What is a writer without his or her readers? I take my share of readers' feedback seriously. It's invariably interesting and instructive. Check out this mail from a regular reader, Shiv Dhanush, for instance, in response to a recent column on the predicament of Indian Muslims: "There are less than one million Hindus and Sikhs in the US, that is, 0.3 per cent of the population. But governors of two out of the 50 US states are from this community. There are nearly six million Muslims in the US but they do not have anyone in governor mansions. You can extend the example to other top learning institutions like MIT, Cal Tech, Berkeley, Harvard and Yale, etc. The representation of Hindu and Sikh children is greater than their percentage in the population.
"The share of Muslims in these elite institutions is lower than their population ratio. You can make a comparison of Punjabi (or Sindhi or Bengali) Hindus and Sikhs versus Punjabi Muslims in the US or UK and their relative achievements. Make a similar comparison of Hindus and Sikhs versus Muslims in US and UK prisons and you'll see alarming results.
"The playing field for all immigrants in the West is the same. So how did this happen? It happened because Hindus, Sikhs, and others give highest priority to education and personal excellence (whereas Muslims do not). This is why Muslims today find themselves even behind the Dalits in India in all walks of life." My apologies for this long quote, but it's intrinsic to my argument. Besides, this is fascinating stuff, don't you think? In fact, Shiv goes on to argue that the South Asian Muslims wanted Pakistan because they knew they couldn't compete with Hindus and Sikhs in an undivided India!
I have no issues with Shiv's argument and most of his facts. In fact, we are on the same page in his analysis about the Muslim under-representation in all walks of life and their excessive presence on the wrong side of the law.
The shining examples of Louisiana governor Piyush Jindal, being lionised as the Republicans' answer to Obama and a future president, and South Carolina governor Nimrata Kaur are a source of inspiration and pride not just for Hindus and Sikhs but the whole of India and Asia. There are countless such examples in the land of opportunity that is America – of Indians scaling the pinnacle of excellence in universities, research and scientific centres and Silicon Valley companies, thanks to their hard work and dedication.
However, if Indian Hindus and Sikhs are increasingly becoming the shining face of the great American dream while their Muslim counterparts rough it out in the cold, there's another more prosaic explanation as well.
If the Muslims find themselves stuck in a rut almost everywhere while the rest of the world is flying past them on the high road to glory, it's not because there's too much of religion in their lives.
It's because they have failed to apply it the way it should be to their lives. Instead of imbibing the liberating teachings and revolutionary spirit of a faith that guides us every step of the way, we have turned it into a set of meaningless rituals and a heavy yoke around our neck.
It was the same faith that transformed the bands of Arabian tribes into a world power in less than a decade, bringing down the mighty Persian and Roman empires like a house of cards.
It wasn't just on the battlefield that they beat others. They pioneered a knowledge and scientific revolution which, in turn, fed and inspired the European Renaissance. From philosophy and poetry to physics and chemistry and from mathematics and medicine to planetary science, the West built its discoveries and advances based on blueprints created by Muslim pioneers.
Unlike us, early Muslims had been driven by a compelling craving and hunger for knowledge and new ideas, wherever they could find them. While we have become the prisoners of our past and our often narrow, literal interpretation of Islamic teachings, they looked to the future, showing the way forward to others.
They did not preach their faith. They lived it, promoting it with their actions and with their honesty, simplicity, piety and courage. At the same time, they promoted a culture of hard work, perseverance and excellence wherever they went and whatever they turned their attention to. No wonder they conquered the world in no time and have left behind a civilisation to last forever.
They were extraordinary men, giants among men. A really hard act to follow, indeed! But if we could recreate even a fraction of their magic, we would do ourselves an immense favour, transforming our wretched existence forever and creating a better world.
The author is a Gulf based award winning journalist. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.