A report of the committee headed by retired IAS officer Dr Mehmood-ur-Rehman which studied the condition of Muslims in social, economic and education spheres in Maharashtra and suggested measures to bring them to the mainstream, has turned the spotlight on the community’s socio-economic backwardness.
Dhaval Kulkarni spoke to social activist Syed Bhai of the Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal on the state of the community and the way out. Syed Bhai, 79, speaks out against reservations for Muslims and makes a strong pitch for the community to embrace modern education. Excerpts:
The Rehman committee has suggested that reservations may be an ameliorative measure for the Muslim community’s backwardness.
Indian democracy is linked to politics where a community’s votes are considered. It is wrong to seek reservations on the ground of religion. This will divide society further. No quotas on religious grounds must be allowed as they will damage and defame the community. Backwards among Muslims can get reservation on economic criteria.
What are the reasons for backwardness?
Society must introspect where they have gone wrong. Instead of schools, children are being sent to religious institutions, where they get only religious education without getting the skills necessary for earning a livelihood. Is the government responsible for youth refusing to get educated? Large number of youth fills the ranks of conservative organisations which preach obscurantism. Many of these organisations get funding from the Middle East. Muslims must cultivate a scientific outlook and educate themselves for their progress.
What is the role of the clergy in ensuring that the community is backward?
They bear 100% responsibility as they want to use the faithful like a flock of sheep. They work to dumb down people and preach the concept of pan-Islamism. The mullahs and maulvis command tremendous influence over the Muslim society. They don’t want people to supersede them. The government bears equal responsibility. Progressive organisations like ours do not get any help from it. One-sided talaq, which has destroyed women, must be banned. Many Muslim nations have proscribed this.
What is the way out?
We need rational laws and a uniform civil code based on equality. Oral talaq and polygamy must be banned. Muslims cannot even adopt children! Progressive organisations must be promoted by the government. Though religious education is necessary, modern education must be given to children.
There are instances where the government machinery, especially the police, shows a pronounced anti-Muslim bias. What is your take on it?
This is true in instances like in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Even in the post-Babri Masjid demolition riots in Mumbai, the police, instead of saving Muslims, pushed them into the jaws of death. In any country, the police are aligned with the majority community.
It’s said that low representation of Muslims in the government and private sector is due to lack of knowledge of Marathi and English. Do you agree?
The trend is changing. While girls are being sent to Urdu schools, boys are being educated in Marathi or English. Municipal corporations too have started English medium schools. However, Muslims who have come to Maharashtra from UP and Bihar have lesser knowledge of Marathi.
Muslims must learn the local languages.