At a time when Islamic religious schools or madrassas are portrayed as the breeding grounds for fundamentalism, Maulana Wasimur Rehman has done the unthinkable: he has become the first cleric from Darul Uloom Deoband to clear the civil services exams. By doing so, he has shown that if one wants to make the best of opportunities that an age offers, he/she has to understand the requirements of that era. And,if one wants to be a part of India’s fast-track growth story today, the only passport is education, modern education. Unfortunately, madrassas have often failed, or have been reluctant, to learn the new rules of the game and their out-dated curricula have left their students ill-equipped to take on the professional world. But thankfully things are changing and more important, the change is coming from within; Muslim youths have realised that staying away from the mainstream has not served their interests and have taken things into their own hands. Mr Rehman said his training at Deoband helped him prepare for the tough test, thus proving that there is a seamless way of joining the two worlds. In another development, which would surely help Muslim youth looking to join the mainstream, the Aligarh Muslim University has decided to translate science textbooks into Urdu. Pakistan, the one-stop shop of madrassa education, has also started its campaign for modernising madrassas.
This desire to be a part of a world on the move was on display again on Sunday in Srinagar. The ravings and rantings of a member of the old orthodox guard against popular Pakistani band Junoon did not stop thousands from crowding the venue of their performance. Threats from extremists did not deter them, they were just young people, and a few not-so-young, wanting to let down their hair and enjoy music as their counterparts in most parts of the world do. A junoon for change? Let us hope so.
The world over, youth have been the drivers of change, and, in many cases, minus much governmental help. In India, while the Sachar Committee report brought out the state of the minority community and the need for reforms, political parties continued their verbal duels over it. In such a scenario, the desire for change has to come from within the community, from the stakeholders. As Mr Rehman has shown, it is the best and the only way forward.