India's Muslims Hope to Avoid Backlash

December 8, 2008

Author: Erika Kinetz

Source: The Associated Press

The cleric stood before dozens of bearded men who had gathered on a crowded Mumbai street corner to honor the 171 people killed by Islamic militants.

"Many innocents were killed by these terrorists," said Ibrahim Tani, president of the Muslim Council of India. "Those who were martyred are our family."

The men raised their fists in the air and cried out: "Long live mother India!"

The speech was part of an aggressive campaign by Mumbai's Muslims to show their solidarity with India's Hindu majority in the wake of last month's attacks.

Muslim groups have held community meetings and peace marches, brought tea and cookies to hospitalized victims, and organized blood drives. Leaders have asked people to tone down festivities for the Muslim holiday of Eid, and the city's largest Muslim graveyard refused to bury the nine slain gunmen.

But behind these efforts at unity lie fear and suspicion. Reactions to the attack show that despite the talk of all Indians standing together against a common enemy, in many ways the Hindu and Muslim communities remain ill at ease and view the world differently.