Special Reports

Two-day educational conference in Kolkata

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By Our Own Correspondent

Kolkata: The All India Muslim Educational Conference (AIMEC) organised its third annual conference here during 17-18 March. The two-day conference attracted participants from across India as well as abroad. Held at the city’s Haj House, the conference deliberated on various educational issues and problems faced by the Indian Muslim community.

The conference started with a welcome address by AIMEC chairman, Amanullah Khan, who offered a quick overview of the organisation’s journey so far.

President of All India Muslim Majlis Mushawarat Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan inaugurated the conference. He stressed on the importance of knowledge and education in Islam. He said that Muslim scholars and scientists laid the foundation of all sciences and technologies found today. A whole volume is required just to mention their names. He said it was a matter of wrong judgment that in this country we equated English and modern education with colonial rule and refrained from them for a long time. He advocated a single syllabus including religious and modern education on the lines of Al-Azhar schools.

Tariq Azam from Malaysia said Muslims in the past triumphed due to their superior knowledge and in future too they can succeed with knowledge.

Abrar Ahmad Islahi of the Muslim World League, Mecca, stressed the need for Muslims to uplift themselves through education, organisation and commerce.

Bengali Muslim leader Siddiqullah Chaudhary said that Bengal has the highest number of Muslims after U.P. but they are very backward, neglected and disunited. He said there are 126 government commissions and committees but these include no Muslim.

Dr. Khurshid Mallick, chairman of Indian Muslim Education Foundation of North America (IMEFNA) stressed on “complete education” and said that experience has shown that segregated girls colleges perform better than co-ed colleges. IMEFNA runs a number of Learning Centres across India.

Akhtarul Iman, Bihar MLA, said that madrasahs played their role in preserving and safeguarding Islam during the colonial period but change should have been introduced in their curricula after independence. He said we suffered on two fronts. First, the government kept us backward and second, we hurt ourselves through our ignorance.

Maulana Salman Nadwi of Nadwatul Ulama Lucknow said in his presidential speech that Islam and knowledge are two faces of a single coin. The sphere of knowledge is very vast but we have limited it to madrasahs. He said ignorance is an illness and cancer.

In the afternoon business session, Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan presented a thorough survey and critique of the Right to Education Act of 2009. He said that the basic purpose of this law is to corporatise education. As a result, there will be only two kinds of educational systems in our country. One will be a very costly system run by corporates and the other a very deficient system run by municipalities. He elaborated that the stringent norms set for schools will make it impossible for weaker sections and minorities to continue their existing schools or open new ones which is a negation of the rights given to minorities by our Constitution. Moreover, all existing schools will have a three-year period during which they must conform to the new norms and requirements. Failing to meet them, these schools will be closed down and slapped with fine of one lakh rupees for the first day, and a daily fine of Rs. ten thousand for each subsequent day. He said the law is silent about madrasahs. It is not known if these institutions and their students will be treated as “schools” and “students” under this act or not. If not, parents of such “students” will be sent to jails for failing to send their 6-14 year wards to schools. He referred to various assurances given to Muslim by the HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and warned that unless these assurances are incorporated in an amendment to the RTE act passed by Parliament, they hold no water and Muslims should be ready to see their schools and madrasahs closed down in future by their thousands.

During the second day, Vice Chancellor of the Alia University, Dr. Shamsul Alam, spoke about the predicament of the Bengali Muslims who suffered twice - once during Partition in 1947 and again in 1964 when an exodus occurred to East Pakistan as a result of the spate of riots at the time. He lamented that Muslim teachers teach in madrasahs but send their own children to schools.

Dr. Tarannum Muhammadi, principal of Law College, said that we are behind all others in education though the first order of our religion is to seek knowledge. She said our children refrain from education saying that there is no hope of getting employment. She advocated a change in the Constitution to ensure reservation for economically and culturally backward sections.

Qamruddin, secretary of Alia Madrasa Alumni Associaiton, offered an overview of Madrasah Alia which was established in 1780 much ahead of all madrasahs in the Subcontinent, which today has evolved into a university. He shed light on the madrasa system in West Bengal and explained how madrasahs were deprived of their spirit during the Left regime in West Bengal, so much so that madrasahs are made to close down on Saraswati Puja day while ordinary schools function normally on that day.

During the concluding session, Abrar Ahmad Islahi said that duality of syllabi (religious/modern) is haram and a crime. He stressed that there should be one syllabus for all and called for madrasahs to adopt modern titles for their certificates and degrees.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2012 on page no. 13

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