Has the Cultural Gulf Between Indian, Pakistani Muslims Widened?

Cricket fans sporting colors of India and Pakistan scream at an Indo-Pak cricket match.
Cricket fans sporting colors of India and Pakistan scream at a guard during an Indo-Pak cricket match.

In the last 70 years or so the culture of Indian Muslims has undergone a transformation and has become noticeably different from that of Muslims of Pakistan


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is no doubt that the partition of India created a stressful situation for Muslims in India that is still there almost 70 years after independence.  Indeed it may take a very long time to go away.  Added to that are the continuous hostile attacks coming from Pakistan (Kargil, Mumbai 2009, frequent cross border attacks, terrorists in Pakistan like Lakhvi, strong emotional outbursts during hockey and cricket matches et al).  Also Indian economy and technology has become much stronger and Pakistan’s has not been able to keep pace, which creates its own cross border tension.

Firebrand politicians on both sides keep the pot boiling.  So will the anger of the Hindus cool so much that they will be fair to Muslims?  Ideology and morality is one thing but reality is another.  India is an overpopulated country with big problems, poverty, lawlessness and everything else.  India is far from being in good shape and that is contributing to Hindu-Muslim tension.  And Pakistan is a daily point of reference for Muslims in India.

Hence, for anyone it is wishful to think that Hindus as a whole will have a major change of heart soon; will stop getting influenced by Pakistan’s needling and be totally fair to Indian Muslim.  The best the Muslims can do is to be secular, have good interfaith and friendly relations with Hindus and ignore the militant Hindus thereby reducing the tension with Hindus as a whole.

Another thing is that in the last 70 years the culture of Indian Muslims has transformed much and has become noticeably different from that of Muslims of Pakistan.  Indian Muslim culture been affected a lot by Hindu culture and Muslims have assimilated many more Hindu cultural elements.  These are not Hindu religious elements per se, but their origin is in the Hindu history and philosophy. There are a few simple examples such as  Yoga.  Many fashion practices of Hindus have also permeated into Muslim society (For example Muslim women putting bindi on their forehead and the pattern of their dresses);   Many Muslim men frequently greet their Hindu friends by saying Namaste with folded hands.

In India today far more marriages are taking place among Hindus and Muslims than what it was 70 years ago and the trend is noticeably increasing.  While earlier it happened among the elite, today it is happening even among the lower middle-class people. Indeed the desire of Muslims for increased communal harmony to offset the aggressive behavior of militant Hindus is contributing to such transformation in the Muslim society.

In contrast in Pakistan the Muslim society has not been impacted by the Hindu cultural elements even though India is their immediate neighbor. Ignoring things from India who is their adversary, they have accepted more the cultural elements from Iran and Arab countries.

The result is that to Pakistani Muslims it appears that Indian Muslims have Hinduized.  Thy expect Indian Muslims to  take a stronger stand towards Hindus and government, especially as they frequently suffer human rights violations,  and to bring up more the elements of Middle Eastern Muslimness.    But firstly Indian Muslims do not feel that much affinity with Arabs/Iranians anymore, and secondly they have a need to survive with honor in India where Hindu cultural elements have increased substantially in the population in the last 70 years.

Additionally, Islam says clearly that Muslims should form roots where they live. After all in 1947 were the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent not already very different from the Muslims of Middle East.  So why not move another few steps?   Hence examples of Indonesia and Malaysia, that are farther from the Arab and Ajami (Iranian) Muslim model and yet successful, have a new appeal to them. Instead of clinging to Arab and Persian elements in their culture they are slowly adapting local elements and names from where they live, for example Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Kerala, Gujarat, Bhojpuri, etc.

That has led to the widening of the gap between Indian and Pakistani Muslims on social, cultural, political mores, the expectations of these two communities from each other, and the disappointment of Pakistani Muslims that Indian Muslims are not resisting against the impact of cultural Hinduization on them.




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