A professional, enterprising face of Indian Muslims

June 19th, 2008 - 9:53 am ICT by IANS  

By Brij Khandelwal
Agra, June 19 (IANS) Breaking stereotypes about Muslims in India, a new directory here says the community is producing doctors, lawyers, accountants, poets, artists, architects, businessmen and experts in many fields. Agra’s Ghalib Research Academy has just published a comprehensive directory of Muslims, seeking to demonstrate that the community is not what it is made out to be but is rubbing shoulders with the mainstream.

S. Ikhtiyar Jafri, director of the academy, told IANS, “We have long been hearing that Muslims only marry and produce children, that they have nothing to do with modern education and that they don’t contribute to the country’s development.”

It is also made out that the community has no interest in social service and that it is unhygienic. “But during my research for the project, I did not encounter a single Muslim man who had four wives,” Jafri said.

The directory provides interesting insights into Agra’s Muslim community of around 325,000.

The city has 160 Muslim lawyers, 15 chartered accountants, 20 architects and civil engineers, 80 plus computer shops or retail counters owned by Muslims, in addition to 150-odd medical practitioners, 30 mediapersons, 75 poets, 20 Urdu writers, a dozen Hindi writers, more than a dozen prominent artists and around 300 government officials.

Jafri said the stereotype emerged because no systematic effort was made after independence to promote leadership and channelise or nurture the talents of the community.

No effort was made, bemoaned Jafri, to project a positive picture of the role and contribution of Muslims in evolving a composite “Ganga-Yamuni tehzeeb”.

“We thought we should study the ground realities and present before the community the true picture in terms of resources and reserves of the present generation of Muslims in Agra,” he said.

“Our year-long exploratory forays resulted in questions that beg answers from the community,” said Jafri.

Jafri also pointed out that Muslim individuals had done well on their own, without much help from either the government or the community as a whole.

Jafri himself is a poet, scholar, researcher and journalist of repute.

The directory lists more than 100 schools, 50 NGOs or welfare societies, 45 hotels and restaurants - all set up by Muslims. In addition to a legislator, there are eight Muslim corporators in the Agra Municipal Corporation and, of course, scores of political leaders in all political parties.

The biggest chunk of Muslim businessmen is involved in the shoe manufacturing and trading sector. Some have now ventured into the real estate and construction business.

The city has more than 170 mosques and 30 graveyards, in addition to more than 50 madrassas.

Jafri said since 1990, Muslim women had “impacted society in a fundamental way. Their entry into all fields - from law and medicine to management, hospitality and teaching - has gone up by more than 50 percent in just 8 or 10 years.”

Besides, there are Muslim youngsters venturing into newer fields like fashion and hospitality. Some women have also taken to becoming airhostesses.

“The directory, the first venture of its kind in Agra, will serve as a useful guide for planners,” hopes Jafri.

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