The head of a West Bengal government-aided madrasa has been allegedly facing "attacks" from "local fundamentalists" for his advocacy of "progressive" educational reforms, family sources claimed on Saturday.
Kazi Masum Akhtar, the headmaster of the Talpukur Ara High Madrasa in Metiabruz area of south west Kolkata, has been prohibited from carrying on his duties at the madrasa unless he sports Islamic attire and grows a beard, according to his wife Refika Akhtar.
However, managing committee secretary of the madarsa Sirajul Islam Mondal while rubbishing the accusations said Kazi Masum's presence in the area would lead to "problems" which "will not be good for him (Kazi Masum)".
Refika alleged Kazi Masum has been prohibited from carrying out his duties at the madrasa unless he sports Islamic attire and grows a beard.
"He was attacked on March 26 by local fundamentalists for allegedly hurting religious sentiments; they thought his approach was non-conformist and far too progressive. Members of the madrasa's management committee informed us that he would be permitted to join the school only after he started wearing skull caps and Islamic attire and grew a beard," Refika said.
"He was trying to introduce the Indian national anthem in the daily prayer service and was vocal against early marriage of girls. He was trying to promote scientific temper and rational thinking. He had initiated cultural activities for all-round development," a family member said.
As an ad hoc measure to help Kazi Masum retain his job, the education department of the state government has asked him to register attendance at the office of the district inspector of schools.
"However, the state government has failed to ensure security. We live under the shadow of terror," Refika said.
Kazi Masum was in charge of the madrasa since 2012 and was successful in upgrading the quality of education there, said a family member.
In fact, the madrasa's managing committee had recommended his name for the state government's Shiksha Ratna award (best teacher in the state).
"A local club had felicitated him for his contribution. But some of his columns in leading Bengali dailies angered the fundamentalists," she said.
Family members claimed the commissioner of Kolkata Police has written in a report filed before the Minorities' Commission that Kazi Masum could come under attack even if the police escorted him to and from the madrasa.
But Mondal termed "as baseless" the allegations that Kazi Masum was not being allowed to attend school for not growing a beard or wearing un-islamic attire.
"This is baseless. The actual problem is he has no Islamic knowledge, which is necessary to continue in the post".
"Some of his writings have also created issues as they are not based on any knowledge of Islamic way of life or studies. He randomly takes information from the internet and writes.
"If he comes to our locality there will be problems. It will not be good for him also," Mondal told IANS.