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Modern education for Muslim children still a distant dream

Modern education for Muslim children still a distant dream

Author: Akhilesh Suman/M Madhusudan
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: October 4, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/206558/Modern-education-for-Muslim-children-still-a-distant-dream.html

Two years since it was first conceptualised and now taken up afresh, the plan to impart modern (non-theological) education to nearly six lakh Muslim children studying in madrasas across the country still does not seem to have become a reality. And it looks unlikely in the near future.

On Saturday, less than one-third of the total 59 Muslim MPs from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha turned up for the meeting here convened by Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal to evolve a consensus on setting up the Central Madrasa Board (CMB). But a majority from even among the 18 (though 30 had confirmed to participate), who actually attended, opposed the Board's structure as envisaged in the draft CMB Bill, 2009 and called for effecting major changes.

More importantly, the proposal met with opposition from Congress' key UPA partner Trinamool Congress and none other than Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed. The BSP and MIM, both extending an outside support to the Government, too opposed besides an Independent parliamentarian. A JD(U) MP too pitched in to voice his opposition.

The proposal, however, saw the support coming in from the BJP, CPI, and CPI (M) besides the National Conference. Congress member Rashid Alvi and Independent MP Mohammad Adeeb though did not oppose the motive of the Government but advised to delay and go slowly on the sensitive issue. Interestingly, the RJD and LJP drew a blank in terms of participation.

"Three points of views emerged from the meeting. About four to five MPs said we should not even think of it. An identical number of others said it's a good proposal. The rest, the majority, said the proposal was in the right direction but needed major changes. They said the draft should be recast," Sibal told mediapersons after his meeting with the MPs.

Clearly wishing to take no chances, Sibal has now lobbed the ball in the court of the Muslim MPs. "I have asked them to make their objections in writing and also suggest how to constitute the Board within a month. We will have no objections to it and follow it. Once a consensus among the Muslim MPs evolves we will take it up with the Ulemas. We are ready to wait and are in no hurry. If the community says it doesn't want it, we will not go ahead with it. If we go ahead it will be only after a consensus," Sibal maintained.

The Bill's provisions for the 15-member Board's composition calls for a Muslim religious scholar each from Deoband, Barelvi and Ahi-i-Hadith schools, a scholar each from the Imam Shafai, Shia and Dawoodi Bohra sects besides a Muslim scholar of the traditional madrasa education.

But if some MPs said they were against such a division of the Muslim community, some others called for clearly defining the concept of framework and mode of language besides specifying the powers of the Board. Despite Sibal's insistence that there would be no interference in their theological education, it did not cut ice with the MPs.

Asaduddin Owaisi, the Lok Sabha MP of All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimmen (AIMIM) from Hyderabad, a law graduate from London and who did his schooling from a public school, was the most vociferous opponent.

"The Government should take steps for the remaining 96 per cent Muslim students (4 per cent of Muslim children go to madrasas) who don't go to madrasas. Instead of changing the originality of the theological schools the Government should recognise the degrees given by them so that they get some meaningful job on that basis," Owaisi told The Pioneer. Shaifqur Rahman Barq of the BSP supported him. Ahmad Saeed Malihabadi (Independent) too opposed the Government's move.

"Madrasa is the responsibility of the Muslims for the purpose of community. We neither want Government interference in it nor seek any Government aid for that. It would create a situation where there would be a dearth of even maulvis to perform religious rituals at the time of birth, death and marriage. Regulation of madrasas in Bihar and West Bengal have turned them into normal schools and theological teaching and training have been relegated to the background, "said Asaduddin Owaisi Lok Sabha MP, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimmen

"We oppose the way they want to control the madrasas. The UPA Government might have good intentions behind regulating madrasas, but what if another Government comes later on. The Government should hold extensive talks with Muslim organisations and institutions before taking any decision," said Shafiqur Rahman Barq Lok Sabha MP, BSP

"It seems the Government thinks madrasas create terrorists. Else, what is the motive behind such a move? I will make opposition known in writing," said Ali Anwar Rajya Sabha MP, JD(U).


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