Indian Muslim News - ISSUES

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 12 December 2009 | Posted in ,

Telangana and Muslims

By Ayub Khan

As the Telangana cauldron boils over moves are already afoot to paint the dispute in communal colors and make the region's Muslims the proverbial sacrificial lamb. The mainstream media has been a party in this mis-characterization of the entire Muslim community as opposed to the the separate state. The two most widely repeated allegations are : 1)The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is stridently opposed to the concept of a separate Telangana; 2) Telangana Muslims have not played any role whatsoever in the movement for separate state. However, an analysis of the historical and contemporary trends reveals that both these assertions are incorrect.

Since the amalgamation of the erstwhile Hyderabad state in the Indian union in 1948 and the its subsequent breaking apart in three linguistic states the Muslims of the region has suffered the most. They were resigned to the their fate and accepted the new regional configuration. They sought to protect and advance their interests in the existing framework. In this endeavor sections of the leadership sought support in all political and social organizations which appeared to be non-communal.

MIM stance

The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen once it was revived after a nine year hiatus in 1957 declared itself neutral when the first signs of the Telangana issue began to be observed during the 1960s. The party did send some signals that Muslims could be worse off in a separate state due to the communal character of some of the leaders of the separatist movement.

However, it announced that the party would give political support to anyone who would support its 14 point charter which included: the appointment of a committee to enquire into Muslim backwardness; an assurance that no changes will be made in the Muslim personal laws; recognition of Urdu as the second regional language; representation of Muslims in services proportionate to their population; allotment of houses to constructed by the State Housing Board on the basis of Muslim population, etc.

With no overtures coming from the Telangana movement leaders the MIM made a demand, praised by political scientists as a brilliant one, that in the case of separation Hyderabad and Secunderabad should be constituted as a Union Territory.

The Majlis' cold stance over Telangana is also related to the personal antipathy between its and the movement's leaders going back to the 1950s. Dr. Chenna Reddy, the erstwhile Congress chief minister and at one point Telangana movement leader, had been instrumental in weeding out Muslims from the state services and had uneasy relations with the Muslim community. Their relations were further worsened when the movement agitation turned into communal conflagrations in which the Muslims faced the brunt.

Since the revival of the movement under the banner of Telangana Rashtriya Samiti in 2001 the MIM has once again repeated its earlier stance that it would remain neutral in the issue and would offer support provided that Muslim interests are protected. Their overtures did not get a positive reply from the TRS and the late Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi said that Hyderabad be turned into a Union Territory and Warangal, the capital of Kakatiya Dynasty, be made into a capital of Telangana.

In the current scenario MIM's stance is that the party would remain neutral in the dispute and would be willing to offer any support only if there is a clear cut offer for Muslim development and the protection of the sectional interests of the community.

Muslim support for Telangana

Distinct from the MIM stance there has been a parallel historical trend in the Telangana region Muslims who support bifurcation. The All India Majlis-e-Tameer-e-Millat under the leadership of the late Khaleelullah Hussaini and Ghouse Khamooshi believed that Muslims would indeed be better off in a separate Telangana state. Speaking in 1970 its then Secretary Taheer Ali Khan told a German scholar, 'I can't speak to a minister from Andhra, he does not speak our language.'

Politicians like the Congress' M.M. Hashim, a close confidante of Chenna Reddy, former MP and home minister, also urged the Muslims to support Telangana. 'We must not make the mistake of remaining aloof...We must fight for Telangana,' he had said in 1970.

Consequently, a section of Telangana Muslims always remained wedded to the concept of a separate Telangana.

While the issue remained forgotten during the 1980s and 1990s it was Muslim leaders like the late Amanullah Khan, who quit MIM and formed the Majlis Bachao Tehreek, who kept it alive by speaking out for separate statehood in public forums. The Majlis Bachao Tehreek now supports separate Telangana.

At the revival of the movement since 2001 many Muslims joined the party. This is evidenced by massive support shown towards its leaders like Nayeeni Narasimha Reddy who was elected from the Musheerabad assembly constituency. TRS chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao numerous promises to the Muslim community also had a brief spell on the community. He promised to make Urdu a second language and gave adequate representation while allotting tickets. He did appoint one Muslim Al Attas to the legislative council but otherwise did not keep his promise of giving adequate tickets to the community. Doubts about the party's sincerity were further raised over the inclusion of communal minded elements in the party. One particular prick in the eye was Ale Narendra, the MP from Medak, who had many a part to play in the stoking of communal violence during the Ganesha festival riots. He later quit the party and was elected on the Congress ticket. Another eyesore was a party general secretary who was the Hyderabad pranth chief of RSS and has never actually quit the Sangh. Apart from hi profile leaders several other RSS and VHP activists are members of the TRS.

Despite the obvious unease a section of the Muslims have remained with the TRS. When a hunger striking KCR was hospitalized a delegation of Muslim leaders comprising Iqbal Ahmed Engineer (columnist and intellectual), Mushtaq Malik (Tehreek Muslim Shabban), leaders from the Jamaat-e-Islami affiliated MPJ, etc. visited him and offered their solidarity to the separate state cause. They later organized a protest in the city center of Charminar. Several such demonstrations, organized by Muslims, were held in all ten districts of Telangana.

What now?

When the separate state of Telangana is carved out, whenever that is, the Muslims would be at a demographic advantage. Their proportion will increase to 12.43 % from 9.16 % in a United Andhra.









































































Census of India, 2001

While Telangana Muslims gain demographically the same would not be true for Andhra Muslims. Their numbers would reduce to 7%. Since there is no emergent political leadership among Andhra Muslims how they will fare in a new Andhra remains to be seen. Their security in the coming months and years of heightened tension remains an issue of concern. There is a high chance that might be targeted as they are an easy scapegoat.

In terms of political representation the number of Muslims in legislatures is also expected to grow. The relevance of MIM would also grow given the importance of small parties in small states as experienced by Jharkhand in this fast paced era of coalition politics. It currently has seven MLAs and one MP. Other parties like Majlis Bachao Tehreek might also be able to make some progress in winning assembly seats.

The gains in terms of representation might be offset by the chance that a separate state gives to BJP. In the present assembly there is only one BJP MLA. In a separate Telangana their numbers might also increase especially if KCR forms a coalition with the NDA---an idea which he is not averse too.

Leaving apart the respresentation gains there are number of questions which need to be answered. What will be the status of Urdu in Telangana? Would it be given a second language status? What would happen to the reservations currently offered to the state's Muslims?

Even more importantly what would happen to the communal peace. The relative peace of the last two decades has largely been due to the availability of jobs and the good economic scenario. In the separate state there is a chance that there will be a capital flight both by the Andhras and the MNCs. Historical experience has shown that the potential for violence is most potent in times of economic downturn.

[Ayub Khan is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at a Canadian University]

Indian Muslim News - BABRI MASJID

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 06 December 2009 | Posted in ,

