The recent remark by Shia Centre Waqf Board (SCWB) chairman, Waseem Rizvi, that madrassas in India harbour "terrorism in the country" may appear a relevant apprehension given the global Islamophobia. However, the analogy used by the chairman is not only misplaced but hypocritical. Modern terrorism after war on terror has transcended boundaries, and tenets of religion may not necessary be the only condition for extremism.
Few points raised by Rizvi in his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 9 are valid, such as ‘some mullahs are primarily responsible for breeding ignorance and unemployment in the society’. But the genesis of overall crisis resides somewhere else in the structural violence of minorities, especially Muslims (roughly 172 millions), for how they were marginalized needs more spotlight before blaming the ‘victimized’ for madrassa-culture.
Madrassa system in India, no doubt, runs on the primitive model of teaching as old as 17th centuryDar-e-Nizami which requires timely reformation but banning them is no solution either. Studies note that only 4 percent of Muslims in India attend madrassas full-time.
The Structural Issues
A large number of Muslims despite playing a critical role in freedom struggle at present feel they are perceived by hardline fringes as a "national threat" which has pushed them to an extent where they find themselves trapped in fear-psychosis and helplessly live a intimated life in ghettoized zones with no significant presence within and outside power.
The campaigns against Muslim in the form of mob lynching, love jihad, ghar wapsi, beef ban, intimidation and disappearances are mere symptoms of the bigger problem that lingers.
For example, government sponsored Sachar Committee Report (2006) and the Misra Commission Report (2007) highlighted the higher prevalence of discrimination towards Muslims and socio-economic deprivation among them as compared to other religious groups. Little concrete action, however, has been taken to address these issues at the policy level.
As per 2011 Census, Muslims in country were having lowest working ratio of 32.6 percent in government sectors. Similarly, in private and public sector they were 23.7 and 6.5 percent respectively while as 8.8 percent of them were in IAS, IPA and IFS and mere 4.4 and 6 percent jobs in health sector and police.
Critiques including academicians claim Muslim population from past seven decades were intently kept scattered and under-privileged so that the educated lot doesn't dictate power-dictum in Hindu-dominated national polity. They argue that majority of them are “marginalised – scattered throughout the length and breadth of the country, fragmented within the different regional cultures and social systems, mostly laborers or petty vendors, owing neither land or industrial-business resources to any significant extent, admittedly backward in modern education and consequently playing a marginal role in civil society.”
Despite many indicators of increased Hinduness in statecraft since right-winger came into prominence in 1980s and lately took power in 2014, collaborators within Muslims keeps on floating the dangerous perception that Muslims in India are 'inferiors' and not just a mere minority as they ruled India for centuries.
Such perception common perhaps is also responsible for creating nuisance as they lack community sense. Till Muslims in India are fragmented within the different regional cultures, caste and social systems, they will continue to become victim of vote bank politics.
Why Madrassas only?
The madrassas at its zenith power are established schools that earlier housed inside the mosque premise and then were placed adjacent to the mosque – the idea of running a madrassa was entirely on real education with full focus on science, literature, theology, mathematics and ethics. Other than religious texts that revolved around the teaching of Qur'an, Hadith (theology) – the subjects like geology, metaphysics were part and parcel of teaching curriculum.
According to Ibn Sina, the Persian renowned scholar of 11th Century, in the elementary schools between the age of 6-14 years pupils were taught Qur'an, Islamic metaphysics, Arabics, literature, Islamic ethics, and manual skills followed by secondary level which, he named Makt’ab, wherein pupil were asked to select the subjects according to their interest which were classified between reading, manual skills, literature, trade and commerce, craftsmanship, geometry, preaching, and others field that was open and evolutionary – as emotional development of the graduates was taken into account.
Such nuanced education system gave world the ilk of Nasir al-Din Suni, Al-Biruni, Al-Sijzi, Al-Battani, Ibn Yusuf, Ibn Rushd, al-Ghazzali, Ibn Khuldum and numerous other scholars. The contributions they made in the field of research is the backbone of modern technology and its advancement.
However, down the line following the decay in Islamic authority upon the fall of last remnant Ottoman Empire in 1920s, and the subsequent rise of liberal-capitalistic institutions across the newly created nation-states ensured the core subjects (math, geography, physics, chemistry, philosophy and literature) got bypassed from the education-curriculum and the madrassas in the later stage (existence-crisis phase) completely shifted their focus on providing religious knowledge only.
For Muslims living in South Asia in post-colonialist period, the neglect on skill providing education has proved fatal for furthering their marginalization in the mainstream field – a space that was deemed to be filled by modern institutions, failed to impress them.
Muslims in India, followed the same trend, the madrassa system over the years has focused on religious theology and jurisprudence passing over the skill-oriented education. Supposedly, the modern madrassas such as Jamia Millia Islamia, Jamia Millia Hamdard, Aligarh Muslim University and others separately were to take forward the project of skill-oriented education.
The role of informal institutes which is neither the offshoot of state nor a product of a political party and works for community enhancement without state patronization is key part of the society. To support the literacy drive in India today, incorporating with madrassas in a critical and innovative way which fills the vacuum created by lack of modern education (unfamiliarity of advanced technicalities) has more merits.
Simply using the rhetorical language as used by Rizvi and newspeak media with “terrorism” as the baseline of argument “against the madrassas” will account mere stereotyping and continuation of anti-Muslim campaign used to demonize and deligitimize their institutions.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.