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Marx, Madarsa and invasion of Bengal

Marx, Madarsa and invasion of Bengal

Author: Abhijit Bhattacharyya
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 30, 2002

On January 25, 2002, the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad said that he was "concerned about Malaysians studying Islam in Pakistan", as they could be trained as militants to overthrow his Government.

Mr Mahathir said he was "worried Malaysians attending Pakistani madarsas might forge links with Afghanistan's ousted Taliban movement and Al Qaida, to learn about weapons, making bombs and the tactics of war. They have been trained on all these there and when they return they will attempt to carry them out here." Malaysia's official religion is Islam and 52.9 per cent of its 23.2 million people are Muslims.

Earlier, on January 14, Islamic Pakistan's federal minister for communications and railways, Lt General (retired) Javed Ashraf, said in Abu Dhabi: "The 12,000 madarsas in Pakistan will not be affected. They will only be moderated. We want to bring them into the mainstream." He, however, observed: "Some madarsas had been advocating hatred."

Interestingly, when the Pakistani minister was speaking of madarsas in Abu Dhabi, Maulana Abdul Aziz, Imam of Islamabad's main Red Mosque, was threatening an "Islamic revolution". A "reaction" was brewing. This "government" of Musharraf "is paving the way for Islamic revolution", as restrictions have been imposed on madarsas. "New madarsas cannot be built without permission and all of them have to register and be brought into the mainstream education system."

Notwithstanding the contradictory posture of the Pakistani minister's declaration and the Maulana's threat, the police (physically) started checking the unregistered and unrecognised madarsas to bring them under Government control with the mandatory provision to provide details of both local and foreign students. Close on the heels of the madarsa matter in Pakistan, came the warning of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Speaking at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on January 25, 2002, Mr Straw blamed Muslim countries of encouraging Islamic extremism by suppressing dissent and failing to encourage democracy.

Whether, Mr Straw is right or wrong is not the issue. But the reality is, Pakistan too is feeling the need to reform its ecclesiastical sector, which thus far had been a forbidden territory. Once again on Wednesday, January 30, 2002, General Musharraf appealed to the religious schools and declared that the "madarsa students should join mainstream". For the first time since assumption of political power through coup on Tuesday, October 12, 1999, Gen. Musharraf visited "seminaries" and declared, "I am not critical of madarsas. I want children to be educated in a way that they could be absorbed in the mainstream. Pakistan has been left behind in science and technology. We want to close the gap," differing with "those who interpret the country's Islamic ideology in a conservative way".

The only unprecedented silver lining in an area of perennial Indian darkness and ignorance of terrorism and fundamentalism, is the forceful statement of the Marxist Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, against some of the madarsas of Indian Bengal and the need to bring the unregistered seminaries under the control of the local government. "ISI and Pakistan are the twin dangers to the state which are trying to break Bengal and sowing the seeds of dissension and destruction amongst the Muslims thereof."

Hitting out at the critics of the West Bengal Government, Mr Bhattacharya went to the extent of declaring that, "Those soft on ISI threat, are enemies of India." One really thought that the Indian Hindu Bengalis had at last woken up to the reality of threat to India's security. The suffering of the Indian Hindu Bengalis notwithstanding, it is a difficult task to stir them in matters fundamentalism and religious terrorism. The intellectual Hindu Bengali's mind traverses the universe, transcending all borders. Thus, an educated Hindu Bengali is a "universal poet", an "international economist" and a "socialist of the mankind". He is busy for the welfare of the downtrodden of South East Asia or South Africa, but rarely understands the dangers closer to his cottage. It is this credulity and cocktail of the mind of an Indian Hindu Bengali, coupled with the psyche of religious fundamentalist and terrorist of the imported type, which is a cause for grave concern.

Going back to the international scene, one finds that even the Muslim countries are in a quandary facing terrorism and fundamentalism of their own brethren. Even Pakistan, the cradle of Taliban, the creator of cross-border terrorism in the Indian subcontinent is saying that, "everyone is sick of Kalashnikov culture." The Pakistani army chief and the self-appointed President wants to "check abuse of mosques and madarsas and they must not be used for spreading political and sectarian prejudices." However, some educated and "secular" Indians still do not realise that the world has undergone a revolutionary change since September 11, 2001, when the economy of the White Anglo Saxon Protestant was hit by Islamic terror.

(The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College of India and the views are his personal. The concluding part of this article will appear Wednesday)

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