Analysis

Today’s “Educated” Indian Muslim

Whenever an impression is created of giving some importance to education of Indian Muslims, one is forced to view it from several angles. Undeniably, it is an issue that cannot be ignored. While it is pertinent to create and develop more avenues as well as institutions to help increase literacy rate of Indian Muslims, there is yet another aspect that cannot be ignored. The concerned authorities need to seriously reflect on their approach towards the issue. Let us accept that today’s Indian Muslim is fairly conscientious and also assertive about his national as well religious identity. Paradoxically, the image that has been hyped is that of his/her being illiterate, poor, aggrieved and/or an extremist. There is a major flaw in this approach.

Even if a considerable percentage of Indian Muslims fall in either/all of these categories, these statistics don’t represent the entire community. Secondly, it is time that the religious identity of Muslims ceases to be linked with their being poor and/or illiterate. Thirdly, the success rate of educated Muslims should also be given considerable importance. This point is being deliberately made as Indian Muslim of today, particularly the one at grassroots, is yearning for a better and a positive image than the stereotyped one that one reflects. There is no dearth of indicators suggesting this in cities, towns and also in villages. Young Muslims working as drivers, attendants, domestic helps and mechanics or in other such jobs may not be very educated. A rudimentary analysis, however, indicates that majority of these had been to school till at least class five, eight and a few even upto tenth standard. What is equally significant is that the elderly members, parents and grandparents, in their families are totally uneducated. Equally significant is that their younger siblings are pursuing education.

In a few cases, young parents from villages who have not attended schools, are making special efforts to ensure that their children pursue education. Their aim is to be viewed as “educated” people. This is a rough indicator of a major, almost revolutionary, change having taken place in the mental approach of today’s Indian Muslims, particularly the ones at the grass roots, of moving towards higher education. Most Muslim domestic maids may probably be totally uneducated but many of these are ensuring education for their children at least upto some class. The dedicated spirit displayed by these sections must be given greater importance. Think of the car-cleaners, braving the chilly mornings, to earn and contribute to the family income. A number of Muslims, among these, are also pursuing education.

These Muslims have not been guided onto this path by any major leader and/or politician. But with several schools present in their surroundings, they have opted to avail of the educational opportunities available. In this context, it is pertinent that before blaming Muslims for their “educational backwardness,” some attention must also be paid to whether the necessary educational resources are available for them within a few kilometres of their homes. If not, why should the Muslims and non-Muslims residing in these areas be held responsible for their illiteracy? It would be logical to blame them if despite the presence of schools, they chose not to attend the same.

Undeniably, several years ago, there did prevail a tendency in urban as well as rural area for young boys to give greater importance to bunk schools rather than to attend them. Result, they stopped attending schools after failing in examinations. Also, though young girls were more inclined towards education, they were sent to schools only for a few years. The recent developments present a different image. While boys have become more serious towards education, girls are attending schools till higher classes than before. Grand-niece of a domestic maid has thus turned out to be the first person in her family to have recently passed class tenth examination. Her mother studied only till seventh, while her grandparents are totally illiterate. A young boy, from a family of milk sellers, is only the one among his close relatives to have studied till eight standard.

Certainly, from the perspective of an educated and well-placed Muslims, these “achievements” carry little significance. After all, passing class eight, ten, school even college matter little for ones who regard these as the basic necessity to move on in life, socially and professionally. But, stepping into school and achieving a little success there, carries a lot of importance for the ones who happen to be playing a major role in chalking out a new path for their generation. Their family and community members must certainly be credited for this. This revolutionary change in the mindset of Indian Muslims at the grassroots cannot be ignored. The image that they have set for themselves is quite different from the stereotyped image still retained in certain circles. Whenever concerned authorities deliberate on new measures to uplift the educational and status level of the “deprived” Indian Muslims, they must reflect and give credit to those who have already stepped onto this path.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2011 on page no. 14

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