“Positive Examples For Young Muslims”

Two months ago a law was passed in Austria requiring imams to speak German and banning foreign funding to Muslim organizations.  The reason behind this German speaking ability is so that imams can serve as “positive examples for young Muslims”.

Muting Foreign Influence

Austria’s parliament in late February this year adopted legislation amending law on Muslim organizations.  The new law forbids foreign sources of financing to local Muslim organizations.  It also requires imams to be able to speak German.

Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz described the objective of this new law, which is to bring about an “Islam of European character”.  This is achieved by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations and organizations via the ban on foreign funding, and at the same time, offering Austrian Muslims a mix of increased rights and obligations in practising Islam in Austria.

Elaborating further, Sebastian Kurtz said: “We want a future in which increasing numbers of imams have grown up in Austria speaking German, and can in that way serve as positive examples for young Muslims”. He also said that this new law is designed to “clearly combat” the growing influence of radical Islam. Recent press reports estimated that around 2,000 Austria citizens have gone to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist militias in the so-called Islamic State.

No Foreign Funding Allowed

To combat radical indoctrination from abroad, the new law forbids Islamic cultural organizations and imams in Austria from receiving funding from overseas. At the same time, the law also require nearly 450 Muslim organizations in Austria to demonstrate a “positive approach towards society and the state”, failing which they risk being de-registered.

Speak German

Sebastian Kurz said: “We want a future in which increasing numbers of imams have grown up in Austria speaking German, and can in that way serve as positive examples for young Muslims”.

Rights Of Muslims

The new law also gives a mix of additional rights to Muslims in Austria, including:

-   the right to consult Islamic clerics on the staffs of hospitals, retirement homes, prisons and in the armed forces
-  the right to halal meals in those institutions as well as in public schools
-  the right to skip work on Islamic holidays

Think About It

Can this new law stop Austria citizens from going to join jihadist militants in the so-called Islamic State?  What is there to stop the jihadists from conducting their recruiting activities in German? Also, is this new law somewhat discriminatory in that other religious organizations and their clerics are not bound by it?  On the other hand, can this new law be the start of a concerted effort to defeat the jihadists’ recruitment exercise?

Status Of Hudud For Kelantan

Hudud refers to an Islamic concept of crimes against God and of the punishments for these crimes. The state of Kelantan in Malaysia has passed a bill to amend the Syariah Law there so that hudud can be applied. However, the Federal government has to give its approval before hudud can be implemented in Kelantan. There is much division over this issue, even within the ruling and the opposition coalitions. One issue that was the subject of some discussion was the death penalty for apostasy.

Concern About Lack Of Definition Of Violations

One concern is that the bill does not clearly define  what would constitute apostasy. The Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 classifies “intidah” and “riddah” as voluntary or deliberate pronouncements that violate a Muslim’s creed, known as aqidah. Such violation would involve challenges to fundamental aspects of the Muslim faith, including Rukun Islam (Pillars of Islam), Rukin Iman (Pillars of Faith), and the distinction between halal and haram. But what are missing are proper definitions of what would constitute these violations. The absence of clear definitions opens up the possibility of arbitrary exercise of power by state authorities.

Concern About Possibility Of Coercion To Remain In The Faith

This concern arises from the condition that has to be fulfilled to avoid the death penalty. Under the hudud bill, the proposed punishment is a period of imprisonment “for the purpose of repentance”.  If the offender fails to repent, the next step could be execution. A basic principle of law is that admissions and confessions must be voluntarily given, not extracted by inducement, threat or promise. It would be hard to determine whether an admission of repentance is voluntary when the possibility of avoiding execution is dangled in front of the offender.

Concern About How Death Penalty Will Be Imposed

How will the executions be carried out under hudud? There is no clarity on this. When asked by The Malaysian Insider about how the death penalty will be carried out, the Deputy Menteri Besar (chief minister) of Kelantan replied that the executions are not part of the state government’s responsibility. He added, “There are methods and rules to follow before handing out the punishment. We don’t discuss that here”.

Think About It

The death penalty is not something that is new. It is already imposed in some countries for crimes such as murder and drug offences. But the concerns about proper definition, confessions under coercion, and how the executions are carried out do not apply in those cases. Are these concerns about hudud in Kelantan valid? Can hudud possibly be approved for Kelantan?

