The community wheeled about as one

Martha Nussbaum says there are liberal Muslims in India – though she doesn’t say how many or what percentage they are or how influential they are. She leaves a lot of details out of her account, which makes it less credible than it might be.

She also starts off with the familiar silly and misleading ‘community’-talk –

India’s Muslim community strongly condemned the terrorist acts and immediately took steps to demonstrate its loyalty to the nation…The world saw a deeply nationalist community, one loyal to the liberal values of a nation that has yet to treat it justly. It was not the first time India’s Muslims have demonstrated a peaceful embrace of the country’s founding values. The personal experience of Mushirul Hasan exemplifies the same commitment. A leader of the community, Hasan has been at the center of controversy for his liberal, secular views…

Come on…she’s a philosopher, so she really ought to do better than that. How can ‘India’s Muslim community’ strongly condemn anything? What does that even mean? To make any sense at all it has to mean that all Indian Muslims strongly condemned and immediately took steps, which is absurd. Perhaps she means all prominent Indian Muslims did that? But no, because she could have said that, and because that’s not what she wants to convey, either – and that’s the problem. She wants to convey, without spelling it out, that the majority of Indian Muslims strongly condemned and immediately took steps – but is that true? I don’t know, but it seems very unlikely just on the face of it, because most people are too busy with other things to do much public condemning and step-taking. But as if she had established that which she wanted to convey, she goes on in the next sentence to say what ‘India’s Muslims’ had demonstrated – when it’s vanishingly unlikely that all of them demonstrated anything. Then she dashes on to claim one person as exemplary of this commitment of ‘India’s Muslims’ and then to call him ‘a leader’ of this notional ‘community’ that all thinks with one mind. It’s all very rhetorical and sentimental and covertly manipulative, and I wish she wouldn’t do it.

It is an interesting piece though – and I hope she’s right. I would be delighted to learn that the situation is just as she describes it and that my suspicions are groundless. I’d be thrilled. I would love to know that India is packed to the rafters with people like Mushirul Hasan.

Stereotypes of the violent Muslim are so prevalent in India—as elsewhere in the world—that it is virtually impossible for Muslim liberals to be taken at their word when they say that they believe in free speech, pluralism, nonviolent persuasion, the rule of law, and the right of each person to a fair trial. ’Oh yes, a screen for darker motives,’ is the typical response, pervasive on Hindu blogs and common even in the mainstream press. You say you are a liberal, and that proves you are a radical Islamist.

Well…are stereotypes really the only reason for that? Does the Koran, and the relationship of Islam to the Koran, have nothing to do with it? Couldn’t it be that at least some people wonder if Muslim liberals still have the Koran to contend with, just as Christian liberals have the Bible, and if there is some tension? Couldn’t some people think that liberalism is just more difficult for Muslims for a lot of reasons (family pressure, customs, the Koran, friends, and so on) and that different people can mean different things by ‘liberal’? I would say it could, and that people who are slow to be convinced are not necessarily simply heeding stereotypes of the violent Muslim. They might be, but they might not.

It is a very interesting article though, and highly informative. Don’t let me put you off.

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