February 22, 2006 No.

Egyptian Reformist: India's Democracy Proves That Muslims Can Act Without Violence

In an article published in the Qatari daily Al-Raya, reformist Egyptian intellectual Tarek Heggy presents India's democracy as proof that Muslims in Arab countries would not resort to terrorism if they were allowed to participate freely in the county's political life - as they do in India. [1]

The following are excerpts from the article:

"While [almost] every Muslim community in the world has produced jihad fighters for Al-Qaeda and [similar] organizations, there is one Muslim community that has had no part in this phenomenon. This Muslim community is the second largest in the world: the Muslim community in India.

"This community of more than 150 million people... is the only Muslim community which has not [produced] a single individual who left the country to plan and take part in violent actions that are labeled by their perpetrators as 'jihad' while the [rest of the] world calls them 'terrorism.'

"The Muslim community of India is not wealthy. It is part of Indian society... in which a high percentage of the people lives a life far removed from wealth and prosperity. Nevertheless, this Muslim community has never produced a single individual who planned or carried out an action like the September 11, 2001 attack in New York, or like the later attacks in Madrid, London, Istanbul, Taba, Sharm Al-Sheikh, and other places. Moreover, the Muslim community in India (despite its minority status) produced a great scholar, who currently serves as the president of India. [2]

"The most important point is that the Muslim community in India is the only Muslim community [in the world] which lives in a genuine national democracy.

"What can we conclude from these facts? The obvious conclusion is that inside every individual on the face of the earth there is a political being… If this being finds overt, legitimate, and effective channels by which it can carry out the natural actions of any political being, it will not look for underground political activities.

"India is not merely a democracy; it is the largest democracy in the world. Not only has it managed to realize a great nation's dreams for a healthy democratic existence, it has also enabled this nation to make significant progress in the spheres of economy, scientific research, production, marketing, and modern education. Moreover, it handles the diversity of Indian society remarkably, and indeed, the current prime minister is a member of the Sikh minority (which constitutes only 2% of the population)...

"The universities of India (unlike universities in [other] third-world countries) are rated among the finest in the world (while Cairo University - the most ancient university in the Arab world - did not rate [even] among the world's 500 best universities).

"The most important point is that India has proven that when Muslims (like any other human beings) exist in a public climate that allows them full participation in political life, they do not turn to underground activities… and they do not leave [their country] to blow up a plane, a train or a bus full of innocent civilians..."

[1] Al-Raya (Qatar), December 21, 2005,

[2] According to a CNN report, "Kalam was born to Muslim parents, although he does not describe himself as Muslim."