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Mainstream, Vol XLV No 24

Basic Causes of Muslim Backwardness

Saturday 2 June 2007, by Chaturanan Mishra


[(There was a time when in UP and Bihar Muslim leaders like Z.A. Ahmed, Sajjad Zaheer, K.M. Ashraf and Ali Ashraf, Ali Amjad and Habibur Rahman etc. constituted the top leadership of the Communist Party. Now such leaders are almost totally absent in the Communist Party. Implementation of the Sachar Committee Report has opened an opportunity for the Communists to go to the Muslim masses on a large scale. Left parties, particularly the CPI, should intervene in a big way and an implementation committee of the party with progressive, influential Muslim leaders, including non-communists, should be formed to avoid stereotype functioning. The following article aims at that. —Editor

The Sachar Committee Report with authentic facts and figures has proved that in some respects. Muslims have become more backward than Dalits specially with regard to employment. It is so in government services also and thus our administration does not reflect the composite cultural composition which the Constitution envisages. The Report belies the allegation of the Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindutva forces that Muslims are being appeased. The Committee has suggested remedial administrative actions which is expected to be done by the government but the past experience is that such suggestions are not implemented in the main; when time passes, the government and the political parties forget the task. For that purpose the Committee has suggested the setting up of an autonomous assessment and monitoring authority for the most backwards like Muslims, Dalits and most OBCs. I will prefer to have also one such for agriculture workers, unorganised workers, women and farmers specially small and marginal farmers. The experience is, as Rajiv Gandhi had said, that only fifteen per cent of the budgeted amount reach the people. This is one of the main causes of our backwardness.

To implement the suggestions of the Sachar Committee a Permanent Watchdog Committee of Muslims is needed to constantly remind the government of this. One danger is that such a Committee may speak only of ‘Muslims’. This will help the BJP to have another rath yatra and thus the whole attention will be diverted. Hence the Watchdog Committee should take the precaution and pose the problem as one of development of India because India cannot develop by keeping backward the majority of the population which consists of Muslims, Dalits and most OBCs. The Report of the Sachar Committee should be circulated on a mass scale. Secular forces, particularly those of the Left, should launch a campaign to propagate the Report on a mass scale.

HOWEVER, the main thing is that if the condition of Muslims is to be improved, the Muslim masses themselves must be awakened. Muslims rigidly suffer from religious taboos which are thousand years old. The Prophet’s advice of learning oneself and teaching others as a religious obligation is forgotten. During the Prophet’s days women were not in purdah as they are today. The Muslim clerics succeed, with the help of the Muslim rulers, to confine learning to only old religious sayings. In general, Muslims don’t believe that man went to the moon. Islam, in its early days till the coming of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, was advanced in Philosophy, Mathematics, Architecture, Space Study, Medicine etc. and Europe used to learn these things from the Arabs. After the Industrial Revolution new subjects like science, technology, democracy, human rights, separation of state from the church etc. came up and Islam refused to accept these. Thus not only Indian Muslims but the whole Muslim world is backward except a few. The slogan of Islamic rule or Sharia rule is opposed to democracy and is for dictatorship. It is because of this that the Arab world suffering from a deficit of democracy. More percentage of people in the Arab countries are illiterate than in India. Almost two-thirds of Muslims in the world are illiterate and among them three-fourths of women are illiterate. The Arab Human Development Report 2002 identified three major deficits in the Arab world today: knowledge, freedom and women’s rights. Despite the huge oil money they have, there is almost total absence of advanced research there. There is autocratic rule; absence of political and civil rights; no freedom of the media or speech. The massive oil money is used for the personal use of kings or dictators and for the purchase of armaments. This is justified by the Mullas, Imams and Umma in the name of Islam. The new forces of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden also justify dictatorship and suppression of women. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are communal too, but they carry out all their nefarious activities in the name of Islam.

In India also Islamic, Shariat rule is preached by some Muslim clerics. In our Madrasas scientific teaching is not done except in some southern States. India has one lakh Madrasas and if the Muslims start teaching there what is taught in government schools, very soon with the help of the government Muslims will come up. Such facility is not there for Dalits or most OBCs.

Some Muslims think that because of Hindus they are being discriminated against. To some extent this is correct particularly after the rise of Hindutva. But Muslims should realise that there was no Hindu rule when the Muslims came to India. Muslim Kings and Sultans ruled India for about a thousand years. Then why are the Muslims backward? It is not a question of Hindu or Muslim ruler. It is the policy that matters. Muslim rulers did not care for the Muslims and the result is the backwardness of the Muslim masses.

Two major events adversely affected Muslim growth. One was the defeat in the 1857 Revolt against the British in which thousands of rich and advanced Muslims were massacred; as a result for decades Muslims remained isolated. Muslims refused to read English as a token of boycott of the British. Even the fatwa was issued against Sir Saiyad who started English teaching in Aligarh.

The second event was the formation of Pakistan when many of the rich and educated Muslims went away to Pakistan. A big chunk of Muslims formed Pakistan and thus the political weight of Muslims in India was reduced.

It is now for the Muslim youths, boys and girls, to bring new consciousness among the Muslim masses. A great awakening is needed for such a big change. Knowledge is wealth these days. Aziz Premji, Muslim film stars and others are rich because of their acquiring of knowledge. Maulvis of the Madrasas themselves do not know science and technology. Hence teachers of science and technology have to be appointed in the Madrasas. Even technical training should be imparted there. Muslim boys learn technology and manufacturing more easily than others. Hence the question is of taking the lead. Unless the Muslim leaders take the lead no Sachar Committee can be of much help.

I want a broad discussion on this issue.

Dr Ravindra Sharma is a Faculty Member at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi. He is a known political activist.

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