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After years of resistance, why it’s time for Madrasas to go modern

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By Nithin Sridhar

Madrasas and other institutions that do not teach subjects like Math and Science will not be recognized as formal schools, according to the latest decision taken by Maharashtra government. Further, they will not receive state funding and the students in them will be marked as “out of school”. Hence, around 1.5 lakh students enrolled in 1889 registered Madrasas will stand to be marked as being “out of school”.

Though the Minister of State for Minority Affairs, Mr. Kamble has clarified that the measure is aimed to make sure that such students can be included into mainstream, it has been heavily criticized by Muslim leaders and opposition parties. Kamal Farooqui of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has been quoted as saying- “It is ill-designed and ill-timed, I don’t know why they are doing it.”

But what is being ignored by all the critics of the decision is the fact that without imparting education in crucial subjects like Math, Science, Social Studies, Computers, and English, no modernization is possible.

What are Madrasas?

Madrasas are centres of Islamic learning. Although some Madrasas teach secular subjects like logic, language (Arabic through the medium of Urdu), Islamic history and geography, in general, they have a religion-based curriculum focusing on the Quran and other Islamic texts.

They do not train students in modern science, technology and value systems. The major difference between Madrasas and regular schools is that the education imparted in Madrasas are not enough to qualify the students for employment in modern-day offices.

In 2013, Maharashtra government had launched Dr. Zakir Hussain Madrasa Modernization Scheme, under which the government will fund various activities like building libraries, hostels etc. of those Madrasas that would enroll with the scheme.

In return, these Madrasas were asked to teach Math, Science, Languages and Social Sciences. But, only 556 Madrasas availed this scheme in 2014-15. Further, the religious clerics raise the issue of government interference, every-time there is an attempt at introducing Madrasa modernization schemes be it in the states or at the centre. This clearly depicts the reluctance of Madrasas to modernize themselves and mainstream their students.

Why is modernization necessary?

Madrasas in India originated during Delhi Sultanate. It was primarily a medium to equip the youth for administrative services of the Sultanate. Since the cessation of Muslim rule in India, graduates from Madrasas largely remain unemployed except for those few who continue studies in departments of Islamic studies, Arabic or Urdu in some of the modern Indian universities. Many of the Madrasa students find it difficult to get into higher education because of the lack of education in Math and Science. This directly contributes towards poverty prevalent among various Muslim communities.

In his report regarding introduction of modern education in Madrasas, Justice M.S.A.Siddiqui notes- “Most of the Madarsas are averse to the introduction of modern education. Some of the books taught in this system are antiquated and others have become irrelevant to the global society we live in. The curriculum of majority of Madarsas is exclusivist, which could give rise to fundamentalist tendencies among the students. It is a welcome trend, however, that some of the Madarsas have introduced modern education complemented with religious education.

In majority of these Madarsas, though, the students have no access to modern secular education. This not only breeds a sense of alienation, but also isolates them from the inclusive society that India is. General secular education will open the doors of perception and act as the natural light of mind for our people to live pro-actively in the total contest. If modern education is introduced in these Madarsas, it will certainly create conditions for promoting modern and secular outlook among students and empower them to participate as equal partners in an inclusive society.”

Justice Siddiqui further points out that the managers of Madrasas are completely confused regarding the objectives of Madrasa teachings. The curriculum prescribed in the Madrasas are neither uniform nor scientific. He cautions that-“What students learn in Madarsas is very largely based on religious instructions that fail to equip them with the skills required today. Muslims in India must realize that they are actually scraping the bottom of the education barrel in an era of internationalism.”

“Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband” and “Dar-ul-Uloom Nadwat-ul Ulama, Lucknow” are two of the premier institutes of Islamic learning in India. They have a comprehensive syllabus that covers wide range of topics. The Nadwat-ul-Ulama of Lucknow also brought about certain far-reaching changes in the traditional curriculum of the Qaumi Madrasas. The primary five years cover complete primary education as prescribed for general schools along with giving religious lessons.

But, these changes are only limited to famous and well established Madrasas. A large number of Madrasas are neither affiliated to the Central Board nor registered with the state government. According to Maharashtra government’s data, only 1889 Madrasas are present in Maharashtra. But, Maulana Syed Athar Ali, a Muslim Personal Law Board member, has been quoted as saying that there are7000 Madrasas in Maharashtra.

It means that more than half of the Madrasas in Maharashtra function independently and have their own syllabus giving more importance to Islamic subjects and in some cases completely ignoring secular subjects. This has resulted in alienation and further deprivation of Muslim students who study in these Madrasas.

