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Islamic Madrassas, Funding And The Government

Imagine rooms in madrassas full of young boys dressed in traditional attire — the kurta pajama and skull cap — busy learning nuances of the faith. Rocking their little bodies in rhythm, they recite the Quran and commit it to memory. Now, imagine that these Islamic seminaries exist only on paper.

An ongoing inquiry which Department of School Education ordered has revealed that as many as 16 madrassas associated with Sarva Shiksha Abhyan, which provides funds for the “mainstreaming” of madrassa students, in the city are fake. The probe has brought Islamic seminaries, which are already being accused of preaching intolerance, back into the spotlight.

While the preliminary inquiry has been submitted to the government, department officials are now busy gathering data to compile an exhaustive report.

Those in the know of things estimate that there are between 700 and 1,000 fully-functional madrassas in the state. To break it down further, an ongoing study, says general secretary of socio-religious organisation Jamiat-e-Ulama Hind, Telangana & Andhra Pradesh (JUH,TAP) Khaleeq Sabir, shows that the number of Islamic seminaries in the city and Ranga Reddy district is around 200. But, unlike the 16, these are madrassas which are privately managed and have little to do with the government.

Mainstreaming of madrassa students has been on the agenda of previous state governments too for quite some time now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said that he wanted to see madrassa students holding the Quran in one hand and a computer in the other. To equip the stste’s madrassa students with modern education, a panel of academicians and religious figures was put together a couple of years ago to study the functioning of government madrassa boards in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, on account of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, little was accomplished.

The unearthing of fake madrassas has provided a handle to those opposing tooth-and-nail the formation of a state madrassa board. For instance, Muslim cleric Maqsood Yamani, who has worked extensively with privately-run Deeni Madaris Board (DMB), has used the instance to reiterate the madrassa collective’s stand against government funding of Islamic seminaries. Much like the JUH-TAP, the DMB is against madrassas being beneficiaries of government aid. While Muslim clerics have been suspicious of the government taking a keen interest in madrassas, they claim that their students are engaged in “preserving the faith”. Citing figures from the Sachar Committee report, which says that about 4 per cent of Muslims attend madrassas and maktabs, clerics have asked the government to provide better education and healthcare facilities for the larger 96 per cent of the community.
The numbers of madrassa students may be low. But a question needs to be asked: Is it possible for a vast majority of would-be aalims and muftis, largely unexposed to the challenges of a lifestyle much different from theirs, give nuanced opinions to those who are beneficiaries of a modern lifestyle and education?

A second challenge which madrassas could face in the near future is the Centre’s stand on Article 30 of the Constitution — which gives minorities the right to establish and run their educational institutions — as illustrated by the draft new education policy. While the document does not specifically speak of what it intends to do with madrassas, it does say that minority institutions use their ‘constitutional’ privilege to wiggle out of “national obligations”. The language employed is distressing.

To say that nothing has change within the privately-run madrassa set-up would be wrong. There have been improvements. ‘Modern’ subjects such as mathematics and English are being taught in some seminaries. But quicker and amore concerted efforts from within this set-up are required. And if this doesn’t happen, the set-up could face another ‘oral triple talaq’ like situation, with factors it describes as “external” intervening much to its chagrin.

By Syed Mohammad
Courtesy: Times of India