Stepping back from the abyss

A conversation with Indian Muslim thinker A. Faizur Rahman
Stepping back from the abyss

Hindu Muslim relations are in a rout. Fear and prejudice have been weaponized.

Hindu nationalists fuel intercommunal strife by emphasizing an imaginary demographic threat. Muslims believe themselves to be in a situation similar to that of Jews in Germany in the 1930s that led to genocide.

India’s far right Hindu nationalist movement, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, the ideological cradle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cohorts, speaks of a 1,000-year war. While professing an interest in dialogue, the RSS is widely viewed as a catalyst of anti-Muslim violence and discrimination in India.

The movement speaks to individual Indian Muslim leaders, but those conversations are mostly private, and the Indian Muslim community has been unable to develop a leadership that can channel a dialogue that could produce results.

Stepping into the breach is Indonesia’s Nama, arguably the world’s most moderate Muslim civil society movement in the world’s largest Muslim majority country and democracy.

For Nahdlatul Ulama, engagement with the RSS is part of a bold and risky strategy to persuade faith groups, including Muslims, to confront their troubled, often violent histories and problematic tenets of their religions that reject pluralism and advocate supremacy.

For the RSS, engagement is about redressing historical grievances dating to centuries of Muslim invasions and rule, defending Hindus against perceived contemporary Muslim threats, and ensuring that India is a Hindu rather than a non-discriminatory, multi-religious state.

That’s a wide gap to bridge.

To discuss all of this, I’m joined by A. Faizur Rahman, a prominent Indian Muslim thinker and Secretary General of the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought.

Most recently, Faizur authored a chapter on Muslimophobia in India in a just published edited volume, The Politics of Hate, that focuses On South Asia. The well-written, insightful chapter is a must read. Also. for further background on all of this, please read my latest column at

For a transcript of the conversation go to

To watch a video version on YouTube please click here.

A podcast version is available on Soundcloud, ItunesSpotifySpreaker, and Podbean.

About the Author
Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and scholar and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. He is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.
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