India's 150 million Muslims away from extremism: US cable

03:08PM Mon 20 Dec, 2010

New Delhi - Strongly endorsing the secular and nationalistic nature of Muslims in India, the United States has acknowledged that India's over 150 million Muslim population is largely unattracted to extremism. Separatism and religious extremism have little appeal to Indian Muslims, and the overwhelming majority espouse moderate doctrines.

In a recorded commentary (released by WikiLeaks) about India's 150 million plus Muslims (the second largest in the world after Indonesia), former US envoy to New Delhi David Mulford in 2005 said that Indian Muslim youth are comfortable in the mainstream and Muslim families and communities provide little sanction or support to extremist appeals.

"India's vibrant democracy, inclusive culture and growing economy have made it easier for Muslim youth to find a place in the mainstream, reduced the pool of potential recruits, and the space in which Islamic extremist organizations can operate," Mulford commented about Indian Muslims.

He also highlighted the problems and backwardness of the Muslim community in the country. India's Muslim population suffers from higher rates of poverty than most other groups in India, and can be the victims of discrimination and prejudice. Despite this, the vast majority remains committed to the Indian state and seek to participate in mainstream political and economic life.

Endorsing secular credential of young Muslim generation he said: Most Muslims approaching graduation at universities will be prepared to enter the job market and are not interested in extremism.

Mr Mulford blasted the media propaganda that madrasas and Islamic seminaries in the country are teaching extremism.

The Indian media has published colorful stories implying that Madrassas are recruiting centers for Islamic terrorism and that many are funded by Pakistan's ISI. The accounts are mostly anecdotal, however, and there has been little or no hard evidence linking Indian Madrassas to terrorist recruitment, he said.

Islamic extremism is not popular in India and most adults are not interested. This forces extremists to pitch to young and naive audiences who may be more amenable.
The US envoy said that at ground level both Muslim and non-Muslims are facing similar problems as far as social mobility is concerned.

Muslims are facing the same pressures for social mobility as non-Muslims. Most Indian children are under pressure to get into school, stay in school, and perform well there, in order to obtain higher education and access to well-paid jobs. Attempts by extremist groups to recruit children from Muslim homes are likely to run into a wall of opposition from parents who would see involvement in extremism as counterproductive and a threat to future success of their children. This means that extremism is most attractive to children from families that are so poor that opportunities for education and advancement are all but non-existent. As the Indian economy continues to boom, the percentage of Muslim families who feel there is no hope for their children's' future is growing smaller, as is the pool of potential recruits.

The December 2005 commentary on Indian Muslims by Mulford was written at the request of Washington DC.