Gujarat model for madrasas

Lack of education is a pressing problem in the Muslim community. The PM, ever since his stint as Gujarat CM, has sought to address the issue.

Written by Syed Zafar Islam | Published:November 13, 2017 12:40 am
madrasas, Narendra Modi, Madrasa education, modernism of madarsa, Gujarat elections There are still some people in the community whose discomfiture with the government initiatives is palpable and they are seeing it as an interference in the community’s religious matters. (Picture for representation purpose)

Modi and Madrasa… Sounds odd? The one an anathema to the other? That’s what the Congress, RJD, SP, BSP and other divisive parties like the TMC besides self-appointed messiahs of the Indian Muslim community would like us to believe.

Let them stay busy with the idle profession of myth-making. The reality on the ground speaks for itself. Winds of change are sweeping gently through the frozen-in-time Indian madrasas. Obscurantism is giving way to modernism. The next generation of madrasa students is most likely to compete for jobs on a level playing field. They will be agents of change in their community and will play their part in nation-building.

The architect of this change is none other than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Remember his famous statement — his wish to see a laptop in one hand of a Muslim student and the Quran in his other hand? He has carried this conviction into action. Away from the media glare, the Modi regime is busy empowering young Muslim boys and girls studying in thousands of madrasas across the country.

The decision of the Yogi Adityanath government to introduce NCERT books in madrasas without disrupting the religious curriculum is in keeping with the spirit of Prime Minister Modi’s mission to educate and empower the Muslim youth by modernising madrasas. The Nai Manzil scheme, launched soon after PM Modi came to power, has been promoting modern education and developing scientific temperament in madrasas with the introduction of science, computers, mathematics and English. The effort also includes developing multiple skills which will come in handy for Muslim students when they get into the job market.

In UP madrasas, science and mathematics have been made compulsory for students at the intermediate level. The move follows the launch of an online madrasa portal by the Adityanath government in August. There are 19,000 big and small madrasas in UP, one-third of them partly or fully funded by the state. The response of the Muslim community is heartening. Until September, nearly 3,000 madrasas had registered with the portal. Hundreds are queuing up to register. The idea is to encourage transparency and isolate the fly-by-night operators.

There are still some people in the community whose discomfiture with the government initiatives is palpable and they are seeing it as an interference in the community’s religious matters. Far from it. Lack of education is a persistent problem among the Muslim community and Modi had recognised this when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. He had helped the madrasas there and encouraged Muslims to acquire knowledge and education. Consequently, look where the Gujarati Muslims are now. There were barely 200 Muslim-run educational institutions at the time of the Gujarat riots in 2002. Today there are as many as 800. The Gujarati Muslims never complained of government interference. They have understood the importance of education and they appear to be truly focussed on educating the Muslim youth.

When Modi won the general election he once again highlighted the need for educating Muslims. In fact, in his speech in Parliament after becoming the prime minister, he referred to a Muslim youth who ran a cycle repair shop. He was pained to see how he was running the same shop that belonged to his grandfather. He identified lack of education and skills as the main reason for the young Muslim’s plight.

Resistance to government help is counterproductive. Not walking shoulder-to-shoulder with other communities is not an option. Believe in your prime minister. Don’t forget that Modi was perhaps the only prime minister who so openly hailed Indian Muslims as patriots and rejected the linkage between religion and terrorism. In an interview to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria telecast on September 19, 2014, PM Modi said, “Indian Muslims will live and die for India and there will be no takers for al Qaida in India.” Again, while addressing the Council for Foreign Relations in New York on September 30, 2014, he repeated the same sentiment and added that “Terrorism in India is ‘exported’ and not ‘home-grown’.”

We should not give the impression to the world that we have not moved on from the time we collectively opposed the introduction of English and abstained from learning it for decades, arguing it was the language of the infidels. We also boycotted the modern school curriculum of Lord Macaulay in 1838. This pushed us back and we are still suffering from that folly.

A Sir Syed is born but once in centuries. At present, no one seems to be coming forward from the Muslim community to lead them in education. There might be individual efforts here and there and there might be some madrasas which have already introduced modern subjects but the vast majority are stuck in a time warp.

Let’s not forget the importance of learning highlighted so emphatically in the Quran. The magical “Iqra” or read was the first word Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) was asked to utter. Reading, learning and acquiring knowledge and even having an inquiring mind have been heavily emphasised in the holy book. The madrasas need to catch up with the national curriculum. They ought to modernise themselves to stay relevant.

The “saviours of Muslims” in the community need to stand up and be counted. They need to take leadership roles in educating the youth rather than spending endless hours on national TV debates on singing the national anthem or arguing whether yoga is un-Islamic.

For Muslims, the Congress was long on promise but short on delivery. In other words, the Congress only practised appeasement. This is well-documented. The Muslims of India need to trust their prime minister. He is already delivering.

The writer is a national spokesperson of the BJP and a former managing director of Deutsche Bank, India. Views are personal.

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