Muslims are India's Jews

It's an analogy that I seem to recall Razib mentioning somewhere in here and I have used myself off-hand, but I think that it's descriptive power is made all the more explicit by this interesting article in TNR that asks why Indian muslims aren't militant.

To get a sense of scale, India's population of one billion is 10% muslim, meaning that India is the second-largest muslim country in the world. Don't think for a moment that this "market" has been ignored by the Wahabi ideological exporters - but as Krishnadev Calamur points out, there are many mechanism in India that act to undercut the fundamentalists' case:

the Indian state has devolved significant rights to Muslims, allowing them to follow the Islamic civil code in matters governing matrimony, divorce, inheritance, and property rights--and thereby undercutting the call for sharia law.

The national government also helps fund the country's roughly 30,000 madrassas, or schools of Islamic learning. Using its leverage as a funder of madrassas, since September 11, the government has called on religious schools to teach students more modern subjects such as science, math, and computers, as well as religious topics. By contrast, in neighboring Pakistan, the state supported madrassas but never pushed them to expand their curricula beyond Islamic studies.

What's more, Indian Muslims believe that they can advance economically, a sharp contrast from many Muslim communities in Europe and Russia, which are among the poorest groups in various countries. It is not uncommon to see Muslims occupying top positions in politics, sports, business, and Bollywood, India's film industry. Indeed, there is no shortage of Muslim role models. Two of the country's most popular movie actors, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, are Muslim; Muslims own and edit top newspapers; and the country's richest man, Aziz Premji, who heads the IT firm Wipro, is a Muslim. Overall, a fair indicator of an improvement in Muslims' economic status over the past decade, since the start on India's economic liberalization program, is the number performing the Haj--an expensive proposition. The number of Indian Muslim pilgrims rose four-fold between 1990 and 2003. Meanwhile, Muslims are actively utilizing government economic programs. In West Bengal, the state government provides low-interest loans for the self-employed. Nearly 95 percent of these loans go to Muslims.

As any casual observer of Indian domestic politics and religion can tell you, the main militant threat in India is the BJP, which occupies the same religious mainstream niche as the Christian right in America. The Hindu right in India goes far further however, as the Gujarat riots illustrated. There, BJP "saffron warriors" enacted barbaric revenge against Muslim businesses and people, including looting, murder, rape - all while the official police forces looked the other way. And as Calamur notes, the BJP retains political dominance in Gujarat on an exlicitly anti-Muslim platform.

Intriguingly, it is the mass-cultural and economic dominance of the muslim minority that invites comparisons to Jews in America. We have a (relative to the mainstream) small religfious minority that wields disproportionate economic and cultural influence.

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