower bank loans, receive less than 5 percent government jobs, suffer from higher rates of illiteracy, and are burdened with significantly inferior infrastructure.

In addition, the rise of radical, terrorist Hindu movements, such as the Bajrang Dal, RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad – each involved in directly or indirectly inciting anti Muslim violence – strokes the flames of religious intolerance and separatism.

Recently, the Indian investigative journal Tehelka uncovered proof of government complicity in the slaughter of 2,000 Muslim civilians by Hindu right-wing mobs in the state of Gujarat over several months in 2002.

As Stephen Cohen, a Brookings scholar and expert on South Asia, told us, “There has been a growth of unrest among India’s Muslim Population, largely as a reaction to Barbri [Mosque demolition by Hindu nationalists in 1992] and Godra [Event that inspired the Gujrat riots that killed nearly 2,000 Muslims] …everyone fears the growth of a linkage between Al Qaeda and Indian Muslims, but again the worst is not yet evident.”

Indeed, such government-sponsored discrimination could potentially help recruitment of disenchanted Muslims into the folds of India’s indigenous militant Islamic groups of SIMI [Students Islamic Movement of India] and Indian Mujahideen, who may be involved in the Mumbai attacks.

Both groups find ideological and religious nourishment for their radicalism in an extremist, literalist strain of Deobandi Islam, which reduces the world to a binary demarcation of “Dar-al-Islam” [The House of Islam”] and “Dar-al-Harb”[The House of War, or those lands deemed unIslamic.] However, it is imperative to note the vast majority of Muslims who adhere to Deobani orthodoxy are neither militant, violent nor supporters of terrorism. The radical interpretation of this ideology, as supported by the Taliban and to an extent al-Qaeda, rationalizes and justifies its political ambitions through such simplistic, unscholarly analysis of an Islam that is stripped from its spirituality and historical precedence.

Adherents of this group, which represents but a minutiae of South Asian Muslims, claimed responsibility for the 2008 Ahmedabad and New Delhi blasts that killed scores of innocent civilians. The nationalist, political struggle for Kashmir, which then flourished into a full fledged, ideological militant jihad, allowed Pakistani terrorist groups like Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba to implant cells in India amongst Muslim Indian student youth to assist with recruitment, logistics, intelligence and training. As Adrian Levy, author of Deception: Pakistan, United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons, explains, “The Student Mujihadeen groups from India seem to have middle class membership, with academic and professional backgrounds, computer literate, with money, and have come under the influence of Islamist groups.”

The intolerance and belligerence of these groups find their ideological partner in the violent, Hindu nationalist groups who feel compelled to “purify” India by removing its “unclean” minorities. In these moments of chaos and fear, collective anger could ignite catastrophic, reactionary sentiments, and poison the well of a historically tolerant and multicultural citizenry.

So, whilst we need to focus on the cause of extremism in Pakistan – a pressing problem that threatens to overwhelm both the Pakistani and Afghan governments -we must use the events of this month to remedy India’s inequities towards its minorities and pacify the rhetoric of bigotry espoused by the country’s religious zealots. That way, a stronger, fairer India can emerge from the attacks.


3 thoughts on “Indian Muslims Choose Loyalty to Country

  1. This is a fairly balanced analysis of the situation India finds itself today. Its incredibly sad that a country founded on secular, democratic principles is held at ransom by a rabid few, whose religious and moral views are so deeply shrouded in what can only be described as toxic sludge.

    Till we rid ourselves of this virus (Hindu fundamentalism) that has already seeped into every possible vein in our body, we can never survive as a Nation.

    The all pervasive blame-game that has fogged our combined vision in both countries, only serves to distance us while the Great Satan sits on the sidelines smacking its lips and waiting to pounce !

  2. The pogrom in Gujarat is a fact and so is the poor economic condition of muslims in India, but I don’t think, all that in any way is justification for what happened in Mumbai. There were terrorist attacks in India before Gujarat pogrom; eg Parliament attack. The situation in Kashmir is also deplorable and Indian Army indulges in extra judicial killings, but LeT and JeM themselves have killed thousands of Kashmiri muslims there in Bomb attacks, and they’re no friend of any muslims [whether Indian or Pakistani]. These terrorist will continue to wage “their jehad” irrespective of what happens in Kashmir or Mumbai. If the killers of Gujrat gets punished, these terrorists are not going to go away, and become farmers etc. They have been brainwashed, and what they need is real education [or reeducation] and the educational set up of areas that they come from should be revamped.



