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Published in the 1-15 Mar 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Role of Minorities in secular India

New Delhi: The Duty Society of Aligarh Muslim University recently organised a national seminar on "Role of Minorities in secular India" here at India International Centre on 8 February. The seminar was held in the memory of Dr Zakir Hussain.

The Duty Society came into being in 1889 by Sahibzada Aftab Ahmed, an alumnus of the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College, Aligarh, with the objective of spreading modern education and making it accessible in all possible ways to all those who could not afford it in spite of their abilities. The MAO College later blossomed into Aligarh Muslim University.
Duty Society Keeper Prof. Siddiqui welcoming IK Gujral

Duty Society Keeper Prof. Siddiqui welcoming IK Gujral

Subjects like education, scientific temper, harmonious relationship, contribution to nation building and fair treatment according to the constitution were prominently discussed. Separate sessions were also conducted on educational, economical and social responsibilities of minorities. One particular session was devoted to the Empowerment for the rightful place of minorities in the society.

Inder Kumar Gujaral, former Prime Minister, in his inaugural address recalled the democratic and liberal traditions of this great country. He stated that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Dr Zakir Hussain stressed on the need for modernisation of education for all round development. "Modern values such as secularism and liberalism are essential in today's world," he said. 

Prof M Shafi, who delivered the keynote address, also briefly outlined the activities of the Duty Society. Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, members of legislative assembly of Uttar Pradesh and dignitaries belonging to prestigious institutions put forward their proposals and opinion.
Delhi CM Shiela Dixit speaking at the seminar

Delhi CM Shiela Dixit speaking at the seminar


In the first session, noted academicians, educationists and scientists delivered lectures on the topic "Educational and Economic Development". Prof MN Farooqui, former AMU Vice-Chancellor, said, "In the post-industrial competitive society and global village, Muslims severely lagged behind. Eighty percent Muslims were not getting higher education." Prof Farooqui opined that urgent steps be undertaken to modernise the present form of education by reforming and restructuring the syllabus. "Thirty percent of the syllabi should contain religious education and seventy percent should be on science & technology, humanities, arts etc." 

Prof Farooqui said, "Reforming the Madarsa education is a very attractive proposition. It goes without saying that in the context of Indian Muslims the participation of religious leaders and clerics is essential to make dent in the psyche of the people. It is they who have to realise that the future of the whole Muslim community is at stake and they have in their control organisations that can easily be converted to technical, training schools without sacrificing their basic objectives." He further stated, "In my view, looking at the result of higher education and making strong efforts to get more Muslims in IAS is a very myopic view. Even if we take multiplier effect of one into ten and if we get 5 boys in IAS what we may gain will be an uplift of 50 people which is a pittance. Whatever is going on in this sector is therefore good enough. The engineering, financial and medical education, for example, is much more relevant to the betterment of the people. Other than these concerns what must we do is to improve the condition of the general Muslims through our own efforts and not depend solely on the Government of the day to do something about it."

Ahmad Rashid Sherwani, a philanthropist and an educationist, talked about the lack of education in Muslims particularly in north India. Mr Sherwani, who is also a member of National Commission for Minorities, said that it was a matter of relief that performance of Muslim girls in education has increased astonishingly in comparison to boys after 1976. He said there was only one girl who passed in first division in 1976 out of fifteen girl intermediate colleges and in the year 2003 the number increased to 467 in the intermediate examination (for detailed report see The Milli Gazette, 1-15 February 2004). However, more efforts should be put in to increase the overall performance by both the genders, he urged.

MNA Chowdhary, IRS, and former Pro-Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, said: "Various survey reports revealed that Muslims were backward than the Scheduled Castes in India". He linked economic progress with education and advised the Muslim community to come out of sectarian differences for their own uplift. He said opportunities lay in various sectors and Muslims can avail especially in small scale industries and accounts services. He lamented that Muslims were not accepting the reality of change.
"The past few decades have shown that tremendous changes are taking place in the world," pointed out Prof NK Gupta of IIT. He said that both people from the minority and majority communities should contribute in the growth of country. Elucidating that schools play important role, hence there should be better education at school level. 

Prof DP Agrawal, co-president of the session and also member of the UPSC, said: "Education alone can uplift the society and produce scholarship to innovate and pave way to accept challenges." He suggested, "We must open way for youth to do what he/she likes and education be given in such a way that the student be competent enough to say what he/she wants." Former union minister and senior Congress leader, Salman Khursheed, said that now the time was ripe enough to revive the spirit of Aligarh Movement.

"Empowerment of women with special reference to minority women" was the subject of the seminar during the second session in which lady speakers took part in strength. Louise Khursheed, MLA, and also Project Director (Health Care & Rural Development), Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, said, "Women should be empowered to involve them in economic activities especially handicrafts, which would enhance their socio-economic status." She also said that since the past decade tremendous changes have taken place among women.
Sona Khan, senior advocate in the supreme court, said that Muslims did not practice polygamy and talaaq in an Islamic way. She said to empower women they must have access to economic resources. "Dividing women on the basis of religion is unfortunate in India," she said.

Prof Majida Asad of Jamia Millia Islamia criticised the Muslim society that they were not giving women their due according to the Shariah. "Muslim women must raise their voice to attain their rights," she said. Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit who presided over the session, said, "Unless women participate in decision making process, the condition of women is not going to change." Refering to ILO report, she said seventy five percent of the total work of the world is shared by women.

During the third and last session "Social Responsibilities of Minority" was discussed. The speakers shared common opinion that Muslims being follower of Islam have great responsibility towards their fellow being in their country. They insisted that secular values be genuinely adopted by people as well as governments. Dr Zahoor Qasim, president of the session, said that composite culture and major religions of the world should be taught in schools. Other speakers who also spoke on the occasion included Prof MH Qureshi (JNU), Prof Altaf Azmi (Jamia Hamdard), RR Sherwani (AMU), and Dr Abdullah (USA). Khwaja M Shahid, convenor, informed that various papers presented in the seminar would be published in a book.


Jamilur-Rahman 

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