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Mohammed Khalid: Geo Religious Foundations of Technological Cooperation Among the Muslim Countries of the Indian Ocean Region

Mohammed Khalid: Geo Religious Foundations of Technological Cooperation Among the Muslim Countries of the Indian Ocean Region

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Published by Mohammed Khalid
Indian Journal of Politics, Vol. XXXIX, No.1 & 2, January-June, 2005, pp. 43-58
Indian Journal of Politics, Vol. XXXIX, No.1 & 2, January-June, 2005, pp. 43-58

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Published by: Mohammed Khalid on Apr 29, 2010
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Indian Journal of Politics, Vol. XXXIX, No. 1&2, January-June 2005, pp.43-58
ohammed Khalid 
“There is no complete region less than the world” said Halford J. Mackinder in 1937 and in1943 he held: “Regions can not be accurately delimited, for their boundaries are inevitably zones of compromise as between limits based on different criteria.”
the concept of ‘region’ in geography,ironically, has suffered from vagueness, relative neglect and lack of an agreed definition.Generally, ‘region’ is an idea, and a method to study world politics, its divisions on regional basis are mostly personal preferences, somewhat arbitrary, for the boundaries of the region beingquite ad-hoc. And this idea is so nebulous, so personal and peculiar, that its expression andconcretization can take different shapes. Hence the variety in its definition; “A domain where manydissimilar beings, artificially brought together, have subsequently adapted themselves to a commonexistence” (P. Vidal de la Blache); “An area characterized throughout by similar surface features andwhich is contrasted with neighbouring areas”,
(N.M. Feneman). A distinguished geographer RichardHartshorne writes “any regional division is not a true picture of reality, but it is an arbitrary device of the student… depending on what elements appear to him as most significant.”
Accordingly, the study of politics and economics of particular geographic regions has long been in use and one finds in the contemporary terminology the regions referred to as ‘WesternEurope’, the ‘Middle East’, or the ‘Southeast Asia’, and so on. The implication of thesenomenclatures is that the states of such regions are in many respects interdependent and interrelated.A region is also peculiarized using the criteria of social and cultural homogeneity, political attitudeson external issues expressed in voting in the United Nations, political interdependence reflected in participation in inter-governmental organisations, economic interdependence seen in the correlation between intra-regional trade and national income and, of course, the geographic proximity.
The configuration of the region is arrived at by mapping the basic attributes of the states inthe area and their major patterns of relations. The stress being upon geography together with theinsights of area specialists sensitive to factors such as consciousness of regional identity, felt cultureand other perceived affinities.
The geographical setting of a region, “provides us with a basis for understanding today’s political map and for anticipating change”,
holds Cohen, and, the geo-politicalmap is closely attuned to the economic map of a region. A geo-political region “expresses the unityof geographic features”, and [it] “can provide a framework for common political [and economic]actions. Contiguity of location and complementarity of resources are particularly distinguishingmarks of the geo-political region...”
Evolution of Indian Ocean as a Geo-religious Region:
Department of Evening Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. e.mail: mdkhalidchd@yahoo.com
The expressions like Christian Europe, Muslim Middle East or West Asia are occasionallyfound based upon the faith of the majority of the people inhabiting in a contiguous group of countries. Here in this essay we rest on the fairly well established premise that the Indian Ocean,since antiquity, had constituted a geopolitical region. Islam provided it a geo-religious character for centuries and after a brief colonial and cold war interregnum is once again well on its way toasserting itself.Geologically, the Indian Ocean basin forms a contiguous mass since the Palaeozoic era.
