India's Moderate Muslims See Peril in Growth of Stricter Form of Islam

[Washington Post ] Rama Lakshmi - About two-thirds of India's 130 million Muslims are Barelvi Sunnis. They follow the mystical strain of Islam known as Sufism and attend shrines of Sufi saints - seen by more conservative Muslims as blasphemous. Shabeeb Rizvi, a professor at Rizvi College in Mumbai, said the Barelvis have increasingly felt besieged by Islamic groups with stricter interpretations of Islam, particularly Wahhabism, a conservative school of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia. "Groups loosely connected to Wahhabi ideology donate money for [mosque] repairs, appoint their own priest and slowly begin to take over," Rizvi said. "About 30% of their mosques have been taken over by front organizations of Wahhabi ideology in 10 years. This brings a new aggressiveness to the Indian Muslim landscape." "Muslims in India have always followed a moderate tradition....A few have begun giving shelter to terrorists, helping put together the explosives and pressing the timer device," said a senior intelligence officer who has investigated several of the bombings in Indian cities over the past three years. He said about 300 Indian Muslims have been arrested or detained in connection with about a dozen bombings that have ripped through India since 2005.

2008-07-01 01:00:00

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