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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

‘Muslims should change or perish’: Nakadar
By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

Mumbai: At a time when the Muslim mind was soaked in obscurantism and irrationality trying to resurrect the glorious past out of the torpor and ashes of the Babari Masjid imbroglio, there came out of the blue, an NRI, a son of Bombay, a realist known to people as A Rahman S Nakadar to preach the assets of modern education. The fundamentalists of all hues and philosophies tried their wily best and worst means to discourage him but undaunted, the true educationist continued his mission.

"Knowledge is power" according to Nakadar, "is the finest idea ever put into words!" For him, ink of the pen earlier and now the mouse of the computer is more lethal than the might of cannon! He has been uplifting the Muslims from the quagmire of sloth, lackadaisical approach and ignorance especially in the remote and far-flung areas of India.

Enlightening us on the system of "value education", Nakadar lamented that it has become axiomatic to think that society has become increasingly amoral because educational processes have been gradually divested of ‘values’.

Nakadar’s message is loud and clear — change or perish! He has been trying to refurbish a tired and cajoled Muslim community from its morbidity and slumber. He has been, perhaps, the first Muslim preacher of his times who has the impudence of castigating the so-called Muslim leadership and clerics that had been intoxicating the masses with overdoses of religious reform. His thoughts are blatantly impudent to say the least.

Scientific temper is his watchword, education his mission, communal concord his theme and tolerance his telling weapon. Though an NRI, A S Nakadar is a rationalist and a realist in the sense that he has realised the efficacy of advanced education. Through the AFMI (American Federation of Muslim Indians), he along with his dedicated team of community workers has launched a mission to educationally, economically, socially and politically uplift the beleaguered, vanquished and bruised Muslim community in India. 

Over the last 14 years the AFMI has awarded more than 1000 gold and silver medals to the standard 10 and 12 meritorious students from the remote towns and villages of India. It provides scholarships to the needy and the deserving students. Besides, the organization has built hospitals and conducted umpteen medical camps. The members of the AFMI aim for a progressive, prosperous and politically secular India and believe that if 12 per cent (unofficially 20 per cent) Muslims of India will be backward, the country cannot progress. The federation has been recognized by the US Senate and its delegates have met each and every President, Prime Minister who has toured the United States. Besides, the platform has duly recognized the services of the community workers, media personalities, religious leaders besides honouring a previous Indian prime minister, many cabinet ministers etc. The organization has now been a part of the Congressional Record Volume 146, Number 121, a rare honour indeed!

Having been born with the God gifted pragmatic approach, he understood the nonsensical side of a direct confrontation with the fundamentalists on both sides. Starting his mission on the lines of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Hakeem Abdul Hameed of Hamdard as a socio-economic reformer, Nakadar has now become an educational activist for that is the need of the hour. Since he understands well that the roots of his community are firmly grounded in religion, he has taken the task of interpreting the progressive aspect of the faith for he is well-versed in the Quran and the Hadith and he knows that the community should never fall a prey to orthodoxy and obscurantism. 

The only way to emancipate the Muslims was to enli
ghten them with practical education. Therefore he founded the AFMI (American Federation of Indian Muslims) catering to thousands of members in all parts of the world. Besides, he has also established the Gala Award Programmes for the educationally top-notch Muslim students to lead the community out of languor and torpidity. He gave away umpteen prizes including scholarships to many Muslim students during the 12th international conference of the AFMI held in Mumbai last year 27-28 December in the presence of luminaries like ex-Chief Justice and AMU Chancellor A M Ahmadi, Sunil Dutt, Dr Ishaque Jamkhanawala, Fakhruddin Khorakiwala, the Jamia Millia Chancellor, Shanti Patel, the Shipping Ministry goliath of Mumbai, Rev John Dayal and others. 

I would specially remember Nakadar for his absolutely enlightened speech on education, each word of which was supposed to be written in golden annals. He emphasized that nation building and team work were the need of the hour besides warning the community not to be entangled in non-issues like cow slaughter, Babari Masjid, cases like Shah Bano, the minority character of the Muslims institutions. etc. For him the most pivotal problem for Muslims of India is the lack of proper education. 

