Why Muslims Must Take Most Of The Blame For Their Backwardness

Why Muslims Must Take Most Of The Blame For Their BackwardnessMuslim children reciting verses from Islam’s holy book Quran at a Madrassa (School) in Noida. (Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • The Sachar Committee did great injustice by communalising the issue and not recommending the right prognosis — and the likes of Jaffrelot are making it worse by barking up the wrong tree.

    Playing the victimhood card is easy but it doesn’t help. It’s time Muslims realised that they must take most of the blame for their backwardness.

The minoritarianism injected by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government into the mainstream of policymaking needs no introduction.

Soon after coming to power, it formed a committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar in March 2005 to look into the social, educational and economic status of Muslims in India.

Those in the government had already decided on creating ‘specific interventions, policies and programs’ for Muslims. The Sachar Committee was only a tool to provide a rationale for those policies they were planning.

In any case, 72 out of 76 communal recommendations were accepted by the government and made their way into various policies, most of which are run from the Ministry of Minority Affairs, a new department carved out in 2006 from the Ministry of Social Justice.

More than a decade later, we are now told that the special schemes which were designed to help uplift the Muslim community have achieved squat. Apparently the community is worse off today than it was earlier when compared to even Scheduled Castes (SCs).

Analysing data from two National Sample Surveys in 2017-18 and 2011-12 of 13 states where almost 90 per cent of Indian Muslims live, Christophe Jaffrelot and Kalairasan A find that:

The proportion of the youth who have completed graduation — we call this ‘educational attainment’ — among Muslims in 2017-18 is 14 per cent as against 18 per cent among the Dalits, 25 per cent among the Hindu OBCs, and 37 per cent among the Hindu upper castes. The gap between the SCs and Muslims is 4 percentage points (ppt) in 2017-18. Six years earlier (2011-12), the SC youth were just one ppt above Muslims in educational attainment. The gap between the Muslims and Hindu OBCs was 7 ppt in 2011-12 and has gone up to 11 ppt now. The gap between all Hindus and Muslims widened from 9 ppt in 2011-12 to 11 ppt in 2017-18.

One of the reasons offered for this marginalisation of the community by the authors is ‘the activities of vigilante groups’ which ‘could possibly have led young Muslims to withdraw into their shell.’

This is a dead giveaway of the vicious agenda that the authors want to peddle.

A handful of vigilante-related violence against cow smugglers and thieves caught red-handed has not instilled any fear in smugglers or thieves as increasing crime cases show but these have apparently pushed law-abiding Muslims into the shell.

The fear is so much that Kamlesh Tiwari, who made uncharitable comments on the Islamic prophet, is killed in broad daylight but innocent Muslim students are apparently dropping out in droves from schools, employment and colleges. Yes, this is totally believable.

Such juvenile analysis by eminent scholars like Jaffrelot aside, we need to look at the real reasons behind the marginalisation of Muslims.

The Sachar Committee did great injustice by communalising the issue and not recommending the right prognosis — and the likes of Jaffrelot are making it worse by barking up the wrong tree.

The only people who benefit from their fact-free victimhood narratives are the likes of Asaduddin Owaisi. Quote tweeting the article, Owaisi said, “There’s a mountain of proof indicating our social & educational backwardness.

“But any policy made to uplift Muslims is dismissed as appeasement It’s an issue of justice for us & the crude reality of India is that without political power there’s no justice.”

What does he mean by ‘political power’? It’s nothing but a dog whistle for pushing the community towards demanding separate electorates — one of the key reasons that caused India’s partition.

If political power could take the community out of the pits, then Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh and scores of other Muslim countries would not be in such a pathetic state — economically as well as educationally.

Playing the victimhood card is easy but it doesn’t help. It’s time Muslims realised that they must take most of the blame for their backwardness. Some suggestions on what they can do instead follows.

First, the best thing Muslims can do to help themselves is to start considering the idea of population control.

Family planning will go a long way in taking the community out of its terrible economic situation. As far as households are concerned, Muslims are not worse off than Hindus.