    I am a typical Muslim from Mumbai, who is very confused and upset because we are forced to follow and believe of the unrequired and forceful Islamism on us, by various fanatic Muslim religious outfits.

    The reason of me writing this way to you is that in India and inPakistan, majority of the people are living in the same situation,Thanks to our great so called Rehnumas.(Leaders) .

    Today I saw your speech regarding the atrocity and dastardly act committed by terrorists from your region in India, you said you will cooperate fully and jointly in the investigations in relate to the terrorist activity in India. That is really good in the gesture and appreciative. But I am thinking of some unanswerable and mutilated questions, as mutilated as our bodies are left after terrorist attackson us.

    Since my birth, I have seen one hand which is coming forward alwaysfor peace and prosperity, is from India, and your side of hand is always in disguise. I do not understand why? And wish to understandyour side of opinion on the following questions which is not allowing me to sleep in peace of my home. My only request to you is that kindly read my letter of request till the end.

    Question as follows :-


    Because, in my opinion, I have always seen and read that so called radical fanatic groups in Pakistan are worried of Muslims in India and across the world. They think that Muslims in India and across the globe are in dire need of their help, guidance and cooperation, and if these fanatic Muslim religious outfits will not help, Muslims aroundthe globe will vanish.

    For your kind information, we the Muslims in India are the safest Muslims in the world, because we have full liberty of practicing our religion and religious obligations, which has been guaranteed by our Constitution.

    But I think in Pakistan, it is next to impossible to follow your own path freely and what I have read and seen that people are even killedwhile they are performing their Namaaz in the mosque.


    Allhamdollih, since the independence, we can proudly say that nothing of this inhuman and Unislamic incident happened in India by any of the Muslim.

    By the grace of Allah Almighty, we are approximately 22 Crores Muslims living peacefully along with other communities in India. Unfortunately this Peace is always tested and Disturbed by your Evil Interference

    We are proud to be an Indian. we have one of the best education system in India and we have one of the most renowned Muslim Universities, Colleges, Institutions, Hospitals, Libraries, Trusts, IslamicScholars, Artifactoes, Qaris, Haafiz – e – Quran, Religious Bodies,Aalims, Mushtahids, Scientists, Doctors, Intellectuals, LegalEndorsers and above all The Peers, Wali Allah and what not.Alhamdollilah.


    So kindly tell me that is it possible for us Indian to follow your type of Islam which I am sure is not true to its sense… As I understand Islam in true form is a religion of Peace, Brotherhood, Equality, Kindness, Avoidance, Unity, Forgiveness and Prosperity.

    The Qur’an upholds the sanctity and absolute value of human life and states in Surah 6: Al-An’ am: 151:”do not take any human being’s life (the life) which God has declared to be sacred — otherwise than in (the pursuit of) justice: this hasHe enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason”

    I also clearly remember the Hadees of Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.S.).He says “I can feel the fragrance of Imaan coming in with the breeze from Hind” and who can forget the Akhari Khutba of Imam Hussein. Before his martyrdom in karbala, the Holy Imam said: “You have killed all my companions, my children, my brothers and even my little baby; now Itell you to leave me, I will migrate to Yemen, to Iran or even to the far off Hind (India),
    stain not your hands with my blood, which is the blood of the Holy Prophet himself, you will not have salvation”.

    This proves that even Prophet and His Grand Son had love and affection for (Hind) India.

    Mr. President, Please keep this in mind that on 14th August 1947, as soon as you became Pakistan, you ceased to be the part of this HIND, for which the Blessings are bestowed by Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.S.) and his beloved Grand Son.

    Mr. President, You are kindly requested to pay your kind and thoughtful attention 100 times and discuss this
    with your Olemas and Fanatical Outfits before you interfere with the internal affairs of Indian Muslims, who are blessed and gifted by the Pillars of True Islam. Kindly don’t play with your eternal life henceforth. We the Muslims in India and hopefully around the world will be highlyobliged and thankful to you if you, if henceforth your unwanted
    interference is avoided in future.

    Thank you for giving your precious time and thought to my letter.


    Indian Muslim.
    E mail: bmpmum@gmail. com.(READERS KINDLY SEND YOUR OPINIONS).

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