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

James M. Dorsey
35 min readJan 24, 2023

By James M. Dorsey

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 https://www.jamesmdorsey.net/post/to-engage-or-not-engage-hindus-and-muslims-suss-each-other-out.

Below is a transcript of the conversation.

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James M. Dorsey

James is an award-winning journalist covering ethnic and religious conflict. He blogs using soccer as a lens on the Middle East and North Africa's fault lines