Islamophobia in India
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Is This the Ultimate Solution to Rising Islamophobia in India?

With heightening islamophobia in India, the polarization between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities has never been more dominant than today. With numerous instances of mob lynching, hate crime, and speech, the division between the majority and the biggest minority group of India is getting wider.

But, is education the holy grain to solving rising Islamophobia in the country?

Islamic Studies in India

Education is the core instrument for the empowerment and development of any marginalized community. Along with earning employment and livelihoods, education also plays a vital role in living a dignified life within a society.

However, Islamophobia and its interception of Indian education institutions continue to exist, especially in rural regions and Tier 2 cities; where it takes a more demonic form. For example, a study by Human Rights Watch highlights how Dalit, Tribal, and Muslim students in these regions bear the brunt of brutal discrimination.

But, does India’s education system promotes islamophobia? Certainly not, but it also doesn’t educate its students enough to challenge Islamophobic ideologies.

Islamophobia and Indian Education System

The depiction of islamophobic content in school and college textbooks is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Only last year, the Telangana government urged schools to remove the picture of a “Terrorist” with a gun in one hand and Quran in the other from eighth grade’s modern history textbooks.

In her book, Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India, author Ghazala Wahab claims that a deep-seated misunderstanding of the Islamic faith or the inability of non-Muslims to understand the intricacies of Muslim culture is the root of the complex beast known as Islamophobia.

However, a few rare exceptions, including Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamic University, show us a more secular way ahead. From the recital of Iqbal’s poems to the usage of the Urdu language are both widely prevalent in these institutions.

But, with violent attacks on Jamia Millia Islamic University and the removal of Islamic scholar’s work from Aligarh Muslim University, even these safe spaces are crawling away from light.

The Removal of Islamic Scholar’s Work From Aligarh Muslim University

In a recent announcement, The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) dictated its decision to remove two Islamic scholars’ teachings from the Department of Islamic Studies’ syllabus.

According to university authorities, the decision was made after receiving several complaints that the writers’ teachings were “objectionable.”

“We weren’t told by the varsity authorities which part of what was taught was objectionable or anti-national. We were simply told to remove the teachings of the two authors.” 

Prof. Madhu Kishwar

But, all hope is not dead.

‘Moved by Islamophobia’

The 21-year-old Shubham Yadav resident of Alwar, Rajasthan, is aware of his accomplishment.

Shubham Yadav, 21
Shubham Yadav, 21

He outlasted 93 competitors on October 29 to ace the all-India admission test for Central University of Kashmir’s Master’s program in Islamic Studies; making him the first non-Muslim and non-Kashmir resident to do so. But he also doesn’t consider it to be a huge deal.

“Growing Islamophobia and polarization have made me think that understanding each other’s religion is extremely important in this day and age.”

Shubham Yadav

As an aspiring civil servant, Shubham believes that soon the government will need measures to ease tension between Muslims and Hindus in India. And in order to do so, they’ll need people with a deeper grasp of religion.

According to Shubham, Islamic studies is much more than just studying Muslims. It gives you an insight into Islamic law and culture.

Modernizing Indian Madrasas

Madrasas, Muslim faith schools, have long been an integral part of India’s education system and the only government-funded religious schools in the country. However, despite dedicated schools, of all the religious communities, Muslims continue to have the highest illiteracy (42.7%) rates.

However, now the Indian government is moving toward modernizing the education hubs of Islamic studies. Madrasas in UP, for example, now include science, math, and English at the secondary-school levels.

Jame-Ul-Uloom Furqania madrasa
Jame-Ul-Uloom Furqania madrasa. Picture Credit: The Guardian

Experts believe the modern education infused with Islamic studies in an estimated 19,000 Madrasas across UP will help students adjusts better to the global market’s needs.

But, a lot still needs to change.

The Way Forward

India is eminent for its unity in diversity. However, the tension between the majority, Hindus, and the largest minority community, Muslims, is nothing new. Both sides have long conflicted with each other on various fronts. But, in recent years, radicalization is becoming more polarised and violent.

And the best way to solve it is to initiate the change from the grassroots levels, that is, schools and universities.

First, a better representation of Muslim staff in schools and universities will help students in need to seek assistance from teachers they can relate to. Furthermore, this will also provide non-Muslim students to interact with the Muslim staff, thus challenging stereotypes by encouraging inter-cultural understanding.

Secondly, including obligatory readings that provoke students to combat Islamophobia. This will help students contradict the “master narrative,” asserting that Muslims pose a “terrorism threat“. Moreover, critical classroom discussion over the reading will also boost students’ knowledge of Muslim opinion and experience.

In a nutshell, schools and universities should be the focal points of positive changes to ensure equity and inclusion on a social and global scale. But, they won’t be able to do so unless they stop making just symbolic promises and start practicing them.