As per religion-wise national monthly mean household consumption and expenditure (68th round NSSO data): Hindus (Rs 8,086) and Muslims (Rs 8,069) are almost at the same level.

However, big family size among Muslims makes matters worse. Muslim population growth rate (Census 2011) is over 24 per cent compared to 15.5 per cent for Christians, 8.4 per cent for Sikhs, 6.1 per cent for Buddhists, and 5.4 per cent for Jains.

This has grave economic consequences. The difference in population growth alone has made the average Muslim poorer than an average Hindu by 38 per cent (Durga Nand Jha, India Minority Report).

It’s not rocket science to understand that if you have eight children (from multiple wives) as a Muslim, you will be worse off than your Hindu neighbour who has only two kids and one wife. It has implications for children's education too.

Second, for Muslims, the problem is not just lack of resources to send so many children to school but also the kind of schools they send them to.

Apologists refer to the Sachar Committee report which estimated that only four per cent of Muslim children attend Madrassas to make a point that only a minuscule number goes to these religious institutions.

But what they don’t tell you is that the Sachar report only gave this figure about students in Madrassas that aren’t attached to mosques. Madrassas attached to mosques are called Maktabs and such institutions are in a majority, not the stand-alone Madrassas.

There are lakhs of Madrassas in the country (close to a million). Even if each Madrassa has only 10 students (highly conservative estimate), then the enrolled students alone will be around one crore!

Even if we ignore the radicalisation that happens in the Madrassa, these millions of students get religious education that is fit to make them a Maulvi or give them a degree to work in one fo the Gulf countries as labourers; it is not the kind of education that can prepare them for modern industry jobs.

Is it any wonder then that educational attainment of these students is even lower than SCs and that the difference between the two is increasing as the future of work becomes more and more complex and uncertain?

Third, is the issue of utter lack of Muslim girl education in the community.

Muslim female illiteracy stands at 48 per cent while the figure for other minorities is much better — Christians: 28 per cent; Sikhs: 36 per cent, Buddhists: 34 per cent; and Jains: only 15 per cent. Muslim women’s share in work participation also follows a similar trend.

If woman illiteracy is higher among Muslim women, it’s not because of any discrimination but due to the general outlook of the community towards girl education.

If the work participation of Muslims is lower, it’s because millions of children are sent to Madrassas rather than put through regular schooling from where they can acquire the necessary skills to get into a good college and then into a good job.

But eminent scholars like Jaffrelot want to get away from these uncomfortable facts by pointing towards a couple of vigilante attacks on thieves and smugglers.

Fourth, is understanding that the reason for their backwardness is their ghetto mentality and intolerance towards ways of life that are different from theirs.

The environment in schools, colleges and workplaces is such that people from different faiths and regions come together and collaborate.

If you resent assimilation, want to stand out, erect barriers in terms of dressing, food habits, and celebrating festivals, of course, people will have a hard time accepting you and you will face the consequences.

It’s not religious bigotry but a simple fact of life on how humans bond. In these places of the 21st century, if you would conduct yourself as someone from the seventh century, you will find it difficult to forge relationships.

Additionally, we shouldn’t forget the regional factors contributing to Muslim backwardness. Over 52 per cent of Muslims live in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and West Bengal — some of the poorest states in the country that house only 32 per cent of India’s population.

Therefore, on average, the national poverty figures for Muslims will be higher. We need to do the analysis state-wise: compare Bihar’s Muslims with Bihar’s Hindus and so on.

The NSSO data of the 13 states that Jaffrelot and his co-author use in their article give some good insights.

Muslims and SCs are at similar levels in eastern, poorer India but as you move towards western, faster-developing parts of the country, the gap between Muslims and Hindus (SCs, OBCs, UCs) increases, and it has widened rapidly in the last few years.

This shows that as prosperity increases in a region, other communities are able to lift themselves up while the Muslim community remains behind.

This is clinching evidence that Muslims are backward in the economy as well as education due to their own doing.

Unless they reform themselves, they are going to be left behind more rapidly in a fast-changing world which is becoming more and more competitive by the day.

Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.

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