Belkacem Belmekki: Revisiting the Origins of Muslim Cultural Exclusivism in British India. A Colonial Calculated Strategy?


Notwithstanding the fundamental socio-cultural cum religious divergences existing between the Muslims and Hindus, the two religious groups managed to forge bonds of fraternity based on mutual understanding and respect thanks to their centuries-long overall peaceful co-existence in the Indian environment. This virtually harmonious relationship soon gave birth to a composite culture whereby many of the Muslim-Hindu differences were blunted and replaced by shared socio-cultural – and sometimes even religious – aspects of life. Yet, the second half of the nineteenth century witnessed a reversal of this trend. In fact, the post-Revolt context in British India was marked by the emergence of consciousness among the Muslims whereby they developed a sense of belonging to a cultural entity that was different from that of the Hindus. In other words, these “Muhammadans” became actively conscious of their cultural differences vis-à-vis the Hindus, and therefore, saw themselves as a separate group with distinct cultural traits. This shift towards cultural exclusivism, which eventually gave rise to a separatist tendency among them, has been a moot point that drew a great deal of interest among scholars who provided different interpretations. In this article, the main task is to look into whether the British had any involvement in this new development in the Indian scene.

[Indian Muslims, Hindus, Urdu, Hindi, divide et impera, language controversy]