guest post: Razib Khan, Introduction

NOTE: I've asked Razib of Gene Expression to guest post on UNMEDIA about India, Islam, and interfaith relations. I'll break the essay into the sections so we can keep a more focused discussion going.

Aziz has asked me to give my opinion on "India, Islam, and interfaith relations." As an Indian by origin and a Muslim by profession Aziz has his own perspective, which he presents in his blog, so I think I should introduce myself to the readers of UNMEDIA so my assertions can be judged in light of who I am. You can find my bio here, I'm the first one listed. By profession I am an atheist and American, by birth I am a Muslim and a Bangladeshi, so I think I offer a "different" angle than you normally find in any debates on Islam. I have been meaning to blog about Islam and its role in the world today in a thorough fashion, it is obviously one of the central topics in the blogosphere, but I am wary because I feel it is easy to generalize and let one's own bias get in the way. I respect Bernard Lewis' work, but I have come to feel that what he delivers in breadth, he withholds in depth, while the apologia for the faith from many Muslims to me denies the fundamental frictions between Islam as it is practiced today and the organization of a liberal democratic polity that accepts religious pluralism. Reading the book Taking Back Islam, a compilation of articles from Beliefnet by moderate Western Muslims (some converts, some immigrants and some first generation Americans of the Muslim faith), I was saddened to see that there was a repeated hesitation to acknowledge that some negative factors in the faith might not be exogenous or pre-Islamic hold-hovers. Crucially, some of the authors assert that this position needs to be explored in the preface to their exposition! As an apostate from Islam, I have a definite bias, I do not want Islam as it is practiced in much of the world to become established in the liberal democratic West (please google "apostate" and "Islam" for a variety of opinions on the topic if you don't comprehend what I'm alluding to). I am not just a "bad Muslim," I am a kafir.

That being said, the focus of this post is not the West, but India, a nation I have never visited. My knowledge of India comes mostly from books, articles and encounters with Indians, just as my knowledge of Islam also derives from those sources supplemented by my personal experience as a non-believer among the believers [1]. Keep that in mind, if you respond with anecdotes about your experiences in India, I won't reply because I simply can't. I'd also like to state that many of my notations exist to head-off specific objections to generalizations, and elucidate or clarify further what I'm trying to communicate. I think it is important to study the case of India as best as one can, because this is a country where Muslim and non-Muslim have existed side-by-side for centuries, and may be seen a precedent to the relationship of European countries and their growing Muslim minorities, if not the United States. My perusal of the information has led to me to a few conclusions, which I will state before I explore each one in turn.

-- Razib Khan

[1] Though I have been a conscious apostate since the age of 8, I wasn't much of a believer before that point, espousing a vague deism at best, and being an apatheist at worst. Because of the social circumstances of my family I had to hide my lack of belief (dissimulation) and so have gone through the motions for much of my life.

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