India and Islamic Civilization: Contributions and Challenges
The Hon. Mohammad Ansari presented an ANU Public Lecture on 21 March. Mr Ansari served as Vice President of India and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) from 2007 to 2017. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1961. His diplomatic assignments included being Permanent Representative to the United Nations, High Commissioner to Australia and Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He served as Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University and has been a Visiting Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia.
In his lecture, HE Mr Ansari examined how Islam came to India through travelers, traders, and conquerors. He said the faith developed in India primarily through conversion of the local population, but immigration was also a factor. He said that from the 11 to 18 centuries the state system in India was headed by persons who professed to be Muslim. In fact, for over a millennium, Muslims have been in India and have interacted with other social groups and religious communities to mutual benefit. Despite this at no stage was the state theocratic nor was Islam declared to be the State religion; instead the norms of governance were regal in a non-denominational sense. Adaptability and accommodation and attendant creativity can be depicted as dimensions of Muslim culture as it developed and flourished in the Indian subcontinent. This was reflected in statecraft, social life, art and culture, and the domain of ideas and spirituality. This contribution to cultural pluralism enriched the civilization of Islam and continues to do so today.
Mr Ansari said the partition of India in 1947 brought Islamic and nationalistic challenges. The response from the Muslim community, and from the institutions of the Indian state, has been a mixed one; it poses a challenge both to their capacity to adapt and to Indian democracy's commitments to principles of pluralism and secularism. The Indian experience of challenges in accepting diversity in a plural society and a democratic polity can be of relevance to others in a globalizing world. It also speaks to the experiences of Muslim minorities generally and to mutual contributions to each other's civilization.
Lecture podcast available on soundcloud.
He is pictured below giving an interview on India's role in regional and global politics with CAIS Director Prof. Amin Saikal. The interview is available on ANU TV.