Babri Masjid demolition: 17 Years after & Justice still eludes US-based advocacy group Indian Muslim Council-USA demands immediate civil and criminal action against all accused in the Liberhan Report By Danish Ahmad Khan Indian Muslim Council-USA (http://www.imc-usa.org), an advocacy group dedicated towards safeguarding India's pluralist and tolerant ethos, has demanded that the Indian government should bring to justice the accused who are involved in the demolition of the 16th century Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya in the State of Uttar Pradesh, as identified in the Report of the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry that was released recently. Indian Muslim Council-USA has further demanded that the Indian government honor the promise given by the former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to re-build the mosque on its original site. In a press release, Dr. Hyder Khan, National Vice President of IMC-USA said, "I am hopeful that current leadership in India will take moral and bold decisions to check the criminalization of politics through regional tribunals as proposed by the Liberhan Commission and not allow the Hindutva extremist groups propagate intolerant agenda and sectarianism." "The Liberhan report is another testimony to the sad state of communal affairs in India and a clear verdict on deep seated resistance towards speaking the truth" said Rasheed Ahmed National President of IMC-USA. Ahmed further stated that "It took 17 years to document the two obvious facts, first that the demolition of the Babri Masjid was a premeditated criminal act by Hindutva leaders and second that BJP is simply a means for RSS to impose fascist regime in India," Dr. Hyder Khan said and added, "Liberhan Commission named 68 individuals as the leading planners and participants directly or indirectly involved in the destruction of the Babri Mosque. Most of the perpetrators listed in the Commission report are associated with Hindutva-fascist groups such as the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, all of whom are closely allied with the political Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP, in alliance with several other parties, was in power from 1998 to 2004. These religious extremist groups garner significant support from Non-Resident Indians living in the United States." It may be recalled that on December 6, 1992 defying the orders of the Supreme Court of India and their own promise to the nation, the Hindutva fascist forces demolished the historic Babri Mosque in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. This 16th century Muslim place of worship was destroyed by a frenzied mob of karsevaks in spite of assurances from the Hindutva leaders who spearheaded the Babri Masjid demolition campaign such as Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Sadhavi Rithambhara and several others and the state administration officials that only symbolic prayers will be performed and that the structure of the Babri Mosque will be safe. The Liberhan Commission appointed by the Indian government to investigate the destruction of the Babri Mosque submitted the report earlier this year that took more than 16 years of proceedings and recording statements of politicians, bureaucrats and police officials. Led by Indian Supreme Court Judge M S Liberhan, the commission identified key individuals and organizations who played a direct role in planning what the commission termed as a "joint common enterprise" that lead to the destruction of the Babri Mosque. Now even after 17 years ever since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Indian government is yet to take any credible action against the accused for their criminal action in inciting and perpetrating the ultimate demolition of the Babri Masjid. Not only this, the Liberhan Commission report has chosen not to implicate the then Prime Minister of the Congress Party PV Narasimha Rao as one of the foremost accomplice in the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Congress Party leader Makhan Lal Fotedar recently said in an interview to a prominent TV channel that when the news of the Babri Masjid demolition broke, the then President of India Dr. Shanker Dayal Sharma wept like a child as being in a largely ceremonial post he could do little to apply pressure on the officials and help stop the criminal demolition of the Babri Masjid. Clearly, the President was pained at seeing the secular ethos of our great nation lie in tatters with the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Makhan Lal Fotedar also said that the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao had called the then Governor of Uttar Pradesh and asked him not to take any action against the then Chief Minister Kalyan Singh of the rightist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who was at the helm of affairs when the Babri Masjid was being demolished. The Liberhan Commission has named Kalyan Singh as one of the main accused in the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It is therefore not surprising that the Prime Minister of the so-called secular India’s principal ruling party Congress Party acted as a stooge of the Hindu fanatic organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Rao is therefore also being considered as one of the main accused in the demolition of the Babri Masjid even though the Liberhan Commission Report has chosen not to indict him at all. Though Makhan Lal Fotedar in his interview said that for the crimes of the Hindu fanatics or even the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, the entire Congress Party cannot be held responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid. But then, isn’t it surprising indeed that not a single minister in the Narasimha Rao-led ministry resigned or even offered to resign as a token mark of protest. Worse still, was the deafening silence of the Muslim ministers in the Narasimha Rao-led ministry or even Muslim members of parliament (MP), who also chose to ignore the demolition of the Babri Masjid as if nothing significant has happened. By saying this, does Makhan Lal Fotedar mean to say that if something of horrendous nature ever happens now then the present Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh should be solely held responsible for it and not the entire Congress Party? The Muslims of India are still feeling aggrieved at the criminal destruction of the Babri Masjid and only hope that the Indian Government, which is now being ruled by the Congress arty-led UPA coalition, should immediately initiate criminal and civil action against all accused in the Liberhan Report and that all politicians, individuals, and organizations involved in the crime are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Complete Liberhan Commission Report Following is the chronology of the important dates related to the Babri Masjid demolition: Dec 22, 1949: Idols of Ram Lalla were allegedly installed inside the 16th century Babri mosque in the night by a group of Hindus following which a court ruled that the site be locked against entry to quarrelling Hindus and Muslims. In 1984 the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) launched a massive movement for opening the locks of the mosque whose ownership was disputed by fanatical Hindus who said it was the site of an ancient Ram temple that was razed by Mughal emperor Babur. Feb 1, 1986: Faizabad session judge allowed Hindus to worship at the site and the locks were re-opened. Nov 9, 1989: The then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, allowed ’shilanyas’, or ground-breaking ceremony, at an undisputed site. Sep 25, 1990: The then BJP president L.K. Advani launched a Rath Yatra – an ancient Hindu warrior-style campaign on a chariot that was actually a converted Toyota van – from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh; November 1990: Advani was arrested on the way in Samastipur in Bihar, following which the V.P. Singh-led coalition government, propped by the Left and the BJP, fell after the BJP withdrew support; Dec 6, 1992: Tens of thousands of karsevaks, who had massed at Ayodhya from all over the country in what was a well-planned operation, demolished the disputed structure. The incident triggered widespread communal riots in the country and led to the loss of hundreds of lives. Dec 16, 1992: M.S. Liberhan Commission was set up by the government to probe the circumstances that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. March 12, 2003: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began excavation in Ayodhya on the directions of the Allahabad High Court to ascertain whether a temple existed at the place where the Babri Masjid was built. June 30, 2009: The Liberhan Commission submitted its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after 17 years of its formation and 48 extensions. Nov 2009: The Liberhan report is tabled hurriedly in Parliament after it’s leaked to a daily Accused as named by Liberhan Commission The Liberhan Commission of Inquiry that probed the 1992 razing of the Babri mosque found 68 people culpable for leading the country to the brink of communal discord. This includes Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who later became the prime minister. The names (in the order given by the Commission): 1. Acharya Dharamendra Dev, Dharam Sansad 2. Acharya Giriraj Kishore, VHP: He serves as the senior vice-president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, International wing of the Hindu Nationalist Sangh Parivar. 3. A.K. Saran, IG. Security, Uttar Pradesh: then Lucknow Zone IG, retired in 2002 as DG (Home Guards) and is now settled in Patna. “My statement before the Commission was recorded in 2001. I had convinced the Commission about my stand during the cross-examination about the role of the IG Zone in the law the order situation in Ayodhya. I do not know what charges the Commission has framed against me that too after an investigation of 17 years,” Saran said. 4. Akhilesh Mehrotra, Add. Superintendent of Police, Faizabad: the then Additional SP of Faizabad, retired as DIG last year. 5. Ashok Singhal, VHP: is the International President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. 6. Ashok Sinha, Secretary, Tourism, Uttar Pradesh 7. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, BJP: served as the eleventh Prime Minister of India. After a brief stint as Prime Minister in 1996. There are at least 22 references to Mr Vajpayee in the over 1029-page Liberhan Commission report but the most critical ones are in its ‘Conclusions’ in Chapter 14 where it goes on to say that former party ideologue K Govindacharya’s description of Mr Vajpayee as BJP’s mukhauta (mask) could in fact be applied to what the commission calls the pseudo-moderates. 8. Badri Prasad Toshniwal, VHP: died in 1994 and was ex president of Sewa Mandir Foundation, Ajmer( Rajsthan) 9. Baikunth Lal Sharma, VHP: former BJP MP from East Delhi. 10. Balasaheb Thackeray, Shiv Sena: is the founder and Chief of the Shiv Sena, a Hindu extremist, Marathi ethnocentric and populist party based in Indian state of Maharashtra. 11. B.P. Singhal, VHP: is brother of VHP leader Ashok Singhal was also BJP Rajya Sabha MP. 12. Braham Dutt Divedi, BJP, Revenue Minister, Uttar Pradesh: Brahm Dutt Dwivedi was a cabinet minister in Government of Uttar Pradesh and a senior leader of Bharatiya Janata Party. He was murdered in 1998. 13. Champat Rai, Local Construction Manager 14. Dau Dayal Khanna, BJP 15. D.B. Roy, Senior Superintendent of Police, Faizabad 16. Devraha Baba, Sant Samaj 17. Gurjan Singh, VHP/RSS 18. G.M. Lodha, BJP 19. S. Govindacharya, RSS 20. H.V. Sheshadri, RSS 21. Jai Bhhagwan Goyal, Shiv Sena 22. Jai Bhan Singh Pawaria, Bajrang Dal 23. K.S. Sudarshan, RSS 24. Kalraj Mishra, BJP 25. Kalyan Singh, BJP (Chief Minister) 26. Khushabhau Thakre, RSS 27. Lalji Tandon, BJP, Energy Minister, Uttar Pradesh 28. Lallu Singh Chauhan, BJP 29. L.K. Advani, BJP 30. Mahant Avaidyanath, Hindu Mahasaba 31. Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas 32. Mahant Paramhans Ram Chander Dass, VHP 33. Moreshwar Dinanant Save, Shiv Sena 34. Morpanth Pingale, Shiv Sena 35. Murli Manohar Joshi, BJP 36. Om Pratap Singh 37. Onkar Bhava, VHP 38. Pramod Mahajan, BJP 39. Parveen Togadia, VHP 40. Prabhat Kumar, Principal Secretary, Home, Uttar Pradesh: 1963 batch IAS officer of the UP cadre was principal secretary (Home) on December 6, 1992, rose to become cabinet secretary in 1998 during the NDA rule. Later, he was appointed as Governor of Jharkhand and had to resign on February 1, 2002, following a controversy when businessman Ashok Chaturvedi alleged that Prabhat Kumar had accepted his hospitality. 41. Purshottam Narain Singh, VHP 42. Rajendra Gupta, Minister, Uttar Pradesh 43. Rajender Singh alias Rajju Bhayya RSS 44. Ram Shankar Agnihotri, VHP 45. Ram Vilas Vedanti, Sant Samaj 46. R.K. Gupta, BJP, Finance Minister, Uttar Pradesh 47. R.N. Shrivastava, District Magistrate, Faizabad: former district magistrate of Faizabad, is the neighbour of the firebrand Hindutva leader Vinay Katiyar, Rajya Sabha MP, in Gomti Nagar area of Lucknow. He has since retired. He says the Liberhan Commission is “irrelevant” in his case, because he was suspended after the demolition and his prosecution was also ordered; the case is pending in a Lucknow court. 48. Sadhvi Ritambara, Sant Samaj 49. Shankar Singh Vaghela, BJP 50. Satish Pradhan, Shiv Sena 51. Shri Chander Dikshit, BJP 52. Sita Ram Agarwal 53. S.P. Gaur, Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh: 1974 batch IAS officer of the UP cadre, is presently chairman of the Inland Waterways Authority of India under the Ministry of Shipping and Transport. He was summoned by the Commission in 1996. “I have learnt through media reports that my name has appeared in the report of the Commission, but nothing has been officially communicated to me. I will comment only after studying the report,” said Gaur. 54. Sunder Singh Bhandari, BJP 55. Surya Pratap Sahi, Minister, Uttar Pradesh 56. Swami Chinmayanand, VHP 57. Swami Sachidanand Sakshi alias Sakshiji Maharaj, BJP 58. S.V.M. Tripathi, Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh: the then DGP, has since retired. “I cannot comment on my indictment till I go through the specific reasons given by the Liberhan Commission in the report. I am also not aware about the details of the ATR tabled before the House. The Babri demolition at Ayodhya took place on December 6 and I went on deputation to Delhi on December 22 as CRPF director-general and retired from the same post in 1996,” Tripathi said. The former DGP said he appeared before the Commission on May 1, 2002 where his statement was recorded and he was cross-examined. “I also submitted my affidavit.” 59. Swami Satmit Ramji, Sant Samaj 60. Swami Satyanandji, Sant Samaj 61. Swami Vam Devji, Sant Samaj 62. Uma Bharti, VHP 63. U.P. Bajpayee, Deputy Inspector General, Faizabad: the then Faizabad Range DIG, retired as IG in 1995 and is settled in Allahabad. Bajpai said, “I explained my role and stand when my statement was recorded in 2000. What else I can say except that let the government decide over the action to be taken against me.” 64. Vijaya Raje Scindia, BJP 65. V.K. Saxena, Chief Secretary, Uttar Pradesh 66. Vinay Katiyar, RSS 67. Vishnu Hari Dalmia, VHP 68. Youdh Nath Pandey, Shiv Sena

