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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/Syed Firdaus Ashraf

August 13, 2003

Mudassar Kazisits inthe students canteenatthe Maharashtra College in theMuslim-dominated Nagpada area in south-central Mumbai and tries to explain to his classmatesthat the United States of America is not ademon as portrayed in some sections of the Indian Muslim community.

CountersZaheeruddin Khan,"You are brainwashed after one visit to their country. The US attacks only Muslim countries. They never attack European countries. They are against Islam and our culture."

Asksanother classmate Mohammad Irfan, "Why are you teaching us the virtues of that country when the fact is that they are only interested in harming the Muslim cause? Be it in Palestine, Afghanistan or Iraq. Why did they inviteyou free of cost to their country? If they are calling youthere that means they have done something wrong, isn't it?"

Says Mudassar, "I feel frustrated after coming from there (the US). I thought I could change so many things in the Muslim community.One week after my visit I am unable to change howmyfriends think. I have toldthem the Bush administration is wrong, but not theAmerican people who havegot nothing to do with USforeign policy. But no one is willing to understand. I am not pro-American, but my friends tell meI havesold out to the US cause."

Mudassar is not alone.

Like him, Akbar Ansari,another Muslim student who traveled to the US last month, is unable to convincehis friends.

Twenty-one Muslims from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh traveled to Americaon a study tripto understandthe US government and its people better.During the month-longprogramme, sponsored by the US State Department, 12 girls and nine boystravelled to New York, Washington, DC and Philadelphia.

The State Departmentconceived the programmeafter the 9/11 terrorist attacks to improve the understanding of America among young Muslims.

The 21 South Asians met American Muslim preachers, college students,city mayors andformer president Bill Clinton among others.

India was represented byseven Muslim students;threefrom Mumbai, two from Delhi, one each from Chennai and Hyderabad.

Says Akbar,"I havebeen anti-American all my life.After goingthere I realisedcommon Americans are ignorant about Muslims and Islam. They have no idea what Islam stands for. They associate Islamonly with jihad and terrorism. This visit has made me realise theAmerican perspective and their lifestyle."

Asked how his perception about America has changed, he says, "I feel President Bush haswrong advisers and his policies are against Muslim countries. I realised that many Americans I met have never agreed with the Bush doctrine. It is just like in India. Many Hindus mayagree with the BJP, but there are many more who donot agree with the BJP's policies."

Adds Mudassar, "We met many maulvis and Muslims and foundthey had complete freedom in US. They were not harmed after 9/11 because the police gave them full protection. They had their rights protected under the US Constitution andwere treated equally with other citizens on any issue."

Asked whatit was like to interact withstudents fromBangladesh and Pakistan, Akbar says, "We discussedthe Kashmir issue. We became great friends andchaton the Internet after our visit. They are just like us. I don't understand whatthe need to fight is when we can resolve all issues through talks. Even when we metClinton he told uswe are the future of South Asia andshould resolve the Kashmir problem."

HavetheirBangladeshi and Pakistanifriendsencounteredanunderstanding gap as they didaftertheir US visit?Says Akbar, "My friend Omar from Lahorefacesthe same problem as wefacehere. He saidno oneis willing to believe that the American people can be good to Muslims."


The Rediff Specials


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Number of User Comments: 13




Sub: why are you supporting the US

I understand the 2nd largest growing religion in US is ISLAM. People of USA are studying Islam with great interest and there are many who ...


Posted by Meraj Ahmed





Sub: Concentrate within India

Sir, Why should the muslims of this country feel any affinity at all to muslims in other parts of the world. It can't be just ...


Posted by Prashanth





Sub: You are indians and humanbeings first.That is true secularism

this is a disgustingly communal article that is just fanning the rabidly communal notion of muslim brotherhood that the world and india can do without.This ...


Posted by n dasg





Sub: Pity

Pity, even now there are people who feel the need to inform people about how Islam is the greatest and best religion. Will their faith ...


Posted by SG





Sub: Muslims liberated by America

Why doesn't anyone ask Zaheeruddin Khan and Mohammad Irfan who exactly were being oppressed in Afghanistan and Iraq if not for Muslims. Do these ignorant ...


Posted by Mario Goveia




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