He believes that without organization nothing can be done. Muslims must join heads together and work for educational upliftment. If the Muslims of India will remain backward, India too cannot progress. Nakadar believes that merit always pays no matter how great the element of discrimination. It was a very good idea because some Muslim politicians believe that the community must always keep begging, asking for quotas. He thinks that Muslims have made their presence felt on various accounts just because they were meritorious. The truth is that there cannot be many blockades for the educated ones as they will finally reach their destination either by a short, normal or circuitous route.

Enlightening us on the system of "value education", Nakadar lamented that it has become axiomatic to think that society has become increasingly amoral because educational processes have been gradually divested of ‘values’. What then is the remedy? The obvious answer appears to be: introduce "value education" as a subject in schools and colleges!! In the euphoria of this newfound wisdom we ignore the fundamental fact that quick-fix solutions create more problems than they solve. 

According to him in one simple stroke we posit the view that "value education" is a separate and separable discipline from the general mass of educational processes. We forget or we ignore that the only true vocation of education – any kind of education — is to continually enhance the humanizing potential of the human race. There can be no other vocation because the only other alternative is dehumanization and between the two, the real calling of humankind can only be to sensitize. 

Thus our study of literature is important only believes Nakadar, if it sensitises us to the importance of human feelings and emotions, our study of economics is significant only if it sensitises us to the human condition in the context of the material aspects of life, our study of history is meaningful only if it sensitises us to the forces that impel human life and bring happiness and misery in their wake, our study of the sciences is momentous only if it sensitises us to the parameters of human existence and the infinite patterns and rhythms of life. 

The human element has to be at the core of any kind of education. But in postulating a separate pedagogical space for "value education" we have divested the study of literature, of economics, of history, of the sciences, of the human element and of its fundamental purpose – to sensitise and humanize. These subjects have acquired an autonomy of their own, independent of the human factor. We no longer study them for their sensitising potential but for their earning power. The earning potential of learning determines the importance and the ‘value’ of a subject in the eyes of a student. Thus, commerce is a much sought after subject today whereas philosophy, or history, or the arts, find few takers. 

It is obvious according to Nakadar that the notion of value in education has shifted from the philosophical and transcendental sense and come to rest in the market place. No wonder that today every university course is measured only in proportion to its ability to impart earning power to its votaries. No wonder that a university education has become a commodity and not a life altering experience. No wonder that a college is seen as a transit camp to the work place instead of an incubator for the transformation of the individual. 

The result of such intellectualism alienated from fundamental human values, rues Nakadar, is there for all to see: we have life without consciousness, sound without meaning; power without responsibility, opinion without rational process; we accept criminals, we admire dictators, we confuse teaching with learning, degrees with competence, and fluency with the ability to think afresh. The separation of ‘value’ from ‘education’ and the creation of a new discipline, ‘value-education’ has taken its toll and the crises in human affairs continue unabated giving more scope for play to power mongers.

The point is that any worthwhile attempt to discuss ‘value education’ cannot ignore the issue of ‘value in education’. Value in education proposes that there is a basic difference between ‘teaching a subject’ and ‘educating an individual’, between being ‘subject-oriented’ and ‘pupil-centered’: and that the true vocation of education is the latter. To recognize this distinction is to recognize the fact that there is no such thing as a neutral educational process. All education — no matter what the subject, no matter what form of presentation — carries a predisposition, a specific inclination, a value. There is no such thing as an ‘unbiased education’. Moreover, education in its true sense must have a subversive element. It must subvert popular perceptions, subvert paternalistic prescriptive programmes, subvert all principles or beliefs concerning human affairs that are autonomous of the human and the humane. 

Another important thing in terms of leading successful life according to Nakadar, is to have positive attitude — even in adverse situations. The task of community building still remains dearest to his heart. "Education will enable us to stand with pride among the nations of the world and education is the best weapon to win all our battles," told Nakadar to the student awardees. 

Not only this, his heart wept for the dropouts but without pitying them, he was up with an idea of technical education for them. No matter if they could not become graduates but they can become good electricians, plumbers, fitters, car mechanics etc. This way they can at least ably support their own families as these jobs are well-paying. 
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