Intro: Hurriyat leader Maulvi Umar’s call for introducing Islamic education in all schools of Jammu and Kashmir state is another sinister attempt of Islamising the state and undermining indigenous cultural and educational traditions.
Some days ago, Maulvi Umar Farooq made a very controversial announcement about teaching in schools. He said that Islamic teachings should be introduced in all schools of Jammu and Kashmir, whether government-owned or private. For good measure, he also added that this was imperative for preserving the special “Muslim-majority character’’ of the state.
Maulvi Umar Farooq is the custodian of a legacy, a religious teacher and a Hurriyat leader. He is considered moderate in his outlook, going by the standards of brinkmanship Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the patriarch of the other faction of the Hurriyat, has set for himself but that is a smokes screen. Of course, Omar leads a religious faction in the Kashmir Valley which has followers living near his residence in Nageen Lake. Experience suggests us that he often pleads Pakistan’s cause, against India, at home, and abroad.
His call for introducing Islamic studies raises many questions unanswered in this context. There is a sound reason for finding his ideas about teaching Islam in schools not acceptable. Simple, the first question that arises is what branch of Islamic teachings is he talking about? Is it Sunni or Shia teachings he is talking about? All schools, whether in the Hindu-majority districts of Jammu, or Buddhist-majority Leh district, going by Maulvi Umar Farooq, will then have to teach Islamic studies which he espouses.
The next question is whether it will be Deobandi Islamic beliefs and practices that will be taught. Or will it be the Brelvi Islamic teachings that will have to be taught in the schools? There are some Ahmediya Islamic believers also living in Jammu and Kashmir. They will have to be taught the Islam which Maulvi Umar believes in, not what they follow.
What about the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists living in J&K? The students of all these communities will then be taught the Islam which Maulvi Umar follows. Will those who often speak of secularism, at the drop of a hat in fact, ever challenge Maulvi Umar’s prescription? Oh, they must remain silent for it is the Godly right given to Muslim leaders like Maulvi Umar to impose their will on the minority Hindus and others in a state like J&K!
Those who want to get religious teachings in ordinary schools are all wrong because they have a choice. They can go to a seminary (Madrrasa) or a religious school instead of following a normal curriculum or syllabus in a regular school. Why come to a regular school at all if you want to pursue a religious training? The simple answer is go to a religious school which can, technically, provide better religious schooling than an ordinary school. If the schools provide Islamic teaching alone, there will be a clamour from other religious groups also for teaching their religions also.
So, why is Maulvi advocating religious Islamic teaching in all schools, government and private? It looks like to stir trouble in the Kashmir Valley, and stay relevant. He is trying to prove his nuisance value before the advent of summer when everybody is hoping for a good tourist season after a devastating flood.
There is clearly politics involved in the issue of a communal and sinister variety. The Maulvi is seeking to divide us also on clearly religious lines and that is dangerous.
One thing is clear that the Maulvi is treading on thin ice. Incidentally, a brand of Islam he teaches in Kashmir is not acceptable to another branch of the followers of Islam, say in Kargil district.
We have to say one thing clearly. There is a fall in the standards of morality among our youth. But the answer to a moral deficiency does not mean buuldosing someone in the name of religion as the Maulvi seems to believe, and suggests. It lies elsewhere. It lies in inculcating cultural and universal moral values rooted in our traditions. Let us hope that sanity prevails in the society, and Islamic religious teaching, as Maulvi Umar suggests, is firmly rebuffed.
Sant Kumar Sharma (The writer is a Jammu based freelance journalist)