Therefore, it becomes very vital to bring about modernization of Madrasas for the benefit of the Muslim population of India.

Next Story

India’s Ties with Bangladesh at their Peak

In a caustic comment it said that while details of the lavish meals prepared for the Bangladeshi leader were enthusiastically reported

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India, Bangladesh, Prime Minister
A Bangaldeshi media report claimed that there was little information available in the public domain about the agreements. Pixabay

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned to Dhaka from a successful four-day visit to India last week having concluded seven agreements. But the agreements have caused unease among many in Bangladesh. Critics have panned the agreements as mainly advantageous to India and of little benefit to Bangladesh. Other commentators have called on the government to publish full details of the agreements.

India and Bangladesh signed seven agreements and MOUs on October 5, 2019 and a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) agreement for transportation of goods. The agreements include a pact for supply of LNG as well as water from Feni River to India, and for transportation of Indian goods through Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh to Tripura.

A Bangaldeshi media report claimed that there was little information available in the public domain about the agreements. In a caustic comment it said that while details of the lavish meals prepared for the Bangladeshi leader were enthusiastically reported on by the Bangladeshi media, there was no information on the nature of the agreements.

The agreements to provide connectivity were described as regional connectivity, but one critic termed them bilateral connectivity as they served Indian interests and had scant benefit for Bangladesh. “India certainly stands to benefit, but Bangladesh is yet to make a tangible assessment of its gains,” it said.

India, Bangladesh, Prime Minister
India and Bangladesh signed seven agreements and MOUs on October 5, 2019 and a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) agreement for transportation of goods. Pixabay

India’s smaller South Asian neighbours have often perceived New Delhi as exploitative for using its clout to negotiate one-sided agreements advantageous to India while ignoring its neighbours’ interests.

Sheikh Hasina defended her government’s decision to supply 1.82 cusecs of water from the Feni river to India for drinking water purposes as a very small amount of water.

“If someone asks for drinking water, how can we deny it?” she said.

Regarding the agreement to supply of LPG, she added that it was not CNG that Bangladesh would be selling to India, but LPG, which was a byproduct in the refining of oil. In 2001, the possibility of selling natural gas to India had become a major controversy in Bangladesh with Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party objecting to the sale of a scarce resource.

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The agreement to supply Feni river water has rankled as there has been no movement on finding a resolution on the sharing of Teesta River waters. The criticism acquired a serious turn with the murder of a second year student of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology by fellow students for criticizing Sheikh Hasina and the agreements in a Facebook post. The students were allegedly members of the Chhatra League, the youth wing of the ruling Awami League party.

India’s ties with Bangladesh are at their peak, among the best of India’s relations with its South Asian neighbours. But the criticism of the agreements with India is evoking memories old irritations and suspicions.

There are several pending issues between India and Bangladesh such as the huge trade deficit and sharing of Teesta river waters. Dhaka has been remarkably patient over New Delhi’s problems in agreeing to a resolution on sharing of the river waters.

Sheikh Hasina’s government has accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance that he would work towards a satisfaction resolution to the ticklish issue. The main impediment on the Teesta issue is the stance of the Mamata Bannerjee-led West Bengal government.

India, Bangladesh, Prime Minister
The agreements include a pact for supply of LNG as well as water from Feni River to India, and for transportation of Indian goods through Chittagong and Mongla ports. Pixabay

The National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam with identification of illegal migrants has raised grave concern in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina has accepted for now the Indian stance that it is an internal matter of India. But comments by Indian leaders about pushing out the foreigners have their ripples in Bangladesh which facile assurances do not alleviate.

Building trust between the two neighbours has been a slow and steady process that involved wiping away the mistrust and suspicion that that had plagued relations for long. The resolution of the sharing of the Ganga waters removed a major irritant in the ties.

Sometime later, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s assurance that Bangladesh territory would not be used for anti-India activities and its effective implementation became the first major step in building the trust. The resolution of the Land Boundary Agreement for demarcating the border was the second positive factor in generating trust and confidence. It created the environment for closer cooperation between the two countries. Both Dhaka and New Delhi have used the friendly environment to construct a cooperative relationship.

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New Delhi can easily lose that goodwill if the sentiment that India is uncaring and lackadaisical about issues of interest to Bangladesh begins to gain ground in Dhaka. New Delhi needs to be more sensitive to Dhaka’s concerns. It should speed up tackling the long pending issues before they build up into a major grievance in Bangladesh, which could make it difficult to implement already concluded agreements. (IANS)