Reading with Allah — Madrasas in West Bengal

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 31 March 2010 | Posted in ,

Name of Book: Reading with Allah—Madrasas in West Bengal
Author: Nilanjana Gupta
Publisher: Routledge, New Delhi
Year: 2010
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-0-415-54459-7
Price: Rs. 595

Reviewed By Yoginder Sikand

Much has been written on the Indian madrasas or Islamic seminaries, but because the most influential madrasas in the country are concentrated in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, many of these writings tend to project north Indian madrasas as representative of madrasas in the country as a whole. Consequently, patterns and changing trends in madrasa education in the rest of India have been scantily dealt with, if at all, in the existing literature.

This well-documented work by Nilanjana Gupta, Professor of English at the Jadavpur University, Kolkata, is an in-depth study of the madrasa system of education in West Bengal, where some thirty per cent of the population are Muslims. Despite their formidable numbers and the fact that the so-called ‘progressive’ Left Front has been in power in West Bengal for decades now, the bulk of the Muslims in the state are economically, educationally and socially far behind the other communities, including even the Scheduled Castes.

The book begins with an engaging discussion about debates, set in motion with the advent of colonial rule in Bengal, about the usefulness or otherwise of madrasa education. Gupta points out that in pre-colonial Bengal, as in much of the rest of India, madrasas were centres not just of Islamic learning but also provided education in subjects such as Persian, Mathematics, Sciences and Medicine that were indispensable for would-be administrators and other government officials. Several madrasas were also open to Hindus of the ‘higher’ castes. The advent of the British and the new educational system that they set in place, she writes, marked the beginning of a rigid educational dualism, with secular or ‘modern’ subjects now being taught in Western-style schools, while madrasas began to narrow their focus, being restricted largely to Islamic subjects. This, in turn, led to lively debates among the Bengali Muslim community about the usefulness of madrasa education, whose echoes continue to reverberate even today.

For the British colonial administrators, as indeed for present-day secular educational planners, including the Indian state today, education was seen as a means for producing what Gupta calls ‘standardised’ or ‘homogenised’ subjects, trained for various jobs. The aim of education thus came to be essentially to mould students for a competitive job market. Worldly or material accomplishment was its basic objective. Other systems of education that were based on a non-materialist philosophy, and whose aim was essentially the moral or spiritual training of students, came to be seen as ‘useless’. This was how both the Muslim madrasas and the Hindu gurukuls began to be viewed. Hence, their critics argued, they were in substantial need of ‘reform’. Debates about the usefulness of madrasa education in terms of its ability to train students for the job market continue to rage even today, reflecting, at root, as Gupta very rightly points out, two very different conceptions of education, and indeed of life and its very purpose. Arguments for and against madrasa reforms, in Bengal, as in the rest of India, thus need to be seen in the context of this conflict of educational philosophies and worldviews.

The study then moves on to discuss the salient findings of the empirical research undertaken by the author in madrasas in three selected districts of West Bengal that have a sizeable Muslim population: South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad and Howrah. As in the rest of West Bengal, there are basically three types of madrasas in these districts: High madrasas and Senior madrasas, both affiliated with the government’s West Bengal Board of Madrasa Education, and khariji (also known asqaumi or azad) madrasas that are not affiliated to the Board.

The former two types of madrasas are administered and funded by the state government, which appoints their teachers and pays their salaries, and prescribes their syllabus. Over the years, Gupta points out, the High madrasas, which currently number over 500, have become almost identical to government higher secondary schools. They follow largely the same syllabus, except that they offer Arabic, instead of Sanskrit or Hindi, as a third language. The Arabic course also includes a basic modicum of Islamic education. However, the overall focus of the syllabus is decidedly secular, with only two periods per week allotted to Arabic. This reflects the perception of the West Bengal Madrasa Board that, as the report of the West Bengal Madrasah Education Committee of 2002 puts it, the High madrasas should be brought ‘at par with the national standards of education’ (p.34).

