By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
16 January 2018
The recent statement by Uttar Pradesh Waqf Board Chairman stating that madrasas are producing terrorist has expectedly created a huge controversy. Roundly condemned by one and all, including his own party-men like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, he later clarified that his remarks were targeted at ‘few’ madrasas which in the name of education promote enmity between groups and spread fanaticism. Whether the controversy will now die down after the clarification of the UP Waqf Chairman remains to be seen; what was very disconcerting was the reaction of many Muslim organizations and individuals on this issue.
The first salvo was fired by the Jamiat Ulema e Hind, which thinks of itself as the custodian of everything remotely Islamic in India. It filed a defamation suit against the person concerned for spoiling the reputation of Islam in India with an added intent of creating religious misunderstanding between Hindus and Muslims. There were other groups which went to Court charging the statement as a hate speech designed to create enmity between Hindus and Muslims. Why such a reaction? This is not for the first time that a person, Hindu or Muslim, has levelled such charges against madrasas. Hindu groups and their leaders like Shakshi Maharaj have been saying pretty much the same thing for decades now. No one thought of moving the Court against him. And certainly, this is not about Hindu groups alone. Not so much in the distant past, it was the Left Front government’s own Chief Minister in West Bengal who proclaimed publicly that madrasas produced terrorists. Not one Muslim organization thought it fit to go to Court against him or to charge him as promoting enmity between Hindus and Muslims. What is so different about Waseem Rizwi?
Part of the reason why there is such a vehemence against him is because he is a Shia. Social media platforms like twitter and Facebook are littered with voices pointing out that his statements against madrasas are only because he is a Shia. As a Shia, he is deemed to be less of a Muslim and more of an enemy of Islam. He is doing the work of the devil in trying to defame Islam. Posts on these platforms have delved into Sunni theology to support their arguments and all of them share the consensus that Shias must be considered beyond the pale of Islam.
One can only wonder where this amount of hate is coming from and how much our own Islamic theology is responsible for this. Rather than debating on the merits of the argument, it is very convenient to call out the minority identity of the person to proclaim that his arguments have no merit at all. This is the kind of laziness which has characterised many a so called Islamic scholarship. In reality this strategy tells us about the hollowness of the Sunni argument itself.
There cannot be any debate that much needs to be changed about the present state of madrasa education. But the allegation that madrasas produce terrorists is quite baseless and bogus and is borne out of sheer ignorance of this institution. Despite historic suspicion about madrasas, there has been very little on the table to show that madrasas teach or promote terrorism.
During the time when Advani was the home minister, he instituted a special inquiry into the linkages of madrasa education with extremism and terrorism. Despite the best efforts of the state, they could not come up with anything concrete and thus the inquiry was buried quietly. Hindu nationalism has always been suspicious of madrasas and such thinking about madrasas have informed their public discourse for long.
History of these institutions points to something quite the opposite. If nationalism is the benchmark against which any individual or institution has to be judged today, then there cannot be any debate that madrasas were nationalist. They participated in the national movement and were at the fore-front of struggle against the British rule, giving a call for total freedom even as most radical organizations were still toying with the idea of ‘home rule’.
Madrasas today are synonymous with conservatism and its outmoded ideology. What happens in these institutions in the name of learning is nothing but rote memorization of certain texts which have lost all relevance in the present time. In order that they remain relevant, radical changes are certainly required in the pedagogical structure of these institutions. They have to introduce modern texts and even interpret the old ones in new light.
Those who speak of reforming the system are very conveniently dubbed as opposed to Muslims and Islam. There are people within the Muslim community who have vested interests in linking madrasas with Muslim identity. Thus, any criticism of madrasa is automatically read as an attack on Muslim identity and cries of Islam in danger start doing the rounds in Muslim circles. This has to stop.
It is not that Muslims themselves are too happy with the institution. Time and again, there have been Muslims who have voiced the need to reform the system. These Muslims have been both liberals as well as those who have come out of the madrasa system themselves. Yet there concerns have been not been paid attention to. Orthodoxies within the Muslims have been successfully able to put pressure on various governments to keep the system as it is. Various governments have conceded to their demands in the fallacious belief that these good for nothing Ulema are the true representative of Indian Muslims.
There is a need to debate about the present relevance of madrasa education for Muslims in India. Part of the problem is that the social class of Muslims who access madrasa education. They come from the poorest of the poor Muslim families who come to these madrasas in the hope of some education and assured meals. Elite Muslims have never considered this section as Muslim enough and therefore have never paid attention to the problems faced by this section.
Added to this is also the fact that it is primarily low caste Muslims who acquire madrasa education. The dominant narrative of Indian Muslim politics which has been decidedly upper caste, has never paid attention to the requirements of the majority of low caste Indian Muslims. There is a need to have a dispassionate debate on madrasa education. Instead what we get is a polarised debate between a section who think that everything is wrong about madrasas and a section of Muslims who think that madrasas need to be defended at all costs. The tragedy is that no one is thinking about the Lakhs of Muslim children who are studying in these madrasas.
Arshad Alam is a NewAgeIslam.com columnist
Aayina, I presume you have sweet dreams, but have
you ever dreamt that one day Brahmin children and Dalit children will be able
to join hands as brothers and sisters? Fifty
years ago Martyn Luther King Jr had a dream that black and white children would
join hands as brothers and sisters. His speech "I have a dream" is very famous . He was shot dead by a white racist. Now his
dream has almost come true in many parts of America.
I put it to you Arshad, as well as to other great
writers like Naseer, Ghulam (Mr.Dehlvi), Ghulam (Mr. Siddiqi), Mohammad etc,
have you ever dreamt that one day the children of Sunni, Sufi, Shia, Ahmadis
would join hands as brothers and sisters?
