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  Global Views
Case of Communal Harmony: Indian Madarsas
By Tanveer Jafri
Contributing Writer
Madarsas (Madrasas) and Islamic Education in India

The word 'Madarsa' seems to convey an imaginative picture of a school, teaching Islamic conservatives. After the incidence of September 11, it was so widely propagated by media that Islamic Madarsas are mainly a tool of the fundamental Islamic teachings. The train bomb blasts in London strengthened this view of media when one of the persons involved in this terrorist's network was a man who had been a student of a madarsa in Pakistan. But after the wide criticism at international level, now all the directors of the Madarsas are trying to associate them with modern education. O.I.C., the biggest organization of Islamic nations, is also playing an active part in this direction of modernization of Madarsas. Obviously, if it becomes possible, the madarsas that are being accused of communal hatred will be seen as Madarsas that shows example of communal harmony. Then meaning of a Madarsa will not remain limited to an institution that is only for the spread of Islamic education but that will be taken in its real sense.

The word 'Madarsa' has originated from the Persian word 'dars.' Dars means lesson or education, so Madarsa is a place where lessons are taught & education is imparted. The other word originated from ' dars' is 'Mudarris.' It means 'that gives education or 'a teacher.' It clearly conveys that the word Madarsa is not associated with Islamic teachings but it is a synonym of the word school. So only by name, if the word is associated with Islam or Mohammedans, it isn't proper. Now if we say something about giving the modern education & taking a constructive step towards communal harmony then madarsas of an eastern state of India that is West Bengal are a living example of it.

It comes as a surprise when we hear that there are some Hindu students in these Indian Madarsas. And if we hear that there are some Hindu teachers in these Madarsas, it is very astonishing. And if we come to know that there are Hindu headmasters in these schools then our surprise crosses all boundaries. But in India, which is the greatest secular country of the world & in its one of the states that is West Bengal, these all amazing facts can be realized. In western Medinipur district of this state, Mr. Suwaran Varan Panda is a headmaster of Kauthi Rehmania High Madarsa. At present 900 students are getting education in this Madarsa. Among them the number of Hindus or non-Muslims is more than 200. Two years ago, the number of non-Muslims in this Madarsa was less than 50. The headmaster Panda says that in spite of his association with the Hindu religion, even too he gets more regards from the Muslim teachers & the Muslim students, in companion to his other colleagues. Similarly, there is Akra High Madarsa in district 24 Pargana in the South of West Bengal state, in which there was no non-Muslim student last year but today 34 Hindu students can be seen who are getting education there. According to a Hindu girl student, Meenakshi Naskar, everything is normal here. Meenakshi has good knowledge of Arabian language. In Ujaria Madarsa of district Jalpaiguri of this state, many Hindu students are getting education. Here Tanya Sen, a 14 year student, got better marks in Arabian examination in comparison to the Muslim students. Tanya Sen proudly says that her being non-Muslims had never been controversial. Similarly, in a Madarsa of South Calcutta, there are many non-Muslim students & teachers. The headmaster Tapas Layak of this Madarsa says that here is love & harmony among all the students & teachers. Similarly, another Hindu teacher Devesh Mandal teaches English in a Madarsa.

West Bengal government in India has adopted a good method to solve the difficulties of non-Muslim students of these Madarsas. As in the beginning, non-Muslim face difficulties in understanding the Arabian language & they take more time in understanding it, so state government has set a ruling for such students that in the question paper of the Arabian language, out of 100 marks they may write answers in any other language up to 65 marks. In addition to it West Bengal government has started a project of giving scholarship to the students of the Madarsas. On being encouraged by the changing form of modernization, the President of South Bengal Madarsa Board, Abdul Sattar says, 'We have made Madarsa just like other general schools, where boys & girls, together, get the education. Sattar says that they have left the orthodox customs. Not only in India, it is something rare in the world. The Hindu students not only study here but they show better results than the Muslim students also. In West Bengal, the attraction of non-Muslim students towards the Madarsas can be imagined by the fact that their number has increased by 15% in comparison to last year.

It is a matter of proud that this year in class tenth & twelfth, Hindu students have shown good results in these Madarsas. On the basis of merit, many students have got admission in engineering & medical classes. The happy atmosphere in West Bengal has immensely pleased the famous film producer, a receiver of Dada Sahib Phalke Award; Mrinal Sen. He accepts that the country should learn from this atmosphere of the Madarsas. He says that many Madarsas are doing solid work in the direction of strengthening communal harmony. The modern process of education of the Madarsas of the Indian state West Bengal & their echo of showing communal harmony has even impressed Pakistan, where there are a vast number of Madarsas. Pakistan government has decided to learn from the working of Madarsas in West Bengal. Regarding this, at present, Pakistan government has asked the West Bengal government about the syllabus of these Madarsas.

During the worldwide campaign to defame the Madarsas, the Madarsas of West Bengal may get the first place for showing communal harmony & for imparting modern education, before the world but it reality at present, the concerned governments & Madarsa directors are making efforts at the world level to fill the syllabus of the Madarsas with the modern education & to wash the blots that are with them for being known as teaching & spreading the education of fundamentalism in Islam. In India, modernization in the syllabus of Madarsas is being brought in Kashmir as well as in other states. Undoubtedly the increase in the number of non-Muslim students is making an atmosphere of communal harmony. But the other side of the coin is that the reason for the students being attracted towards the Madarsas can be found in the paucity of seats in ordinary schools or the amount of donation or admission fees demanded is so huge in good schools which the poor guardians of the students can't afford. Contrary to this, the fees charged by the Madarsas is nominal & scholarship is also awarded. No amount is snatched in the form of donation, subscription, building fund etc. Above all, these madarsas have got recognition from the West Bengal High School Education Board. Because of this, these students have no difficulty while taking admission in other educational institutions or in getting government jobs.

It should be hoped that the Madarsa education system of Indian state West Bengal & their this rare example of all religion equality in the direction of communal harmony would keep an ideal before the world.

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Other Articles by Tanveer Jafri
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Mr. Tanveer Jafri, who serves as contributing writer for The Seoul Times, is a noted columnist in India. He writes in a variety of issues including world peace, anti-terrorism, and national & international politics for numerous news dailies and portals in India. As a devoted social activist he is a member of Haryana Sahitya Academy & Haryana Urdu Academy.






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