Indian Muslim News - ISSUES

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

Cleric under fire for planning daughter’s wedding on Dec 6

By Virendra Nath Bhatt

With various Muslim bodies in favour of observing December 6, the day the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, as a day of mourning, a prominent Muslim cleric’s decision to solemnise his daughter’s wedding on the day has stirred a hornet’s nest. Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, prominent Shia cleric and Imma-e-Juma of Lucknow, who leads the Friday prayer in historic Asifi mosque, has come under fire from a section of the clergy for his decision.

Defending the decision, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, vice president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said, “One can not retain the memory of a tragedy for the whole life. Indeed, the demolition of the mosque was a tragedy but why should the essential works of life and society be suspended on that day every year?”

He also pointed out that December 6, the18th day of the month of Bakr-Id, as per the Islamic calendar is a auspicious day for the Shia’s, celebrated across the world as ‘Eid-e-gadeer’. On this day Prophet Mohammed had performed the last pilgrimage (Haj) of his life and had declared Hazrat Ali as his successor.

Maulana Jawwad is not alone in holding the ceremony on the said date. Bilal, son of a Sunni Muslim cleric and member of AIMPLB Maulana Sajjad Nomani is holding his Dawat-e-walima (reception) on December 6. “I reject this black day and mourning day with the contempt it deserves. A particular date has no significance in Islam. There are other much more important issues before the Muslim community and the whole country and it would be better if we focus our attention on them”, said Maulana Sajjad Nomani.

(Courtesy: Indian Express)

Indian Muslim News - OPINION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 30 November 2009 | Posted in

