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

"We need to concentrate on education"

Maulana Asrarul Haque QasmiMaulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi, president of All India Talimi wa Milli Foundation is a multi-faceted personality. A well-known Urdu columnist, he is associated with more than a dozen institutions Ė academic as well as non-academic. A member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board and former general secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, Mualana Qasmi is presently running an engineering college, two girls schools, seven madrasas and above two dozen makatib (morning schools) in four states of India. MANZAR IMAM spoke with him on issues concerning Muslims in India.

Muslims today are facing various problems: What are the reasons?
Lack of education, carelessness, want of collective effort and governmentís continual gross neglect of Muslims, especially after independence. But there has been some awakening among Muslims after demolition of Babri Masjid and they have also rectified some of their internal weaknesses.

How these problems would be solved?
We need to concentrate on education. Faith requires knowledge and knowledge needs imani guidance. It is by Godís grace that Muslims in North India have now started establishing their own academic institutions like South Indian Muslims. 

You are running quite a few educational institutions. What response have you got?
I have been working for Muslim education from different platforms. All India Talimi wa Milli Foundation has started one such academic movement. We are now running madrasas, makatib and schools in Bihar, UP, Bengal and Jharkhand. We have started a Milli College of Engineering and Technology in Kishanganj (one of the poorest districts in India, both educationally and economically, which has 0.22% literacy among women), and it is doing well. Our two English medium girls schools in two far flung villages are also doing well. There is a huge demand for more admissions but we donít have that much capacity.

The UPA government wants to set up a Central Madrasa Board. How do you see to it? 
The purpose of the Board is to link religious education with modern education. It must be kept in mind that the main objective of basic religious education is not lost. In madrasas we find the real spirit of religious education. 

Why donít you teach English in madrasas? This will help madrasa students to get admission in universities?
English is taught in some madrasas. We need to give more attention to it.

Very few universities like AMU and Jamia Millia admit madrasa students and that too mainly in subjects like Urdu, Arabic, etc.
That universities generally do not recognise madrasa degrees is a serious problem. This issue is raised sometimes. It needs serious thought.

There are talks around that Personal Law Board is going to abolish triple talaq?
The issue of triple talaq in one sitting is not new. Media is flinging up the issue that is connected with jurisprudential difference. Every Muslim religious group understands the gravity of the problem. Nothing is going on in the Board about abolition of triple talaq. But the Board wants a social reform movement so that cases of triple talaq themselves do not occur at all.

What is the Board doing for womenís education?
Personal Law Board is the largest Muslim representative body. It has representatives from almost all Muslim organisations. Every organisation is working for education on its own level.

How do you see Muslims in politics?
As citizens of India Muslims are already in politics. But efforts should be made to get equal share in politics so that they emerge as a pressure group.

You fared well in two parliamentary elections. Why didn'tí you contest this time?
To defeat communal elements and to save secular votes.

Is it that Muslim organisations are concerned more about themselves and less about the community?
Itís not so. Every institution has some priorities wherein lies the success of the community. The very presence of these institutions is for Muslims. Therefore, the institutions which have deviated from this principle, have become ineffective and unknown. Institutions need managing stability so that they could effectively implement what they want. 

A recent survey reveals that Muslims constitute about 21 % of Indiaís population but they are unable to bring out a single English daily newspaper or run a TV channel. Why?
Itís correct that such a large population cannot make a good presence in media. Several things are being said against Muslims. Whatever they do, they receive very little coverage or encouragement. We need a share in electronic media. Through electronic media Muslim organisations can have a collective discussion to inform Muslims of their problems.

Any message for Muslims?
As a result of partition Muslims had to face a situation of distrust, enmity and uncertainty. They were surrounded by problems but even then they did not give up hope, neither did they resort to violence. They found a way and are determined to lead a dignified life. This self-confidence is the guarantee of their better future.
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