Islam and Muslim Life in Contemporary India

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  • Session A: July 10 - July 22, 2017


  • 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.


  • Philosophy and Society


  • Abhimanyu Chandra

When a lot of us, especially in the West, think about Islam we tend to think of the Middle East, or perhaps of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). But MENA makes up just 23% of the world’s Muslim population. In fact, the top four countries by population of Muslims are not even in MENA. They are in Asia, and consist of Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

To understand contemporary Islam and Muslim life, we must look beyond MENA. This module explores Islam and Muslim life in a prominent country outside of MENA: India. In addition to comprising 180 million Muslims (11% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslim population), as the world’s largest democracy, India offers an especially valuable context for exploring some of the most pressing debates surrounding Islam and its adherents today. These issues pertain to democracy, citizenship, gender, education, poverty, minority-majority relations, terrorism, immigration and more.

A sophisticated, or at least a basic understanding of Islam and Muslim life is fundamental for being able to intelligently consume news, participate in global debates, and understand and shape politics today. This module seeks to cultivate such an understanding.

Topics we explore include Muslims’ experience of citizenship in India; the internal diversity within Islam and the multiplicity of identities amongst Muslims (and amongst non-Muslims); Muslims and Hindu nationalism; debates on terror; and more. Materials we engage with include the most cutting-edge scholarship on these topics as well as government reports, memoirs, documentaries, scenes from Bollywood movies, art and YouTube videos featuring contemporary Indian politicians.

By the end of this module, students are equipped with an introductory, multi-faceted understanding of Islam and Muslim life in contemporary India. Additionally, you finish the module with a better understanding of debates on Islam, India, democracy and approaches to thinking about identity on a global scale. No matter the future academic direction you embrace, or the career you eventually embark upon, you leave the module capable of engaging in news, debates and policies on many of the most pressing issues of our times with greater sophistication.

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