Countering The Myth That Muslims Are ‘Unpatriotic’

Danish Reyaz, Feroze Ashraf and Maulana Tahir Madni.

Community takes steps to ensure that Muslims’ contribution to Indian independence isn’t forgotten.

“Mere lahu ki dhaar se/Watan ki bediyaan kati
Varak varak ulat chukka/Talaash mein kami na thi
Kitaabey Hurriyat mein/Mere naam ka kahin nishaan nahin”
(The sharp edge of my blood cut the chains in which my country was bound/ Yet, in the book of freedom, there’s not a trace of my name, though I’ve been turning page after page.’’)

Jyoti Punwani

MUMBAI — Mumbai businessman Adham Ali recites this verse when asked about the UP government’s directive to madarassas in the state to celebrate Independence Day and provide videographic evidence of having done so.

Former journalist Danish Reyaz from Mumbai plans to spend Independence Day in Delhi at a madarassa organising a flag-hoisting ceremony. The ceremony is being organised by his website, Maeeshat, which monitors Muslim participation in the economy. He will then give a presentation to the madarassa students detailing the contribution of ulemas and madarassas to the freedom movement.

“They need to be equipped to counter allegations that their community is not patriotic,” he says tersely, when asked why he decided to spend Independence Day away from home this year.

Both Adham Ali and Danish Reyaz are graduates of UP’s Jamiatul Falah, a 50-year-old madarassa in Azamgarh.

Maulana Tahir Madni, Director of Jamiatul Falah, speaking on the phone to Mumbai Mirror, wondered why the directive to celebrate Independence Day has been sent to madarassas alone. “It shows that the new government not only doubts our patriotism, but wants to spread the myth that we are unpatriotic. There was no need for such a directive. We have been celebrating both Independence Day and Republic Day right from the start. We have flaghoisting and special programmes on those days.”

This is not the first time that UP’s madarassas have been subjected to such a test. In 2015, reveals Maulana Madni, a PIL was filed in the Allahabad High Court asking that the State’s madarassas be directed to celebrate Independence Day and Republic Day by hoisting the flag. The Samajwadi Party government gave a detailed reply pointing out that madarassas already did so.

Considering that only four per cent of Muslim children study in madarassas (a finding of the Sachar Committee report on Muslims, 2006), the attention they receive is surprising. In its very first year, the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra had declared that children studying in madarassas would be declared “out of school”, unless their institutes also taught math, social studies and science.

Only the poorest of the poor send their children to madarassas, points out journalist Feroze Ashraf, who runs free classes for poor children in Jogeshwari. Students at the Delhi madarassa, where Danish Reyaz will be conducting the Independence Day programme, are already working, he says. They come for a few hours to study their religion in the madarassa and then go to work.

Yet, it is important that even these children who come from the lowest rung of society know about their country’s independence, says Ashraf. “But is that all they need?” he asks. “If the BJP is so concerned about them, why doesn’t it improve facilities in the mohallas where these children grow up? Toilets, hospitals, schools — Muslim mohallas lack all these.”

Incidentally, the country’s first Union education Minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, was a madarassa product.

A question that also arises from the UP government’s directive is: has the BJP ever felt the need to test the patriotism of the poorest Hindu children, who also have to spend their childhood at work?


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