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Build schools in Muslim areas and ensure attendance: Maulana Mahmood Madani

Interview with General-secretary, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind

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Maulana Mahmood Madani, general-secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, and former member of Parliament from the Rashtriya Lok Dal, in an interview with Gyan Varma, says reservations for minorities should be on the basis of social, and educational backwardness, not religious grounds.

Some political parties are talking about for Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh. Do you think reservations would resolve the challenges faced by the minority community?
It is true reservation for Muslims is not the answer to all problems. But it is also true the condition of Muslims and their lack of interest in education can be removed through reservation, as people would give greater importance to education. Reservations can give some kind of a guarantee and make people aware of education. Education would help bring excellence, which could help secure jobs in the government, semi-government and private sectors. Reservation is not the answer to the problem. The problems of those given reservations have not been solved completely. But I think reservation would help bring Muslims into the mainstream. This would give them a sense of belonging to their country, and dispel the sense of alienation.

It is well known that reservation based on religious grounds is not permitted by the Constitution. How do you view the stand taken by the political parties? Is it a political gimmick to secure votes?
The way political parties are trying for reservations, especially the Congress party, Muslims can make out it is nothing more than a gimmick. We are not asking for reservation on religious grounds. Our demand is we should get reservation on the basis of backwardness, especially the kind that is social, educational and economic.

Why should only Muslims get reservations? Our stand is for any community; reservation should keep aside religion, caste and creed. It should be on the basis of social, economic and educational backwardness, not religious grounds. Even Brahmins should get reservation, if they are socially and economically backward. Why do you want a community to suffer, even if it is clear it is socially, economically and educationally backward? No Muslim leader has asked for reservation on the basis of religion.

We believe one religious section is getting reservations, while others are not. How did the Constitution allow that? First, Sikhs were included. Then Buddhists were also included for reservation. So, the government can include whoever it wants to and leave out the others.

The Union government has finally managed to bring back and Fasih Mohammed, the alleged terrorists involved in the 26/11 attacks. Both are educated. What could have led to their alleged involvement?
was arrested by the Saudi government. I would like to say two things on the issue. First, we should be able to distinguish between people accused of a crime and criminals. These people may be terrorists, but till the time it is not proven in court, the innocence of the accused must be preserved. The case could be related to Hindus or Muslims, but we should not brand anyone a terrorist on the basis of statements made by the investigating agencies. Second, if the name of a Muslim comes forward in the course of investigations, it is wrong to target a particular community or religion. It is not right to link the acts of one person with the entire community, because this can have very bad consequences. We should understand our enemies are not only against our country, but also against all humanity. Is it possible that our enemies want the Indian media and the Indian establishment to project a particular community in this manner to alienate an entire community? Is it possible we are leading ourselves into their trap, and projecting the people of a community in the manner they want us to?

Even if a court finds a person was involved in terrorist activities, we should not project him on the basis of his religion. The planning and conspiracy against us is part of blaming an entire community on the basis of religion. People start calling it Islamic terrorism, and link it with a religion. Sometimes, it is called Saffron terrorism. I cannot agree to use religious identification for terrorist activities.

The Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar, often blames security agencies of acting against people from minority communities, without giving information to the local police or state governments. Do you believe security agencies are often biased?
In my opinion, Nitish Kumar has not taken up this issue because of minorities. He is concerned Union or state government agencies take action or conduct operations in his state without taking the state government into confidence. He is not objecting because Muslims are being targeted.

The Samajwadi Party government recently completed 100 days in power in Uttar Pradesh. How do you rate the performance of the government under Akhilesh Yadav? Has it managed to do something for the minorities that had voted for him in large numbers?
The performance of Akhilesh Yadav’s government cannot be judged on the basis of its actions till now. It would be unfair to judge a state government on the basis of just 100 days, as this is not enough time for the government to take concrete steps. To judge his performance, he should at least be given a year or a year and a half.

The Union government is pushing for the Madrasa Modernisation Scheme. What are your thoughts on the issue, given about 25 per cent of children aged 6-14 years from the minority community have never been to a school?
We think there are two types of Madrasas. First, those funded by the government and second, those run by the community. Our experience is government-aided Madrasas share the same fate as government-run schools. The middle and lower-middle classes do not want to send their children to government schools — here school teachers do not take classes and school inspectors accept bribes from teachers. That the infrastructure and faculty of government schools have almost collapsed is sad. Even government-aided Madrasas are facing the same crisis. Teachers in these Madrasas have the same attitude as that of teachers in government schools.

We cannot say Madrasas run by the community have achieved their targets, but we think these have performed much better. We think the Union and state governments can run aided Madrasas as they wish to, but instead of trying to make unaided Madrasas like government-aided Madrasas, they should try to build new schools in Muslim areas and ensure children continue to attend these.

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