Consequently, Gupta indicates, the distinction, in terms of curriculum, between the schools run by the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and the High madrasas affiliated to the West Bengal Board of Madrasa Education has ‘practically disappeared’. The High madrasa final examination is now recognized as equal to the class 10 orMadhyamik exam of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, thus enabling High madrasa graduates to enroll in general colleges if they want to pursue higher secular education. Incidentally, this almost complete secularization of the High madrasas is not favoured by some Muslims, who regard these institutions as deviating from the fundamental purpose of madrasa education—of imparting a judicious balance of religious and ‘modern’ education.

Interestingly, Gupta notes, some additional books used in the affiliated High madrasas, for subjects such as History, are ‘more conscious about issues of class, identity, language and national identity than are the books approved by the Board of Secondary Education’ (p.38). Apparently, they give more stress to multiculturalism and the multi-religious nature of Bengali society, something that is lacking in the books used in other government schools that tend to reflect a more Sanskritised, or, in other words, a more Hindu/Brahminical tradition. Interestingly, some of the additional books used in the High madrasas stress gender equality, critique strict purdah, advocate women’s education, highlight the Bengali syncretistic tradition, laud the role of the Deobandi ulema in India’s freedom struggle and record the great contributions made by Muslims in the past to the various sciences.

Two other aspects of the High madrasas, as brought out by the study, deserve mention. Firstly, some 30 per cent of students (in addition to many teachers) of these madrasas are non-Muslims, mostly Hindus. Most of these students are from poor families from the so-called ‘low’ castes, who live in villages that lack quality government schools or affordable private schools. Secondly, girls considerably outnumber boys at the lower levels, indicating that parents prefer to send their boys to general schools if they can afford it. However, the drop-out rate of girl students is very high, and the proportion of girls at the higher levels in much less than that of boys.

The other sort of madrasas in West Bengal affiliated to the state Madrasa Board, the Senior madrasas, specialize in Islamic Studies while also claiming to provide a basic ‘modern’ education. They number almost 200. These madrasas, Gupta notes, are generally in a pathetic condition. Classes are held very irregularly, their teachers lack commitment, and their students are competent in neither Islam and nor in ‘modern’ subjects. The number of students enrolled in such madrasas is very low, and the pass rate in the final fazil degree examination is woeful. Many students leave midway to enroll in High madrasas or in general schools. Not surprisingly, parents who want their children to train as ulema or religious specialists prefer to send them to unaffiliated or khariji madrasas instead. As Gupta puts it, the Senior madrasas ‘seem to be locked into a situation where, by trying to address both the secular needs and the theological needs of the community simultaneously, they seem to be actually unable to satisfy neither. The education offered is therefore useless for the community’ (p.62). She argues that the Senior madrasas’ experiment of ‘trying to integrate two completely incompatible ideologies of knowledge structuring’ (p.69) has miserably failed.

The third sort of madrasas in West Bengal, the khariji madrasas, are run by private individuals or Muslim organizations. Gupta observes that there has been a rapid growth of such madrasas in the state in recent decades. They frame their own syllabus and appoint their own teachers. Most of them are residential institutions that specialize in Islamic Studies, training their students to become ulema. While several of them provide only religious education, a growing number of such madrasas have introduced ‘modern’ subjects, following the government-approved curriculum, in some cases till the eighth grade. This enables their students to join regular schools after a certain level if they so desire. Gupta notes that many of these madrasas propagate a literalist understanding of Islam and tend to inculcate an insular mentality in their students. In part, she says, this is an outcome of the fears of threats to Muslim identity that have mounted with the rise of aggressive anti-Muslim Hindu groups and movements. It has also to do with the demonisation of Islam and Muslims, now a global phenomenon, and the overall marginalization of the Muslim community in West Bengal and in India as a whole. At the same time, Gupta notes, this tendency towards what she calls ‘orthodoxy’ is ‘not at all connected with religious term or even religious militancy’ (p.172). In this regard, she stridently counters the oft-made allegation that these madrasas, particularly in the regions along with West Bengal-Bangladesh border, are being lavishly funded by Arab donors. She also dismisses as hollow the contention, incidentally allegedly made, among others, by the West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, that some of these madrasas are engaged in ‘anti-national activities’. Her study, she argues, ‘found no evidence of large funds being injected into the madrasa system’. ‘Nor’ she adds, did it ‘find any reason at all to substantiate the claim that madrasas were being used as centres for training terrorists’ (p.118). She highlights the irony of how, despite no Indian madrasa student having been found involved in terrorism, madrasas are routinely projected in the media as factories of terror. In this regard, she also points out that ‘local people, including Hindus, on the whole praised the efforts of the madrasas and the integrity of the teachers’ (p.173).