Previous posts

Questions Raised About Culture Of Violence In Malaysia
Malaysia – Proposal For Kelantan Sultan To Appoint Trained Professionals For Limb Amputations Under Hudud
More Debate On Hudud In Malaysia
Debate On Hudud Continues In Malaysia Despite Postponement of Tabling of Bill
Malaysia Urged To Extend Hudud To Non-Muslims
Muslim Doctors’ Groups In Malaysia Support Hudud

“My Crime Was Being A Malay And Muslim Store Manager”

Remember Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz, the Malay manager of Borders bookstore that was raided by Jawi and charged in court for allegedly selling an un-Islamic book which was neither banned by the government nor pronounced as haram in any fatwa at the time of the raid?  Despite being cleared of the charge in both civil and Syariah courts, Jawi is still pursuing legal action against her by lodging an  appeal against her discharge at the Syariah court, and it still reserves the right of appeal at the civil court.  Now Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz had enough of what he called “oppression”, saying that her “crime” was “being a Malay and Muslim store manager”, a clear reference to the fact that Jawi could not charge anyone else because they were non-Muslims.

Neither Author Nor Owner

Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz took Jawi to task for prolonging the legal suit against her, reminding it that the civil High Court, Court of Appeal and Syariah High Court had all freed her of any wrongdoing.

Expressing bewilderment over Jawi’s continuing pursuit, Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz asked what more Jawi wanted from her besides making her a scapegoat.  She said: “My crime was being a Malay and Muslim store manager who could be a scapegoat for Jawi to show its power. I thought the pain and humiliation I suffered for three years ended with the courts’ decisions. However, my happiness was short-lived. Jawi, please let me go off this oppression”.

“I Was Arrested”

Referring to the Jawi raid on her workplace on May 23, 2012, Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz said: “Then, after I had given a written statement at the Jawi office to assist investigations, I was arrested. My employer pleaded again and again to Jawi and the authorities to settle the issue amicably. But on May 30, 2012, Jawi insisted on charging me at the Syariah Court for circulating a book that was said to insult Islam”.

Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz reminded Jawi that there was no fatwa against that book seized by Jawi from her bookstore, and that she was neither the author of that book nor was she the owner of the bookstore.


Referring to the various court hearings in which she was described as “the accused” and her freedom was restricted while out on bail,  Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz said: “I was trapped in such a situation and my employer defended me by taking the last option, which was challenging Jawi through a judicial review that exposed Jawi’s lame and invalid action”.

Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz was further humiliated when some people looked at her as one who “insulted” her religion.

“I Am Surprised”

Referring to the decision to by Jawi to file an appeal against the decision to the Syariah Court of Appeal, Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz expressed surprise, saying: “I am surprised…does the Syariah chief prosecutor not respect the orders by the civil and Syariah courts? What good will victimising me bring? What ills would freeing me bring Jawi and Muslims? Does the Attorney-General’s Chambers not advise about the dangers of clashing with the law with what Jawi is doing?”

On March 22, 2013 High Court judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof ruled that Jawi’s raid on the Borders bookstore was unlawful and ordered Jawi to drop its case against  Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz.  However the chief Syariah prosecutor refused to drop charges against  Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz at the Syariah court, on ground that the prosecutor is appealing against the civil court’s decision.

On December 30, 2014 the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision, saying that Jawi’s action was not only unlawful but unconstitutional as well.

On February 26, 2015 Syariah High Court Judge Mohd Aman Mat Zain ruled: “The court is satisfied and the accused, Nik Raina is discharged without amounting to acquittal”. Jawi is now appealing against this decision by the Federal Territory Shariah High Court.

Her Plea

Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz said she was tired of dealing with Jawi which was “insisting on something that brings benefit to nobody”.  She said: “I am stressed out and I plead to leaders of this country to look at what Jawi is doing, which is making the public, namely Muslims, weary.  I am embarrassed to keep burdening my boss that way. On my own, I cannot afford the legal fees. My future job prospects are also jeopardised…this is my dilemma, which Jawi will never think about”.

Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz ended by pleading with the Malaysian king, the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, who is the head of Islam in Malaysia, to reprimand the department and to tell it to use wisdom when taking action.

