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Show Obama the benign face of Indian Islam

October 25, 2010 18:47 IST
Barack Obama

Obama's agenda has been prepared by the bureaucratic establishments in the two countries without imagination, without a sense of history, without understanding the benign face of Indian Islam totally different from its face in Pakistan and the Arab world, says B Raman.

US President Bill Clinton came to India in 2000 a year after the impeachment proceedings against him in the US Congress in the Monica Lewinsky case had failed. The scandals in which he was involved in the US did not affect his popularity in India.

His popularity in the Indian political class was high as seen from the roaring success of his address to the joint session of the Indian Parliament. He was surrounded by the admiring Members of Parliament. Everybody wanted to shake his hand and be seen on television shaking his hand.

The Indian hero of the Clinton visit was not Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Indian prime minister. It was Chandrababu Naidu, the then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, who had managed to convince many US businessmen that Naidu's was the political face of the future. The focus was Cyberabad as Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh came to be called.

Naidu was projected as the epitome of the new Indian leader -- IT savvy, more a CEO than a traditional politician. Clinton made it a point to visit Hyderabad at the suggestion of US businessmen to see the emerging new Indian leader, who had won the admiration of the American business community. Where is Naidu now? Where is Cyberabad? A businessman of Andhra Pradesh, who played a key role in bringing Clinton to Hyderabad and making Naidu the toast of the US journalists who came with Clinton, is now in jail fighting allegations of fraud.

The second focus of the Clinton visit was on the computerisation of Indian villages. He was fascinated by the so-called advance of IT into the Rajasthan villages. He was shown on the television admiring the way little-educated villagers of Rajasthan were operating computers and running the village affairs. What happened to them? What happened to those computers?

The focus of the George Bush visit in 2006 was on how the Indian Muslim has kept away from Al Qaeda and the international jihad. What happened to that picture of India which is as true and as valid today as it was when Bush came? Why that picture is not being projected today as Barack Obama gets ready to visit Mumbai and to recall Indo-US counter-terrorism co-operation.

If the Americans and Obama are wise they will try to learn from the Indian civil society as to how the Indian Muslim has kept away from Al Qaeda and its associates. Obama chose the Al Azhar University of Cairo last year for his famous address to the Muslims of the Arab world. His advisers should have suggested to him to choose Mumbai for an address to the moderate Muslims of India and their co-religionists in South-East Asia.

They should have told him that Indian Islam is different from Pakistani and Arab Islam. It is soft Islam, which has influenced the culture of the Muslim communities in India and in the countries to the East of India.

Westerners are still fascinated by the fact that the Mumbai Muslims refused to bury the nine Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorists killed in Mumbai during the 26/11 strikes. The focus should have been on how the Indian Muslim continues to be different from the Muslims in the rest of the world. He is angry -- even more than in the past, but refuses to fall into the trap of Al Qaeda and its allies.

Obama's agenda has been prepared by the bureaucratic establishments in the two countries without imagination, without a sense of history, without understanding the benign face of Indian Islam totally different from its face in Pakistan and the Arab world.

B Raman