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Modern Muslim Agenda



A Millennial Agenda For Modern Muslims
Interviews - The Times of India
Wednesday 10 February 1999

EQUALITY, justice and dignity form the bedrock on which the
Indian constitution rests and from which the concept of
democracy flows. Unfortunately,today, there is increasing
evidence of bias and injustice against the minorities in this country.
Even as the rest of the world makes rapid progress in science and
technology, we Indians continue to fight over issues like personal
laws, language and religion. Though facts prove this to be untrue,
a myth has been successfully created about Muslim appeasement.

Census figures place Muslim population at 14 per cent. It will be
worthwhile to examine the gradual drop in Muslim share in
government jobs, representation in Parliament and state
assemblies etc. The plight of Muslims today is a matter of great
concern and anguish for all Indians. No country can progress till
all segments of its population prosper and lead a life of dignity
and this is true as much for the majority Hindus as the minority
Muslims and Christians. Ironically, the minorities are at the
receiving end of a campaign launched by people who claim to
speak on behalf of a religion that was once the torch-bearer of
spiritualism. What can the minority communities do in the face of
these attacks? As a first step, a dialogue could begin between the
non-political leaders of the minorities.

The Muslim who chose to stay back in India post-Partition is as
much Indian as anyone else. His belief in secularism is as firm as
his faith in the Constitution of the land. Noted Islamic Scholar and
thinker Maulana Ali Mian has been at pains to reiterate his faith in
secularism, democracy and non-violence. Unfortunately, the
sangh parivar, instead of respecting this position, has been
projecting non-descript Muslim clergy to garner support for its
larger Hindu agenda. Such gimmicks can only further lower the
prestige of the country at a time its image has already taken a
downturn. Not to speak of the negative impressions in the West,
even the NRIs seem disinclined to invest here in the current

Modern Muslim Mind

It is a pity, then, that the Muslims are falling into the trap of the
sangh parivar. The call to withdraw Muslim wards from
government schools in Uttar Pradesh following the Saraswati
Vandana controversy was avoidable. Muslims must realise that
piety includes prayer (to allah) as well as knowledge. The most
pious Muslims have also been the most knowledgeable; so the
quest for truth via piety/and or knowledge, revelation or science,
remains the highest bliss for a Muslim. Thus a Muslim should
regard science as integral to Islam and equivalent to piety. In the
Holy Qur`an, Allah commands: "Allah changes not what is in a
people, until they change what is in themselves. Further, "Your
knowledge is not complete until you have acted upon it."

Education and knowledge will open new vistas for the
community's development. Economic pursuit and progress have
been encouraged in Islam. While the country has witnessed
development in education and economic fields, Muslims as a
community have not attained desired results. If a survey is to be
believed then at least four out of five Muslim women are illiterate
which, needless to say, calls for urgent, serious and concerted
efforts. The hurdles that lie in the way of our education should be
removed, starting with meeting requirements at the primary level.
Primary education is the vital first step in shaping the personality
of the child to enable him to stand on his feet. This would, of
course, mean reforming Madrasa education and imparting special
training to teachers so that they can be the architect of the
modern Muslim mind.

Nation Partitioned

It is unfortunate that Muslims are not included in national literacy
programmes. I would, in these circumstances, strongly advocate
the constitution of committee of Ulema and non-political leaders
of Muslims so that they can dispassionately suggest immediate
solutions to these problems. The government, for its part, should
also introspect official shortcomings in the area of Muslim
development, though it is doubtful if the present dispensation will
rise to the occasion.

There is no time to lose. The politics of communalism saw the
nation partitioned. We cannot afford to have that happen again.
To believe that 140 million Muslims or 12 Million Christians can
be beaten into submission is to believe in the impossible.

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Last updated: February 26, 2000.