Madrassa reform proposal evokes mixed responseJuly 15th, 2009 - 2:43 pm ICT by IANS
By Khalid Akhter
New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) Should the education imparted at madrassas be broad-based to include subjects like English, maths, science and computers to make it employment oriented? The proposal by Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal has not found favour with madrassa authorities, though it has been welcomed by many Muslim intellectuals.
Sibal has proposed introducing a Madrassa Board Bill, which will give broad-based education without affecting the religious teaching and also ensure that the degree obtained will be equivalent to that of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which will help in getting employment.
Abdul Khaleeq Madrasi, pro-vice chancellor of the prestigious (what is prestigious about it?)) Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband town of western Uttar Pradesh, is opposed to such reforms.
“Why is he (Sibal) trying to interfere in the education pattern of the madrassas? We will not support such a proposal,” Madrasi told IANS.
Madrasi maintains that only one percent of Muslim children in India study in seminaries and after the education is over they are able to get reasonable jobs. He feels that instead of “interfering” in the education pattern of the madrassas the “government should try to establish more schools for the community”.
Tahir Alam, a teacher at the Mazahir Uloom madrassa in Amroha city of Uttar Pradesh, says madrassas are meant for religious education and “introducing such reforms will kill the very purpose of madrassas”.
Welcoming Sibal’s proposal is Arshad Alam, assistant professor at the centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia university here. However, he feels that modern education would “add to the burden of already overburdened madrassa students”.
Alam, who has done his PhD on Indian madrassas, has given a call for an extensive debate on the issue. He said: “Reforms like this should be widely debated within the Muslim community, particularly involving the Ulama (religious leaders).”
According to Alam, the best way to increase employment opportunities for Muslims would be to set up more government schools and vocational institutions in Muslim areas rather than concentrate on madrassas where only a fraction of Muslims study.
Imtiaz Alam, a teacher in the Maualan Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad and a product of a madrassa in Lucknow, has also welcomed it. He said the step “will help to bring the madrassa student to the mainstream”.
Renowned Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan termed it as “good news”.
“This will change the future of Muslim children. Earlier too there were attempts to introduce such reforms, but I fail to understand the reasons for the opposition by the madrassa authorities,” Khan told IANS.
Mufti Mohammad Yasin, a government school teacher in Bijnore district of Uttar Pradesh, said it would help bring in modern education to the seminaries. “Since this is an era of modern technology, modern education is necessary alongside religious education and such reforms will be of great help.”
According to a senior official in the HRD ministry, Sibal is “determined” to introduce reforms in the madrassas.
Madrassas in India are mostly run with donations from the Muslim community, although some receive foreign donations as well.
There is no exact survey on the number of madrassas in the country. However, renowned columnist Yoginder Sikand in his book, “Bastion of the Believers: Madrassas and Islamic Education in India”, has put the figures at 30,000-40,000. This is around the figure put out by a survey conducted by the Hamdard Education Foundation.
A few madrassas are also affiliated to state governments like in Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Assam. These madrassas draw salaries and collect grants from their respective governments. More than 90 percent of the seminaries are run by the funds collected from Muslims.
The Quran and Islamic law form the basic component of the education imparted at madrassas, though some provide modern education as well. Passouts from the seminaries get jobs in accordance with the degree they obtain. Mostly the products of madrassas get the job of an imam in a mosque, earning a meagre salary of Rs.3,000-3,500.
(Khalid Akhter can be contacted at email@example.com)
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