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Pipes and Ibrahim: Is Moderate Islam Possible

Reader comment on item: The Middle East Forum Debates Moderate Islam

Submitted by Richard Benkin (United States), Apr 1, 2014 at 00:15

I would like to complicate the discussion even further. Often, when people think of Islam, they think of Middle Eastern Islam and its offshoots. As you know, I have spent a great deal of time in South Asia and have developed some pretty strong relationships with Muslims there, as well as Hindus. And while approximately 20 percent of all Muslims live in the Middle East and North Africa, about 35 percent live in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh alone (over 60 percent of all Muslims live in South and Southeast Asia).

The Islam I encounter in South Asia reminds me not to paint Islam with too broad a brush.

As I noted in a 2012 article, "http://www.interfaithstrength.com/Moderate2.htm">Is Moderate Islam an Oxymoron, like you and Raymond Ibrahim, I know many individual Muslims who fit the bill, but governments and other larger structures do not. There is a public and private face that Muslims often present in South Asia, and they are not the same. I was taken aback when during my first trip to Bangladesh, I was told by many Muslims that they agree with my work and also think it would be good for their country to have relations with Israel; then, in the next breath, they asked that I keep it a secret.

But that might be changing. More Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims, including local leaders and religious fundamentalists, are willing to meet openly with me. People still recall that the Mumbai Muslim community refused Muslim burials to dead terrorists who participated in the deadly attacks there; and there is a general consensus among Indian Muslims rejecting violent jihad. Finally, while few Indian Muslims will support Narendra Modi's bid to become their Prime Minister openly; many are looking favorably at a Prime Minister Modi because of the prosperity he brought to the Muslim community in Gujarat.

Trends among South Asian Muslims are giving me more optimism today about the eventual emergence of a dominant moderate strain among Muslims than I have been previously.

Dr. Richard L. Benkin
A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: the Murder of Bangladesh's Hindus
http://www.interfaithstrength.com

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