A Vision for Muslim Empowerment By Yoginder Sikand Having served for several years as the amir of the Jamaat-e Islami’s Kerala wing, Siddiq Hasan was appointed as the head of the Social Service Department at the Jamat’s national office in New Delhi. He comes across as a mild-mannered, soft-spoken man, but he bubbles with ideas, and his enthusiasm is infectious. From what he tells me and from the literature that he provides, it appears that the Jamaat-e-Islami, one of India’s most influential Islamic organizations, is increasingly seeking to seriously engage with the myriad economic and social concerns of India’s Muslims. Although working for the social, educational and economic progress of the community has been part of the Jamaat’s mandate ever since it was established in 1941, Hasan admits that, particularly in north India, this was not given the attention it deserved till recently. “Frequent communal riots and bouts of anti-Muslim violence”, he says, “forced the Jamaat to focus particularly on relief and rehabilitation, instead of the social, economic and economic empowerment of the community.” This was reflected in the fact that it was only recently, in 2006, that the Jamaat decided to set up a national-level Social Service Department, whose head Hasan has been since it was established. This Department was the brain-child of the former amir of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the well-known scholar Abdul Haq Ansari. Aware and appreciative of the role of the Kerala branch of the Jamaat in setting up welfare-oriented educational, health and vocational training institutions in the state, he decided that the Jamaat needed to replicate these efforts at the national-level as well in an organized manner. Hasan was the obvious choice for heading this project. To begin with, Hasan traveled extensively to gain an understanding of the social conditions and problems of Muslims in different parts of the country. On the basis of this, he devised a ten-year plan, encapsulated in a document titled ‘Vision 2016’. A major focus of ‘Vision 2016’ is on promoting modern education for Muslims. “One of our basic problems is the lack of modern education,” says Hasan. “That is why we want to work particularly in this area, especially in promoting quality primary and secondary education for Muslims. We need to start from the lower levels, rather than building grand, higher-level institutions that cater to the few and that involved great expense.” ‘Vision 2016’ seeks to improve Muslim children’s school enrolment rations, prevent drop-outs, promote the capacity of existing schools, start new schools where they do not exist, and provide career counseling and guidance services and scholarships. Work in this regard has begun. The Jamaat has identified some 100 sites across the country for constructing schools. Construction work has already commenced in some of these places. A major reason for the considerable economic and educational progress of Kerala’s Muslims, Hasan points out, is that they have invested heavily in creating community-based non-governmental institutions. ‘Vision 2016’ seeks to extend this pattern to the whole of India, an ambitious scheme that is being coordinated by the Delhi-based NGO Human Welfare Trust. Separate, smaller organizations that have been established to put ‘Vision 2016’ into action include the Human Welfare Foundation (working in the field of education), the Society for Bright Future (focusing on relief, rehabilitation and disaster management), the Medical Service Society of India (for medial aid), and the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (dealing with human rights’ issues). Separate organizations for microfinance, Muslim women’s empowerment and promotion of Muslim entrepreneurship will also be set up soon, as also a research centre that will focus on Muslim social issues. “A major problem we face is that many Muslims, particularly in north India, are simply unaware of the importance of education,” Hasan laments. He cites the case of a Muslim-run engineering college in Kerala, which, at his request, set apart ten free seats for north Indian Muslim students and agreed even to provide them with freed boarding and lodging facilities. With considerable difficulty, Hasan managed to get six students — from West Bengal, Bihar and Assam — to agree to enroll in the college. Finally, of these only two finally joined. But it is not simply ignorance or apathy that are behind Muslim educational backwardness, especially in northern India, where the bulk of the country’s Muslims live. Hasan cites other factors in this regard, such as pervasive anti-Muslim discrimination, including at the hands of the authorities, who often refuse to recognize Muslim-run educational institutions or provide them facilities. Likewise, several private institutions refuse to admit Muslim students. For its part, the Hindutva lobby, Hasan says, has a vested interest in keeping Muslims forever bogged down in controversies and conflicts, forcing them to remain ever on the defensive. Consequently, he explains, “north Indian Muslims have largely been unable to set their own agenda, to focus on the work of internal reform and development, or even to think positively.” In addition, Muslim (and other) politicians, Hasan says, are “by and large selfish, corrupt and exploitative, and, with some exceptions, are simply not interested in addressing or solving the many problems of the community on which they actually thrive.” Yet another factor is what Hasan sees as the lingering feudal mentality of large sections of the north Indian Muslim social, religious and political elites. “Many of them suffer from what can be called a Mughal hangover,” he argues. One reflection of this, he says, is the continued presence of caste-based discrimination against so-called ‘low-caste’ Muslims (who form the majority of the Muslim community) by many so-called ashraf Muslims, who claim foreign descent. “These caste-conscious elites want to do simply nothing at all for the poor of the community”, he rues. Hasan sees a distinct difference in the socio-cultural ethos of north and south Indian Muslims, which, he says, is one of the major reasons for the relatively better economic and educational status of the latter, particularly in Kerala. Kerala’s Muslims, who form around a quarter of the state’s population, are India’s most educationally advanced Muslim group. Hasan attributes their success to a relatively egalitarian social ethics, their historical role as traders, the role of successive Rajas (all Hindus) in the past, and various recent reform movements, not just Islamic but also anti-caste struggles and the strong communist presence in Kerala, all of which made for a general social awakening in Kerala Muslim society. Furthermore, unlike in many other parts of India, Kerala Muslims have a sizeable middle-class that has worked together with the ulema for Muslim social, educational and economic empowerment. “The rigid dualism between the ulema and modern-educated Muslims, so characteristic of most of north India, is much less prominent in Kerala”, he explains, which accounts for the ability and willingness of large sections of the Kerala ulema to play a leading role in community reform and development efforts there, including in promoting modern education. Although appreciative of the role of madrasas, which number in the tens of thousands across India, in providing religious education to Muslim children, Hasan suggests that they should also provide at least a basic modern education to their students. As long as they do not, he says, a major section of the community will continue to remain backward. He insists that there is no strict division between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ education in Islam. He critiques conservative religious leaders who argue to the contrary, regarding them as not seriously concerned about the overall development of the Muslims. “I do not agree with their contention that mere religious education is enough, and that through it all our worldly problems will, or can, be automatically solved”, he says. “Islam teaches us that this world is the field of the life after death, and so we need to develop a socially-engaged understanding of our faith,” Hasan tells me. That, he stresses, is the key to Muslim empowerment. [Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at the National Law School, Bangalore. He can be contacted on ysikand@yahoo.com]

Fareed Zakaria on 'Mumbai' style terrorism: It's time to encourage 'religious revulsion'

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

HBO is airing a really scary movie tonight at 8. It isn't "District 9" or "Paranormal Activity." It's a documentary called "Terror in Mumbai," about the infamous 2008 terrorist attack that killed 170 people, wounded another 300 and, in the eyes of many anti-terrorist experts, may have served as a dress rehearsal for future terrorist actions in other parts of the world -- including here in the good old USA. Having watched the film, I can assure you that it's far more than another dutiful re-creation of a tragic incident of modern-day bloodshed.
In fact, the film (directed by Dan Reed and narrated by Newsweek and CNN's Fareed Zakaria) is truly chilling, often more reminiscent of a creepy sci-fi thriller than a documentary. The reason? In addition to all the usual footage of violence and chaos, we get to eavesdrop on the conversations between the 10 young Pakistani men and their handler as they lay siege to Mumbai, leaving bombs in taxis, using guns and grenades to butcher innocent civilians in train stations, cafes and two of the city's most famous hotels.

Although the Indian police were, as Zakaria told me yesterday, "hapless, cowardly and utterly disorganized," the Indian secret service had managed to infiltrate the Pakistani terrorist group and give them a host of cellphone SIM cards, some of which were in use by the terrorists during the attack. So we get to be voyeurs of a sort, listening in on their conversations as they roam up and down hotel corridors and take over one of the city's Jewish centers, deciding who they will take hostage and when they will kill them. (At one point, you can even hear the gunshots over the phone.)

The terrorists are programmed, you might even say hypnotized, by their controller. He encourages and cajoles them over the phone from Pakistan, then when they have done as much damage as possible, orders them to kill themselves. But one terrorist survives, superficially wounded, and we are allowed to watch a video of his police interrogation as well. For me, the scariest part of the movie was realizing that these were not battle-hardened jihadists. In fact, they are uneducated, largely clueless kids who have such an utterly bleak outlook on life that they see indiscriminate killing as their ticket to heaven.

Zakaria believes that the roots of terrorism lie in poverty and a culture of hate. His prescription for change often sounds like do-goodism, so much so that Robert Lloyd, who reviewed the film in my paper today, gently mocked Zakaria, saying his introduction to the film "reminded me of the kind of prologues once appended to films about juvenile delinquency."

So when I got on the phone with Zakaria, who is a leading expert on global politics, I asked him the obvious question: How do we possibly defend ourselves against a bunch of deluded religious extremists who essentially act like an army of George Romero-style zombies? Here's what he had to say: "We all would agree that where there are bad guys, you have to go after them and, frankly, kill them," he says. "But you can't have an anti-terrorist policy that is just based on killing these people, because there is an inexhaustible supply of them. Of course, we can't just throw up our hands either. What we need to do is find ways to create fewer cesspools of despair, so you don't have a situation like you do in this film, where we learn from the one surviving terrorist that his family was so poor that his father basically sold him into terrorism. We need to create a sense of hope and a belief in personal advancement, so these men might have a sense of mastery and control over their own lives."

But, I asked, isn't their devotion to radical Islam – the terrorist group is known as the Army of the Righteous – far more powerful than a few good civic projects? A fair point, says Zakaria. But he pointed to the example of largely Muslim countries such as Jordan, Turkey and Indonesia as examples of places where extremism isn't all-powerful.

"If you look at Jordan, it used to be very anti-American and very radicalized," he says. "But over the last decade, it's really modernized its economy and, as a result, it's not a society that is generating new generations of suicide bombers. You also see that in Turkey and Indonesia, where you're not seeing large new generations of jihadists. And that's because those countries have made huge strides in their economic development. I think what we have to do is encourage support for religious revulsion. We have to tread carefully, maybe even covertly, but we need to support internal religious forces that are built around discouraging jihad, that can argue that it is an offense against universal human rights."

