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Madrassas and Sarswati Shishu Mandirs can't be tarred with the same brush

Monday March 6, 2017 1:56 PM, Ram Puniyani

Madrasa Education
[A teacher shows a student how to use a computer at the Madrasa Taleem-ul Quran in RK Puram (Photo: Daily Mail)]

Digvijay Singh’s tweet ‘Madrassas and Sarswati Shishu Mandirs (SSM), both spread hate’ (Feb 23 2017) has evoked lot of response from diverse sections. On one hand Muslim groups have taken him on for demonization of Madrassas, and on the other, RSS supporters have come out attesting the utility of SSM and criticizing him for comparing SSM with Madrassas which are ‘dens of terror’ according them.

The demonization of Madrassas Worldwide began particularly after the 9/11 2001, when US media propagated the phrase ‘Islamic Terrorism’. This was the time when the role of Taliban-Al Qaeda, trained in Madrassas of Pakistan came to the fore. The type of education given in these few Madarssas became synonym with ‘Madrassas’ as such. This is far away from truth as the Madrassas in Pakistan where the indoctrination for terror took place were few in number and are not representative of Madarssaa education and its system in any way. 

As such Madrassas education in India has been fairly old. It was mainly sticking to recitation of Koran in particular, ‘learning it by rote’ method. There is a long history of religious and secular education among Muslims, in India. The Muslim religious education focusing on Islam and training of Ulema culminated in establishment of many well known seminaries like Deoband and Barelvi. Muslim secular education began with the efforts of Sir Syed, who contributed massively in introduction of modern, rational and scientific education among Muslim. Interestingly Maulanas of most seminaries were against British rule, supportive of freedom movement and opposed to partition of the country.

Today Madrassa education in India is restricted to hardly 2-3% of Muslim children. Mostly poor, un-affording Muslims send their children there. These schools are also in the areas where the reach of public schooling system is not high. Some Madrassas also support the food and lodge for the children which become an additional incentive for poor Muslims to send their children, away from the mainstream system which is inaccessible to them anyway. While not totally keeping pace with the Modern education, at places these Madrassas have tried to introduce subjects like English, Mathematics and other secular subjects.

In contrast in Pakistan few Madarassas, where Al Qaeda and its clones had been given training, were part of the US plan to raise fanatic groups which could be marshaled to join the battle against Soviet Forces which had occupied Afghanistan towards the end of cold war. These Pakistan based madrassas adopted a distorted version of Islam, totally intolerant to dissent; promoting violence against infidels (kafirs) in the name of Jihad. These madrassas were supported by the US goals of control of oil resources of West Asia. Their syllabus was planned from Washington. Their genesis and growth had three pillars: US planning and funding, distorted version of Islam from Saudi Arabia and their location in Pakistan. The generalization that all Madarassas are dens of terror; came up through vested propaganda. Few Madarassas which played the negative role are being equated to whole Madrassa system, so to say. This generalization prevalent in society has gone far and deep and this is what gets manifested in the tweet by Digvijay Singh, which says “Is there a difference between Madrassas and Sarswati Shishu Mandir Schools run by RSS? I don’t think so. Both spread Hatred.” Similarly earlier Buddhadeb Bhattachrya, the CM of West Bengal had also commented on Madrassas in the negative tone.

On a totally different wavelength RSS combine, who are working for the goal of Hindu Rashtra, has set up Sarswati Shishu Mandirs, which along with other institutions set up by this combine are schools propagating the World view of Hindu nationalism. They have been making news off and on for the content of their curriculum. The demonization of Muslim kings, glorification of Hindu kings, spread of Islam by sword, the conspiracy of Christian missionaries, the unsuitability of secularism for our country, the folly of Gandhi-Nehru in imposing western secularism on India are the regular part of the syllabus of these schools. Additionally caste gender-biases and glorification of nationalism of Hitler and Mussolini are the ground on which these children are raised. It is this combination which makes the students of these schools to look at Muslim and Christians differently. It is due to this that Gandhi and Nehru are looked down by the products of these schools.

Their curriculum distorts the history to create dislike for religious minorities and also, undermines rational thinking and scientific temper and promotes the mythology of ‘We have been the World teachers, equipped with all the wisdom and scientific achievements like plastic surgery, aviation science or stem cell technology.’ These notions are being made to seep in the society very subtly and deeply; adding to the foundation of sectarianism which have be part of RSS propaganda. It is not a religious education so to say; it is motivated by the political agenda of sectarian nationalism.

The need for differentiating wheat from chaff is urgent and great. While some Madrassas, based in Pakistan, surely sowed seeds of hatred for those differing from their own rigid interpretation of Islam to the extent of doing violence against those differing from them, most Madarassas are centers for Islamic education. SSM’s on the contrary are the ones disseminating education along with Hindutva political views.

Leaving aside the Madarassas where Al Qaeda clones were groomed, the whole Madarassa system is very diverse. They cannot all be put in the same category of spreading Hate, the way Mr. Singh is doing. Such expression are superficial, non factual and also show that leaders like Mr. Singh are unwilling to do their home work to understand the genesis of terrorism in West Asia, its etiology being in the politics of oil control masquerading as Islam. It is an unfounded generalization which demonizes the minorities and sows the seeds of suspicion against them which is not in the interest of our country.


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