Friday, July 3, 2015



By Ankita Bhatkhande & Jyoti Shelar, Mumbai Mirror | Jul 3, 2015, 12.24 AM IS
Madrassas rebooting, going beyond religion
Computers, English, geography… one of Mumbai's biggest Islamic seminaries is a shining example.

The BJP-led government has fuelled an anti-minority controversy yet again by labeling madrassas as 'nonschools' and the children studying in them as 'out of school'. But a closer look at madrassas in the city reveals that most are pushing the envelope by offering more than just religious text. From English to computers, these madrassas are offering much more to equip students to face the world.

One of the biggest madrassas in the city, Madrassa Dar Ul Fallah inMumbra, is a shining example. With more than 7,000 students (boys and girls) and over 500 resident students in the hostel, this madrassa offers courses in spoken English, geography and other interesting subjects.

Unlike a typical madrassa where the entire emphasis is on religion, the Mumbra one has adopted a progressive approach since the last few years and has included a curriculum for computers, spoken English speaking and basic geography – all taught along with religious texts. "We understand that the world is changing and thus our education system also has to adapt to these changes. This is why we have introduced all these modules to our students with a view to generate a better understanding of the subjects and to help them be at par with any other student studying in city civic schools," said Maulana Sharif, the principal.

Sharif said that considering students studying in the madrassas as out of school is like rejecting the very existence of the parallel education system. "We understand that only religious education is not enough and hence several students who study in our madrassas appear for their SSC exams privately and pass with good marks. But at the same time, some parents still have a traditional approach and would prefer madrassas over schools due to the religious education that we teach," said Sharif.

Sharif says that madrassa students compare with the best out there. "They can memorise the entire Quran at a very early age and can easily pick up spoken English. This moral and religious assertion of the government should end," he added.

Maharashtra's decision is being looked at as yet another anti-minority move by people in the community. "Decisions coming from this government have largely been anti-Muslim. So even if the decision has been made with a good intention, which seems unlikely, it is being looked at with a lot of suspicion," said Norehejan Safia Niaz of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan.

According to Niaz, the government should instead work towards strengthening the system of madrassas by introducing various courses. "I agree that madrassas are not enough for education but why not equip them then," said Niaz.

Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali, former professor of Islamic Studies at St Xavier's College said that there is a stereotypical assumption about all madrassas being regressive which needs to be broken. "There are many madrassas which have introduced new courses along with religious education. Instead of considering them out of the mainstream education when education itself has become unaffordable for the larger population, there is a need to enhance the already existing education in madrassas by extending assistance for equipment and expertise," said Ali.

Charge, counter-charge over govt's move

Education minister Vinod Tawde, however, said that there is no question of de-recognizing madrassas. "We want to introduce subjects like science, social science and maths to the madrassas with no interference in their religious education. How is that anti-Muslim," he asked.

In Delhi too, Maharashtra's decision evoked strong reactions from all quarters.

Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi blama the previous Congress government for not including madrassas under theRight to Education Act and thus cutting them off from government grants.

"Madrassas can't be blamed for not giving mainstream education. If they have not been able to provide mainstream education, it is all because lack of finance," he said. But the BJP's argument did not cut much ice with the All-India Muslim personal law board member, Kamal Farooqui. "The Maharashtra government is lying. Madrassas have produced graduates and other professionals. There is also an IAS officer," he said.

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