Friday, October 09, 2009

Ulema's opposition to Central Madarsa Board

Lately there has been a hue and cry over the UPA government's plan to form a Central Madarsa Board.

Ulema are up in arms over the government's intervention in religious institutes. They feel that it a step towards changing the basic character of the madarsas.

Is the proposal so useless and destructive, which some of the vocal clerics want us to believe? Or it is opposition for the sake of opposition without proper anlaysis of the merits and demerits of the entire scheme?

Constructive criticism is okay but rejecting it without proper debate is nonsense. Here I am posting excerpts of an article written by M Wadood Sajid, that was published in a prominent Urdu daily.

Mr Sajid says that everybody has the right to speak their mind but issuing statements without bothering to talk about the pros and cons of the scheme, suggests that probably many of these MPs and 'scholars' lack the intellectual competence and capability to discuss the issue. Else, they should express their reservations over the draft bill and seek further changes rather than outrightly rejecting it.

Here are the excerpts:

1. HRD Minister Kapil Sibbal had called a meeting of Muslim MPs who were invited twice and the amended draft was also sent along with the invitation, but just 20 out of 59 MPs turned up. Of the five ministers, four didn't attend the meet.

2. Of the three MPs who have studied at Darul Uloom Deoband, two didn't bother to participate in the meeting. Mahmood Madani, Badruddin Ajmal and Israrul Haq Qasmi were invited but the former two didn't attend the convention though they did issue strong statements against the plan on the very next day.

3. Speaking to over a dozen persons running madarsas, one finds out that they believe the Board would not be beneficial because the 'senior clerics' affirm that it will pave way for government intervention in future. Most of them have no first hand information about the proposed bill. They don't realise that even if the Board comes into existence, there is no law that will force them to join it, rather than stay away from the Board if they wish. Or even join and later get de-affiliated.

4. The Board will only hold examiantion in mathematics, computer science, English and would have nothing to do with religious curricula. However, the certificate would help the madarsa gruduate to pursue higher studies in other universities with ease.

5. Many madarsas run with the help of donations and there is no system by which donors can see whether the money is put to proper use. The students live and study in poor conditions and the teachers get paltry pays, ranging from Rs 500 to a few thousands. However, those who run the madarsas get the chunk of the earnings. In Urdu papers, students often write about the princely lives of those running these insitutions and the poor condition of the students. Is the opposition to the board because of the reason that such malpractices may get exposed?

6. If the board is established, then those teaching the above-mentioned subjects will get salaries at par with the government employees. In that case, those running madarsas for pure personal profit, may be confronted with the question that why they don't pay substantial salaries. This could be one of the reasons for the fear of the anti-Board lobby.

7. Trying to bring the Ulema belonging to various sects on a common platform is a daunting task. When the Barelvis, Deobandis, Hanafis, Shafais, Shias, Sunnis and those of other denominations can't come together for the most vital issues that affect the community, how can they join hands for a progressive project that has the potential to uplift millions of poor children of the community. It's as difficult as bringing goat, squirrel, rabbit, fish and frog in the same boat and making them stay together. Doesn't such project augur bad for them, as it could signal the closure of their own establishments that are solely aimed at getting personal benefits and prosperity (for them and their families) at the cost of the rest.

[The article was published in Urdu daily Sahafat]