Sunday, February 21, 2010

Engaging with truth

Author Steve Coll speaks to Pragya Tiwari about identity in the globalised world, dilemmas of a Western writer and the importance of telling stories with honesty. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and president of New America Foundation, Steve Coll, is one of the most important commentators on contemporary Islamic conflict. Excerpts from an interview with Coll.

Where do you think the Indian Muslim fits into the global Islamic narrative today?
Whatever their condition 20 years ago, today, I believe that it is naive and complacent to think that any Muslim community in their local circumstances is so different that it is not involved in the global discourse. Obviously in India there is an enormous diversity. Sections of the community are more globalized and sections, more isolated by economic and social circumstances. We’ve seen the globalized Muslim community in India in lots of forms over the last 20 years, some of them constructive, some not so much. I would expect the process to continue. I look at the strength of the Indian constitutional system, for all its flaws and failures, and that strength seems durable to me in the face of this challenge. I think there are probably other challenges more severe to the Indian system than the threat of religious radicalisation — the Naxalite narrative for instance.

An astounding ignorance about Islam and its countries came to light post 9/11. Ten years hence is there a sense that Islam is being over-debated?
I think the most important discourse exists within Islamic communities themselves. The debate outside is valuable primarily so that American and European political communities and voters can evolve a sustainable relationship with the Islamic world. The reason this discourse has been so pervasive in the West is not just because of terrorism. There is also a structural problem. No one is quite sure how to break the bonds that Arab governments impose on their own people — how do we find a way for these societies to realise their own potential and in doing so, create a sense of normalcy in this hugely important piece of geography between Europe and Asia. This discourse is tied up with Islam but not about Islam because a lot of Asia’s success is Islamic success, like in India.

Full interview here Deccan Herald

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