A Strong Message From Indian Muslims

. 12/12/08

All over India, Eid celebrations on Tuesday were muted. Many Muslims wore black bands in protest against the Mumbai terror strikes while imams of several prominent mosques spoke out against terrorism and pledged to stand united against terrorists. The Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid India's biggest mosque called the 'jihad' which took nearly 200 lives in Mumbai a crime against all people. He also slammed Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism in India. So did the imam of another prominent mosque, the Fatehpuri Masjid.

The nationwide protests on Eid by Muslims against the terror attacks weren't a one-off event. In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attack, the city's Muslims refused to allow the dead terrorists to be buried in Muslim graveyards. Earlier this week, Muslim organisations in Mumbai took out a rally to send the message that killers of innocent people are the enemies of Islam. And over the past few days, several Muslim icons of India, including Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, have spoken out against terrorism. These strong words and actions by India's Muslims are a slap in the face of groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba which are intent on spreading terror in the name of Islam and to supposedly avenge wrongs done to Indian Muslims. What Indian Muslims are saying is that terror has no religion. But by clearly speaking out against Islamist terrorism, India's Muslims are taking away any justification that the terrorists might claim for their bloody acts.

Groups like LeT not only want to spread immediate mayhem but eventually to break up India. India, with its 150-million Muslim minority population, is a direct challenge to Islamist terror groups. Nothing would please the terrorists more than if blasts and terror attacks were followed by communal violence. But every time there has been a terrorist act, Indians, irrespective of religion, have closed ranks. This has been so since 1993 when terrorists first struck in a big way in Mumbai. Since then there have been several terror attacks across India, but none has provoked rioting or large-scale violence.

Indian Muslims occupy a unique position. They're the largest Muslim minority anywhere and practise an Islam that is much more syncretic than elsewhere. At a time when radical Islamic ideologies are trying to gain the upper hand across the world, Indian Muslims could offer a compelling counter-narrative. Indian Muslims have already given a fitting answer to the Islamist groups that were behind the Mumbai terror attacks. The point now is to sustain the debate and to widen it further.
The Times of India

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