Privacy and Publicity in the Inter-religious Engagement of Mumbai’s Ismaili Muslims
Keywords:India, Muslim societies, privacy, solidarity, tolerance
This article reassesses the importance given by theories of multiculturalism and religious pluralism to understanding difference. I examine Ismaili Muslims’ social interactions with other Indians in everyday life, the public sphere and civic engagement. These interactions are marked by what I call an ‘engaging tolerance’, which privatizes some forms of difference while simultaneously creating moral obligations cutting across religious and class lines. Ismaili tolerance thus encourages their solidarity with other members of Indian society, while leaving the contents of their religious differences unknown. I further analyse the ways that Ismaili tolerance pushes us to rethink some of commonplace assumptions about inter-religious and inter-cultural engagement, particularly the idea that mutual understandings of difference are necessary for social cohesion in plural societies.
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