So what does Zakaria hope that viewers here will take away from the film? "I hope, for Americans, that this film will open people's eyes. It shows us that when it comes to terrorists like these, that we are not up against a hardened, well-schooled jihadist army. These are boys – rural, uneducated young men with no hopes or prospects – who were taken advantage of by their controllers. So I hope this film demystifies our notion of terrorism. I know that ending poverty isn't a magic bullet. But it would be a powerful weapon to change the circumstances of these kind of kids. If they had any education at all, they wouldn't believe the fantasies that their controllers gave them. They might actually believe that they aren't victims but they are people who can transform their lives."
The belief in transforming our lives, in catapulting ourselves out of poverty and despair, is certainly deeply ingrained in America, the land of opportunity. The big, unanswerable question is whether that belief can be transplanted to other cultures, especially ones that nurture the kind of vicious thuggery we see in the horrifying "Terror in Mumbai."
(Courtesy: Los Angeles Times)

An emerging generation of socially-engaged Ulema

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

By Yoginder Sikand

Reforms in India’s madrasas are a much talked-about subject today. In discussing the issue, the media tends to give inordinate attention to the views of the older generation of ulema, particularly those who are associated with certain large madrasas or Jamias, especially those that are known to be particularly conservative. Consequently, the voices of younger-generation ulema, particularly those who have also had a university education, tend to be completely silenced.

But, given that these men will, in due course, form a significant section of the Muslim religious leadership, it is crucial to listen to what they, too, have to say. Their views can be quite surprising for those who imagine that the ulema are wholly opposed to reform or ‘modernisation’ of madrasa education and to reviewing some deeply-entrenched and controversial understandings on certain religious matters. In fact, these young ulema are among the most passionate advocates for madrasa reform and for more relevant and socially-engaged understandings of Islam in the contemporary Indian context.

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet one such young Islamic scholar, the Lucknow-based Maulana Yahya Nomani. I had been in touch with him for almost a year through email after I had translated a fascinating book that he had penned in Urdu on the subject of jihad. Although I had read numerous books on jihad before, I had not come across such a penetrating and deeply-satisfying analysis. Maulana Yahya was kind enough to let me translate the book for the benefit of those who cannot read Urdu.

The book, simply titled al-Jihad, provides an incisive critique of the arguments about the Islamic concept of jihad put forward by both hardened Islamophobes and radical Islamists alike. ‘Jihad is often seen by non-Muslims as anti-human, as akin to terrorism, and as a cover-up for imperialist conquest. I wanted to critique that impression’, Maulana Yahya explains. ‘At the same time’, he adds, ‘many Muslims are opposed to ijtihad, to reviewing some of the rules of classical fiqh that were developed in a totally different historical context, including in matters related to jihad, some of which are not in accordance with the Quran. Consequently, Muslim youth in many countries, inflamed by the oppression suffered by Muslims, have taken to indiscriminate violence, wrongly claiming it to be jihad. I wanted to counter their arguments, too’. ‘I wanted the book to appeal to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike’, he explains.

Some of the salient arguments that the book makes is that terrorism, proxy war and the targeting of non-combatants is un-Islamic, as is launching war by any entity other than by an established state or government. Likewise, war for the sake of worldly conquest and power cannot be termed a jihad. That is to say, a war does not become a jihad simply because those who engage in it claim it to be so. Furthermore, the book argues while denouncing the claims of some extremists, Muslims can, indeed must, befriend people of goodwill belonging to other faiths and deal kindly with them.

‘Some radical ideologues claim that armed jihad is a struggle to end rule of kufr or infidelity, and insist that Muslims must always engage in such a struggle if they are in a position to do so. By this they also mean that even if a non-Muslim government allows Muslims religious freedom they still must engage in violent jihad against it. What they believe is that non-Muslims have no right to rule any bit of God’s earth’, Maulana Yahya explains. But he does not agree with this formulation at all, which he terms ‘bizarre’, ‘extremist’, and as not warranted by his reading of the Quran. ‘The real purpose of jihad’, he points out, ‘is defence or establishing justice, and not to end non-Muslim rule in any country. If a non-Muslim government is just and does not oppress Muslims or suppress Islam, there is no justification to launch armed jihad against it.’

Maulana Yahya is also critical of some aspects of the received juridical or fiqh tradition with regard to rules governing jihad that were formulated by the medieval jurists or fuqaha. ‘For instance, there is no concept of permanent peace with non-Muslims in the corpus of medieval fiqh’, he notes. Since that position corresponded to the then-prevailing historical conditions, he says, there is an urgent need to revise and change this understanding in today’s context, where permanent peace is something that is not just a widely-accepted concept but is something that Muslims, along with others, should actively strive for.

In his early 40s, Maulana Yahya is the grandson of the well-known (and, for some, controversial) scholar Maulana Manzoor Nomani. His father, Maulana Muhammad Zakariya, was a teacher of Hadith at Lucknow’s renowned Nadwat ul-Ulema madrasa. Having completed the fazil course at Nadwa in 1993, Maulana Yahya did a Bachelor’s course in Islamic History at Madinah University, after which he joined the monthly al-Furqan, an Urdu religious magazine based in Lucknow founded by his grand-father. Besides working as associate editor of this magazine, he holds regular Quranic classes in mosques and dawah camps for youth. Recently, he set up al-Mahad al-Ali lil Dirasat al-Islamiya (‘Institute for Higher Islamic Studies’) in Lucknow, which provides a two-year course to madrasa graduates to, as he puts it, ‘make them aware of modern issues, concerns and challenges'.

The Institute seeks to familiarize madrasa graduates with subjects that they have had little or no exposure to in the course of spending several years studying in madrasas. These include research methodology, English, computer applications, and basic sociology, political science, law and economics. Till date, almost fifty students have completed the course. Some of these have gone back to teaching in madrasas, where they are expected to impart their new knowledge and thereby promote change in the madrasas from within. Others have enrolled in universities for higher education.

Maulana Yahya argues that the ulema must have a good grasp of contemporary issues and conditions in order to express Islam in a relevant manner, to provide the community with a socially-engaged leadership, and to come up with contextually-appropriate Islamic responses to various questions and challenges. This is why his Institute places particular focus on developing its students’ research skills, something that is left ignored in most madrasas. Students are expected to do research not just on theological or legal or fiqhi matters but also on issues related to Muslims’ social, economic and educational conditions and problems.

The Institute, Maulana Yahya tells me, has set for itself an ambitious publishing programme. It plans to assign particular topics of contemporary concern on which there is paucity or complete lack of well-grounded published works to its students to work on as projects, which would later be brought out in the form of books. So far, the Institute has published two books, one Maulana Yahya’s book on jihad, and the other a classic historical treatise by the late Maulana Abdul Majid Dariyabadi. A third book is due to be out soon—on women and Islam, critiquing the views of both some ultra-conservatives, who completely rule out any public role for women outside their homes, as well as ultra-liberals, who argue for complete sameness between men and women.
Like Maulana Yahya, I have met scores of other young ulema over the years who are engaged, in their own ways, in promoting inter-communal harmony, in articulating more relevant understandings of Islam (including on a host of controversial issues such as jihad and women’s rights), and in facilitating reforms in the madrasas. Their voices cry out to be heard. They can no longer continue to be ignored.

[Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Social Policy at the National Law School, Bangalore. He can be contacted at ysikand@yahoo.com]

Indian Muslim News - ISSUES

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 25 November 2009 | Posted in

Muslims have to fight misconceptions about Islam: Saudi envoy By Sarwar Kashani The "anti-Islam" remarks by former law minister Ram Jethmalani who linked Wahhabis, a conservative Muslim sect, with terrorism, is a closed chapter for him, but Saudi envoy to India Faisal Hassan Trad says Muslims have a long way to go and work hard to rid their faith of the Islamic terror stigma. "Despite all the humanistic teachings of the religion, Islam is still linked with terrorism. It is an irony. It has turned out to be a global phenomenon and is a dilemma for the Muslim world," Trad told IANS in an interview. "I believe it is a long way and we have to work hard to rid our faith of this stigma. I agree terrorists have hijacked Islam, but Islam is not what they propagate and what they are killing for. In fact, it is all un-Islamic," he said, days after he staged a walkout following Jethmalani's comments that "India had friendly relations with a country that supported Wahhabi terrorism". Wahhabism is a sect attributed to Mohammad ibne Abdul Wahhab, an 18th century Arab scholar, who believed in puritanic Islam and launched a movement against what he considered innovations in Islam. Jethmalani angered the Saudi envoy with his remarks at an international conference on terrorism here Saturday. "I found his utterances bad as he was directly blaming Islam and my country (Saudi Arabia) for terrorism. I did what I should have done as a Muslim and also as a Saudi ambassador. I walked out in protest but offered my apologies to President Pratibha Patil who was on the panel in the conference. I didnCt want to create an impression that I was protesting against her," Trad said. "And can you believe he was speaking in his own country which has some 140 million Muslim population? "He was targeting the centre of Islam. We Saudis are proud to be from the birthplace of Islam. We have a huge responsibility of serving the Muslim world, and accusing Saudi Arabia or the Muslim world of breeding terror is just unacceptable, I repeat just unacceptable." He said his country – itself "a victim of terrorism" – has always expressed a will to wage a fight against the menace. "Saudi Arabia has even volunteered to host a centre for global fight against terror – an idea which was mooted in an international conference on counter terrorism in 2005, in which India also participated," he said. "It (the Jethmalani controversy) is a closed chapter now. I have nothing against Ram (Jethmalani) personally. I don't want to drag this issue on and on," Trad said, adding the lawyer was speaking for himself and not representing India. "King Abdullah (of Saudi Arabia) has initiated a movement to start a dialogue between different faiths and civilisations. That is what Islam teaches us," he said. "Islam is the religion of humanity. You see any great human value and belief ends up to be a part of Islamic teachings. Islam stresses on justice, transparency, love, respect and freedom for each other, love for family and women's rights," he said, while expressing concern that people "misread and misinterpret Islam". Quoting the Quran, Trad said: "The holy book says he who kills a person without a legal trial is like he killed the whole humanity. What more do you need to prove Islam is for brotherhood, peace and love? It is a religion that doesn't even allow suicide. Killing your own self is a big sin in Islam. "Prophet Mohammed's wife Khadija is the first business woman in Islamic history. The Prophet used to work for her. And even continued to work for her after getting married to her. This is an example to explain how Islam respects and ensures women's rights and freedom." "Islam," the envoy told IANS, "has no justification for terrorism". "What is not human is forbidden in Islam. Allah says we have created mankind and given it dignity. Islam cannot accept anybody in its fold who trashes human dignity," he said, adding terrorists have "no identity, no religion and no border. You cannot attribute it to Islam in any case". [Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at s.kashani@ians.in] (Courtesy: IANS) ----------------------------------------------------------------- [Present here is the email sent by Shahid Raza Burney, a renowned journalist associated with Saudi Arabia's leading English daily 'Arab News', to Sarwar Kashani in which he has questioned the existence of Wahabbism as a Sect, which Mr. Kashani has alluded to in his interview with Saudi Arabian Ambassador to India HE Faisal Hassan Trad] Dear Mr. Sarwar, Greetings, I read the interview about the Saudi Ambassdor Mr. Faisal Trad and it made interesting reading. However, I am astonished of your referring Wahabbism as a Sect, which in fact is not. I do not know from where you had obtained the info that Wahhabism is a sect. I would be grateful if you could let me know the authentic version on this. As far as to the best of my knowledge there is no such sect. Sheikh Abdul Wahab did not form an sect. He was a reformer and had urged Muslims who had deviated from the path of Islam to return to the original roots. As a senior journalist associated with Saudi Arabia's leading English daily 'Arab News' for the past 27 years and having worked in the paper in the Kingdom for more than 12 years, I had not come across any such terms as Wahabbism sect during my interactions with the citizens there or with the Islamic scholars. In my view this is a complete misnomer. Thanks, Regards, Shahid Raza Burney Pune Cell: 09422012831 Email: whistleblower786@gmail.com

Government of India should set up Central Madrasah Board: Justice M.S.A. Siddiqui

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 24 November 2009 | Posted in

Justice M.S.A. Siddiqui is the Chairman of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand he discusses his proposal, sent to the Government of India for its consideration, for the setting up of a national-level Central Madrasah Board and the vociferous opposition that the proposal has met with from some Muslim quarters.

Q: Recently, you created a storm when you suggested to the Government of India that it set up a Central Madrasah Board. A large number of ulema and heads of Muslim organizations and movements vehemently denounced this proposal. Why do you feel the need for such a Board?

A: I proposed the Board simply to assist Muslims to enter the national mainstream. I think the Board is an important step in that direction. Until Muslims join the mainstream of Indian life it will not be possible for them to have an equal share in the country’s progress and prosperity. Muslims must accept that the only way for this is through modern education. Muslims must learn the art of prospering in the face of adversity. Lamentably, however, they tend to rely on emotions and rhetoric, not intelligence, in the face of anything new. They should learn from the Jews, who were badly oppressed for several thousand years but yet never gave up their love for learning, so much so that today a tiny country like Israel has such a powerful control on global affairs. This was only because of the Jews’ love for knowledge.

Q: Why do you feel so many ulema are so vehemently opposed to your proposed Board?

A: If you read Muslim history you will discover that many good new things and useful inventions and innovations were vociferously opposed by the maulvis. Even when, in the early period of Muslim history, it was proposed that the Quran be compiled as a book this proposal was opposed by some people! When the Caliph Umar proposed to expand the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, even that was opposed! The mullahs vehemently opposed Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of the Aligarh movement, and even called him a kafir!

What I mean to say is that among Muslims, in general, there is a marked tendency to adopt a very negative, critical approach to new things. Every new thing they readily denounce as a ‘conspiracy’, as ‘interference in Islam’, or as kufr or infidelity. So, it is hardly surprising that some of them see the Board as a ‘conspiracy’ against Islam and Muslim identity. I wish to assure them that this is not at all the case. The Government has no intention to grab or control the madrasas. If the Government actually wanted to, nothing could have stopped it from doing so.

In any community it is the role of intellectuals to help mould the minds of people on constructive lines. Unfortunately, this is almost totally lacking among Muslims. We have very few modern-educated intellectuals who take an active interest in community affairs. As for the traditionally educated maulvis, community reform is also one of their roles but few actually take this seriously at all. Most of them are interested simply in self-projection, while the few really committed religious scholars prefer to remain in the background. I don’t want to generalize here, but I have a feeling that a large section of the elites of the Indian Muslim community, along with many maulvis who run madrasas, actually do not want the common Muslims to gain modern education because they feel that this would enable them to escape from their clutches, because of which they would no longer be able to play politics or make money in their name. Many of those who oppose any substantial reform of the madrasas do so simply because this would hurt their interests, power and influence, although they are careful to camouflage this by claiming that such reforms are supposedly ‘anti-Islam’ and so on.

It is an undeniable fact that a large number of maulvis have today become politicized, and are associated with some or the other political party in order to extract gain for themselves. Some of these people, as well as some other self-styled leaders of the Muslims, are crying out hoarse against the proposed Board, wrongly branding it as an anti-Islamic ‘conspiracy’ simply in order to make political mileage for themselves, to project themselves as saviours of Islam and the Muslims. But, who has allowed these mullahs to assume a monopoly over Islam? Allah suffices to protect Islam. It is He, not any mortal being, who will preserve Islam till the Day of Judgment.

Because of the nuisance value of these mullahs, the real ulema or religious scholars have chosen to remain in the background. As an Urdu poet so wonderfully expressed it:

Kisko yeh fikr hai ki qabile ka kya hua
Sab is pe lad rahe hain ki sardar kaun hai

(Who is bothered about what happens to the people?
People are fighting among themselves over who the leader is)

If the common Muslims were to become educated, naturally these maulvis, as well as the entrenched Muslim political elites, would no longer be in a position to take advantage of their poverty to feather their own nests. That is why many of them are furiously opposed to the inclusion of modern subjects in the madrasa curriculum, which is one of the things that the proposed Board seeks to do. Their opposition to the Board is also a reflection of the feudal mentality of our political and religious elites, which, lamentably, is still very deeply-rooted.

