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May 2007
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Community Round-Up

NCMEI recommends Central board to oversee madrassas
New Delhi

In what could evoke strong reactions from Muslim leaders, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutes has recommended setting up of a Central Madrassa Board through an Act of Parliament.

It is likely that this recommendation could become part of UPA government’s overall response to the Sachar Committee report. Justice M.S.A Siddiqui, Chairman of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions presented the report to HRD minister Arjun Singh recently.

Report contains recommendations for introduction of Modern Education in Madarsas and setting up of a Central Madarsa Board. Modernisation of madrassas would mean introduction of subjects like mathematics, science, computer, and vocational education along with the existing religious teaching.

The Commission was established through an Ordinance in November 2004 and started receiving petitions/representations from February 2005 onwards. The educational backwardness of the Muslim community has been brought to the notice of the Commission by various sources. The Commission recognized that the educational backwardness of the Muslim community has become a matter of unprecedented national concern, calling for significant remedial initiatives. Modernizing and upgrading Madarsa education, besides prioritizing Muslim-majority areas for educational development, is arguably the most critical task in this regard.

The need to establish a Central Madarsa Board for the coordination and standardization of system of education and also for its integrated development and mainstreaming was examined in detail in a series of consultations held by this Commission with educationists, religious scholars and eminent citizens associated with Madarsa education.

The madarsas can play an effective role in achieving the goal of universal literacy for children in the age group of 6-14 years in respect of the Muslim community. Article 21 (A) and 51 (A) of the Constitution provides the mandate in this regard and it is the duty of the State and its citizens to ensure proper education to the children. During the discussions the Commission had with stakeholders, many participants underscored the need to ensure that there is no dilution of the religious (Deeni) education in the madarsas.

Bohra Scout Competition

The first International Dawoodi Bohra Scout Band Competition was organized here on April 16 by the management of the Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat of Mumbai on the eve of the 96th birth anniversary of community chief Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin

Ninety two Dawoodi Bohra Scout Bands from Pakistan, Dubai and Kuwait and India participated in the competition held at the Royal Western India Turf Club at Mahalaxmi Racecourse.  

The participant Bands were judged by a panel of three judges from the Mumbai Police Band. The qualifying 12 Scout Bands performed for three minutes each in front of His Holiness in the evening.   

Over 20,000 Dawoodi Bohras attended the event. Dr. Burhanuddin praised the efforts of the community in organizing such an event and prayed for peace, progress and prosperity of the nation.

Minorities not getting bank credit in India: report
New Delhi

A committee of top bankers here has found that both public and private sectors banks across India have failed to provide credit support to poor minority communities.

“Banks have been reluctant to provide credit to these groups because of poor credit worthiness and operational difficulties,” said the committee, which was set by up the government to recommend measures for the working and improvement of official National Minorities Development Financial Corporation (NMDFC).

An eight-member committee, led by Naseer Munjee, chairman of the Development Credit Bank, and including leading financial and baking experts was set up last July on the advice of Deepak Parekh, chairman of the HDFC Bank.

Presenting its 44-page report, the bankers have recommended to the government to provide financial aid and micro credit to five million poor Muslims over the next five years. They have recommended a micro-credit programme similar to Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank be prepared for minorities in India.

Arguing that access to capital is an important factor in the development and success of any enterprise, the committee found that minorities have not been able to obtain their share of credit from the nationalized banks according to their needs. The Reserve Bank of India, reviewing the prime minister’s 15-point programme in 44 minority concentration districts (59 bank branches), has also reported lack of thrust for increasing the credit flow to minorities by leading banks.

The panel found that the situation for minorities with respect to their credit access was so serious that against a 79.7 per cent account holders from the majority community, just 20.3 per cent among the minority community had accounts in public-sector banks. Strangely, in minority-concentrated districts the number of accounts of minorities was 26.3 per cent compared with 73.7 per cent other account holders. The amount outstanding against minorities was just 11.6 per cent compared with 88.4 per cent against other communities.

The panel has recommended that the key to success is not subsidy in credit, but access to money at a sustainable rate of interest. “What we should aim for is maximum impact at low subsidy,” said the chairman Naseer Munji.

It has also asked for a total overhaul of the NMFDC by infusing private capital to provide credit to minorities at competitive lending rates.

