At the decision, made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to give certificates to the Qawmi Madrasa students, different people were seen to have shared different opinions privately and publicly. A fraction of people is saying that they did not expect such action from the daughter of Bangabandhu. Sheikh Hasina has taken fundamentalism one step onward with this decision--its consequence will not be blissful. The minority will be in danger and so on.
But, what is the truth in reality? Why was the Qawmi Madrasa education given the recognition? Let’s delve into this issue and find the answer.
The old learning tradition of India was ‘Guru’ (teacher) oriented. Students used to learn by hearing from their teachers. There were no books then. The Guru taught his disciple and the disciple to his disciple, such was the tradition then. The reason behind such method was to restrict the right of education within a certain class of people. The lower caste people, i.e. the Shudras, became the victims of this education system and thus, were deprived of education. When education was the boon for the Brahmans, it was forbidden for the Sudras, even secretly.
The education of Muslims in the Akhand Bharat (undivided India) was limited to the teachings of a Madrasa, which is now known as Qawmi Madrasa. Although its teaching methods seem to be a lot like the education system of ‘gurus’, it has evolved with time and turned into a huge institution. Its syllabus is very difficult if not according to the spirits of the modern age. But it is a great achievement for the scholars of our country.
In 1781, during the British Raj, Warren Hastings introduced Calcutta Madrasa, which is now known as Alia University. In 1791, Jonathan Duncan established a Sanskrit college in Varanasi.
Although the country has now modern university education system, the old traditional teaching method has not died out as people still have a solid foundation of religion in them who do not care for science but prioritize words of the local respectable persons. Such is the picture of this sub-continent. Here is no opportunity of thinking freely, there are only barriers and sometimes ‘machetes’, if it gets necessary.
Who goes to the Qawmi Madrasas in our country? The answer is very simple. Only the children of poor families, with the exception of one or two, seek education in here. Poverty affects them with malnutrition which prevents their brain to develop properly, and therefore, they have low IQs. They can only agree with their teachers and never grow mentally with a dissent perspective. They are more skilled in Urdu and Arabic than Bangla.
They are actually a part of the underprivileged and neglected community, though many refuse to call them underprivileged. From negligence and despair, they submit themselves to Allah. And some take advantage of this situation and use them to serve their purposes, which often end up using them in politics. However, the children of the politicians go to English medium schools. When they need people for meeting or rally, they bring people from Madrasas to establish Islam in the country. As if they are the only agency to establish Islam in the country.
Although they have the constitutional right to get foods, clothes, education, accommodation from the state just like you and me, but in reality, they get none of these. So, they go to these Madrasas where they get free foods, shelter, and treatment with unscientific methods. But we must understand that they inherited it from their families.
The river erosion, natural disaster, oppression, misinterpretation of religion, family members` wrong decision, the hope of freedom from their sins, poverty, and lack of knowledge or information about the world, etc., lead people to accept madrasa education. There is a saying that nobody is Godfearing when he has enough power and strength in him. No one calls on Allah if he is not in danger. The people who are distressed are thankful to Allah or Bhagwan for their gratitude.
The number of such people is not small in the developed world, although the position of religion in all countries is weakening day by day. Being in this process for a long time, many people in the developed world have become irreligious, but the beliefs and customs of religion have not disappeared from these countries. Therefore, the fundamentalists of their respective countries target different places for attack. A small section of Muslim girls from Britain joined IS to become their servants. How will you explain this?
Due to poverty and lack of education, a large part people in Bangladesh have strong religious belief. The practice of free thinking is getting popular here very slowly. Again, those who claim to be free-thinking people, convert to become Islamic scholars in the last part of their lives, which is a serious obstacle to the practice of freedom of speech. Atheist Farhad Mazhar and poet of scientific socialism Al-Mahmud are the big examples of this class. Many strict Marxists are now supporters of Jamaat and BNP, for some special reason.
I do not claim or believe that everyone who runs madrasas is honest. But their faith overshadows their intelligence- they very easily make their disciples believe any rumor. With one call millions join their programs. But those who believe in free-thought in our country write in social media, newspapers, print books, and talk on television, but they do not go to the streets.
It is compulsory to accept the opinion of the majority in our country`s traditional democracy. The present government has accepted so as the demands of most of the people are being met. Many in the government do not agree with this. They have fallen victim to the conventional democracy. So, the people who believe in free thinking are now condemning the government to cover their failures. They do not respect the opinion of the majority in accordance with the law.
What could be the result? People of Qawmi Madrasa will now get government jobs, although the number will be very few. But, only then, they will change their curriculum and become a part of the mainstream education system. Maybe it will take years or decades, just as it happened in Saudi Arabia. Now, girls read the news on TV, drive, and go to the stadium to watch sports etc. In our country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given the opportunity to the students of Madrasas to get on the train of change and development, only future can tell what the results will follow. However, it will not be something bad which we can tell from observing the environment of the country.