Future relations between peoples of Christian and Muslim origins in Europe is one of the great questions of our age; I have speculated (in "Europe's Stark Options") that the continent can look forward to just three possible scenarios – Eurabia, rejection of Muslims, or everyone getting along. Should things go the second route, Muslims might decide to pass by hiding their identities.
Sound unlikely? An article about Calcutta in the Washington Times by Shaikh Azizur Rahman, "India's Muslims adopt Hindu names," explains how this subterfuge is practiced in India today. As the title suggests, significant numbers of India's Muslim minority (sometimes called the world's largest minority population) are adopting Hindu identies, including names and clothing, to surmount the bias that prevents them from getting jobs or housing. The article notes that there "could be thousands of Muslims in Calcutta who … are quietly hiding their religious identities in order to fit in," and offers three specific cases:
- Shaikh Salim, a Muslim who runs a food stall in the central office district of Calcutta, uses the common Hindu name Shankar Maity and calls his stall "Shankar's Fast Food."
- Shaokat Ali, a Muslim student who came to the city to do his master's degree in English, tutors Hindu students using the name Saikat Das and keeps a large picture of the popular Hindu goddess Kali hanging on a wall in his room.
- Jahanara Begum takes off a silver talisman embossed with Allah in Arabic each morning, replacing it with a spot of vermilion powder on her forehead and red-and-white conch bangles of a married Hindu woman before heading to work in a fish market, where she is known as Parvati — the name of a Hindu goddess.
More generally, Anjan Basu, executive editor of Pratidin, a Bengali daily, finds that many Hindus think all Muslims ought to move to Pakistan. In West Bengal, Muslims make up 27 percent of the population but less than 3 percent of government employees. A federal minister has said Muslims are subject to a "religious apartheid."
Comment: (1) One shudders to think what things would be like if Pakistan had not been created and if roughly one third of India's population today were Muslim. (2) Racial differences make passing as a Christian harder to do in Europe than passing as a Hindu in India, but it could be done. (August 21, 2007 )