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February 25, 2008 / Mridul

Islam in India Undergoing A Silent Revolution

By unofficial counts there are more than 200 million Muslims living in India. The Indian government, in what seemed a way of attracting minority votes, appointed The Rajinder Sachar Committee for Preparation of Report on Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community. According to the findings of the Committee, the government needed to do more for the education of the Muslims children.

The principal of Mumbai’s Minara Masjid madrasa also admits that the Muslim children haven’t had the best of the facilities.

“Our children have been left behind because they are not equipped for the outside world. We want to give our children the skills to live well.”

India’s premier madrasa, the Darul Uloom in Deoband also agrees that in the fast changing socio-economic scenario of India Muslim students need to walk shoulder to shoulder with their compatriots and that’s the reason the madrasa will host a conference of more than 1,000 madrasas to discuss how the education of the Muslim students be modernized. The main objective the conference is to find ways of integrating Maths, Science & Computer Applications with the current Islamic curriculum.

It was natural that the madrasas initially resisted any ‘interference’ by the government in their education system when the government announced its Scheme of Assistance for Infrastructure and Modernization of Madrasas in 2003 to encourage formal education in madrasas. But in a change of hearts the madraras have themselves come forward and realized that the it’s time to change the image of Islamic education as seen by most around the world.

No doubt at least some of the credit goes to one of the richest Muslims in the world, Mr. Azim Premji. Mr. Premji is the chairman & managing director of Wipro Technologies, one of India’s top IT & Outsourcing companies. He is a self made billionaire with net worth amassing to $17 billion. He turned a family vegetable-oil firm into India’s third largest technology and outsourcing giant. Young Muslim students look towards him for inspiration.

Another bold step, taken by the Muslim bodies & scholars in India, is the recent declaration that a girl has the full right to choose her husband, and if forced to marry against her wish, she can declare the marriage ”null and void”. The decision was taken by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband. This is by all means the boldest step ever taken by the AIMPLB.

The decision gives the Muslim girls the freedom to choose whom they want to marry. We have seen numerous cases where young Muslim girls have faced grave atrocities. Muslim girls have always found themselves entangled in the Islamic laws wherein their own personal wishes were often suppressed under the weight of the decisions taken by those who called themselves the supreme authorities of the Islamic law.

Three years back a Muslim council of community elders ordered a 28-year old woman to marry her father-in-law who had raped her. It became even more bizarre when the council ordered her to change her relationship with her husband to that between a mother and son. In another instance, although the happened in Britain, parents of a young Muslim girl took her to Pakistan and got her married at gun point. Her father asked her to marry the man else she’d be shot. The girl ran away and stays in a refuge in Britain.

Both these steps are extremely significant and hopefully they’ll do their bit in igniting a spark of revolution in other Islamic societies. Providing equal opportunities to the Muslim students would not only help the Muslim community to get rid of any feelings of neglect but would also help the overall economic & social development of India. Education is the best way of countering terrorism. Giving equal rights to women is equally important for the development & well being of a society.

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