Think About It

So is Jawi making  Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz a scapegoat that brings benefit to nobody?  Is Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz prosecuted because she is a Malay and a Muslim bookstore manager?  Why pursue this matter further when the civil and Shariah courts have found no wrongdoing on the part of Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz?

Previous posts

Malaysia – Syariah High Court Discharged Borders Manager Nik Raina
Malaysia – Court Of Appeal Says Jawi Wrong In Raiding Borders Bookstore

Call To Destroy Churches

Last week the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia called for the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia. According to him, the destruction of churches is an absolute requirement in Islam. He was speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, after legislators there moved to pass laws banning the construction of religious sites associated with Christianity. It is not the first time that the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, has expressed this view about Christian churches.

Earlier Call To Destroy Churches

In March 2012 Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah had also been consulted by a delegation from Kuwait about what Islamic law had to say on the issue of Islam and churches. This delegation was from a Kuwaiti non-governmental organization called the Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage. The consultation had been prompted by a call by a Kuwaiti parliamentarian for a ban on the construction of new churches.

The Grand Mufti told the delegation from the Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage that the Prophet Mohammed had said that the Arabian Peninsula was to exist under only one religion, and therefore Kuwait, being part of the Arabian Peninsula had to destroy all churches in its territory.

Opposition To Destruction Of Churches

Christians in the west responded sharply to the Grand Mufti’s call in 2012. So did Mehmet Görmez, the most senior cleric in Turkey, who said that he could not accept the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia’s call because it ran counter to the centuries-old Islamic teachings of tolerance and sanctity of institutions belonging to other religions.

Think About It

Both in 2012 and recently, the events that prompted the consultations with Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah were attempts to pass a law banning the construction of churches – not a law for destroying churches. Yet both times Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah advised the destruction of churches, advice that a senior cleric in Turkey says runs counter to Islamic teachings. Is it not worrying that advice to destroy churches should come from a person who is head of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas in Saudi Arabia. Will Islamic extremists anywhere take his view as a nod to the destruction of churches? Why have moderate Islamic clerics other than the one from Turkey not spoken out against the grand mufti’s advice?

A Savage Attack

Last Thursday an Afghan woman was lynched by a mob in central Kabul for allegedly burning a Quran. She was filmed being stamped on by a mob, who smashed a brick on her head, set her body on fire, and then threw her on to the banks of Kabul’s main river. The event took place in full view of the police. Some reports say that she was thrown off a roof and was run over by a car before being stamped on. Subsequent reports indicate that she did not burn a Quran, and justice is being demanded for her murder.

Initial Defence Of The Lynching

The day after the lynching of Fakhunda, aged 27, for allegedly burning a Quran, a cleric’s message broadcast by the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque said that the crowd had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs, and it threatened the government with an uprising if it arrested people who lynched her.

A spokesman in the Kabul police chief’s office also seemed to justify the lynching on grounds that Fakhunda had deliberately insulted Islam.

Not Quran Burning, But Argument With Cleric

Fakhunda’s family strongly denied the possibility that she had burned a Quran, or that she was mentally ill. They said she was a deeply religious person who worked as an Islamic-studies teacher and knew the Quran very well. Officials investigating the incident also found no evidence that she had burned a Quran. Instead the police detained many people over the incident and by early this week had suspended 13 policemen for failing to stop the murder.

Earlier this week it was reported that witnesses have come forward to say that Fakhunda was attacked because she had dared to question the superstitious practices of a local cleric who was known for selling charms to women outside a shrine in central Kabul. During the argument she was accused of burning a quran.

Support For Fakhunda

To demonstrate their anger at the lynching, women broke tradition to carry her coffin through the streets of Kabul on Sunday for her burial, while other protestors wearing masks depicting Fakhunda’s bloodied face marched to Kabul to demand justice for her. Protests were also held near the Shah Doshamshera mosque on Tuesday to demand that the government prosecute all those responsible for Fakhunda’s death. Activists have also planted a tree on the riverbank near where Fakhunda’s body was set alight.

More protests are planned for the rest of this week to maintain pressure on the authorities to ensure that women’s constitutional rights to equality and protection from violence are respected. If it is any comfort for them, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani voiced support for women’s rights when he took office last September. He has called the lynching of Fakhunda a “heinous attack” and ordered an investigation.