The book’s concluding chapter discusses ongoing debates about reforms in Muslim education in West Bengal. Gupta argues that, contrary to stereotypical images, Muslims in West Bengal, and, indeed, the rest of India, are not averse to ‘modern’ education. Often, she says, Muslim parents send their children to madrasas simply because they have no other affordable alternative. In this regard, she says, it is for the state to ensure quality and affordable schools and other educational facilities in Muslim areas. At the same time, Gupta is also aware of the desire on the part of many Muslim parents that their children should also have an Islamic education alongside ‘modern’ schooling. This is reflected in what she regards as a positive development and which she elaborates on in considerable detail—the emergence of a number of Muslim NGOs and societies that are now running ‘modern’ schools in the state that also provide their students with Islamic learning.

This book is a very welcome addition to the growing literature on madrasas in India. It should be of considerable use to educational planners, Muslim NGOs and, indeed, to all those interested in the subject of Muslim education.

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

Equality light in Shia marriage charter

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

By Cithara Paul

The All-India Shia Personal Law Board has proposed a model nikahnama — a marriage charter — which seeks to put Muslim women almost on a par with other Indian women in terms of rights.

The move by the highest body of Shias in the country comes against the backdrop of previous, but controversial, attempts to reform Muslim Personal Law in favour of women. Shias constitute 12 per cent of Muslims in India.

A key feature of the proposed nikahnama is that a divorced wife has the right to maintenance if she has no means of supporting herself. The maintenance should be paid by her former husband till she acquires a means of livelihood. At present, the maintenance period is limited to just three menstrual cycles.

The clause seems revolutionary when viewed in the context of the Shah Bano case. The Supreme Court had sought to put Muslim women on a par with other Indian women by granting them the same maintenance rights, angering Muslim clerics who accused the court of tampering with the Shariah and took to the streets. Not wanting to upset conservatives, the Rajiv Gandhi government passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act that ruled out equal maintenance rights to divorced Muslim women.

Case of a veiled Muslim student removed from class hints at Canada's integration issues

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Sandro Contenta

In Europe and parts of North America, the image of a Muslim woman with a veiled face is increasingly the trigger for anxious debates about national identity.

In France, where the wearing of Islamic headscarves in public schools has already been banned, politicians are poised to outlaw the veil in public buildings and public transport. In Italy, cabinet ministers have vowed to do the same. And in Britain — where the embrace of multiculturalism is considered the polar opposite of France's policy of assimilation — a top cabinet minister, Jack Straw, has spoken out firmly against the wearing of the niqab or burqa on British soil.

No surprise, then, that the issue hit the headlines last week in Canada, sparked by an incident in the largely French-speaking province of Quebec.

Naema Ahmed, a 29-year-old Egyptian, was attending a government-sponsored class in Montreal for immigrants who want to learn French.    In the middle of writing an exam, she was pulled out of class by a provincial official, who gave her a stark choice — remove the veil or leave the class. Ahmed left.

:: WOMEN :: Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan takes strong exception to ‘male chauvinism’ by a section of ulema

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan takes strong exception to ‘male chauvinism’ by a section of ulema

The Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has taken a strong exception to the ‘male chauvinism displayed lately by a section of ulema' recently at Lucknow and has called for their total boycott. State convenor of BMMA Naaz Raza issued a strongly worded statement and condemned the ‘pseudo religious assault on the gender-friendly move'. Ms. Raza also termed the women's reservation bill as the first step towards equality and justice for women.

Naaz said, "We believe that once the bill is adopted there can and will be democratic processes through which space and genuine participation of the marginalised segment of women — including those from the Muslim community — can be worked out."

Naaz was particularly agitated at the utterances of Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad and severely criticised him without naming him. Kalbe Jawwad had recently given controversial statements before the media in Lucknow. "Some men claiming to be cleric have made statements like Allah has sent women on earth to produce children and raise them to doctors and engineers. Their job is to give birth to ‘achche nasl ke bachche'...what do they know about politics," she said. Strongly condemning the "irresponsible and disgraceful statements", Raza termed the uttering "unjust, inhuman and violative of the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and also unIslamic."

