Hindu and Muslim cultures are deeply divided in India.
Hindu and Muslim cultures are deeply divided in India.

Conflict between Muslims and Hindus is perhaps nowhere more acute than in India, where historically Hindu and Muslim populations have struggled with co-existence. This conflict is not merely a matter of incompatible theologies; it also has to do with clashing lifestyles. In Muslim and Hindu societies there are differences, for example, in social expectations and behavior, diet and views on gender, which can make harmonious co-existence challenging for these two religious groups.

Hinduism

Brahma is the Hindu creator god.
Brahma is the Hindu creator god.

Hinduism is one of the largest and oldest world religions. There are approximately 900 million Hindus in the world today, most of whom live in India. As the BBC points out, Hinduism is a difficult religion to describe and understand, since it has "no single founder, no single scripture and no commonly agreed set of teaching." The BBC notes that it is perhaps easier think of Hinduism as a "way of life" rather than as a religion. In general, it can be said of Hindus that they follow and revere the Veda, a set of religious texts; that they believe in karma and reincarnation; and that they believe in a supreme god or type of divine energy -- Brahman -- along with a triumvirate of major gods -- Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma -- and many other gods and goddesses who are manifestations of the divine energy.

Islam

Islam is the religion of more than one billion people.
Islam is the religion of more than one billion people.

Islam was founded in the early 7th Century by the Prophet Muhammad, whom Muslims revere as God's messenger. For Muslims, the divine revelations given to Muhammad and ultimately written down as the holy book known as the Quran, constitute God's final and perfect message to humanity, a culmination of the revelations found in preceding texts such as the Old and New Testaments. Fundamental to the Islamic faith -- and in sharp contrast to Hindu beliefs -- is the assertion that there is only one God.

Conflicting Beliefs

Hinduism and Islam differ on the matter of tolerance of other faiths. Hinduism is fundamentally a tolerant religion, respectful of other faiths and what the Encylopedia of Religion and Society describes as their "diverse paths to the ultimate." One of the ideals of Hinduism is "Ahimsa," which means that a Hindu should strive to do no harm to any living thing; Hindu holy texts contain some of humankind's earliest writings on peace. Islam, on the other hand, has historically been a more militant religion, with expansion, conquest and conversion as central tenets of the faith. One of the requirements of all Muslims is "jihad," or struggle. This can refer to a personal struggle to overcome evil, but can also mean "holy war" and being in a state of conflict with unbelievers.

Conflicting Lifestyles

One key lifestyle difference between Muslims and Hindus involves gender. Perhaps because of the prominence given to female gods in Hindu holy texts, Hindu women are not socially restricted in the same way Muslim women are in certain societies. However, many of the same socioeconomic problems do affect women of both faiths, including poverty, lack of education and abuse. Muslims and Hindus also cannot easily intermarry, and in some cultures risk death by doing so. In terms of other socioeconomic differences, Hindus place more emphasis on the caste system, a rigidly-defined social hierarchy that places limits on a person's social mobility and employment. Secularism -- the separation of religion and state -- is also more readily tolerated in Hindu culture than in most Islamic cultures.