JEDDAH — An Indian scholar said empowerment through education is the key to success for some 190 million Muslims of India in all walks of life.
Hussain Madavoor, general secretary of the All India Islahi Movement (AIIM), called for exerting efforts to uplift the community by taking advantage of all incentives and packages introduced by the federal government and state governments. He urged the Muslim minorities to respect India’s unique multicultural and multi-religious diversity and try to become more accommodative while living in a pluralist society.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Madavoor thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for his noble gesture to give a three-month reprieve to rectify the status of foreigners living in the Kingdom. “Such a gesture was not new from this humanitarian King who is keen to promote the welfare of the people of the country, including citizens as well as guest workers,” he said.
Madavoor was in the Kingdom for a short visit after taking part in a two-day National Muslim Minority Educational Conference, organized by AIIM in New Delhi on April 8 and 9.
“The conference was a landmark achievement in the history of AIIM with regard to its ongoing initiatives to uplift Muslims, one of the most backward communities in a country with a population of 1.2 billion. India’s Minister of Minority Affairs K. Rahman Khan inaugurated the conference.”
Madavoor said his movement is making all endeavors to achieve its long-term goal of empowering Muslims through education. “For the last five or six years we have been concentrating in states with a sizeable population of Muslims such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Jharkand and Hariyana. We focus on making Muslims in north India embrace reform in their traditional madrasa education system, which is often blamed for their backwardness.”
He said efforts to improve the lot of Muslims in north India, especially in villages, will succeed only through reform of religious schools (madrasas) where clerics wield a great influence. “The maulanas (clerics) allow the local communities to accept neither modernization nor government funding. In this scenario, we convened meetings of madrasa heads and tried to convince them the advantages of gaining modern education,” he said, while noting that the traditional madrasa education in which there is no room for modern subjects like science and mathematics is the only education received by a large number of rural Muslims in several parts of the country.
“We are concentrating on this aspect by enlightening them that if they receive modern education, then those who are not regular students can write examinations through National Open School or Indira Gandhi National Open University and eventually come to the main stream,” he said.
According to Madavoor, the conference stressed the need for boosting efforts to make rural Muslims beneficiaries of several government schemes. “They have no idea about the government-funded schemes and programs like the prime minister’s 15 point program, as well as various schemes, scholarships and infrastructure funds from the Central Waqaf Board and the Maulana Azad Foundation. They don’t know how to register a charity trust or even the basic paperwork beginning from filling up an application form,” he said, and noted that other minority communities are the major beneficiaries of these schemes because of greater awareness. He said his organization was concentrating on educating the Muslim community on how to properly utilize government aid.
“Apart from the education program,” Madavoor said, “our movement is also focusing on relief works. Many villages in the northern and northeastern states of India lack even basic facilities like schools, drinking water facilities and health centers, and hence we introduced nearly 500 projects within the last five years to address these problems.”
He noted that the AIIM is not channelizing any government funds for this purpose but instead gives guidance to establish NGOs so as to enable them to receive government funds.
Madavoor also spoke about their charity housing schemes for the riot victims, mostly Muslims, in Assam. “We purchased plots of land in the riot-hit regions and started preliminary works to build houses. During last winter, we distributed woolen blankets worth 15 million rupees among the poor in Delhi and other parts of north India,” he said noting that there are about 250,000 Muslim homeless who are sleeping on pavements and sidewalks in Delhi alone.
Madavoor said his movement is also concentrating on holding interfaith meetings in north India as a healing touch to the wounds of the partition that created Hindu-only villages and Muslim-only villages. “We convened meetings of prominent people and village heads as part of building a bridge of cooperation and proper understanding. We focus our work on uplifting the community by upholding values of India’s unique multicultural and multi-religious diversity. If we ignore this, it would be counterproductive. The minorities should always be cautious about that as they live in a pluralist society, and they should not hurt the feelings of others. We should win the confidence and respect of the majority community through our works to ensure peaceful coexistence.”
Madavoor emphasized his movement’s efforts to put an end to various kinds of exploitations taking place in the name of religion. He also spoke about AIIM’s short-term goal of financial empowerment of Muslims. “We focus on providing short-term training to village people to start self-employment schemes like the raising of cattle through making use of various funds. We have planned to generate jobs for the poor, especially Muslim women through such programs,” he said, while noting that literacy rate among Muslim women in many north Indian states is less than 20 percent.
Madavoor is a renowned scholar and academic who won first rank in bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies with a specialization in comparative study of six religions from Umm Al-Qura University of Makkah in 1984. He retired from Kerala government service on March 31 after serving as principal of Rouzathul Uloom Arabic College, Calicut, for 15 years. He is also one of the founders of the Indian Islahi centers in the Kingdom.