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The order to ban co-education in madrassas

"Fundamentalists of all religions don’t like women"

by, 8 February 2009

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Move to ban co-education in Indian madrassas strongly condemned

Muslim intellectuals and organisations from across the country have condemned the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madrassa Education’s (UPBME) order banning girls from co-educational madrassas, terming it "Talibani high-handedness". Various organisations have called it a "fatwa inspired by Taliban" and declared that it would be unacceptable to the masses. They allege that it was a design of the anti-education elements to push Muslim society into the dark ages.

"The people will reject this decision simply because it is neither practical nor religious. It is against the masses and also against the spirit of Quran," says Dr Ali Ahmad Fatmi, head of the Urdu department of Allahabad University and a well-known writer. He adds: "The first verse of Quran speaks about education and doesn’t ask the followers to deprive women of education." The row erupted on Sunday when the UPBME issued an order to remove girls from co-educational madrassas in the state.

The board finds co-education un-Islamic. Haji Rizwanul Haq, chairman of the UPBME, asked all 1,900 board-affiliated madrassas to show the doors to all girl students in and above Class IX because it was "against Sharia". This order will interrupt the education of over 25,000 girl students in the state, who will be given their school-leaving certificates and asked to sit at home.

Small consolation that girls in lower classes have been spared. "We are not going to disturb the girls from classes I to VIII. But those in higher classes wouldn’t be allowed to study. Purdah is essential in Islam.

Allowing girls to continue in madrassas means defying the spirit of Islam," Haq says.

"We can follow the Islamic law only by doing away with co-education. We also want to follow it meticulously and to ensure that the madrassas follow the instruction," he adds.

Dr M.A. Siddiqi, president of the All India United Muslim Morcha, rejects the order calling it "Talibani highhandedness". "The Quran doesn’t prohibit co-education.

If these people had any problems with girls, they should have ensured more schools for them before taking such an’ extreme step," Siddiqui says.

Lyricist Javed Akhtar minces no words when he says, "What else can you expect from them? They should make it clear whether they want girls to be educated at all, by giving them separate madrassas." Akhtar echoes Siddiqui when he says, "Instead of first setting up separate madrasa for girls, they preferred to throw out the girls and stop their education." "Sometimes I feel that fundamentalists of all religions don’t like women. Everything is done to segregate women and reduce their space.

"It’s as if the responsibility of culture, tradition, morality is only with women.

Men can drink, wear western clothes, go to pubs but women can’t. This attitude is common to all fundamentalists of all religions and all communities," Akhtar adds.

Shaista Amber, chairperson of All India Mulsim Mahila Personal Law Board, an advocate of appointment of women as Maulvis, says: " Such orders shouldn’t be taken seriously. It is unfortunate that such people are trying to pull back the community into oblivion. How can we expect an educated family without having an uneducated woman there?" " Those who have little idea about educating our girls shouldn’t be given the power to decide the fate of their education. I request responsible members of the community to ensure better educational opportunities for our girls so that they can join the mainstream of development," she adds.

Chairman of National Minorities Commission, Mohammed Shafi Qureshi, says: "Have those who had passed this order given the solution in the longer run? Where would our girls go to find all- girls institutions if they want to study engineering, medical and other professional courses? Will girls becoming doctors from our community only operate on women? Can somebody give a reply to this before passing the order? Segregation at schools will only end careers of minority women, who are already lagging in education.’’ Anees Ahmed, the state minority welfare minister, under whose ministry the UPBME falls, has come out in support of the board. "I agree that after an age, girls and boys shouldn’t study together. Co- education is unwise not only in Islam but also in Hinduism," he says.

This article originally appeared in Mail Today