Hindu-Muslim Animosity in Mumbai Has Economic Roots

July 17, 2006

Source: TIME Asia Magazine

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On July 17, 2006 TIME Asia Magazine reported, "After the train attacks, police rounded up hundreds of the city's young Muslim men for questioning, though most were soon released. That did nothing to soothe some Muslims. 'We are always the first to be blamed,' fumes Majid Khan, a student from a Muslim slum in Bandra, not far from the site of one of the attacks. 'We are tired of this police harassment'... India is home to the world's second-largest Muslim population. But in a nation of more than a billion, they are still a disadvantaged minority, and often the target of discrimination. Government surveys show that Muslims live shorter, poorer and unhealthier lives than Hindus and are often excluded from the better jobs. In urban areas, 40% of Muslims earn less than $6 a month, versus 22% of Hindus, and 30% of Muslims are illiterate, versus 19% of Hindus. Muslims make up 13% of the population, yet only 3% of government employees are Muslim. Of course, there are plenty of economic success stories among Muslims. Azim Premji, founder of the outsourcing giant Wipro Technologies, is India's richest resident. But many Muslims are alienated by the consumerism of the new India and feel excluded from the boom. According to the government's surveys, only 27% of Muslims have a salaried job compared to 43% of Hindus. A mounting sense of persecution among young Muslims in India, combined with high unemployment and mounting anxiety about what many see as a global crusade against their religion, makes fertile recruiting ground for homegrown groups such as SIMI. Muslims resent the fact that four years after anti-Muslim riots killed more than 2,000 in the state of Gujarat, there have been few convictions. Police raids, detentions and the oft-reported abuses that occur under such detentions only add to their sense of being unfairly targeted."