This past Sunday, Indian Muslims took to the streets in Mumbai to condemn the recent acts of terrorism.
The New York Times reports that this is one of many acts that Indian Muslims have done to disassociate the attacks with the true doctrine of Islam, such as foregoing an annual commemoration of a Hindu riot that destroyed a mosque. India has had ongoing tension between Hindus and Muslims, and with the recent tragedy, Muslims are making an effort to prove their loyalty to India. Forty victims of the attacks happened to be Muslim, which may have helped ease tensions between the two groups.
Reading this story, I was reminded of the social climate immediately following the attacks of September 11th. My hometown has the largest Afghani community in the United States, and after the attacks, as everyone started to show solidarity with flags, Afghanis immediately put up flags in front of their houses or in the windows of their restaurants and stores. In fact, most Middle Eastern or even South Asian people I knew put up flags and limited their time going out. The day of the attacks, while people around me were confused, shocked or scared, my best friend, a Muslim, was thinking, “They’re going to blame us.”
So I can’t help but wonder how much fear is playing a role in their demonstration of their loyalty to India and to peace. The New York Times reveals mixed opinions:
“It’s a pity we have to prove ourselves as Indians,” said Mohammed Siddique. “… But the fact is, we need to speak louder than others, to make clear that those people do not speak for our religion–and that we are not Pakistanis.”
“After this attack, everything has changed; people now see the realities,” said Saeed Ahmed. “… This is something different from what we had before, it’s like your American 9/11. It is not about Hindus and Muslims; it is about the nation being attacked.”
Pakistan recently arrested three perpetrators of the attacks, from the group who the Indian government suspected to have been behind the attacks. This is good news for the obvious reason of bringing the attackers to justice, but also because with more information about the situation, people are less likely to be swayed by fear and act recklessly. The Mumbai tragedy is not the complete erosion of Indian Hindu-Muslim tensions, but hopefully it can be an opportunity to see each other as fellow citizens and witnesses of a tragedy without the fear of being seen as “one of them.”