Exclusion and Radical Islam: India as an Example

Exclusion and Radical Islam: India as an Example
Posted on August 26, 2016 | Yasser Harrak | Written on August 26, 2016
Letter type:

To explain the relationship between radicalization and exclusion, the case of Muslims in post-independence India serves as a good example. The book Asian Islam in the 21st Century is an excellent academic source for that matter.


 Being a minority group, Indian Muslims are distinct from Middle Eastern Muslims where they form the majority in their countries - with the exception of Israel -. In post-independence India, Muslims are among the poorest communities with dire living conditions. Esposito, Voll and Bakar stated that Indian Muslims have had a minimal representation in public service, and that in late 1990s to the early 2000s they were victims of Hindu violent attacks leaving thousand dead and injured and many others forced to leave their homes and migrate. They added that Muslims suffered discrimination in housing politics, access to capital, education and employment. (Esposito, Voll and Bakar 2008, pp 178 -179). 

Among the challenges that Muslims were facing in post-independence India was the conciliation between traditional religious customary civil codes, the Indian state allowed in personal cases, and the laws of India. Separate Muslim civil code, mainly a family code clashed with Indian justice until "Rajiv Gandhi decided to satisfy Muslim conservatives and allow passage of a bill— the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986—which largely entrenched the legal position of Muslim personal law and made clear that, on matters such as divorce, Muslim law took precedence over the Indian civil code (Esposito, Voll and Bakar 2008, 184). Ghandi's legal accommodation for Muslims helped empowering radical Islamists, weakening moderate Muslims and excluding more Muslim communities from being an integral part of the Indian national identity. Being subject to the laws of the land without regards to tribal or religious specificities is a critical pillar in the building of national identity and the passage of the Muslim Women Act only weakened that pillar.

We can say based on these facts that inequality in India played an important role in isolating Muslim communities. The vacuum created in the state's absence was filled by conservatives and radicals. This also explains the emergence of groups claiming the defense of Muslims' rights such as the Jammate-Islami that resorted to terrorism is several occasions. The failure of Gandhi's accommodation is significant in proving that there is no room for reasonable accommodations outside the individual realm. Inclusion, the promotion of the sense of belonging and equal rights and opportunities remain crucial in any efforts in the fight against radicalism.

The authors mentioned earlier remain optimism about the future of Muslims in India. An optimism they have based on polls showing that the majority of Indians oppose anti-minority agenda, Supreme Court decisions taken in support of minority rights and the role of NGOs like the National Human Rights Commission (Esposito, Voll and Bakar 2008, pp 187-188).  I do not share that optimism because no matter how civilized public opinion is, no matter how fair Supreme Court decisions are and no matter how great the work of NGOs is, radicalism will continue as long as exclusion continues.



  • Esposito, John L, John O Voll, and Osman Bakar. 2007. Muslims in Post-Independence India. In Asian Islam In the 21st Century. Oxford University Press.

About The Author

Alma mater: American Public University (MA, Grad Cert), Concordia University (BA). 

Membership: Permanent member of the Golden Key International Honor Society.


Papers: See author's... More

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