March 6th, 2009
02:42 PM ET

Mumbai revival

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Eboo Patel
On Faith

Night is falling and I can see the Gateway of India from my Sea View room at the Taj in Mumbai, my favorite hotel in the world. There are boats coming and going, people eating and arguing, vendors buying and selling. A few minutes ago there was a band playing Sufi Muslim love songs, and now there is some sort of parade approaching - maybe a wedding, maybe a political rally. Drummers dressed in red uniforms, horn players in orange, dignitaries (the groom and his family?) in carriages drawn by oxen, a group of uniformed schoolchildren walking by, clapping along, utterly delighted.

The carnival of India.

It is chilling to think if I was sitting in this same room on November 26, 2008, I would have been witness to the nightmare of India, when a group of ten terrorists hijacked a boat and came ashore on the spot that I am staring at now, and attacked the building I am sitting in with guns and grenades - six explosions in total in this hotel.

They killed nearly 200 people and injured over 300 more, but they failed in their most important pursuit - to create a religious civil war in a city that had fallen prey to the ugliest version of the clash of civilizations in the recent past.

So why was this time different? Why did Mumbaikers overwhelmingly view November 26 as a case of pluralism vs. extremism, rather than Hindu vs. Muslim?

I've been asking journalists and religious leaders in the city this question, and here's what they've had to say:

1) The Muslim community came out against the terror attacks immediately and clearly and strongly. They organized press conferences and marches. They refused to bury the terrorists in Muslim cemeteries. "Since the ... terrorists were neither Indian nor true Muslims, they had no right to an Islamic burial in an Indian Muslim cemetery," the Indian Muslim journalist MJ Akbar told Tom Friedman in a widely read column.

2) The media paid attention. Zeenat Shaukat Ali, a Professor of Islamic Studies at St. Xavier's College and founder of an interfaith project in Mumbai, told me that Indian Muslims have long spoken out against terrorism, but their voices had rarely been carried by the media. This time, the media were not looking for messages of division, but instead messages of unity - and the Muslims of Mumbai were there with that message front and center.



Filed under: Eboo Patel • India Attacked • The Buzz
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Justine

    All I can say is that that was a beautiful article. I hope people pay attention to what these communities have done to come together against terrorists and other extremist groups.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  2. Anne

    I called my mortgage holder JP Morgan Chase to re-negotiate or refinance my mortgage since the Obama plan (03/05/09). They said because my home value has declined it will be hard to do. They don't want to do it. We both have pretty secure jobs and we're not asking for them to take a lot off, we're just asking that they regotiate our mortgage so that we can stay in our home. What do we do?


    March 6, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  3. Clarence Rambharat

    The prospect of Bobby Jindal coming up against Barrack Obama in the 2012 election seems to whet a lot of appetites. There is one very clear difference between the potential combatants: Obama never felt it expedient to adopt any name but his own, regardless of the consequences. There were huge consequences but Obama carried on. It would have been so easy a long time ago to abandon those names for some which were more “American”. Jindal chose an easy way out and picked up a name from the Brady Bunch and used it at the expense of his own name Piyush; a name which, by the way, means “Holy Water” and will say a lot of his heritage and ancestry. American voters will certainly consider this and wonder what other act of expediency will Jindal come up with to make himself acceptable to the voters.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:30 pm |