CAIRO — Hindus in India’s eastern state of West Bengal are not only keen on attending madrasahs, they actually outnumber their Muslim colleagues in four of these Islamic schools.
“The percentage of Hindu students vary from 57 percent to 64 percent in these institutes,” Sohrab Hussain, West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education President, told Indian news portal sify.com on Tuesday, January 20.
Hussain refuted some of the usual stereotypes about Islamic schools.
“It’s a misconception that our students only learn Islam-related subjects at madrasahs,” he maintained.
“Time is changing and so are we. Now, we lay more stress on science and technology than religion.”
The madrasahs are equipped with the new tools of modern education.
“Already 42 madrasahs have computer laboratories; we will increase the number by another 100 labs in 2009,” said Hussain.
“Over 100 madrasahs offer vocational training in not only tailoring but even mobile applications technology.”
There are 506 madrasahs in West Bengal and nearly 52 others will be established by the end of 2009.
Nearly 17 percent of the students and 11 percent of the teachers in these Islamic schools are non-Muslims.
The official noted that madrasahs have managed to gain the confidence of students and guardians too.
“Mostly first generation learners from backward classes come to study here as they know they won’t be looked down upon,” Hussain said.
“All students are treated equally…there is no religious bias in the madrasahs.”
Golum Mustafa, the headmaster of Kasba madrasah, agrees.
“If anyone asks me why Hindu students study at madrasahs, I ask them, ‘Why not?’ Be it school or madrasah – they are meant for imparting education,” he said.
“There are many Hindu students who passed out from Kasba and are well-established in life.”
Bibhas Chandra Ghorui, a Hindu assistant teacher, notes that affordable fees further attracted more students.
“There are seven schools within one km of this madrasah. But still people send their wards here, mostly because of affordability,” he said.
“One has to pay Rs.375 at general schools while the fees at the madrasah is only Rs.110,” he explained.
“As for religious tolerance, if a Muslim student can study Baishnav Padavali – a Hindu religious hymns – then why can’t a Hindu student study Islam or Arabic?”