'Now, nobody can call my son a terrorist'

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Mohammad Ameen is a proud father today, though his son is long dead and buried.

What has changed for the 55-year-old from Sanjarpur village in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh is a response to a Right to Information plea that his son, Atif Ameen, may not be an Indian Mujahideen terrorist on the suspicion of which he was gunned down in the controversial Batla House encounter on September 19, 2008.

According to the autopsy report, which was revealed after an RTI plea, the bullet wounds on the body of Atif - who was a Jamia Millia Islamia student and used to put up with his friends at the L-18 Jamia Nagar suggest that the allegations of him being killed in a gunfight might be wrong.

Mohammad Ameen
But Mohammad Ameen is concerned only about the fact that now nobody would dare call his son a terrorist. "No report can bring back my dead son. But it has at least rendered some authenticity to our claim about his innocence," he told MiD DAY. The sudden death of his young son has taken its toll on him but Mohammad Ameen remains resolute to restore the honour of his family.

:: ISSUES :: A Highway for Peace

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 28 March 2010 | Posted in ,

A Highway for Peace

By William John Cox

The latest flap over Israeli housing construction in East Jerusalem has caused me to reflect upon the very deep and complicated feelings I have about the city.

I first passed through Jerusalem in December 1979 in an attempt to sneak into Tehran shortly after the American embassy hostages were taken. I returned two years later following the favorable verdict in the Holocaust Denial case and shared morning tea with Prime Minister Begin. In 1992, I testified in a trial there about the publication of the suppressed Dead Sea Scrolls and refused to identify my secret client. My last visit was in 2000 when my wife and I were married at Christ Church in the Old City on Valentine’s Day.

The most pressing political issue is not who has the greatest international property rights in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Nor, is it that the Palestinian people are more genetically related to the ancient Israelites who occupied Jerusalem at the time of Jesus than the Ashkenazi Jews who now control the Israeli government and who exercise great influence over U.S. policy.

:: ISSUES :: The multiple facets of Islams in India

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 23 March 2010 | Posted in

The multiple facets of Islams in India

By Abhimanyu Singh

Human beings are complex entities. Anything involving them is complicated. When there are millions of them — as in the case of In the Name of Allah: Understanding Islam and Indian History, which considers the way Islam spread and gained sustenance in Indian society and polity — the complications riddle every aspect of the discourse.

In the preface, Raizuddin Aquil, who has written a tome on a similar subject, Sufism, Culture, and Politics: Afghans and Islam in Medieval North India, states that “the aim of the project was to move away from the rather constricted framework of the agenda-driven conventional history of medieval India to think of the larger questions on Islam and medieval Indian history…”

He attributes the spread of Islam in India to “cultural accretion over centuries and not to the use of political power for forced conversion” and brings into dispute the contention that mostly lower-caste Hindus converted to Islam. The demolition of Hindu temples to promote the cause of Islam is also questioned on the premise that it was more an act of demonstrating political/military than religious superiority. This is an important distinction and could serve as a guiding light in view of the popular — made more so by the right-wing forces — perception in India that the aggressive spread of Islam was paramount to the designs of Islamic reign in India. Nevertheless, the counter-view offered by the author needs to be bolstered with relevant proofs.

:: PEOPLE :: Indian atheist embraces Islam

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Indian atheist embraces Islam

By Md. Rasooldeen

A well-known Indian psychotherapist embraced Islam on Thursday (March 11, 2010).

Dr. Periyadarshan
Dr. Periyadarshan, who has changed his name to Abdullah, told Arab News Friday (March 12, 2010) that Islam is the only religion in the world that follows a book directly revealed from God.

He said that as a student of comparative religions he believes books of other faiths have not been directly revealed to mankind from God. He said the Holy Qur’an is still in the same format and style as it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) from Almighty Allah.

Dr. Abdullah is a visiting professor at the University of California in Los Angeles.

He also acted in the famous Tamil film “Karuthamma” about the killing of newborn baby girls in some remote villages in India. The production received national award from the Indian government.

“I was well known in India for my atheist theology and later I became to realize that religion is the only way out for human beings both in this world as well as in the hereafter,” he said.

Dr. Abdullah will be performing Umrah on Saturday on his first visit to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

Voices Against Terror - Indian Ulema on Islam, Jihad and Communal Harmony

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 22 March 2010 | Posted in ,

Book Review

Voices Against Terror: Indian Ulema on Islam, Jihad and Communal Harmony

Name of Book: Voices Against Terror: Indian Ulema on Islam, Jihad and Communal Harmony
Publisher: Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, Mumbai (vak@bom3.vsnl.net.in)
Pages: 207
Year: 2010
Price: Rs. 100

Edited and Translated by Yoginder Sikand

Islam, like all other religions, can be interpreted in diverse ways. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is no unanimity among Muslim scholars on the details of the Islamic concept of jihad and Islamic teachings about relations between Muslims and others. Radical Islamists regard jihad, in the form of physical warfare, as a permanent duty binding on all Muslims. Like some conservative ulema, they also believe that Muslims must necessarily hate what they regard as ‘disbelievers’ and ‘infidels’, seeing that as an ex-pression of their love for Islam and as being mandated by the Quran. These supremacist understandings emerge from their own reading of the Quran and Hadith, the corpus of sayings attributed to or about the Prophet Muhammad. They are also reflected in some strands of traditional Islamic jurisprudence or fiqh, which developed in the centuries after the demise of the Prophet. On the other hand, numerous other Muslim ideologues and scholars vehemently disagree with radical jihadists on their understanding of jihad, their political vision and their interpretation of Islamic teachings about relations between Muslims and others.

The essays included in this volume, translated from Urdu, all deal with the issue of Islamic teachings on jihad and inter-religious and inter-community relations. What unites the authors of these essays, Indian ulema who represent different Islamic sectarian and ideological tendencies, is a strident opposition to what they regard as the jihadists’ gross misinterpretation and misuse of the concept of jihad and by, like some traditional ulema, their unconcealed hostility towards people of other faiths and persuasions. Simultaneously, these authors also seek to address widespread misgivings among non-Muslims about Islam, particularly with regard to Islamic injunctions about jihad and inter-community relations.

:: ISSUES :: Women’s Reservation Bill - Attempt to stifle the voice of Muslims

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 13 March 2010 | Posted in ,

Women’s Reservation Bill: Attempt to stifle the voice of Muslims

By Navaid Hamid

Every new day has its own significance and if one goes into the history of human evolution, one finds that a good number of dates have left a mark on the history of civilisations. Some dates have dramatically changed the course of history while others have shamed humanity.

If we scrutinise the “9th of March” in the history of civilisations, we get the glimpse of its impact on human history. It was on 9th March 1496 when the Jews were expelled from Austria. State of Naples banned kissing in public with death for the offenders on this day. On this day in 1841, the US Supreme Court ruled that blacks are free. Same day in 1893 witnessed the killings of thousands of Arabs by Congo cannibals. The Russian Bolshevik Party became the Communist Party on the 9th of March 1918 and in neighbouring Ukraine, mobs massacred Jews of Seredino Buda on the same day and year. This day in 1935 saw the launching of a new air force by Adolf Hitler. It was on 9th March 1945 when America started a fresh offensive against Japan and Tokyo was carpeted with 2,000 bombs killing more than 80,000 residents. In the year 1956, this day saw the military might of USSR suppress popular demonstrations in Georgia. It was again 9th March but of the year 1959 which saw the debut of the Barbie doll in the American markets.

With the passage of the Women Reservation Bill by the upper house of the Indian Parliament, 9th March 2010 would also be remembered in the Indian history for a number of reasons.

:: ENTERTAINMENT :: The Terror of Bollywood

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 March 2010 | Posted in ,

The Terror of Bollywood

With Hollywood shying away from Islamist villains, it's up to Indian films to give them a showing.

By Arun Venugopal

"The Hurt Locker" may have won big at the Oscars this week, but for movie fans outside the U.S., the night was a bust. With a paltry $4 million in earnings overseas, hardly anyone saw the film. One reason: Like other post-9/11 pictures about Iraq and the global war on terror, Kathryn Bigelow's was weighed down by dull historicity and an obsession with America's conduct in the war. Such movies often fail to address the core issue: Islamic radicalism. Enter Bollywood.

Back in the carefree 1990s, Hollywood's take on terrorism—"True Lies," "Die Hard 2," "Air Force One"—was fun and spectacularly successful. These were essentially live-action cartoons, in which the extremists were interchangeable: an evil Arab was just as script-worthy as an evil Kazakh. But even before the World Trade Center attacks, Hollywood got cold feet. Under pressure from Islamic groups tired of googly-eyed jihadi villains, it scrubbed many Muslim terrorists out of screenplays. In the name of political correctness the industry shifted from caricature to avoidance, and in the process became irrelevant.

:: ISSUES :: India's Muslims and job quotas

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India's Muslims and job quotas

The call to poll. Politicians vie for poor-Muslim votes

Fifteen years after he migrated with his family to the bright lights of Delhi, Muhammad Naushad has little to show for it. An illiterate 20-year-old weaver, he earns 2,000 rupees ($43) a month, half of which he sends to his mother in the poor state of Bihar. Amid the evening babble of Nizamuddin, a fly-blown Muslim quarter in the heart of India’s capital, Mr Naushad says his only ambition is to get a better job. It is hard to guess what that might be.

He is all too typical of India’s 160m Muslims. Found mostly in its northern and eastern states, poor giants such as Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bihar and West Bengal, they are among the country’s poorest and least educated people. According to a 2006 government-commissioned report, Muslims are almost as badly off as dalits, Hinduism’s former “untouchables”—a finding made tragic by the dashed hopes it represents: many Indian Muslims once converted from Hinduism to escape that reviled low-caste status.

To tackle this, another commission whose report was released in December recommended extending to Muslims a scheme of positive discrimination aimed at low-caste Hindus. It would “reserve” 10% of public-sector jobs for Muslims, and a further 5% for other religious minorities, chiefly Christians. The commission says that this patronage would be dispensed not simply on the basis of religion, which the constitution forbids, but because India’s religious minorities are, by definition, deprived. It also recommends that “Muslim dalits”, who tend to do the same menial jobs as Hinduism’s lowliest, should be eligible for the same perks as them.

:: ISSUES :: Inequitable treatment is ground for divorce, says Kerala HC

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Inequitable treatment is ground for divorce, says Kerala HC

The Kerala High Court on March 3, 2010 held that in a claim for divorce under Section 2(8)(f) of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act-1939, the assertion of wife in a polygamous marriage that she was treated inequitably by her husband could be accepted by the court as reason for divorce.

The Muslim Personal Law allows polygamy which is accepted by the Indian courts.

Passing the order, the Division Bench comprising Justices R Basanth and M C Hari Rani said that it was the assertion of woman that matters in the case if she felt inequality from the husband. “She is the best judge to decide whether her husband was showing discrimination towards her or not,” the court said.

:: INTERFAITH RELATIONS :: Seminar on peaceful co-existence in Islam and Indian religions held at New Delhi

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Seminar on peaceful co-existence in Islam and Indian religions held at New Delhi

The First International Seminar on Peaceful Co-existence in Islam and Indian Religions was organised here at New Delhi on March 6, 2010. The seminar aimed at building better relations between Islam and believers of various faiths in India.

The two-day seminar, which was held at India Islamic Cultural Centre, was organized by the office of the Al-Mustafa International University of Iran in New Delhi. The seminar was inaugurated by Dr. G R Mahdavi, Head of Al-Mustafa International University of Iran.

:: HAJ :: Mohsina Kidwai elected chairperson of Haj committee

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Mohsina Kidwai elected chairperson of Haj committee

Senior Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai was on March 10, 2010 elected chairperson of the Haj Committee of India. Hasan Ahmed and Aboo Bucker were elected vice chairmen at the meeting of the newly constituted committee, according to a statement by the ministry of external affairs.

Hajj Committee is a government panel that makes arrangements for the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy cities of Makkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

"The ministry of external affairs, which is the nodal authority for administering the Haj Committee Act, 2002, convened the first meeting of the Haj Committee to elect a chairperson and two vice chairpersons," the statement said.

:: COMMUNALISM :: Why teach only Gita in schools, ask Madhya Pradesh minorities

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Why teach only Gita in schools, ask Madhya Pradesh minorities

By Sanjay Sharma

Minorities in Madhya Pradesh have criticised plans to introduce the Bhagvad Gita in state-run schools, saying the scriptures of other religions should also be part of the syllabus, even as a section of Muslim leaders sees nothing wrong with it.

The Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh has said the government should, if it has to, teach the scriptures of all religions and not just the Hindu scriptures.

:: PEOPLE :: Egypt's top cleric Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi dies at 81

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Egypt's top cleric Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi dies at 81

Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Egypt's foremost Muslim cleric, died on March 10, 2010 while on a trip to Saudi Arabia. He was 81 at the time of his death. He died of a heart attack in the Saudi capital Riyadh, where he was attending a prize-giving ceremony. His burial took place the same day in Jannatul Baqee cemetery in Madinah after funeral prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque.

An adviser to the Sheikh told Egyptian television Sheikh Tantawi's death was a shock, as before leaving for Saudi Arabia he had seemed in "excellent shape and health".

Sheikh Tantawi was a prominent voice of the Islamic world and head of Al-Azhar University, the highest religious authority in Egypt and Sunni Islam's centre of learning and scholarship. He was also the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque. He was appointed to this position by Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in 1996. He was appointed Grand Mufti of Egypt in 1986. He held this position for almost 10 years, until he joined Al-Azhar in 1996.

:: EDUCATION :: Indian school's closure to affect 3,000 pupils by 2013

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 10 March 2010 | Posted in

Indian school's closure to affect 3,000 pupils by 2013

By Rayeesa Absal

Parents are suffering growing desperation amidst lack of sufficient seats in Indian schools in the city.

While the demand for Indian school seats has outstripped available seats in previous years too, new concerns are fuelled by the announcement that one of the schools may close down.

The decision of the school's management to close Sherwood Academy and Merryland Kindergarten, following the Indian curriculum, will affect nearly 3,000 students by 2013.

The three decade old schools, known for their strong academic focus, will close the Indian curriculum-following schools — under the management — by 2013.

:: BUSINESS & ECONOMY :: Microfinance grapples with success

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Microfinance grapples with success

By Subir Roy

Microfinance is in the news, again for the wrong reasons. Five years ago, it was tension over multiple lending and coercive recovery in Andhra Pradesh. Now it is Muslim community leaders in a couple of districts in Karnataka issuing a fiat to their members to renege on microfinance institution (MFI) loan repayments as they do not approve of such borrowings. What’s worse, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued a severe warning to MFIs against wrong practices. RBI’s main concern, reports indicate, is benami lending, re-lending to cover up bad loans and poor governance.

But these are not the ultimate concerns. If this was all then the large number of unhealthy and unprofessional MFIs would wither away, ending the sector’s exponential growth. The bigger problem, say insiders, lies not with failures but successes. The original founders of the industry are increasingly exiting in favour of private equity (PE) funds, enabling some founders to encash at $100 million or more and thereby establishing MFI valuations at even half a billion dollars! The PE funds are seeking at least 20 per cent return on equity. If anybody dreamed of microfinance becoming mainstream and getting global funding then this is it.

Expats set up free dialysis centre in India

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 08 March 2010 | Posted in

By V.M. Sathish

A clinic that will provide free dialysis for kidney patients who cannot afford to pay for treatment has been set up in India by the Dubai branch of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC).

The clinic at Calicut, Kerala, has nine dialysis machines donated by philanthropists and the business community in the Gulf and is the first free medical facility of its type in the state.

Many Indian expatriates return home to Kerala from the Gulf after contracting diabetes and kidney disease, and a large number have to sell their properties to pay for treatment.

The KMCC is the overseas wing of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) political party. The organisation, which has 150,000 members in the UAE, is also starting a scheme to provide free medicines worth Dh100,000 per year.

Poor patients in the UAE will each receive drugs worth Dh200 from pharmacies across the country.

AP Abdusamad Zabil, President of the CH Centre Dubai and Chairman of the dialysis centre in Calicut, said the multi-million-dirham project had been launched after a severely ill kidney patient who underwent dialysis 400 times at the Calicut Medical College could not afford to pay for a 401st session. The KMCC is working closely with the college to establish the free clinic.