Think About It

Although the sentence for burning a Quran is death in some countries, including Afghanistan, surely insulting Islam in whatever way does not deserve the kind of attack that Fakhunda suffered, and especially not when there is no proof of the insult. Will the authorities ensure that those responsible for Fakhunda’s death are brought to justice? Will Afghanistan be able to ensure women’s rights are protected?

“Politically Incorrect”

A recent statement by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that it is “offensive” for Muslim women to keep their faces shrouded during citizenship ceremonies was described as “politically incorrect”, but the majority of Canadians polled agree with him.

From “Politically Insensitive” To “Politically Expedient”

Stephen Harper was referring to the wearing of the niqab when he made that controversial statement about the attire being “offensive” when worn during citizenship ceremony.  In fact he went further to say that wearing the niqab is “rooted in a culture that is anti-women”.

But a Ipsos Reid poll conducted between March 16 and March 19 involving 1,004 Canadians show that many Canadians support their Prime Minister.

Sean Simpson, Vice President of Ipsos Reid said: “What initially comes across as being politically insensitive, is actually politically expedient.  One thing that I think is particularly interesting to note, is that the prime minister’s comments could be seen, on the face of it, as being politically incorrect. But when we look at the results among voters for each of the parties in Canada, we found that a majority of voters support the prime minister’s position”.

The Poll’s Result

The Ipsos Reid poll shows the following results:

o   88% of Canadians support the “requirement that people show their faces during Canadian citizenship ceremonies”.

o   72% of the respondents agree with Stephen Harper that niqabs and burqas are symbols of oppression.

No Political Risk

Sean Simpson said: “There’s really no political risk for the prime minister in saying these things because he’s not going to alienate members of his own party, people who support his position already. And, in fact, a majority of supporters of other parties still agree with the prime minister”.


But not everyone agree with the Prime Minister.  Shomyla Hammad, mother of two children, moved from Pakistan to Canada in 2002. She wore the niqab during her citizenship ceremony.

Shomyla Hammad said: “This is one ceremony when a woman should be comfortable in her own skin and she should be able to wear whatever they want to”.   Shomyla Hammad added: “I want every Canadian to know that this was the decision I made because I was in Canada. Anywhere else in the world, I wouldn’t be able to make this decision. Canada empowered me. Canada taught me how to be yourself and do whatever you want to do”.

Alia Hoghen, executive director of Canadian Council of Muslim Women agreed with Shomyla Hammad, saying: “It is not that these women are doing this to offend anybody, they’re wearing it because they believe it’s a part of their spiritual journey.  So many of them chose to wear it when they came to Canada. They didn’t wear it in the countries they originated from, but chose to wear it when they came here because they felt the freedom that Canada afforded to them and allowed them to express themselves this way”.

Think About It

Do you agree with the Canadian Prime Minister that wearing the niqab/burqa when taking the oath at a citizenship ceremony is “offensive”?  Or that wearing a niqab is “rooted in a culture that is anti-women”?  If this is so, then why do women voluntarily don the niqab/burqa when they arrive in Canada whereas they do not do so back in their own country?

Violent Threats Made In Response To Video About Hudud In Kelantan, Malaysia

In all Malaysian states Islamic criminal law is applicable to Muslims, but there are limitations to the offences that come under this law, and also limitations to the penalties that can be meted out. However, the state of Kelantan has unanimously voted to amend the law so that hudud can be applied. To promote discussion of this issue, BFM 89.9, a business radio station, posted a satirical video about the amendment on its You Tube channel last Thursday. It led to threats of violence, murder, and rape against the presenter of the video.

Hudud In Kelantan

Hudud means offences for which the punishments include amputation of hands for theft, capital punishment for apostasy, stoning of illicit sex by a married offender, and flogging for offences such as intoxication, gambling.

Although the bill to amend the Syariah Law in Kelantan was passed unanimously, it has still to go through the Federal Parliament. Meanwhile the Prime Minister is expected to announce the coalition government’s stance on this issue later this week.

Condemnation Of Threats Of Violence Against The Presenter

The video questioned whether the implementation of hudud should be Kelantan’s top priority. It stated that hudud was being used to divert people’s attention from more important issues such as the economy and the administration. The presenter was Aisyah Mohd Tajuddin, a stand-in cast member, not a regular presenter, and not an author of the script. The vicious threats led the radio station to take down the video.