Abdul Kalam once advised the young people to
dream, so that one day it would be materialised. In the case of racism
Religious higher-achy also should give a helping hand. During white Botha
government’s atrocities in South Africa, the Church appointed Desmond Tutu, a
black, as the Archbishop.
I am not preaching here, but I wish that Madrasa
teachers and students knew what is happening in the world. That will make them
think -why some communities are advanced and why some are behind-.
Allah says “IF YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER EVERYONE WILL
KNOW THAT YOU ARE MY DISCIPLE”
Arshad, the concept of Servant Leadership, which
I have mentioned in another thread, is slowly rising on the horizon. When, the
world’s management guru, Peter F. Drucker, a contemporary of Robert Greenleaf,
said “No leader is worth his salt who won’t set up
chairs.” It echoed all the universities in the world. I
have personally seen a woman-coordinator in a university setting up 30 chairs
in front of students. A school principal, with coat and suit, wearing a pair of
gloves, picking up the refuse dropped by the students. Institutions are
becoming PEOPLE CENTRED. Doctors coming out of their rooms and escort the
patient to their consultation rooms. Bank managers do the same with clients. There
are NGOs with FLAT STRUCTURE, the directives move sideways where as in the TALL
STRUCTURE, directives come from above. Leaders become humble (Not Trump) and
listen to the people intently.
The Servant Leadership is best suited for the teachers.
Good and humble teachers will always love the students and have high
expectation of their students. Their keen
eyes, always pick up students and praise them immediately when they do a good
thing. They will explain how this subject will be helpful in their later life. They
keep on telling not to be jealous of other students and students will be loved
by everyone if they ask opinion from other students on the subject.
“ABOVE THE ALL VIRTUES, PUT ON LOVE, WHICH BINDS
THEM ALL TOGETHER IN PERFECT UNITY” (Colossians 3:14)
Aayina, How many people, do you think, will understand,
connect and internalize the statement of Lincoln, in the Subcontinent? Will
they (Christians and Hindus) be able to say “O Dalits are our people, our blood,
they have not come as slaves with chains, black coloured and curly hair, we
should not discriminate them in any way; we should welcome them inside our
house and give them tea in the same cups we drink? This is one of the interview
questions of the Messiah, in the last Day of Judgment.
How many Muslims will be able to say “O the
Shias, the Ahmadis, the Sufis have not come like slaves with chains, they have
been brought up in Islamic civilization, they believe in the oneness of Allah,
they believe in the Holy Koran, therefore we should not discriminate them in anyway? If
we discriminate we will not be able to face the Messiah, the anointed One, in
the last Day of Judgement (Q 4:159)
INSTITUTIONAL RACISM INFECTS EVERY ASPECT OF SOCIETY
Hi Aayina, Did I speak about religion? I have given maximum praise to the great soul
Abraham Lincoln, so that Madrasa teachers may take an interest in reading
Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher. This is all with good intention.
You speak about Mari Alkatiti. Greatness goes to
him and the people of East- Timor. Alkatri being a Muslim could not return to
his country when Indonesia captured and ruling E.Timor. Is it not a great thing
when he returned to an independent 97% Catholic country he became the Prime
Minister 2002-2006. Again from September 2017. The world is in desperate need
of such a good example of Muslim-Catholic relationship.
I enjoy the difference of opinion. I am busy
preparing for a three month furlough. I may miss your lovely comments.
Arshad, thanks for your candid opinion and
forthright criticism. I think Madrasa teachers may get a cue from American
president Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher. We all know that Lincoln
was shot dead by a white racist for his statement “ALL MEN ARE BORN EQUAL”. It
was a difficult pronouncement 150 years ago, when there were African blacks who
were transported from Africa as slaves with chains. In respect of language,
civilisation, religion, and colour they were different. Yet he made that bold
statement regardless of the cost. He also made another great statement “AS I
WILL NOT BE A SLAVE TO A MASTER, I WILL NOT BE A MASTER TO SLAVES” reflecting
the golden rule. I believe the White House had black President within a short
period of 150 years because Lincoln stood for justice. It may take longer for a
Shia Muslim to become a president/prime minister in a Sunny majority countries.
Let us see what President Lincoln says to his son’s
My son starts school today. It is all
going to be strange and new to him for a while and I wish you would treat him
gently. It is an adventure that might take him across continents. All
adventures that probably include wars, tragedy and sorrow. To live this life
will require faith, love and courage.
So dear Teacher, will you please take
him by his hand and teach him things he will have to know, teaching him – but
gently, if you can. Teach him that for every enemy, there is a friend. He will
have to know that all men are not just, that all men are not true. But teach
him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero that for every crooked
politician, there is a dedicated leader.
Teach him if you can that 10 cents
earned is of far more value than a dollar found. In school, teacher, it is far
more honourable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to learn how to gracefully
lose, and enjoy winning when he does win.
Teach him to be gentle with people,
tough with tough people. Steer him away from envy if you can and teach him the
secret of quiet laughter. Teach him if you can – how to laugh when he is sad,
teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him there can be glory in failure
and despair in success. Teach him to scoff at cynics.
Teach him if you can the wonders of
books, but also give time to ponder the extreme mystery of birds in the sky,
bees in the sun and flowers on a green hill. Teach him to have faith in his own
ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong.
Try to give my son the strength not to
follow the crowd when everyone else is doing it. Teach him to listen to
everyone, but teach him also to filters all that he hears on a screen of truth
and take only the good that comes through.
Teach him to sell his talents and brains
to the highest bidder but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Let
him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patient to be brave.
Teach him to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have
sublime faith in mankind, in God.
This is the order, teacher but see what
best you can do. He is such a nice little boy and he is my son.
ONLY THE GOD OF MORAL PERFECTION IS GOD