The stereotype of Muslim Indians is that of a relatively quiescent minority that has made its peace with its larger national non-Muslim context of contemporary India. Muslim Indians see something larger. They are heirs to a millennium long civilization, one of the greatest in modern history and an adornment to the history of Islam, replete with the highest philosophical, architectural, artistic and literary accomplishments.
More recently, there has emerged an inchoate concern, in India and outside, that the existence of a large population of economically, socially and culturally marginalized citizens is an Achilles heel of national unity, as well as a source of potential political and social instability. In light of the development of anti-state pan-Islamist ideologies based on a sense of grievance, and of violent groups inspired by those ideologies, there is also a concern that disaffected Muslim Indians are now and will in the future be increasingly susceptible to such ideologies.
Nonetheless, despite the fact that the Muslim Indian population is almost as great as the entire population of Pakistan, equal to the population of Bangladesh, and greater than the populations of major predominantly Muslim nations such as Egypt. Muslim Indians remain relatively ill-understood and under-studies. Their preoccupations and predicament are little known among outsiders and non-Muslim Indians. There is even a sense among Muslim Indians themselves that they do not have a handle on what is happening in the very varied Muslim communities throughout India.
Since December 2007, the Henry L. Stimson Centre in Washington DC, and the Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution in Mumbai have conducted a thorough inquiry throughout India to better understand and describe the priorities, thinking and concerns of Muslim Indians. We undertook this study because we believed that the state of opinion among Muslim Indians is inadequately understood. The adoption of policies that adequately address the sources of disadvantage and resentment demands a clearer understanding of how Muslims experience their membership in Indian society, and of the actual facts of that experience.
The present publication analyses the finding of this study, and places them in historical and political context.