In the section about India, Mrs. Roosevelt mentioned the Untouchables whom Gandhi called "Harijans" or "children of God." She said the new Indian constitution abolished "Untouchability and guarantees all people rights before the law. But, as we know in our own country, it is one thing to abolish discrimination in the Constitution and another to put it into nation-wide practice." She said in many Indian villages it would probably be a while before caste distinctions disappeared. Is anyone familiar enough with India to say how things are now - nearly sixty years later? Have things improved greatly for the Untouchables? Is the caste system still widely practiced within society?
Also - since it was a lovely afternoon outdoors - I started reading Islam Today: A Short Introduction to the Muslim World by Akbar S. Ahmed. It was published in 1999 so it's a bit old, but I think it will be interesting to read how he portrays Islam to see if it's similar to what we observe over ten years later. I noticed how he said on the very first page "Islam has become all things to all people" and later how "Muslims believe there are many paths to God" and although Islam may be the religion they believe is most favored, "others may be valid." (pg. 25) He speaks of the "universalism of Islam" being "reflected in its attitude towards matter of statehood. Throughout history Muslim rulers have been tolerant of other religions when their empires have been secure and stable -- Ottomans, Mughals, the Umayyads in Spain. One reason for this is in "contrast to both Christianity and Judaism, from its early days Islam emerged as the dominant ruling religion of the area. This gave Muslims confidence in their religion, allowing them to act with generosity and wisdom." (pg. 26)
Some thoughts: I found the universalism tie to Islam of great interest because I can think of several bloggers who are former Muslims or have dabbled in Islam and some who almost converted or are Muslims but are very universalistic in their outlook. So I got to wondering if Islam leads to Universalism. Contrast this with more conservative Christians who believe Jesus is the only way to God. Much more narrow-minded, right?
Since Muslims as secure rulers tend to be generous and wise would the world then be better off if Muslims had higher places in society? bigger roles in government? Maybe our wish for worldwide peace would be achieved if we allowed Muslims to find their voices instead of suppressing parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps the terrorism and intolerance comes from their being held down and it's just part of their fight for justice that makes some into the terrorists we find distasteful. Would we gush about Islamic thoughtfulness and tolerance instead of treating Muslims with suspicion, fear or dislike if they were at the top of societies around the world? Or has that era passed? What do you think?
Thoughts on any of this?