Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Former Indian Ambassador Urges Understanding, Not Condemnation, of Islam

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Former Indian Ambassador Urges Understanding, Not Condemnation, of Islam

Article excerpt

Former Indian Ambassador Urges Understanding, Not Condemnation, of Islam

Elaine Pasquini is a free-lance journalist based in Ignacio, CA.

Retired Ambassador of India Pascal Alan Nazareth addressed the San Francisco World Affairs Council Aug. 15 on the topic of "Islamic Fundamentalism: Origins, Motivations and Global Agenda."

"Islamic fundamentalism is not the only religious fundamentalism in the world," the ambassador began, noting that religious fundamentalism is worldwide and can be found in Israel, the U.S., and his native India. The vast majority of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims, he said, disapprove of what he termed "political Islam," the act of using religion as a platform for changing a country's government. He cited Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution as "the classic example of how religious fervor can be used to mobilize a country."

Nazareth, who is a Christian, served as India's ambassador to Egypt from 1989 to 1992, gaining firsthand knowledge of Islam. In 1989, Egypt's southern neighbor, Sudan, experienced a military coup which resulted in a government dominated by members of Sudan's National Islamic Front (NIF), a fundamentalist political organization formed from the Muslim Brotherhood in 1986.

Nazareth reviewed the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Isma'iliyya, Egypt, in 1928 and the group's subsequent exile to Saudi Arabia after an unsuccessful assassination attempt on President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954. The Egyptian leader, the ambassador noted, did not want his country to be a Muslim state. Rather, Nazareth said, Nasser wanted to unite Egypt, not divide it--as he also wanted to unite the Arab world. Nasser did not want to alienate the 11 percent of Egyptians who are Christian, Nazareth said.

The ambassador next discussed the history of Islam after the end of World War I, the 1917 Russian Revolution, and the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. …

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