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Published in the 1-15 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hamdard opens Centre for Studies on Indian Muslims

Yoginder Sikand head of the CSIMAlthough they form the second largest Muslim population in the world, relatively little serious academic literature exists on the Muslims of contemporary India. In the field of religious studies South Asianists and Indologists typically focus on Hinduism and Buddhism, while classical Islamic Studies still remains wedded to the notion of the Middle East as representing normative Islam. Consequently, the Indian Muslims continue to suffer from a lack of adequate academic attention and representation.

The existing corpus of literature on the Indian Muslims suffers from several inadequacies. One problem is its overwhelming focus on Muslim political elites. Thus, numerous works exist on various Muslim dynasties in medieval India, while we know much less about Muslim social history, particularly the histories of various local Muslim communities. Likewise, much has been written on the activities of Muslim elites in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, leading up to the independence of India, while relatively little has been written on the conditions of ‘ordinary’ Muslims in this period. The status of research on Muslim communities in contemporary India is even more pathetic. Barring a few notable exceptions, few serious academic works exist on the social, educational, political, cultural and economic conditions of Muslims in present-day India. While much continues to be written on specifically religious issues, as reflected in the Urdu press and in the vast corpus of literature produced by various Islamic publishing houses, scant attention has been paid to Muslim social issues. This is also reflected in the syllabus of the madrasas and in the books written by most Indian ulama, which remain overwhelmingly focused on religious, as opposed to social, issues.

The relative paucity of literature on the social conditions of Muslims in present-day India has important consequences for how the community understands itself, for how it is understood by others, and for efforts to improve the conditions of the community. Given this, the Jamia Hamdard has recently established the Centre for Studies on Indian Muslims, with the following aims:

To collect published literature on the social conditions of Muslims in contemporary India. 

To make this literature available to scholars, policy makers, social activists, NGOs and journalists. 

To promote research on Muslims in contemporary India. 

To establish links between academic centres and scholars in India and abroad working on the Muslims of India. to network with policy makers, social activists, NGOs and journalists.

In pursuance of these aims, the Centre shall undertake the following activities:

  • Set up a library located in the Jamia Hamdard, containing literature in various languages dealing with Muslims in contemporary India, including books, booklets and journal and newspaper articles.
  • Launch an e-group in order to network with academic centers, scholars, social activists, NGOs and journalists. 
  • Invite scholars and activists to deliver lectures on various issues related to Muslims in contemporary India. 
  • Compile and publish a directory of theses submitted to various universities dealing with Muslims in contemporary India. 
  • Compile and publish a directory of scholars working on issues related to Muslims in contemporary India. 
  • Work along with other academic institutions and funding agencies on research projects focusing on Muslims in contemporary India. 
  • Organise conferences and seminars and publish books and booklets on various issues of contemporary concern relating to Muslims in India.
    For more information, 

For more information contact Dr. Yoginder Sikand, at   ysikand@yahoo.com 

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