That said, let me also state that the proposed Board has been welcomed by a large number of Muslims, including many ulema, especially younger-generation madrasa graduates and students. I have received numerous letters from across India from such people supporting the set up of the Board, and they belong to various maslaks or sects. There is a silent revolution underway among the Muslim youth of this country. They want quality education for the community, and the opposition of some maulvis to this will not make any difference. If they continue their opposition it will, needless to say, be counter-productive for them. People will simply stop listening to or following them.

Our madarsahs should no longer continue to be like a fixed stone in the midst of the flowing river of life. Change is the only constant in temporal life. Islam developed its magnificent civilization because this civilization went on changing from age to age absorbing new discoveries and creations in every aspect of human endeavour. It never shied away in throwing away old, outmoded conventions and doctrines. We have to adjust the educational needs of the Muslim community to suit the compulsions of the global village.

In this regard let me also state that it is perhaps understandable that some very large madrasas, such as Deoband and Nadwa, may not want to join the proposed Board or to seek the Board’s assistance in teaching modern subjects to their students. They have enough resources to manage on their own, some of them being richly funded from Arab sources. Further, they might wish to continue functioning as specialized institutes for higher Islamic learning. The bigger madrasas—the real Jamias that are like universities—can be left out of the purview of the Board, which can focus on the smaller madrasas, particularly those that face chronic shortages of funds.

Q: One of the aims of the proposed Board is to facilitate the teaching of modern subjects in the madrasahs. Why do the opponents of the Board have problems with this?

A: One factor is what I regard as the un-Islamic dualism that has crept into the Muslim educational system. Islam does not countenance any rigid division between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ knowledge, which is why even Science, Mathematics, Geography and so on were taught in the early madrasas, in addition to the Quran and Hadith. This is what enabled the early Muslims who studied in these madrasas to become great scientists, mathematicians, explorers and so on, in addition to great commentators on the Quran and experts on Muslim jurisprudence. It was only in the wake of the enormous devastation of West and Central Asia caused by the Tatars in the thirteenth century that the notion of a division between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ knowledge began to emerge among the ulema. Soon, these two were seen as not just different from each other but also as fundamentally opposed to each other. This led, in turn, to a tendency towards a world-renouncing monasticism, or rahbaniyyat, which is something that the Quran sternly forbids. Muslims pray for God to provide them with success in this world and in the next, and Islam regards this world as the field for the next. Obviously, therefore, Islam, properly understood, has no room for this sort of asceticism and indifference to the world and knowledge of it. The Quran speaks numerous times about the need for humans to reflect on God’s creation, which it terms as His ‘signs’ (ayat). That is, in a sense, a call for us to engage in research. How can one engage in this sort of research and, thereby, fulfill a basic Quranic mandate, without knowledge of modern disciplines?

Our proposed Board, far from being a deviation, is a small step to reviving the lost Muslim tradition of a holistic concept of knowledge. By making sharp and untenable distinction between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ knowledge, and using this as an argument to oppose the introduction of modern subjects in the madrasa curriculum, the conservative maulvis are adopting an un-Islamic stance, which can only further reinforce Muslim backwardness and marginalization.

Q: How do you think the proposed Board would help modernize the madrasahs?

A: One crucial step that the Board would take, if it comes into being, is to introduce the teaching of English in those madrasas that choose to affiliate with it. In the past, many of our traditionalist ulema, who were rightly opposed to the British colonial rule, made the grave mistake of opposing the learning of the English language as well. They forgot that a nation might have a language, but a language does not have a nation. Today, you cannot develop without knowledge of English, most scientific and technical literature and even a lot of Islamic literature being in that language. By facilitating the teaching of English and other modern subjects in the madrasahs the Board will also enable madrasah graduates to enroll in regular universities and for a wide range of subjects. In this way, the Board will help these graduates widen their future prospects, which are very restricted at present. As of now, only a couple of universities in India recognise madrasa degrees, and that too for a very limited range of courses. Ideally, I would like to see all the universities in India recognizing madrasa degrees, but for that it is imperative that madrasahs also teach modern subjects, which is one of the major objectives of the proposed Board.

Through the Board we propose to provide affiliated madrasahs with teachers for modern subjects with decent salaries. Presently, most madrasah teachers earn a pathetic salary, between five hundred to two thousand rupees a month, and often go for months without pay. Naturally, then, madrasahs do not attract the best teachers. Often, it is those who have no other option who take to teaching in madrasahs and agree to survive on the pittance that they receive. One cannot expect many such teachers to take their work seriously. It is because these maulvis are paid such a miserable salary that it has now become so easy to literally buy a favourable fatwa from a mufti simply by paying a small sum of money.

I have proposed that the Board will provide affiliated madrasahs with trained teachers for modern subjects whose salaries would be equal to that of government servants. It is but to be expected that, because of this, those who are teaching these subjects in non-affiliated madrasahs for a pittance, being heavily exploited by their managers, will seek employment in the affiliated madrasahs. And, since the teachers of religious subjects will find that those who teach modern subjects in the same madrasahs get a better salary, they will begin to demand better salaries and service conditions for themselves as well. Obviously, some madrasah managers will be upset about this, but this will help erode the heavy exploitation of the madrasah teachers. I feel that this challenge to the authoritarian ways of many madrasah managers and their exploitation of their teachers is one reason why some maulvis who run madrasahs are so opposed to the Board since it so directly threatens to undermine their vested interests.

Q: An oft-heard argument put forward by many of those opposed to the proposed Board is that the teachers who would be appointed to teach modern subjects in the affiliated madrasahs might be non-Muslims, who might lead their students ‘astray’ or cause a ‘dilution’ of their commitment to Islam. How do you respond to this charge?

A: I am aware that some people do argue on these lines, but this is a ridiculous charge. In the wake of the Battle of Badr, the Prophet Muhammad arranged for Meccan prisoners of war to educate Muslims as a way to win their freedom. These Meccans were not just non-Muslims, they were also inveterate foes of the Prophet and had taken up arms against him, but yet he wanted them to teach his followers. In this regard, let me also cite a saying, according to which the Prophet is said to have exhorted his followers to go even to China for knowledge. Now, in those days there were no Muslims in China, so, obviously, what the Prophet meant was that his followers should go to China to study non-religious knowledge from the non-Muslim Chinese. Given all this, how can it be said that for a non-Muslim to teach modern subjects in a madrasa is impermissible or, as some argue, a ‘conspiracy’ against Islam?

We should be working for a more inclusive and democratic society, and non-Muslim teachers teaching Muslim students would, in fact, be a very welcome step in that direction. I will go even further and say that we should be moving towards creating an environment wherein even non-Muslim students can study in madrasahs if they want. This can prove a very useful means to promote inter-faith and inter-community understanding and interaction through education.

But to come back to your question, it will be for the Board to choose the teachers to be appointed in the affiliated madrasahs for teaching modern subjects. Naturally, this will be done taking into consideration the sectarian affiliation of each madrasa. The Board will consist of people from different sects or maslaks and so they will ensure that the selected teachers are suitable for the madrasahs they are sent to depending on their own sectarian affiliation.

Talking of the problem of sectarianism, which is so rife in the madrasa system, the proposed Board will, I feel, go a long way in bridging maslaki differences because it will have representatives from the different maslaks. It will thus provide a much-needed forum for ulema from different maslaks to work together.

Q: Some critics of your proposed Board argue that it might enable the Government to interfere in the functioning of the madrasahs and to dilute their religious identity. In fact, they regard the Board as part of a ‘conspiracy’ hatched by the Government precisely with this purpose in mind. What are your comments on this?

