Monday, December 1, 2008
Muslims--India's New Untouchables
Mumbai-born Indian-American Asra Nomani, former Wall Street Journal reporter and a harsh critic of Muslim terror outfits like Al-Qaeda and the Taleban, has expressed her feelings about the recent Mumbai attacks. Here are a few brief excerpts from her op ed that appeared in Los Angeles Times today:
The news of the attacks in Mumbai eerily took me back to a quiet morning two years ago when I sat in Room 721 of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, reading the morning newspaper, fearing just the kind of violence that has now exploded in the city of my birth. The headlines recounted how the socioeconomic condition of the people of my ancestry, Muslims in India, had fallen below that of the Hindu caste traditionally called “untouchables,” according to a government report.
“Muslims are India’s new untouchables,” I said sadly to my mother, in the room with me. “India is going to explode if it doesn’t take care of them.” Now, indeed, alas it has. And shattered in the process is the myth of India’s thriving secular democracy.
Mumbai police said over the weekend that the only gunman they’d captured during the attacks – which left nearly 200 dead and more than 300 wounded – claimed to belong to a Pakistani militant group. But even if the trouble was imported, the violence will most certainly turn a spotlight of suspicion on Muslims in India. Already, my relatives are hunkered down for a sectarian backlash they expect from anti-terrorism agencies, police and angry Hindu fundamentalists.
According to the report, produced by a committee led by a former Indian chief justice, Rajender Sachar, Muslims were now worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men were unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% were unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. Almost half of Muslims over the age of 46 couldn’t read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims accounted for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they held less than 5% of government jobs.
As expected, the Indian government and media have already concluded that Pakistan is responsible for the murder and mayhem in Mumbai. While Pakistan does have a serious terrorist problem, does it justify India's knee jerk response to blame foreigners (Pakistanis) for all of their problems that could possibly have roots within Indian society?
There is widespread and appropriately strong condemnation of the terrorists responsible for terrorist attacks in Mumbai. In Pakistan, US, Britain, Israel and the rest of the world, there is powerful outpouring of sympathy for the innocent victims. There is also a lot of speculation as to the causes and culprits of the expanding scope and scale of terror the world is witnessing. Such speculation will likely continue as the governments of the world grapple with the rising threat to civilians everywhere in the world. It's clear, though, that the use of military power alone as seen in America's "war on terror" will not succeed. There is an urgent need for all to acknowledge the failure of the current "global war on terror" to come up with a better strategy that relies on a broader set of tools and options to overcome the growing menace.