Several non-governmental organizations have condemned the threats. The Institute of Journalists pointed out that the issue of hudud is an important one that ought to be discussed and debated by all Malaysians, and it urged the authorities “to investigate the parties behind these threats, which are tantamount to criminal intimidation”.  So did the Centre for Independent Journalism, as well as did Sisters in Islam. The Sisters in Islam’s assistant manager for legal advocacy and public education, Afiq M Noor, said that the threats were unIslamic. He added, “The hudud laws in Kelantan can be criticized by anyone because they are man-made laws and not from God”. He also pointed out that Aisyah Mohd Tahuddin had freedom of speech under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

Implications Of Threats For Malaysia

In an article in The Malaysian Insider, Aisya Mohd Tajuddin’s father, an associate professor in the Department of Architecture, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, asks several questions about what the threats made by, presumably, Malay-Muslim netizens imply about conditions in Malaysia. Prof Dr Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi asks whether Malaysia is a safe county, where this culture of responding to simple issues by extreme violence came from, where did Malaysia go wrong in educating Malays, what is being taught in secondary schools, whether Malaysia’s public universities are producing people of such culture, and whether Malaysians are “barely passable Malaysian citizens, or passable Muslims, or worse are they even passable human beings with a humane conscience”. He wonders, too, whether the safety issue in Malaysia is such that people ought to be looking elsewhere to bring up their children.

Prof Dr Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi also comments that, having listened to thousands of You Tube ceramah (talks) by “our so called eminent ustazs [Muslim scholars trained in Islam and Islamic law])”, he knows that their understanding of Islam is a strong contributor to the kinds of comments made by young social-media users.  And despite his anger towards those who threatened his daughter, he is ready to forgive them because he knows it was Malaysian society that created such a culture. Forgiveness, he says is what Prophet Muhammad exemplified, but unfortunately it is not what Malaysia’s religious scholars teach.

Think About It

How pertinent are the questions raised by Prof Dr Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi? Will the federal government take them seriously? Will it consider doing something about the training and the calibre of the religious scholars in Malaysia? Will it allow hudud to be implemented in Kelantan?

Previous posts

Malaysia – Proposal For Kelantan Sultan To Appoint Trained Professionals For Limb Amputations Under Hudud
More Debate On Hudud In Malaysia
Debate On Hudud Continues In Malaysia Despite Postponement of Tabling of Bill
Muslim Doctors’ Groups In Malaysia Support Hudud

Grand Mufti’s Friday Sermon

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, who is concurrently the chairman of the Council of Senior Scholars, delivered a Friday sermon at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh in which he addressed a number of issues, one of which touches on the issuance of fatwas.  Essentially he said that those who are not well versed in the Quran should not issue fatwas.

Grand Mufti On Issuance Of Fatwas

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, in a public rebuke to those who issue ridiculous fatwas, said that scholars who are not well versed in the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet must not issue fatwas. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh put it bluntly in his sermon: “If he doesn’t know he should not issue any fatwa”.

Grand Mufti On Betrayal Of Public Trust

In his hard hitting sermon, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh said that government officials who leak the country’s secrets would be guilty of betraying public trust.  It does not matter whether the secret disclosed is small or big.

Also considered a betrayal of public trust is the case of contractors hired by the government for public projects but who fail to complete on time and who fail to meet quality specifications.

Grand Mufti On Protection By Security Forces

Turning next to the security forces, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh called on them to work to protect people’s honor and property.  It is not clear what prompted this call.

Grand Mufti On Honesty

Finally, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh had this message for traders and artisans.  Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh said they must be honest in their dealings with customers.  More specifically, they must not supply goods with faulty parts or attempt to hide defects.

Think About It

The call to restrain scholars who are not well versed in the Quran and the Sunnah from issuing fatwas is timely.  In the past we have seen many ridiculous fatwas issued by relatively unknown people, and even by some (un)popular scholars. But why was there a need to address the other issues?  Does it mean that in Saudi Arabia there are plenty of cases of government servants leaking state secrets, of contractors failing to complete public projects on time and with quality, of security forces failing to protect people’s honor and property, and of traders who cheat on customers? If not, the why address these issues?

“Time To End Ban”

Iran, which is bidding to host the 2019 Asian Cup, may well have its chances jeopardized by its strict enforcement of its ban on women attending football matches.  This warning was given by no less a person than FIFA President Sepp Blatter who called on Iran to end such a ban.

