How strange it is if you see a person wearing kurta pyjama with beard and skull cap you are afraid, you avoid to sit beside him in trains and buses, you look with an unfamiliar rather suspicious gaze at him. It is not so that the attire posed by the person is new to you and your eyes met it first time in life, but the fact is that this traditional dress and bearded man is a part of your society, your neighbourhood and your acquaintances. This fraction of society had been present among you for generations, but after all these ground realities you are afraid of his company.
Why is it so? Is there anything inside the dress or the beard? Surely not! Then what? Why go far, look at your own past few years if you can ponder upon the situation. How trusted, peaceful, sympathetic and harmless this creature was. You were quite comfortable and carefree in his company and neighbourhood, you gave your way open for him to pass out of respect and even stood up as a mark of honour if he happened to meet you.
But, thanks to media that plays with the public opinion and turns the hearsay into worldwide fact. The beard and kurta pyjama came in limelight first when Kabul fell to Taliban militia wearing this dress which is common and traditional dress of the people in Afghanistan. They again hit headlines in 2001, when Twin Towers in US were banged by hijacked planes, not because the hijackers were bearded and mullahs, but unfortunately because the so-called mastermind Bin Laden was believed to be harboured by Taliban in Afghanistan. Taliban due to their association with madrasas in Afghanistan and Pakistan were recognized as people having beard and wearing kurta pyjama.
From that day onward beard and traditional Muslim dress was symbolized to be a logo of terrorism and it was so projected by media. As a result, radical Islam was blamed and those who follow Islam were labelled as extremists, fanatics, fascists and even terrorists. Thus madrasas in India and everywhere were targeted blindly as they teach radical Islam and house mullahs resembling to those in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Yes, there may be people from madrasas who are involved in political and militant activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan as per the local conditions that may be justified by them, but the case is quite different with the madrasas in India.
In India, we are habitual of repeating what is said and published by electronic and print media. From a common man to Group of Ministers (in 2001) everyone is bent to think the madrasas a threat to national security. But why? None is able to furnish the proof of their involvement in anti-national activities. Nobody has time to reflect whether the blame he or she is putting on madrasas or molvis has some ground, whether has he or she been to any madrasa even for awhile to see their activities.
The Indian madrasas, from syllabus and teaching materials to field work and national contribution present a bright face of Indian Muslims. The madrasas impart the richest moral material ever known to educational or academic system in the world; especially today when the education is job-oriented around the globe they offer purely moral-oriented education system. The subjects taught at madrasas, good or bad, but have nothing to do with the politics of today’s world, they are either fourteen hundred year old Quran and Hadith or some medieval subjects dealing chiefly with Muslim faith, ethics, transactions, society, logic, Islamic philosophy, Arabic language etc.
As far as their daily routine and weekly schedule is concerned it is far from terrorism and fanaticism. To your utter surprise, madrasas even do not have any entertainment and physical exercise system then what about arm-training and so on.
Those who come out of these Muslim seminaries they either return to the same profession teaching at madrasas, or join a mosque fulfilling the social and religious needs of a Muslim community. Many even become part of society in business or ancestral profession of farming while a minor part them turns to college and university education. So, if the madrasas or people associated to them are terrorist and fascist so where the terror lies; in their syllabus, in their education system, in their social role, where? If you say it lies in their syllabus materials, let me tell you whatever they teach is fully ‘Islam’. If the fault lies there then you must admit that Islam is the root of the fault, but no sane person will dare to utter it.
On the other hand, if we see the history of Indian madrasas, they from their inception play a composite nationalist role. They were bearded mullahs of madrasas who were at the forefront of fist national war remembered as mutiny of 1857. It was the same madrasa product Obadiullah Sindhi who was Home Minister of Provisional Indian Government with a Hindu Raja Mahindar Pratap as its Head. It was the same radical molvi (Barkatullah Bhopali) who joined India Berlin Society and took part in constituting Provisional Indian Government in 1915. It was Head of molvis Shaikhul Hind Mahmoodul Hasan who was Commander in Chief of Muslim Salvation Army and mastermind of national freedom movement that was later know by Silk Letter Conspiracy. They were these molvis (Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hussaind Ahmad Madani etc) who rejected the concept of Muslim homeland (of Pakistan) and endangered their lives for the Indian nationalistic cause.
And after Independence also the same nationalistic and patriotic role of molvis and madrasas continues. The madrasas are the largest network which is offering free education to a large number of students from downtrodden and backward community Muslim from one and a half century (a goal that could not be achieved by India even at primary level during 60 years of Independence). No madrasa and no student of a madrasa, not even the in terror-hit Jammu and Kashmir, was ever found guilty of anti-national and terrorist activities, while though there is no exact data available but surely the ratio of madrasa educated people in social and other crimes is nearly zero.
However, only media is not to be blamed. The madrasas are also partly responsible for the misconception spread against them since they are too reserved to represent even their true face to the community, to media and to the world at large.
In this background the proposed anti-terror meet at Darul Uloom Deoband on 25 Feb 2008 is a positive gesture that will help to solve many such problems and remove miscomputations. The meeting is to be attended by the representatives of thousands of madrasas, Islamic institutions and Muslim scholars from every nook and corner of the country. Hopefully, the meeting will help minimize the gap and pull down the wall of misunderstandings.