By Hassan Suroor Editor's note:<em>Firstpost contributor Hassan Suroor has written a book that looks at the Muslim community in India today. He explores and dismantles the stereotypes and holds up a mirror to their reality. Here's an excerpt from Suroor's India's Muslim Spring: Why is Nobody Talking About It?</em> Let me confess that this is not the book I set out to write. The book I had in mind was about the unchanging face of Muslim fundamentalism in India. But barely a few weeks into research, I discovered I was completely on the wrong track. The big story staring me in the face was quite the opposite- far from flourishing, Muslim fundamentalism was actually dying a slow death. As I travelled across the country and spoke to people, I found that over the past decade there had been a profound change in the Muslim mindset. Today's Indian Muslim, I discovered, was altogether a different species-educated, aware, wiser, less sectarian and more pragmatic .... Away from the sensational headlines about Islamic extremism, a quiet revolution is taking place. The Muslim discourse has moved on from an obsessive focus on sectarian demands (does anyone remember the last big debate on Muslim Personal Law, for example?) to the more secular bread-and-butter issues. Where once the dinner table talk in Muslim households was unremittingly negative and pessimistic (it was all about how Muslims were being 'crushed' and trampled upon, and had no future in India), today it is about change and looking forward. There is a new optimism abroad that is hard to miss. What is significant is that the change is being urged upon not by the usual suspects-the agnostic left-wing Muslim intellectuals...- but by 'gold-plated' practising Muslims, deeply conscious of their Muslim identity and unapologetic about flaunting it. There is a new generation of Muslims who want to rid the community of its insular and sectarian approach by concentrating on things that affect their everyday lives: education, jobs, housing, security. They despair of mullahs and self-styled Muslim 'leaders'. And they speak a language that is modern and forward-looking. Their interpretation of Islam stresses inclusion and tolerance. They abhor the use of violence in the name of Islam. They may not be wildly enthusiastic about the western notion of free speech and ... some even tend to share the conspiracy theories about Salman Rushdie's alleged motives [behind writing<em> The Satanic Verses</em>], but they condemn the campaign of intimidation and harassment to which he has been subjected in the name of 'defending' Islam and the Prophet. They are embarrassed by such antics which, they say, bring shame to the community and, indeed, Islam itself. There is a feeling of having been let down by previous generations-their parents, grandparents-who they believe were too timid to challenge the fundamentalists. 'We want to draw a line under all that and move on,' is a common refrain. Notably, it is the young women, often in 'hijab', who are driving the change. Contrary to the stereotyped image of the 'Muslim woman', they are educated, articulate, conscious of their rights and have aspirations that are no different from those of any other modern Indian woman. I found them more progressive in many respects than their male peers. And their struggle is greater as they are engaged, simultaneously, on two fronts-challenging the male Muslim orthodoxy and fighting for a wider change in the community that they hope would alter the prevailing negative perceptions of Muslims.