The CH Centre is a medical facility with branches at the Regional Cancer Centre in Trivandrum, Trichur Medical College and Calicut Medical College that gives free medicine and accommodation to patients and their relatives.

"The CH Centre has been at the forefront of providing free medical services to poor patients in the Malabar region of Kerala," said Zabil. "Many Indian expatriate workers return home from the UAE with diabetes and kidney disease and after spending all their money on the initial treatment some cannot afford dialysis, which costs Dh120 a session.

"Many patients often have to sell their homes or other assets to complete their treatment. The new dialysis centre will provide free treatment to all patients irrespective of their caste or religion and will give preference to expat workers who return from the UAE and other Gulf countries."

Ibrahim Ilayettil, General Secretary of KMCC Dubai, said the centre will provide free dialysis to 27 patients per day and the facilities will eventually be expanded with the support of Gulf-based Indian businessmen.

"The KMCC, the largest Indian expatriate community association in the UAE, has received support from its members and well-wishers to finance the charity project back home and needs their continued backing to meet the day-to-day expenses," he added.

"A non-resident Indian in Saudi Arabia has provided three dialysis machines and AP Shamsudhin bin Moihideen, Chief Patron of KMCC and Chairman of the Regency Group, has also contributed generously to the project."

The free medicine scheme for patients in the UAE – known as the Jeevan Raksha Programme, or life saving scheme – is being financed by the Malabar Gold jewellery chain.

Patients who cannot afford to buy medicines can approach KMCC offices and obtain drugs from participating pharmacies. A prescription from an approved doctor is the only documentary proof needed to obtain the free medicine, said Ilayettil. KMCC members will, in addition, be able to claim discounts from the outlets.

Indian Muslim News - BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

'Islamic finance has big potential in Russia'

By Mushtak Parker

Maxim Osintsev is a Russian banker with a difference. He is a fluent Arabic speaker and has a passion for Islamic finance, which he says comes from the heart. As managing director, Oil & Gas Department at Sberbank, the largest commercial bank in Russia, he is on a mission to convince his colleagues and senior management that purely as a business proposition Islamic banking makes sense because there is a ready made potential market of 20 million Muslims in the federation. Sberbank (the National Savings Bank of Russia) is 60 percent owned by the Russian government through the Central Bank of Russia and 40 percent by the private sector including 24 percent by foreign investors and its shares are publicly listed and traded on various stock exchanges including the London Stock Exchange. Not surprisingly, the chairman of Sberbank's supervisory committee is Sergey Ignatiev, who is also the chairman of the Central Bank of Russia. Sberbank has a 50 percent share of retail deposits and 31 percent share of the total Russian loan market. Its total assets at end January 2010 were 6.99 trillion rubles. At the same time Sberbank is also expanding overseas and is set to enter the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) market, which is another reason why it should also have Islamic financial products in its portfolio. Here Osintsev discusses with Arab News why Islamic finance has big potential in Russia and the CIS countries, and outlines a potential roadmap for the future implementation of Islamic finance in the country.

Indian Muslim News - FOREIGN

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

Saudi Arabia, India poised to play bigger role in world economy

By John Sfakianakis

The trading relationship between Saudi Arabia and India is among the most-strategic bilateral bonds for either country. As India's largest supplier of crude oil, Saudi Arabia is favorably positioned to benefit from burgeoning demand for energy in Asia's third-largest economy, set to experience annual economic growth rate of 7-8 percent for the foreseeable future. The balance of trade between the two states has consistently swung in favor of Kingdom, its trade surplus standing at SR67.3 billion in 2008, up almost seven-fold from 2000 levels.

For India, Saudi Arabia comes fourth after China, the United States and the United Arab Emirates as its most-important trading partner. Saudi imports of Indian goods stood at SR18 billion in 2008, marking an almost six-fold rise from 2000, according to data of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA). That positioned India as the sixth-largest source of Saudi imports, accounting for 12.4 percent of the Kingdom's total imports from Asia in 2008.

India's geographic dependence on Gulf oil is likely to become amplified in the coming years due to limited prospects for enhancing domestic energy production.

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