Can Madarassas be compared with RSS run Schools?

Digvijay Singh’s tweet ‘Madrasas and Saraswati Shishu mandirs (SSM), both spread hate’ (Feb. 23) has evoked a lot of response from diverse sections. On one hand, Muslim groups have taken him on for demonization of madrasas, and on the other, RSS supporters have come out attesting the utility of SSM and criticizing him for comparing SSM with madrasas which are ‘dens of terror’ according them.  

The demonization of madrasas worldwide began particularly after the 9/11 2001, when US media propagated the phrase ‘Islamic Terrorism’. This was the time when the role of Taliban-Al-Qaeda, trained in madrasas of Pakistan came to the fore. The type of education given in these few madarssas became synonym with ‘madrasas’ every where. This is far away from truth as the madrasas in Pakistan where the indoctrination for terror took place were few in number and were not representative of the madarssaa education and its system in any way.   

Madrasas education in India has been fairly old. It was mainly sticking to recitation of the Quran in particular, ‘learning it by rote’ method. There is a long history of religious and secular education among Muslims in India. The Muslim religious education focusing on Islam and training of ulama culminated in the establishment of many well-known seminaries like those in Deoband and Barielli. Muslim secular education began with the efforts of Sir Syed, who contributed massively in the introduction of modern, rational and scientific education among Muslims. Interestingly, Maulanas of most seminaries were against the British rule, supportive of the freedom movement and opposed to the partition of the country.

Today madrasa education in India is restricted to hardly 2-3% of Muslim children. Mostly poor, un-affording Muslims send their children there. These schools are also in areas where the reach of public schooling system is not good. Some madrasas also provide food and lodging for poor children which becomes an additional incentive for poor Muslims to send their children away from the mainstream system which is inaccessible to them anyway. While not totally keeping pace with modern education, at places these madrasas have tried to introduce subjects like English, mathematics and other secular subjects.

In contrast, in Pakistan few madarassas, where Al Qaeda and its clones had been given training, were part of the US plan to raise fanatic groups which could be marshaled to join the battle against the Soviet forces which had occupied Afghanistan towards the end of the cold war. These madrasas, based on Pakistan-Afghanistan borders, adopted a distorted version of Islam, totally intolerant to dissent; promoting violence against infidels (kafirs) in the name of Jihad. These madrasas were supported by the US goals of control of oil resources of West Asia. Their syllabus was planned and textbooks printed in the US. Their genesis and growth had three pillars: US planning and funding, distorted version of Islam. The generalization, that all madarasas are dens of terror, came up through vested propaganda. Few madarassas which played the negative role are being equated to the whole madrasa system, so to say. This generalization prevalent in society has gone far and deep and this is what gets manifested in the tweet by Digvijay Singh, which says “Is there a difference between Madrasas and Sarswati Shishu Mandir Schools run by RSS? I don’t think so. Both spread Hatred.” Similarly earlier Buddhadeb Bhattachrya, the CM of West Bengal had also commented on madrasas in the negative tone. 

On a totally different wavelength, RSS combine, who are working for the goal of Hindu Rashtra, has set up Sarswati Shishu Mandirs, which along with other institutions set up by this combine are schools propagating the worldview of the Hindu nationalism. They have been making news off and on for the content of their curriculum. The demonization of Muslim kings, glorification of Hindu kings, spread of Islam by sword, the conspiracy of Christian missionaries, the unsuitability of secularism for our country, the folly of Gandhi-Nehru in imposing western secularism on India, are regular parts of the syllabus of these schools. Additionally, caste and gender-biases and glorification of nationalism of Hitler and Mussolini are the ground on which these children are raised. It is this combination which makes the students of these schools to look at Muslims and Christians differently. It is due to this that Gandhi and Nehru are looked down upon by the products of these schools.

Their curriculum distorts the history to create a dislike for religious minorities and also undermines rational thinking and scientific temper and promotes the mythology of ‘We have been the World teachers, equipped with all the wisdom and scientific achievements like plastic surgery, aviation science or stem cell technology.’ These notions are being made to seep in the society very subtly and deeply; adding to the foundation of sectarianism which have be part of RSS propaganda. It is not a religious education so to say; it is motivated by the political agenda of sectarian nationalism.

The need for differentiating wheat from chaff is urgent and great. While some madrasas, based in Pakistan, surely sowed seeds of hatred for those differing from their own rigid interpretation of Islam to the extent of doing violence against those differing from them, most madarassas are centers for Islamic education. SSMs, on the contrary, are the ones disseminating education along with Hindutva political views.

Leaving aside the madarassas where Al-Qaeda clones were groomed, the whole madarassa system is very diverse. They cannot all be put in the same category of spreading hate, the way Mr. Singh is doing. Such expressions are superficial, non-factual and also show that leaders like Mr. Singh are unwilling to do their home work to understand the genesis of terrorism in West Asia, its etiology being in the politics of oil control masquerading as Islam. It is an unfounded generalization which demonizes the minorities and sows the seeds of suspicion against them which is not in the interest of our country.

Books written by Prof Ram Puniyani as available at

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