Mufti says idea of India is celebrating its diversity, calls for blending religious education with modern outlook

Describing educational backwardness as the prime reason hampering progress of Muslims in the country, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Saturday called for concerted efforts to take the community to next higher pedestal by making use of opportunities provided by modern educational system without giving up on values we are rooted in.

He said the Sachar Committee clearly points towards the grey areas where the status of Muslims, which form over 14 percent of country’s population, is even lower than those of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. “I do not find any stark contradiction between the need for religious education and importance of having secular modern outlook. I myself studied in a Madrassa, which provided religious education after which I went on to do a degree in law from the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU),” he stated.

The Chief Minister made these observations during his Keynote Address at the inaugural United Economic Forum (UEF) Summit-2015, here at ITC Grand Chola today.

He was one of the star speakers at the Summit where he spoke on the topic of ‘Education and Employment: Critical Requirements to Minority Community Upliftment.

A galaxy of dignitaries including Tamil Nadu Minister for Industries, P. Thangamani, former Union Minister for Minority Affairs, A Rahman Khan, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore, Zainul Abidin Bin Mohammad Rasheed, Ambassador of Iran, Ghulamreza Ansari,  Nawab of Arcot, Al-Haj Abdul Ali Khan Bahadur, Chitra Devi from Consul General of Malaysia, former IAS officer, Moosa Raza, besides hosts of other dignitaries including President of UEF, Ahmad A. R. Buhari were present on the occasion.

Founded by noted philanthropist, Alhaj Dr B S Rahman, in 1979, UEF is the premier forum for enabling backward community to become formidable force through economic enhancement, education and social development. It works to bring industrialists, businessmen, entrepreneurs, technocrats and NGOs together for common good of the backward community.

After his keynote address, the Chief Minister said he was pleasantly surprised by the sincerity of purpose demonstrated by UEF to enrich the Muslim community and empower the entrepreneurs. He called upon UEF President to broaden the canvas of its activities and showcase great strides it has made in economic uplift of Muslims all over the country. “I extend my helpful hand to organize the next UEF Trade Summit in New Delhi in which the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition share space together,” he said, while suggesting for changing the name of the UEF to ‘United India Economic Forum’.

Targeting to generate an economic value of Rs.10,000 crore by 2020 by tying up with Make in India team, the Chief Minister also witnessed signing and exchange of MoUs between UEF and business entrepreneurs amounting to Rs.2,000 crore through business activities, Islamic funding, sovereign wealth funds, private equity, government schemes and finances.

Decrying those who malign Islam’s image across the globe, the Chief Minister described it as a great religion of peace and tranquility and called for strenuous efforts to spread its message far and wide.

Referring to the contribution of pioneers like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Moulana Abdul Kalam Azad in arresting the decline in the socio-economic condition and educational status of Muslims, Mufti Sayeed credited them for a new renaissance in which Muslims started believing in the importance of education for their socio-economic revival. He hailed Khan, the founder of AMU, for his modernism, pragmatism and for being a strong votary of inter-faith dialogue. It is also not surprising that Azad opposed partition tooth-and-nail and his powerful memoir India Wins Freedom is a testament to his vision,” he said, while praising country’s first Education Minister’s contribution in laying edifice of strong and vibrant institutions like IITs and the UGC.

Placing high priority on ‘education for empowerment’, the Chief Minister said he had visited several Madrassas in Tamil Nadu before, which have successfully combined spirituality with secular education. “As you all know, when the Holy Quran was revealed to our beloved Prophet (PBUH), the first word was a command to read: Iqra,” he stated.

Referring to the new institutions of higher learning, the Chief Minister praised former President of India, Dr Zakir Hussain for the manner in which he built  one of India’s foremost universities, the Jamia Millia Islamia at New Delhi. He said the Muslim community has never been short of pioneers and visionaries and this story continues even as we sit and deliberate.  “Today, the Azim Premji University, founded by that great entrepreneur, is known to be one of country’s top universities in the field of teacher training and education,” he added.

          Drawing the attention of the audience towards the findings of the Sachar Committee, the Chief Minister said action of some of its recommendations can take the form of interventions where existing skills of workers are combined with knowledge, modern management practices, new technology and emerging market needs. “I am not a pessimist. I believe that the idea of India is celebrating its diversity and success of its minorities,” he added.

Some of the suggestions and recommendations of the Sachar Committee report include setting up ofhigh-quality government schools in all Muslim areas, exclusive schools for girls, in particular from 9-12 standards, need for undertaking appropriate mapping of Urdu-speaking population and providing primary education in Urdu, skill development initiatives of ITIs and polytechnics to focus on sectors which have high growth potential.

The Committee recommends that UGC should be encouraged to evolve a system where part of the allocation to colleges and universities is linked to the diversity in the student population, teacher training should compulsorily be included in its curriculum components which introduce the importance of diversity/ plurality within the country and sensitize teachers towards the needs and aspirations of Muslims and other marginalized communities.

The other important recommendation of Sachar Committee which the Chief Minister highlighted was recognition of the degrees from Madarsas for eligibility in competitive examinations such as the Civil Services, Banks, Defense Services and other such examinations. The idea is to facilitate a process wherebyMadarsa graduates too have a choice and an incentive to participate in these employment streams, he said, while referring to Sachar Committee report.

 Describing J&K as the only Muslim majority state in the country which aptly demonstrates the success and talent of country’s biggest minority, the Chief Minister identified education, skill development and employment as central pillars of his vision for future of J&K. “In my tenure, we are upgrading our schools as Model Schools by providing students access to smart classrooms and e-learning. We are opening new vistas by opening skill development institutes which will create a cadre of trained youth in traditional handicraft, including Pashmina shawl embroidery and Papier Machie as well as other vocational skills,” he said, while pointing out the importance of opening new nursing and paramedic colleges to meet the growing demand for trained human resource in national and international markets.

Outlining his vision to make J&K knowledge hub ‘in the foothill of Himalayas’, Mufti Sayeed dreamed of making the place where the brightest young men and women can come from all over the country to study, live and work together in an atmosphere that offers world-class infrastructure. “J&K always has been a skills and knowledge society. Renaissance of knowledge will be my government’s top priority,” he affirmed.

The Chief Minister invited the education entrepreneurs to join him in his journey to educate and power the minority community, in particular Muslims for which he offered to work together in partnership.

Mufti Sayeed said he was honored to be present at the UEF Summit and was impressed by the high quality of speakers and participants. “I can see that you are focusing on critical areas of importance to the country and particularly to ensure that the minority community benefits from the opening up of economic opportunities in the state, country and internationally,” he stated.

Later the Chief Minister formally inaugurated the UEF Trade Summit and visited a number of attractive stalls offering business opportunities in education, health, housing, industries, travel & leisure, electronics, leather and other allied fields. He also interacted with most of the business heads and shared views on expanding businesses and venturing into newer destinations.

Later Shoukath Sherif, Vice President of UEF, presented vote of thanks to the chief guest, dignitaries and guests in the audience for attending the inaugural session of the two-day Trade Summit.

Also present on the occasion were Vice Presidents UEF, Dr. T. Kamal, M. S. Tajudeen and M. Razzack and Secretary UEF, A. K. Abdullah.