India: Center of the Muslim World

I've previously disavowed the utility of the notion of Ummah in a political sense, but in a cultural sense I think it's a valid and useful concept. I think that the following argument makes a lot of sense, if you allow for inclusion of Pakistan into the Subcontinent as a pan-Desi entity* :

India is the rough geographic center of the Muslim world. It is at the least the 3rd largest Muslim country (after Indonesia and Pakistan(?)) and the 2nd largest Shia country after Iran. We have the the most diverse (Muslim) population of any nation. Our architecture - a grand distillation of all things Indian - inspires awe. Our intellectual sophistication is peerless in the Muslim world. Islam has been in India since the Prophet was alive.

The author argues that other countries with nominally more muslims such as Malaysia and Pakistan have not yet separated mosque and state effectively enough to let true diversity of Islamic thought propser. I am not an expert on Malaysia, but from what I understand of Pakistan, it's more the military rather than the theocratic wing that is the hidden power (sepoy, Zach, and Zack are all better positioned than I to comment). Also, India has its own troubles with ethnic strife which should not be papered over; the Gujrat riots saw muslims targeted using voter lists, for example, suggesting local government complicity in the pogrom. Still, warts aside, I think it's an interesting idea, and India has enough depth to qualify for civilization status on its own.

*I am sure Zach will vociferously disagree.


reformist_muslim said...

I commented on the original post as well and am uncertain about Pakistan's inclusion in this 'pan-desi' entity.

On the one hand Pakistani muslims certainly share the intellectual and cultural heritage of the sub-continent with Indian muslims.

However I think there is an added appreciation for tolerance and liberalism when living as a minority.

Also Pakistan's experience seems to have created a skepticism towards democracy which Indians on the whole do not have. I know too many fellow Pakistani's who rather than pointing out some of the problems with India's system e.g Gujrat take delight in labelling it a 'sham' democracy which it is not.

On the whole I agree that this idea has some interesting possibilities and would be interested to know if Arab's would go along with this.

menj said...

"... other countries with nominally more muslims such as Malaysia and Pakistan have not yet separated mosque and state effectively"

I wish I could say that Malaysia has not separated mosque and state, but unfortunately that is not true. Malaysia is being ruled by a secular regime which is only concerned for its self-interest.

As for where separation of mosque and state (SECULARISM!) is concerned, that is precisely the very reason for the current "malaise of the ummah", as Faruqi would put it. This has been discussed at length here.


Scorpius said...

What? India is a Muslim country? I know it is a minor point, but with muslims comprising only 13.4% of the population how can you claim it is a "muslim country"?

Aziz Poonawalla said...

scott - I also claim that the US is a muslim country. I dont ascribe to a "majority" definition. I call a a country muslim if it allows free expression and pursuit of the faith; if it contributes to the culture, literature, and philosophy of the faith. India has been at teh forefront of the muslim world since the Prophet stood at the shore of Arabia and looked east, and said, "someday, my brothers shall arise in the land beyond."

reformist: you assume that separation of mosque/church and state is equivalent to secularism. Thats a very bizarre claim. It is solely due to that separation in teh US that so many faiths thrive here so freely.

Aziz Poonawalla said...

sorry; reformist- i meant to address my comment to MENJ. apologies.