Politicians, Ulema worried about state intervention, secular impact
New Delhi: The impasse over a government proposal to modernize madrasas, or traditional Islamic schools, illustrates how a “minority mindset” imposed by the ulema, or clergy, and politicians could draw Muslims deeper into the morass of conservatism, poverty and unemployment.
Since taking over as the human resource development minister in May, Kapil Sibal has been driving reforms in all areas of education. Among his initiatives is a renewed push for the 2004 Madrasa Modernisation Scheme, which aims to include the teaching of modern subjects in the largely theological curriculum and centralize the management of the thousands of Islamic seminaries spread all across India.
“It’s a big step for Muslim education,” says Firoz Bakht Ahmed, the grandnephew of one of independent India’s founders, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and a writer on minority issues and madrasa education. The scheme will enable students from various parts of the country to seek jobs of their choice, he says.
Changes are urgently needed to improve the state of the community. A committee under former Delhi high court chief justice Rajinder Sachar, which conducted independent India’s first exhaustive study on how Muslims fare in education and employment compared with others, established that the community was lagging behind in education and government jobs.