The committee has also recommended the setting up of a Waqf Development Support Agency under the NMDFC to explore partnership-financing opportunities.

The committee has further noted that despite the economic boom in the country, minority communities, who are mostly artisans engaged in occupations like handloom, etc, has to bear the brunt of the so called “competitive” forces unleashed by liberalization. It has called for the setting up of a new entity called “Minority Partnerships” company where the government would have 49 per cent and non-government bodies 51 per cent holdings. The company should invest in three major subsidiaries to operate in education, livelihoods and social infrastructure. It has asked to include institutions such as the Tata Trust, Aga Khan Foundation, Wockhardt, Wipro, Cipla and others to jointly subscribe to the share capital.

Subsidies for Haj pilgrimage not against secularism: Centre
New Delhi

The Centre has defended subsidies provided to Muslims for the Haj pilgrimage in the Supreme Court, brushing aside the charge that it was against the principles of secularism, and said financial support was also given to people of other religions.

The Centre provides such facilities for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra by Hindus and Sikh pilgrims visiting gurudwaras in Pakistan, it said in an affidavit.

The external affairs ministry said it had been conducting the Kailash Mansarover Yatra with the assistance of states and providing financial support to Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam to offset the expenditure incurred by it for yatris.

“Some state governments also provide assistance to the yatris. Facilities are provided to Hindu and Sikh pilgrims for visits to temples and gurudwaras in Pakistan,” it said.

The government was responding to a petition challenging the constitutional validity of annual financial aid given by it to Muslim pilgrims on the ground that it amounted to discrimination on the basis of religion. The government’s affidavit assumes significance in view of concern expressed by the apex court, which during the hearing on a similar issue last year had wanted to know as to whether any subsidy like the one for Haj was given to pilgrims of other religious communities.

The court had referred to Sikh ‘jathas’ going for pilgrimage to Nanakana Sahib in Pakistan and the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra for Hindus. The court’s observations had come while vacating the Allahabad High Court’s order restraining the government from providing financial subsidies to Haj pilgrims last year.

Responding to a petition filed by a Delhi-based businessman on the Haj issue, the Centre said the grant of subsidy was in no way against the principle of secularism and was pivotal for developing better relations with Arab countries. “Indian Muslims performing Haj promote goodwill and international understanding,” it said.

“A policy decision to grant subsidy to Haj pilgrims is in no way going to affect the principles of secularism in the country.” “It is very much pertinent to state at this juncture that the government is not averse to the idea of granting support to pilgrimage conducted by any community,” the Centre said.

Making a distinction between essential activities of religions and secular aspects connected with it, the Centre said, “In order that religious practises in question should be treated as a part of religion, it must be its essential and integral part. Coming and going for Haj, Kailash Mansarovar and Kumbh Mela are all indeed secular activities. The government is only facilitating Indian citizens to go on pilgrimage,” it said.

The petitioner contended that the provision of a special subsidy to the Muslim community to the exclusion of others like Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs was violating the Constitution as the state cannot discriminate between citizens on grounds of religion, caste or creed.

Syed Jalaluddin Umri is new Jamaat chief
New Delhi

Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari was elected President of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind for the next four-year term. Maulana Umari succeeds Professor M. Abdul Haq Ansari who demitted the office on completion of the term.

The 72-year old chief is one of the best known authors of Islamic books. Some of his books like Woman and Islam and Human Rights and Islam have been widely acclaimed and translated into many languages the world over. A powerful writer and orator, Maulana Umri was born at Puttagaram in North Arcot district of Tamil Nadu in 1935.

Syed Jalaluddin got his early education at his native place, completed Islamic studies from Jamia Darus Salam, Oomarabad in Tamil Nadu, did Munshi Fazil from Madras University and graduation from Aligarh Muslim University.

One of the founding members of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, he is also chairman Idara-e-Tahqeeq-o-Tasneef-e-Islami, Aligarh Jamaat’s publication wing as well as chancellor Jamiatul Falah, Bileryaganj, Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and Jamiatus Suffa, Warangal in Andhra Pradesh.