The Clarion Call

The clarion call to end the ban on women attending football matches was made by Sepp Blatter who wrote in the FIFA Weekly magazine recently, saying: “‘It’s time to end ban on women at matches” because the current situation “cannot continue”.

The ban on women watching football matches was imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the reason being that it is un-Islamic to have mixed crowds as this goes against the Islamic principle of gender separation (or sex segregation).

Unless Iran ends this ban, it may not stand a chance against the United Arab Emirates which is also bidding to host the 2019 Asian Cup.

What Happened At The 2015 Asian Cup?

Earlier this year, the 2015 Asian Cup was held in Australia.  At that time, thousands of female fans, far away from Iran, turned up to watch the Iranian team played against Iraq.

These female Iranian fans also took the opportunity to send a big message to the Iranian government.  They unfurled a big banner showing the face of Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British Iranian woman who had the courage to try and watch a volleyball match between Iran and Brazil in 2014, for which she was subsequently jailed.  The banner also called for an end to such a ban on women attending sporting events.

Sepp Blatter’s Intervention

Sepp Blatter wrote in his article published in the FIFA Weekly magazine, saying: “I raised the topic at my meeting with the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, and came away with the impression that this intolerable situation could change over the medium term. However, nothing has happened. A collective stadium ban still applies to women in Iran, despite the existence of a thriving women’s football organization. This cannot continue. Hence my appeal to the Iranian authorities – open the nation’s football stadiums to women”.

Think About It

Can the Iranian ban on women watcheing sporting events stay much longer?  How desperate is Iran in wanting to host the 2019 Asian Cup?  If really desperate, will it end this ban in order to improve its bid?  Will FIFA exert pressure on Iran to end this ban?  Or will the Iranian authorities stick to its gender separation, sex-segregation policy where a mixed crowd is strictly forbidden?

Previous posts

British-Iranian Woman Arrested After Trying To Watch Men’s Volleyball Match In Iran On Hunger Strike Again
British-Iranian Woman In Tehran Prison After Attempting To Watch Volleyball Match Goes On Hunger Strike
Woman Jailed And Given Solitary Confinement For Trying To Watch Volleyball Match In Iran

Different From Pakistani Muslims

With around 180 million Muslims, who make up about 15% of the population, India has the second largest Muslim population in the world, after Indonesia. Although India is Pakistan’s neighbor, Muslims in India differ from those in Pakistan. This point has been brought up during two recent conferences.

Indians First, Muslims Later

At the international conference on Muslims, Democracy and the Media: Prospects and Challenges, held at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University, a Pakistani journalist, Najam Sethi told the Times of India that Indian Muslims are a minority, and have issues related to that of minorities, and that they are Indian first and Muslims later.

Patriotic Muslims In India

Giving the inaugural address at the International Counter-Terrorism Conference in Jaipur, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh praised Indian Muslims for being patriots who are not swayed by fundamentalist ideologies. He said that extremism is alien to their nature, and he went on to blame Pakistan for being the source of most of the terrorist activities in India. He attributed the failure of the Islamic State to attract Indian Muslims to the complete integration of the latter into the mainstream.

Why India’s Muslims Are Moderate

Why India’s Muslims are moderate was explained by The Economist in September 2014. One reason is that it has retained the domination of Sufi Islam, whereas large-scale migration to the Gulf, along with close political ties to Saudi Arabia, have seen Pakistan adopt the harder forms of Sunni Islam, in particular the Wahhabi and Deobandi forms.

Another reason is that, unlike Pakistan, India has remained a robust and lively democracy that has given Muslims a stake in the political system. In addition there have been targeted welfare schemes to assist “backward” Muslims. And although the present prime minister is a Hindu nationalist, he has promised to treat the secular constitution as his “bible”.

Think About It

Although it is comforting to know that Muslims in India today are moderate, is it safe to assume that this situation will continue? Could extremism arise in the not-too-distant future? What factors might contribute to a change? Would rising literacy rates among the Muslims, and the ability to read jihadist websites be a factor? Would travel to the Gulf states contribute to more conservative Islamic beliefs? Would an increase in power of Hindu nationalists lead to a backlash and a rise in extremism?