The physical unity and symmetry of its area contrasts with the ‘shapeless vastness’ of the Pacific and thecorridor like form of the Atlantic. And “...considered geographically the Indian Ocean in its mainarea... has some of the features of land locked sea.”The climate of the Indian Ocean region varies from tropical to mild subtropical and itsgeography from deserts, lush paddies to freezing chill of Antarctica. And yet, a vital aspect of themonsoon winds, link very closely large parts of the region giving it the popular description of “monsoon ocean.” Along with these winds is the feature of surface currents in the Indian Ocean thatdescribe a set pattern throughout the entire year. The Ocean is “fairly safe for navigation throughoutthe year, though in some months the strength of the winds, occasional tropical and cyclonic storms do pose hazards”.
The rise of Islam in Arabia in the 7
century was a great happening in the world, and in thisregion. Islam could not remain confined to Arabian peninsula for long and within decades itconquered much of the Middle East. Its appeal spread to East Africa during 9” century where Arab-Muslim merchants married into local lineages and assumed leadership of tribal coalitions and theyeventually became the elites of the coastal Swahili society.
In Sudanic Africa, colonies of Muslimtraders became allied with local political elites and induced the rulers of the states there to acceptIslam.
While Islam gradually engulfed the present day Iraq and Iran it became the new faith of theSassanians and eastern parts of Byzantine empire. The chronicles of time mention the presence of sizeable settlements of Muslim merchants on Malabar coast of India and in the several cities up northas Indus in the 9
century. Mohammed Ibn-Qasim’s conquest of Sind in North India in the early 8
century and consequent attraction and conversion to Islam in Sind and beyond are well documentedfacts in history.
Sufis also helped to spread the message of Islam in the interiors of entire South Asiaas elsewhere in the region.
Islam was first introduced into Indonesia at the end of the 13
century by the merchants andSufis from Arabia and India. The appeal of this great religion and the sheer local exigenciessmoothened the way for the spread of Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The islands in the western part of the Indian Ocean could also not remain untouched by the Islamic faith.The pertinent fact is that even though the lands and the people of the Muslim societies on thelittoral and the islands of the Indian Ocean display tremendous geographical, socio-economic, ethnic,cultural, historical, and other kinds of heterogeneity, the waters of the Ocean and the faith in Islam
have remained common factors among them. Islam provided them with a new concept of theuniverse, ethical rules, legal norms for daily behaviour, and ritual prescriptions for mediating therelations of human beings with God.Historically, the linkages and continuous multi-faceted activity on and across the Oceangoes back to pre-Christian millennia. The leitmotif of all such activities was primarily trade andcommerce and consequent exchange of populations. The major sea-farers and navigators in theIndian Ocean were the Arabs.
They traded with Indian ports and even carried their cargo as far eastas China. They also played great intermediaries between Asia and the Europe through trade. The presence of the formidable Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires also promoted trade activity in thearea. One can also not ignore the significance of the annual practice of performing
among theMuslims which has been playing a great catalyst in disseminating Islamic knowledge, increasingMuslim consciousness and solidarity. It also fostered a great trade network among the lands acrossthe Indian Ocean.
 No other religion has spread so enormously and extensively as Islam in the countriessurrounding the Indian Ocean though there existed massive centers of Hinduism, Buddhism and alsoChristianity in the region. One finds the Muslims inhabiting in almost all the littoral countries of theIndian Ocean and the island states, as shown in Table (1) below.
TABLE - 1The Muslim Presence in the Countries of the Indian Ocean
Country Muslim Population Country Muslim PopulationSouth Africa Very few Iran 99%Mozambique4 million Pakistan 95%Tanzania 98% in Zanzibar and 1/3 on mainland India 11.2%Bangladesh86.6%Kenya Arab-Muslims Myanmar3.6%SomaliaIslam is the state religion Thailand 4%Ethiopia 45%Malaysia53%Sudan Majority Indonesia 86.9%Egypt 90%MaldivesIslam is state religionJordan Majority Madagascar7%Saudi Arabia99%Mauritius 17%Yemen Majority Sri Lanka 7.36%Oman Majority Comoros Majority MuslimUAEEstablished religion is IslamQatarAll MuslimBahrain70% Bahrainis are MuslimsKuwait99%IraQ100%Source: THE EUROPA WORLD YEAR BOOK 2000 (London) 2000, VOL. I&II ANDWHITAKER’S ALMANAC 1998, THE STATIONERY OFFICE, LONDON,1997.As to which country can be called a Muslim country, there can be varied opinions. Here, for our convenience, we may take the majority of the population or the largest portion of the population

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