Education only way out for Muslims: Sachar’s most senior member

SEEMA CHISHTI, Indian Express ,November 11, 2006

New Delhi, November 10: As the PM’s high-level Sachar Committee looking into the status of Muslims prepares to submit its report later this month, the seniormost member of the committee, Saiyid Hamid, has said that the keys to improving the abysmal literacy level in the community lie as much with the Government as with the Muslim community and its leadership.

“The most important thing is to improve the health of those institutions where Muslims go and which are managed by Muslims,” Hamid, Chancellor of Hamdard University, and former Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, told The Indian Express. His views assume significance given the ongoing debate in the committee — and outside — on a possible prescription for the severe under-representation of the community in all sectors.

As reported in this newspaper last week, there is a divide in the committee on this. A view shared by very few in the committee is that reservation could be the answer but the majority feels that reservation would be a red rag, making more noise than helping Muslims. They are in favour of a wider approach, involving creation of opportunities, enabling them to get educated and be able to compete.

Hamid emphasises the need to focus on education as in his opinion, it’s the only real way out. He said there is an unfortunate trend of the standard of Muslims being low in mathematics, science and engineering. “The NCERT used to organise workshops and refreshers for Muslim-managed schools but that scheme lapsed. This needs to be revived, as does the training of bright teachers. I have met the Director of National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, who has agreed to start a course for Muslim teachers.” “While planning for education,” says Hamid, “don’t lose sight of the fact that what is required at homes of successful school going children is awareness amongst parents and their support. These aren’t there in most poor Muslim homes.”

He added, that “society must step in to do what families and Muslim homes are unable to achieve. Most of us live in densely populated colonies bursting at their seams, where it is impossible to pursue studies.” Hamid said he was aware of the divide between the standard of North Indian and South Indian Muslims, saying he has been putting forward solutions for backward areas here “like community reading rooms, which have a steady flow of information on employment opportunities and higher and gainful studies.”

Hamid has not also spared the Muslim leadership of its responsibility. Writing in the Urdu newspaper, Daawat (the mouthpiece of the Jamaat-e-Islami), he said: “Despite the post-independence democratic set-up and secularism in India, the biggest minority here was drowned in deprivation. The leaders didn’t realise that if Muslims remain victims of narrow-mindedness and prejudice, the country’s hands and limbs would be paralysed.”

Taking pot shots at both who have fanned anti-Muslim sentiments and the Muslim leadership, he wrote: “The cold shouldering and prejudice by certain leaders of the country was met by Muslims withdrawing from the struggle of life. Their (Muslim) leaders also never told them that withdrawing from life (zindagi ki lehar) would amount to suicide.”

Underlining that the Ulema had great influence on the Muslims, Hamid said even this did not result in the advancement of education. “The education imparted in Madrasas kept them connected with the faith, but as it emphasized learning by rote, rather than understanding things, those coming out from the average Madrasa were deprived of both, religious and worldly wisdom…In the old days, Muslims were alive because of research (tehqiq), activity (harkat), the spirit of enquiry (justuju) and the thirst for knowledge (aarzoo). With them gone, Muslims have now lost their place of pride in the world of knowledge.”

[email protected]