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By K. Hamza, Calicut

The Sunni Cultural Centre (Markazus thaqafatis sunniyya) is situated at Karanthur, 14 kms off Calicut city, the nerve centre of Malabar. The first phase of the infrastructure of the Markaz was completed in 1978. Ever since, it has been growing at a brisk pace. 
The Markaz constitutes Arabic college, Hifzul Qur’an centre, Postgraduate Islamic study centre, L.P. & U.P. schools , secondary madrasa, a residential English-medium school, printing press, computer and typewriting institute and an orphanage. To provide basic health care to both the students and local inhabitants, a clinic is also functioning in the campus. In future, it is planned to develop it into a super-specialty hospital.
One of the major ventures of the Markaz is the orphanage for boys under 15, which was opened in 1980. In the beginning, it could accommodate only 21 inmates. Now the capacity has increased to more than 900 boys. The orphanage not only meets the educational needs of children from the indigent classes, it also provides them food, clothing and boarding, relieving their poor relatives from the burden of taking care of them. It is also worth mentioning in this context that an investment is made on behalf of each inmate by the centre in a business venture with funds donated by the public. The profit is shared by the inmates only. On completion of their education and vocational training such as electronics, computer, printing, tailoring and carpentry, inmates get their invested amount with profits from the business. This enables them to start their own ventures or professions. An orphanage for poor girls was also opened recently. 
Students of the Qur’an College are learning Qur’an by heart and are honored at the annual convention of the Markaz. Now over 200 students are studying here for a three-year-course. Some of them had participated in the world competition of the Qur’an recitation held at Cairo, under Al-Azhar University and obtained prizes. 
More than 700 students are studying at the Markaz’s Shari'ah College and on completion, students are awarded the title of ‘Moulawi Fadil Thaqafi.’ They are now engaged by various organizations for the propagation of Islam. The Islamic Research Centre and Library are other remarkable facilities of the Markaz. 
One of the largest mosques in Kerala, Masjidul Hamily, is situated in the campus and more than 5500 peoples can offer prayers at a time, 
The Markaz needs a huge amount of 3.5 million rupees monthly for its running expenses, a major portion of which comes from some philanthropists in India and abroad. The cost of one girls orphanage, both the land and buildings, is funded by the well-known philanthropist Shaikh Umair ibn Yusuf of Abu Dhabi. Further, the commercial complex built at the centre of Calicut city also adds a portion of revenue to the Markaz. 
The advisory role of the Centre is acceptable to Sunnis who constitute 90 percent of the Muslim population in Kerala. According to the 1991 census, the total population of Kerala is 29,011,238 and among them 6,450,561 are Muslims, i.e., around 22-23 percent of the population, second only to Jammu and Kashmir where it is 64.19 per cent.
Equally noteworthy is the dress code of the students and teachers who are wearing full-sleeve white shirts and white caps and headgear. The Markaz appears to have regained the lost pristine glory of Islam which prevailed in the bygone era. The Markaz has attained a special place in the field of Islamic studies and scholastic pursuits in Kerala. 
The credit for all this goes to the reputed scholar Shaikh Aboobakar Musliar, known as Kanthapuram, who is the charismatic leader of Sunnis. He reputedly wields great influence among Sunnis in South India. Recently, a branch of the Markaz has been established as the Jamia Nizamuddin at New Delhi. 

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