Wednesday, January 11, 2006

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.

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