Education to build bridges

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Author Iqbal Hasnain speaks to Ziya Us Salam on the issues that hold back Muslims of North India

On his way to the much-talked about Copenhagen Summit, Prof S. Iqbal Hasnain springs a surprise. Just when you expect the Senior Fellow of The Energy and Research Institute to talk of global warming, G-77 etc, he waxes eloquent about the education system that is affecting the progress of Muslims in North India. You can barely conceal your surprise that the man, who is also chairing the Glacier and Climate Change Commission, can have an opinion — and indeed facts — about anything other than the changing environment.

Putting on the lesser known aspect of his personality, Hasnain demolishes the myth of the monolith Muslim community. Prod him on, and he reveals he recently penned a book, “Muslims in North India”, on the subject. The book is moving steadily off the shelves, and Hasnain is happy to share his thoughts. “There are so many well researched books about Muslims in India, their culture, language and the like. This time there is a difference that I have pointed out. The Muslims of the North do not share a lot with those from the South. There are historical reasons that I have pointed out in the book. In North India, Mohammed Bin Qasim came to Sindh, but the subsequent travellers and invaders were contained there for 300 years. In the South, there were no conflicts and the first mosque came up in Thrissur in 628 during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed, PBUH.”

Hasnain, who has been studying the subject closely for many years, says, “In South India Muslims have grown as a middle class, whereas in North India there are still divisions of ashrafs and ajlafs. People are still living in the past. They are investing in marriages, mushairas and houses but not education. In North India the Muslim leadership behaves like the age-old zamindars. Political leaders of any party are not interested in the good of the community.”

He, however, sees winds of change blowing across the country, particularly in the North. “In Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and elsewhere in north and central India, townships have developed with an assertive middle class. These people are articulate and educated. However, the political leadership still does not interact with them. In North India, there is still a caste system of sorts within the community.”

Way out

So, what's the way out? “Education. And education for all. We need to have modernisation of madrasas. But Government interference is not required. After all, in a secular nation, why should the Government have to chip in for the education of one particular community? We need to adopt the Kerala model. The madrasas are attached to schools there. And because of the close link between madrasas and schools, you will find more youngsters in mosques there than in the North, where primarily middle-aged people frequent the mosques. We need more employment oriented courses all over. In Calicut they have some 75 management colleges. In the North too, we need universities like Jamia, Aligarh Muslim University, etc. to go beyond offering MBBS or engineering. We need them to offer courses like nursing, hospitality, fashion designing, etc. Once you offer such courses, students who may not be toppers in their career can join them and pick up decent jobs.”

Hasnain feels “education is the prime need of the hour. It helps to build bridges between communities. It helps to build the community's image too and acts as a safety net against terrorism.”

“Muslims In North India: Frozen in the Past” has been brought out by Har-Anand. And Hasnain cannot help a parting shot: “There is joy for all in looking ahead.”




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