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India awakens to its other pariahs: Muslims

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What November's Sachar Committee report showed, though, is that Indian Muslims face thesame forces of poverty and disenfranchisement that some say feed terrorism elsewhere. On some levels, this is surprising. After all, the country's president is Muslim, as is its richest person, software magnate Azim Premji. Muslims are also well represented in India's two most cherished institutions: Bollywood and the national cricket team.

Yet the Sachar report found that Muslims are disproportionately more likely to be illiterate, to live in areas without schools or medical care, and – at least in urban areas – to be in poverty.

For example, in no state does the percentage of Muslims in government jobs – coveted for their stable pay and long-term pensions – match the percentage of Muslims in the population. Likewise with the armed forces, which controversially refused to cooperate with the committee. However, various estimates have suggested that Muslims make up only about 2 percent of India's armed forces, compared with 13 percent of its national population.

In the world of banking, too, Muslims get less money in loans. The report found that Muslims hold 29 percent of all bank accounts in India, yet have only 9.2 percent of the loan money.

In part, these trends stand to logic. Muslim ghettos tend to be in the worst – and therefore worst-served – areas. Banks lend less money to Muslims, because they are seen as credit risks. "In these [Muslim] areas, credit companies and banks did provide loans, but because of the large number of defaults, they blacklisted the entire neighborhood," says Mohammed Yousuf, a businessman in Delhi.

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