|A view of the site of attack in the Colaba area of Mumbai on November 27, 2008. (Copyright AFP. Any unauthorised reproduction is prohibited.)|
"To be sure, Mumbai's Muslims are a vulnerable minority in a predominantly Hindu country. Nevertheless, their in-your-face defiance of the Islamist terrorists stands out," said Thomas L Friedman in an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Wednesday.
The action stands out against a dismal landscape of predominantly Sunni Muslim suicide murderers who have attacked civilians in mosques and markets, from Iraq to Pakistan to Afghanistan, but who have been treated by mainstream Arab media or by extremist Islamist spiritual as "martyrs" whose actions deserve praise, he said.
"Extolling or excusing suicide militants as 'martyrs' has only led to this awful phenomenon - where young Muslim men and women are recruited to kill themselves and others - spreading wider and wider," Friedman said.
Noting that what began in a targeted way in Lebanon and Israel has now proliferated to an almost weekly occurrence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said: "If suicide-murder is deemed legitimate by a community when attacking its 'enemies' abroad, it will eventually be used as a tactic against 'enemies' at home."
"The only effective way to stop this trend is for 'the village' - the Muslim community itself - to say 'no more'," Friedman said. "When a culture and a faith community delegitimises this kind of behaviour, openly, loudly and consistently, it is more important than metal detectors or extra police."
"That is why India's Muslims, who are the second-largest Muslim community in the world after Indonesia's, and the one with the deepest democratic tradition, do a great service to Islam by delegitimising suicide-murderers by refusing to bury their bodies," Friedman said. "It won't stop this trend overnight, but it can help over time."
The fact that Indian Muslims have stood up in this way, he said, is surely "due, in part, to the fact that they live in, are the product of and feel empowered by a democratic and pluralistic society".
"They are not intimidated by extremist religious leaders and are not afraid to speak out against religious extremism in their midst," he said, observing: "It is why so few, if any, Indian Muslims are known to have joined Al Qaeda."