A: Let me clarify that the proposal of the Board was suggested and initiated by the National Commission for Minorities’ Educational Institutions and forwarded to the Government. It was not done on the directions of the Government. This is something that many critics of the proposed Board do not realize. This is the major source of confusion that underlies the opposition of some people to the Board. Further, my proposal very clearly specifies that the Board will not interfere in the religious or dini talim component of the madrasa curriculum. The proposal also specifies that affiliation with the Board will be purely voluntary and not compulsory. The madrasahs will be free to affiliate with the Board if they want, or refuse to do so, if they choose to. Moreover, affiliated madrasahs can always disaffiliate themselves whenever they want to.

Nine states in India presently have state-level madrasah boards, to which several hundred madrasahs have been affiliated, some for decades. These boards are controlled by state governments. How come there has been no such vociferous opposition to these boards? Why is it that some maulvis are opposing the national-level Board that I proposed, even though this Board would be autonomous and free from government control?

The fear that the proposed Board might interfere with or investigate the accounts and budgets of affiliated madrasahs is a major reason for the opposition to the Board on the part of some maulvis. It is an undeniable fact that there is considerable and very serious financial misconduct and misappropriation of funds by many madrasah authorities. In one particular state, which I do not want to name, I was told that there are some 250 madrasas that exist on paper alone, and which receive funds from the Government’s 15-point programme for employing teachers for modern subjects. One of these so-called madrasahs was actually run by a Pandit, who had turned it into a pathshala! These corrupt people are scared that the Board might put an end to their malpractices.

Some critics of the proposed Board argue that the Government has no business to bother about the madrasahs. But, my point is, the Indian Muslims, who number some 200 million, are also citizens of this country, and so obviously the Government ought to be concerned about the educational profile of such a large community. When I say this my critics at once pounce and declare that, according to the Sachar Committee Report, just 4 per cent of Muslim children study in full-time madrasas and so, they argue, the Government should be more concerned with the 96 per cent who don’t. My reply is that, firstly, that the figure of 4 per cent that the Sachar Committee report came up with is a considerable under-estimate, a figment of a fertile imagination. It is clear that those who had cited this figure did not do any rigorous survey. But, even if one assumes that the figure is indeed 4 per cent, does it mean that the Government should not be bothered about them? In my view, the Government should be concerned about the education of every single child in this country. If one part of the body is spoilt, obviously it will soon lead to the whole body falling sick. If the Muslims, or a major section of the Muslims, remain educationally and economically backward, obviously it will bode ill for the peace and prosperity of the country as a whole. Moreover, our democracy is an inclusive democracy and therefore, the Government is responsible for the welfare and development of its citizens. Education is the potent tool for human development and empowerment of the people. If the Government thinks that introduction of modern education in madarsas is in the interest of the Muslim community, the same cannot be brushed aside claiming some kind of immunity or exclusive right. That apart, Article 51-A of our Constitution obligates every citizen to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that nation rises to higher levels of endevour and achievement.

Sadly, some maulvis want to isolate the Muslims from the rest of Indian society. This is one reason for their vehement opposition to any meaningful reform of the madrasahs. I am totally against this isolationist mentality. Muslims here can’t live on their own little island. We should break down the walls that some people want to build around us, and convert them into bridges so that all communities of our country can benefit from increased interaction with each other. As an Urdu poet so aptly put it:

Sahara lena hi padta hai mujh ko dariya ka
Mai ek katra hun, tanha to bah nahi sakta

(A drop has to take the help of the river
For it is just a drop, and cannot flow alone)

Q: Some critics of the proposed Board claim that the intention behind the ‘modernisation’ that the Board will usher in is to subvert the madrasahs and destroy their specifically religious identity and character by gradually converting them into secular schools. How do you react to this charge?

A: This is a ridiculous allegation. As the person who suggested to the Government to set up this Board, let me say that I believe that we do need the madrasahs. They are vital for the preservation of Muslim culture and religious tradition. Madrasahs also focus on character-building, which is something sorely lacking in general schools. I myself studied in a madrasah as a child, and I am proud of this. My teachers there were heavily involved in, and committed to, moulding and improving my knowledge, character and personality. I am not advocating that madrasahs be secularized out of existence and turned into general schools. Far from it. All I am appealing for is for madrasas to introduce some basic modern education so that their graduates can function properly in the outside world and so that some of them can go on to enroll in colleges and universities and thereby widen their career options which, at present, are extremely limited.

Q: Some maulvis who oppose the introduction of modern subjects and English in the madrasah curriculum argue that if these subjects were taught to madrasah students, their commitment to the faith would weaken, and that they would become more ‘worldly’ and would refuse to take up low-paid jobs such as that of imams in mosques and teachers in madrasahs. This, in turn, they say, would result in a veritable crisis for the whole Muslim community, which would be left bereft of madrasah teachers and mosque imams, leading to a serious dilution of their Islamic faith and identity. Hence, they argue, such subjects must not be taught in the madrasahs. How do you respond to this allegation?

A: This is a completely bizarre argument. If maulvis who argue like this want the 20 crore Muslims of India to become beggars and faqirs and wallow in poverty, I certainly cannot agree with them. If the maulvis want to make the 20 crore Muslims of India pious Muslims, well, that is a good thing, but, for heaven’s sake, don’t stop them from acquiring modern education as well.

Some critics use another argument to oppose the reform of the madrasah curriculum. They claim that if modern subjects were included in the syllabus, the burden would become so great for the students that they would excel neither in the traditional religious subjects nor in the new ones. This argument is also fallacious. It is certainly not an Islamic approach. Leaving our madrasah students ignorant of the modern world, of languages such as Hindi and English, has such a deleterious impact on their self-confidence. They suffer a terrible complex when they come into the outside world and find that they are forced to take the help of others even to read a sign in a railway station or to fill up a form in a post office.

Q: The USA, other Western governments, as well as the governments of scores of other countries, including Pakistan and India, began talking about what they termed as ‘reforming’ the madrasahs only after the emergence of radical groups, such as the Taliban, which had links to certain madrasahs. Many Muslims believe that the proposed Board has little to do with any sincere concern on the part of the Indian Government for Muslim educational advancement, but, rather, is actually a means to clamp down on madrasahs, and that, in this, it is being pressurised by America. What do you have to say about this?

A: I can state with full confidence that the Taliban have nothing to do with the Indian madrasahs. I can guarantee that not a single madrasah in India provides any sort of terrorist training. Their focus is simply on providing Islamic education. Those who allege that they are ‘factories of terror’ are completely wrong. That said, the situation in Pakistan is different, where, due to locally specific circumstances, certain madrasahs were used by the state and other elements for purposes other than providing Islamic education. The error that some people make is to equate Indian madrasas with these certain madrasahs in Pakistan, which is a totally untenable proposition.

Certain forces in the West as well as the Zionist lobby have been aggressively promoting the absolutely false thesis of Islam being a religion of terror and of madrasas allegedly churning out terrorists. This poisonous propaganda urgently needs to be rebutted. Lamentably, opponents of the proposed Board are playing into the hands of those who claim that madrasahs are dens of terror, who project this opposition as supposed ‘proof’ that the madrasas are not above board, that they have something to hide. In this way, opponents of the Board have only succeeded in further shoving Muslims into a corner.

Q: Given the vehement opposition to the proposed Board from some quarters, do you think the Government will have the political will to go ahead and establish the Board?

A: The ball is now in the Government’s court. I will be retiring from my present post by the end of this November, and it is now for the Government to decide. Some people in the Government have started asserting that the Government will decide about the Board only after a consensus evolves among Muslim leaders on the issue. My answer is that this consensus can never come about. Even at the time of the early Caliphs who came after the Prophet there was no consensus among Muslims, so how can we expect any consensus on this issue now? My personal opinion is that the Government must go ahead and pass a Bill and set up the Board in the larger interests of the Muslims of India and of the country as such. The opposition of a few people must not deter it from doing so because these people do not speak for the Muslims of this country as a whole.

[Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Social Policy at the National Law School, Bangalore. He can be contacted at ysikand@yahoo.com. Justice M.S.A. Siddiqui can be contacted at chairman.ncmei@nic.in]

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