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Muslims must aim higher than quota - Times of India

27 December 1996

Title : Muslims Must Aim Higher than Quota
Publication : Times of India
Date : December 27, 1996

A series of articles have recently Aappeared in Qaumi Awaz, a popular Urdu
daily published from Delhi and Lucknow, expressing divergent views on the
issue of job reservation for Muslims. But when eminent people like Syed
Hamid, an exbureaucrat and ex-Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University,
express their views in favour of job reservation for Muslims, it comes as a
surprise. It is a fact that Muslims are one of the most backward
communities, both economically as well as educationally. But even if they
are given jobs against a quota, will that end their woes? How can the
economic condition of 15 per cent of a total population of 900 million be
expected to change with a few government jobs.

Modern Education

While demanding job quota for Muslims certain facts cannot be ignored. The
Supreme Court has already put an upper limit of 50 per cent with regard to
job reservation. Certain 'backward castes' among the Muslims have already
been identified and recommended for job reservations by the Mandal
Commission. Besides unlike the Harijans, Muslims were never a socially
disadvantaged group. Although before the arrival of the British, a section
of the Muslim population belonged to the aristocracy, the general condition
of Muslims was nothing to be envied upon even then. With the passage of
time, other communities have prospered and marched ahead, while Muslims find
themselves miles behind. How did it happen?

One of the authors in the debate argue that behind the backwardness of the
community are factors such as lack of modem education, the bigotry of Ulemas
and the British vindictiveness arising out of the 1857 revolt in which
Muslims played the key role. A further set-back seems to have occurred due
to the partition of the country. The assumption is that educational
backwardness is responsible for the economic backwardness.

The significance of modem education in the overall development of the
community can hardly be disputed. But education alone does not bring
economic prosperity. Kerala with 100 per cent literacy ranks far behind the
Punjab, which although enjoys the highest per capita income but ranks 17th in
terms of literacy. Even among the Muslims,Khojas are very prosperous but are
no better than the rest of the community as far as education is concerned.
Education no doubt provides the winning edge, but it is the attitude that
leads to success and material prosperity. Indian Muslims always had a false
sense of pride, in that business and trading were never high on their
professional agenda, even though the Prophet himself had engaged in trade
early in life.

Spirit of Enterprise

Indeed, the Ulema did not consider it necessary to acquire knowledge other
than what fulfilled the spiritual quest. And even today there is no dearth
of Ulemas who hold similar views. But Ulemas never had an unflinching hold
over the entire community. How is it that they succeeded only in holding the
community from modern education but failed to infuse the spirit of Islam into
the Umma, which was their highest priority? It would appear as if the Ulema
and the British had been working in tandem to keep the Muslims backward, one
denying them education and the other denying them opportunities. One way or
the other Muslims are too obsessed with the past. Their concern should be
the future if they want to progress.

The fact is that Muslims, particularly in the north, seem to have no unity of
purpose. They have lost their sense of direction. They think politics is
the only remedy for all their ills. What they have forgotten is that they
themselves are the masters of their destinies and only they can change their
lot. And this is what their religion teaches. They have to stop looking at
charity in the form of quota and accept the challenge of a competitive life.
They will have to rekindle the spirit of enterprise.

Having said this, it must be acknowledged that whenever a section of Muslims
take up the issue of job reservation it rings an alarm bell in certain
quarters. Their demand for quota is their way of asserting their Indianness,
and of having joined the mainstream, not a negation of it. Indeed, by
obsessively harping on the "unreasonabless" of Muslim demands - which are no
different from the demands of other communities - majority fundamentalists
are helping the Ulema create a siege mentality among the minority. In view
of their past contribution to the country, be it in the field of art,
culture, architecture or the struggle for the freedom movement, the Muslims
should ask themselves what they can give to the nation and not just vice

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