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The Muslim factor in India

The Indian Muslim has been an eternal subject of coverage in the country's English and regional media, for all kinds of reasons. Constituting around 14 percent of the population and noted for a geographical presence all across the nation, the Muslim society has had to withstand constant spotlight on itself. That it is a significant entity in the Indian way of life added more pressure on its followers for sure.

Books have often been written on them over the past decades from both academic and socio- political perspectives, focusing on their religious identity and also their economic status, which has not been too impressive. One such attempt, 'Indian Muslim(s) after Liberalization' authored by Maidul Islam, a political science faculty at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata takes a scholarly look at the community's lives and times.

Islam reveals that this book 'is a modest attempt to contribute to an issue that has generated a negative prejudice in the minds of many in an age where Islamophobia, communal prejudice, and contempt for progressive global politics has become the dominant global fashion.'

The author points out that 'in current political discourse, the 'Muslim question' in India is not articulated in terms of demands for equity. Instead, the political leadership camouflages real issues of backwardness, prejudice and social exclusion with the rhetoric of identity and security. Historically informed, empirically grounded and with robust analytical rigour, the book tries to explore connections between multiple forms of Muslim marginalization, the socio-economic realities facing the community, and the formation of modern Muslim identity in the country'.

Split into four chapters, with a prologue and an epilogue to go along, the book is an ambitious attempt yet, like many academic presentations, is bogged down by too many citations and trivia to go along here and there. The endeavour seems to mostly focus on the sad state of affairs, the community is faced with including that of in Hindi cinema, where the Muslim heroes enjoyed immunity from communal bias for many decades. Islam says that there are limits to the secular themes found in Bollywood and how the dangerous stereotypes of Muslims as gangsters and terrorists continue to prevail in Bollywood scripts from the 1990s, despite the fact that several superstars of Hindi cinema openly identify themselves as Muslims.

As far as tackling the main issue goes, the blurb points out that the book proposes working towards a radical democratic deepening in India. Given that, the liberal, secular space as envisioned by the left-of-centre supporters in India is rapidly shrinking and shifting to a rabid exhibitionism of communal identity, the Muslim factor would be of continuing interest, off and on, for the power holders, but not vital or critical enough to initiate critical changes in their livelihoods, all that soon.

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