Sare Jahan Se Accha

The Muslim stagnation – By Kancha Ilaiah

Interesting article I came across, worth a read 

The Muslim stagnation
By Kancha Ilaiah
Deccan Herald
Friday, February 16, 2007

The Muslim backwardness is related to lack of modernist communitarian cultural institutions.

Justice Sachar Commission’s report on Muslims has opened up a new chapter of debate in India both around the question of the minority rights and also reservations. Muslims as a community carried a psychological framework that they belonged to the ruling community for a long time.

Though a mild form of caste structure existed among the Muslims as they converted from the fold of Hindu caste social order a Muslim who became rich could climb the social ladder to become anything within the Indian Muslim civil society. They have equal rights in the mosque; from that position the other ladders were/are available to them. Though the rich Muslims, who came from Patthan or Khan background played
dominant role in many walks of Muslim life, the spiritual equality within the Islamic Social Order has changed many shades of their life over a period of centuries.

Now after 60 years of Independence the Muslim community remains more backward than sections of SC, ST and OBCs. Historically, the Muslim population evolved through conversions from the fold of Dalit-Bahujan communities of India. The Islamic religion expanded in the Indian sub-continent mainly because of Hindu caste system. Apart from three independent nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which ot formed because of mass exodus into Islam from the native people itself the ratio of Muslim population in the Indian Republic has been
steadily increasing. This increase is not just because of one man having more wives or because of even the monogamian Muslim families creating unlimited children. For the sake of social dignity and spiritual equality willing conversions of Indian lower castes into Islam keep on taking place. willing conversion of the Meenakshipuram Dalits in Tamil Nadu is not an isolated event. Many individuals keep moving into it in many parts of the country for attaining social status.

As the levels of their poverty started growing, their educational and employment opportunities began to decline and the willing conversions wed down enormously. Two systemic things diverted the attention of lower castes-particularly that of Dalits-Reservations and English education. As it is a known fact that Islam is not an avowedly evangelical religion like Christianity and Navayana Buddhism. It is a religion that accepts if people make effort on their own to get into it. 

The emergence of the Dalit middle class through reservations and English education (both through church means and university based higher education) increased the aspirations among the Dalit, OBC communities. Since reservation has been tied up to the Hindu religion based caste system, of late not many people think of moving into Islam. Secondly, Islam has no modernist educational agenda around its mosque system as Christianity has.Modernist education in Indian context means English and learning of science and arts. Urdu as a language could not develop to meet the challenges of modern market system. Large number of Muslims were confined to Madarsa and Government school education without letting them to develop the aspiration of English education. The English educated and modernised Muslims control the minority educational institutions only to make money by selling the education to rich and upper castes of India.

A small section of anglicised Muslims have emerged as global players but they do not have any sense of community. Individuals like M F Hussain, Salman Rashidi, Sania Mirza, many Khans in film industry have emerged out of English education. In fact in many spheres Anglicised Muslims represent India. If M F Hussain is the tallest painter of India Salman Rashidi is the tallest writer and Sania Mirza is the tallest
Indian woman tennis player.

In industrial sector Wipro’s owner Ajim Premji is one of the richest of India. There are handful of Muslim academic intellectuals who are known in their fields. But they never addressed their school education system. Till now they did not realise what reservation has done to Dalits and tribals. The Muslim backwardness while being systemic, it is also related to lack of modernist communitarian cultural
institutions getting built outside the realm of state.

This is where Christians, who constitute a small minority made a different impact. The church now represents English education, quality medical treatment and setting up world class training centres in different cities of India. It is not just Western dollar, pound money that alone was responsible for building such institutions. Religion should also build a culture of building public utility systems by updating the institutional knowledge each time. Like Hinduism Indian Islam also failed in updating itself to modernity levels.

Not that the Indian state has not failed them. It did in different ways. Ever since the Indian nationalism was defined in terms of Hindu nationalism, the Muslim population had taken all the beatings. But that applies to Christians also. What makes the Indian Muslims and Indian Christians look different is English education. So the Muslim question is closely linked up to not only state policy, but it is also
related to the Muslim community getting into reformative educational ethic, religiously, culturally and economically getting modernised.

The Masjid needs to take up a massive community modernisation drive. We all must know for certain that the State can do only certain things. But religious and cultural institutions play their own autonomous role in developing social communities. The Muslim community needs to address this question quite seriously.

Copyright 2005, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd.


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