As Nepal Strives to Become More Inclusive, Are Muslims Being Left Behind?

As Nepal Strives to Become More Inclusive, Are Muslims Being Left Behind?
A Nepali Muslim boy prays on the second day of Ramadan at a mosque in Kathmandu, Nepal, Aug. 2, 2011 (AP photo by Niranjan Shrestha).

The one-year anniversary of an alarming episode of anti-Muslim violence in Nepal focused attention on the community’s continued struggle to assert itself. Despite recent progress in promoting religious pluralism, many Muslims remain marginalized, neglected in politics and invisible in conceptions of national identity.

The villages of Narainapur Rural Municipality, in Nepal’s lowland Terai plains, are poor, even by the standards of one of the poorest countries in South Asia. The area does not yet have electricity, and electrical poles installed by the government stand unused. On a typical day, the main road is quiet, with just a handful of vehicles passing by each hour, creating torrents of brown dust that can be seen from miles away.

But just over a year ago, on a Monday afternoon in December 2016, the road was the site of a loud and boisterous parade. The Muslim community of Narainapur, which makes up just under half of its population, was celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday—known as Mawlid in Arabic, or Muhammad Diwas in Nepali. Several thousand men, women and children rode on motorcycles and tractor-drawn trailers, waving flags bearing the shahadah, the Muslim declaration of faith, and chanting lines of Islamic poetry and singing religious songs. In addition to honoring Muhammad, the parade is a rare chance for Muslims, who account for just under 5 percent of Nepal’s population, to celebrate their identity.

Listen to Peter Gill discuss this article on WPR’s Trend Lines Podcast. His audio starts at 18:27.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.