He has also been editing a research oriented quarterly magazine, Tahqeeqat-e-Islami for the last 25 years. Earlier he edited Urdu monthly Zindagi-e-Nau, considered to be Jamat’s idelogical journal for five years.

Journalism course from Markazul Maarif
By Staff Writer

Markazul Ma’arif, a voluntary social-welfare NGO has announced a certificate course in Journalism for its Madarsa students in Mumbai.

M Burhanuddin Qasmi, Director of Markazul Ma’arif education & Research Centre (MMERC), which conducts many short term courses for the madrasa students, said Journalism course is designed primarily for people who are interested in writing for print medium such as newspapers and magazines. “The courses attempt to go beyond technique by encouraging the students to enhance student’s capacities to learn, hone their writing skills and align their writing skills in creative ways” he said.

The Journalism course is to help the madrassa students to develop new ways of thinking about community problems and social issues and raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle.

Markazul Ma’arif wants to train its students so that they can learn how to write and then take up stories as a freelance writer on issues that will change the image of the community in the minds of others. Course is designed primarily for students who are interested in writing for print medium such as newspapers and magazine.

Muslims of Maharashtra ask for reservation
By A Staff Writer

Muslim community in Maharashtra is demanding a share in power and jobs on the basis of their numbers in the total population. A resolution to this effect was passed at the ‘Maharashtra Muslim Convention held at Anjuman-e-Islam in Mumbai recently.

The convention was jointly organised by the All India Ulema Council and Mumbai Aman Committee. Delegates from 36 districts and scholars and intellectuals from across the state were present. Saying that Indian Muslims lived in a “pitiable” condition, the delegates demanded representation in the police, the bureaucracy, local bodies and private institutions in addition to representation in Parliament and state assemblies.

They said Muslims were under-represented and reservations were not sufficient. Maulana Zahiruddin Khan, president, All India Ullema Council, said since Independence Muslims were not been given proper representation and their share in different sectors was decreasing day by day”. United Democratic Front leader Maulana Badruddin Kasmi said Muslims should join hands with the downtrodden, farmers and other oppressed sections to demand adequate representation.

5.2% Muslims in Gujarat medical colleges

Muslims constitute 5.2 per cent among the students of the medical and dental colleges in Gujarat. This is revealed in a study by the Muslim Medical Centre here during 2005-06. The Centre conducts such a survey every year. Gujarat has 13 medical and four dental colleges. Last year the medical colleges had a total strength of 5400 students at MBBS level and 477 at the post graduate level. The Muslims numbered 306. In four dental colleges the total strength was 1120 at the BDS level and 20 at the MDS level. The number of muslims was 80 in the two courses. The survey was carried out by Mr. A. Farooq Bawani of Rajkot.

Iran Envoy Repeats us Abuse

An Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq has appeared before journalists in Tehran, saying that a US official was present while his captors tortured him. Jalal Sharafi was brought to the news conference in a wheelchair flanked by nurses, a week after his release. The second secretary at Iran’s Baghdad embassy gave a detailed account of beatings and interrogations, including being whipped on his feet with cables. The US has denied any involvement in Mr Sharafi’s abduction.

He was released last Tuesday, a day before the Iranian government set free 15 British naval personnel it accused of illegally entering its waters, but no link has been confirmed between the two cases. He was abducted in February and held for 57 days.

New Financing Option Unveiled For Islamic Businesses

The City of Minneapolis is joining with the African Development Center to offer a new financing option for small businesses, aimed primarily at Muslims.

The program allows Muslim Minnesotans, as well as others, to repay loans without traditional interest. Many Muslims avoid conventional loans because paying or receiving interest goes against their religious beliefs. Instead of interest-based financing, the new alternative is profit-based. Hussein Samatar, executive director of the African Development Center, says the new program benefits all Minnesotans.

“As Paul Wellstone used to say, we do better when we all do better; when we all have something, we’re a better community,” says Samatar. “When this community has access to capital, and they’re running businesses, buying homes, they are not only creating business for themselves, they are creating business for the community at large.”

Sabah Yusuf of the Aishah Center for Women works with small business owners to keep them informed about financing options. ”The reason these women do not go to mainstream banks is because of the interest. It’s really wonderful for the City of Minneapolis to say that we care enough to give back to the community, your religion and your beliefs,” says Yusef.