Madrasas are powerhouses of Islam: Justice MSA Siddiqui

By Kashif-ul-Huda,

Boston: Justice MSA Siddiqui is the chairman of National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI). It was this body which first proposed a board to regularize the madrasas in India. The proposal to set up a Central Madrasa Board has gathered controversy since then. met Justice Siddiqui in Boston, Massachusetts to talk to him about the proposed Board.

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A section of ulema are in opposition to this Board because they think this is an attempt to take over independent madrasas and change their religious character. Justice MSA Siddiqui is on a tour of the United States, away from the scene of controversy. He came to the US on an invitation from American Federation of Muslims from India (AFMI) and was given an award of excellence for his services to the community.

Those who are in opposition seemed to have not read the bill or that they are deeply suspicious of the government. Justice Siddiqui, on the other hand, is all praise for the systems of madrasas. He is proud that he himself has been educated in a madrasas. India’s first president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and current prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh were also educated at madrasas. He wants to see madrasas once again become centers of excellence. Madrasas educate people in full sense of the word- education. They build characters of their students and therefore their services are needed in the society.

Ulema and Muslim do not get tired of referring to the glorious days of Islam but they forget that in those days modern education of their time was part of the madrasa curriculum so why not include them again?

Allaying fears that Madrasa will lose their independence Justice Siddiqui assured that there will not be any compulsory affiliations. In fact, madrasa are free to un-affiliate themselves at any time even after voluntary affiliations. Central Madrasa Board (CMB) will not have any jurisdiction on the accounts and finance of the madrasas, a major concern of those who have been running madrasas with their own money and effort.

A revolutionary step is to give equal representations to all sects of Islam in the CMB and in fact, it goes a step further and gives half of the seats for the Muslim professionals so that this Board becomes a truer representation of the community including women.

Students of madrasas will immensely benefit from this Board as their madrasa certificates will be recognized by other educational institutions so that they can go for higher studies and therefore feel that they are part of the mainstream of the nation. Justice Siddiqui was quick to add that this equivalency will be set for only modern subjects that will be taught in affiliated madrasas. Madrasas themselves will be free to set the curriculum and duration of religious part of the education.

Of course, this will not only help students but Rs. 500 crore to be given to the CMB as seed money can be used to help improve the facilities and infrastructure of madrasas. It’s a win-win situation for madrasas where their students get access to modern education and they don’t have to bear the expense for the teachers. These teachers teaching modern subjects in madrasas will be paid good salary and this it is hoped will increase the salary level of current teachers teaching religious subjects.

There are nine states that have established state level madrasa boards (Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, MP, Rajasthan, UP, West Bengal) and some argue that they have not done enough to improve madrasa education in their states. Justice Siddiqui argues that state level madrasa boards are full of political appointee so there is no inclination for them to work for the betterment of madrasas. Central Madrasa Board, however, is free of political appointments as is made up of entirely religious scholars and professionals so it will be more responsive to the community needs.

Justice Siddiqui also does not believe that only 4% of Muslim children go to madrasas, so as the critics argue, why government seems so concerned about it? He refuses to believe Sachar Committee’s conclusion about madrasa going children since data about it was not culled from any survey undertaken. He believes that number is much higher and government is justified to work for the improvement of modern education in those madrasas who are willing.

The first proposal to set up the Board was submitted by Justice Siddiqui to the government in early 2007. In two years it has seen much opposition but as the details have come out it has able to win some support from the community. The sooner the Board is setup better it will be the community as it will be a major step in mainstream the weakest section of the Muslim community.


Important highlights of the bill:
National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI):