Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Modernisation of Madrasas: implications and options

 Mr. Kamal Faruqui has invited a day long discussion on the topic of Madarsa Modernisation. This is in the backdrop of Government Announcement to go ahead with UPA Govt policy. The organizwr of the meet has circulated out lines and theme of the discussion he has mooted out.

Politics of Madrasas Modernisation 
Kamal Faruqui, former Chairman, Delhi State Minorities Commission

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the modernisation of Madrasa system. There are certain groups that are spreading the notion that Madrasas are not doing what they must do. The champions of modernism and the forces hostile to Islam want radical changes in the Madrasa system so that they do not pose threats to their interests. Some intellectual Muslims cry for change because they think that the Madrasas need to come up to terms with the developments of the modern world. They feel that the introduction of English, Computer Education and job-oriented courses would help them become more suited to fulfil the needs of the community and would be a good vehicle for better understanding of Islam. 

The subject matter was raised by earlier government as well but the manner it was brought by the earlier establishment created lot of bad blood. Now the present government has also taken up the subject. The President’s inaugural address to the new Parliament, which traditionally sums up the policy of the government, included modernisation of Madrasas as part of the new policies and programmes the new government plans to pursue. This was bound to generate controversy/anxiety, especially because the move has come from the government of a party, which is perceived by many as hostile to Muslims of the country,

Intention of the modernisation

The word “modernisation” is extremely tricky. In infrastructural terms, it normally means adoption of the latest communication skills and techniques including the use of computers and internet and availability of latest equipment in teaching and studying. There is hardly any problem in this concept of modernisation. But more often than not, “modernisation” is used as a ploy to introduce modern ideologies, concepts, policies and programmes at the cost of the religious teachings.

Moving forward

Some right thinking Islamic scholars on the other hand want Madrasas to play a more proactive role in disseminating the knowledge of Islam and to counter the propaganda against Islam by the international media. There is a feeling that if Madrasas are not producing the desired results, the main reason is that the Madrasas are not studying the developments taking place in the world in different fields and are not in a position to analyse them in the light of Islamic principles and concepts. They have not focussed on bringing out critical studies of international concepts, programmes and policies so they are not in apposition to counter the myths spread against Islam and Muslims.  

The Issues

There is therefore a need of serious debate on the issue of the modernisation of Madrasas. The important issues that need to be thoroughly discussed are:

1.           What is the Government’s plan, and how it aims to implement it? It has to be made clear to the government that any attempts made without consultation with Ulama and religious scholars will be unacceptable.
2.           What is “modernisation”: What part is acceptable and what unacceptable?
3.      What will be the implications of the government’s move?
4.      What should be the response of the community?
5.       What can be done to make Madrasas competent enough to face the challenges of the modern concepts and programmes, many of which are in violation of Islamic principles?
6.      How can the infrastructural changes be made in Madrasa educational system so that the students and teachers can become fully skilled in using modern techniques?
7.      What new subjects can be introduced to the syllabi? Of course any change in syllabus should be within the parameters of Islam. Any attempt to dilute any aspect of Islamic positions in various fields cannot be acceptable?
8.      How can Madrasas become economically more viable, both in terms of the expenditure incurred in their functioning and the scope for its products in the current socioeconomic dispensation?
9.      What is the competent authority to deal with the government on Muslims’ behalf?
10.     What are the legal options available in case the government attempts to “modernise” against the wishes of the Madrasas?  
11.     Should Madrasa accept any governmental financial support, and if yes, on what conditions?
12.     How can there be a more fruitful coordination between Madrasas and the modern schools run by Muslims?
13.     What should be the Muslim response on a separate Board for Madrasa education?

It is therefore important that the community has wide ranging discussion taking into view the concerns of various school of thought, groups and NGOs like Muslim Personal Law Board, All India Majlis e Mashawarat, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Jamate-Islami, Milli Council, Jamat-e-Ahle Hadis, Jamiat ahle Sunnat impotant dargahs who are running the madarsas etc. etc. But to begin with we are planning a conference of the heads of various groups, in Delhi in the month of August.

Modalities in the Conference

All the above mentioned issues and any other aspect relevant to the issue will be discussed in the Conference. Resolutions may be passed at the end, and the feelings of the community will be conveyed to all the concerned through proper channels.

The interested speakers would be requested to focus on the specific questions mentioned above. This has to be a serious debate with documentation of the proceedings. The well-written and well-organised papers and presentations will be preferred.

Efforts are being made to enlist the presence of the Ulama belonging to all the major sects of Islam. Academicians and social activists are also being invited to deliberate on the implications and options available before the community.

Parameters of the discussion

1.       Any change which is even in slightest violation of Islamic principles cannot be acceptable:
2.       Ulama are the final authority regarding the Islamic positions on various issues;
3.       Any change in the structure or the syllabi has to be with the consultation of the Ulama;
4.       Any governmental intervention without the consent of the Muslim Personal Law Board will be totally unacceptable:

5.       There is no problem in using the latest technology for the religious studies but appropriate care is necessary;

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