ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Islam and the West

Riaz Ahmad’s article, “Reconciling Hegemony and Mutual Respect: Obama’s Muslim Outreach” (EPW, 29 August 2009), seems to be a thorough critique and a very close scrutiny of the textual evidence, to tease out the political subtexts, and ramifications for the world in general, and Muslims in particular, in Obama’s speech at Cairo. However, I wonder, what is the way out when one does not wish to “essentialise” larger entities such as world Muslims or Islam but remains cognisant that Islam phobia and even what is called Islamic terrorism (albeit the latter being a debatable term) are practically global phenomena, not homogeneous, not the same, but with commonalities. Even within India itself, a Muslim shares 80% of his cultural practices with his non-Muslim regional neighbour, and only a very few with his non-regional Muslim Indian. Aijaz Ahmed (“Islam, Islamisms and the West”, Socialist Register, Vol 44, 2008) has used this statistical data from the Anthropological Survey of India to prove that Islamisation is an imposed modality. Yet these few shared habits do count.

While it is right to distinguish between the various Arabic, Pakistani, Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi, Bosnian, Indonesian or American problems pertaining to Muslims, the common bind across them can also not be neglected. Obama may himself use a term such as violent extremism and avoid the more callous Islamic terrorism, but can looking at each regional problem as particularised, contextual or classist and not pertaining to Islam, Muslims and intercommunal relations as a whole, suffice?

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