According to the 2011 census the Muslim population in India stands at 17.22 crore which is about 14.2 % of the Indian population. The community has recorded the highest population growth rate since independence. The 1951 census showed that the Muslim population of India stood at 3.54 million which was 9.8 % of the Indian population. This rise in population can be attributed to a number of socioeconomic factors such as
1. Muslims in India are poorer and less educated as compared to other groups leading to high growth rate.
2. Figures suggest that Muslim women getting married at early age of between 16- 20, leads to high fertility among them (4.02 compared to a national average of 2.50).
3. This leads to Muslims having higher number of young children (aged 0-6).
4. Researches also suggest that Muslims in India are less interested in adopting family planning measures.
It’s no surprise looking at the above mentioned reasons that Muslims are lacking where developmental indices are concerned but for the benefit of our readers we shall focus mainly on Education and factors that have led to the lack of it within the community.
What is the importance of education?
Education of any community with no exception to Muslims will not only be helpful for their development but also for the development of the whole nation. Human capital theory suggests that just as a physical capital (machines) augments a person’s economic productivity, so human capital acquired through education improves the productivity of individuals. Studies on the Sources of economic growth demonstrate persuasively that education plays a major role as a factor in rise of output per worker.
“Education is a vital factor in the social transformation of a society and its economic amelioration.” (Sachchidananda, 1977).
Reasons for this disparity: Perceived & Ground realities
42.7% of 172.2 million Indian Muslims are illiterate against a national average of 36.9 %. The bulk of these were among the Muslim women where illiteracy rate is 48% (National illiteracy among women is 44%). The Muslim men fair better than women with illiteracy among them pegged at 37.6% against the national average of 30.2%.
At the time of writing this article I happened to be in conversation with a friend of mine. As soon as I told her what I was working on instantly she quipped that the reason for this disparity is that Muslims have so many kids, how do you expect them to educate themselves if they can’t afford to feed themselves, any discussion on the ills regarding the invariably often gets stuck on this point. The lack of Education among Muslims isn’t just limited to India.
If one were to go through global statistics Muslims don’t do much better worldwide. Illiteracy is a common occurrence in the Islamic sphere of influence. According to a report by The Organization of Islamic Cooperation the adult illiteracy rates of its member states was 40% among males and 65% among females. Globally of the 1.4 billion Muslims, 800 million are illiterate; to put that in perspective 6 out of 10 Muslims can’t read. UNESCO estimates; there are around 750 million adult illiterate people all over the world of which 35 percent were in the OIC member countries. The share of the OIC member countries would increase to 40 %.
The prevalence of illiteracy among Indian Muslims can’t just be attributed to their large numbers and high fertility rates, the problem is multi-dimensional. The Rajinder Sachar Committee that was set up in 2005 by our then Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh to prepare a report on the latest social, economic and educational conditions of the Muslim community in India. The report reiterated several previously known findings which highlighted the heterogeneity in the community and the multidimensional nature of the problem. According to the report Muslims face many issues related to security, identity and equity. Its interplay of these factors that is at the core of many problems the Indian Muslims face today. Also the Sachar Committee brings forward the perspective that the problems faced by Muslims are also the same which are faced by the poor of the country.
In a perfect world common sense would dictate that the planners of India should formulate a policy which is inclusive for all downtrodden members of our nation but these measures aren’t feasible in the Indian context due to the lack of political will. Indian politician’s learned the lesson of “Divide and Rule” a little too well from their former British masters. The proof of which we see in today’s caste and religion based divisive politics. Muslims are just vote banks. They languish in misery and come election the leaders use them and once elections are over discard them just as quickly. There is no will to find a long term solution. Short term fixes like reservation in educational institutions and jobs are just availed by the creamy layer. The real benefactors of such policies aren’t qualified, aware or equipped to reap these benefits. Also not helping matters is the fact that the Muslim middle class was a minority within the community, most of who chose to migrate to Pakistan further reducing their numbers.
The Muslims faced distrust from others in India. A Muslim in India has an unwritten obligation that he must prove his nationalistic credentials. This distrust adversely affects his employability as where ever Muslim work force migrates, they are treated with suspicion hence limiting migration to regions with better educational and job prospects. This also leads to the phenomenon of Ghettoization to which we will return later.
Most Muslim are converts from lower castes who were exploited by the upper caste Hindus. These converts were termed as “Ajlaf”. The upper echelons of the Muslim society (minority) were called the “Ashraf”. These Ashraf held public offices, including the Mansabdars, Nawabs, Landlords, & Ulemas etc. Many claimed roots in central Asia rather than India.
This goes to show that the Muslim community in India is pluralistic and has many identities among themselves. Other than the usual Shia-Sunni’s there are numerous sects such as the Deobandis, the Barelvis and Ahle-Hadith. On this pluralistic community superimpose the tenants of extremist Islamist factions such as The Wahabis and The Salafists and what you are left with is a mess. Many times the uneducated masses of the community are left in a state of confusion regarding their identity. Whom should they be loyal too? The state which in their eyes has marginalized them or the Maulvi who claims to get them entry into “Jannat” in the afterlife? Also it was in the interests of the Ashraf to keep the Ajlaf uneducated oppressed. How many Muslim social reformers are we aware of? Compared to Hindus, not many.
The reason for abysmal state of education among Muslims has been attributed to poor/no access to quality educational institutes. Due to Ghettoization and poor financial standing of the community, there isn’t any incentive for Educational institutes to be set up in such areas.
When we look at the pattern of employment among these groups what we see is that there isn’t much incentive for these groups to enroll in education. Same factor dictates that once they do get enrollment there is little or no incentive for them to continue their education hence the high dropout rates. Also globalization and liberalization has effected Muslim occupation more than others. This is because most of them are self–employed in the unorganized sector. The Muslim dominated areas show very poor credit flow. This further hampers the ability of the community to improve its economic prospects.
1. Education and Employment among Muslims in India:An Analysis of Patterns and Trends by Rakesh Basant.
W.P. No. 2012-09-03
2. 2011 census report.
3. Seminar report: What ails Indian Muslims http://twocircles.net/2013oct25/seminar_report_what_ails_indian_muslims.html#.V84gK_l97re
4. Education and Development of Muslims in India: A Comparative Study http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol13-issue2/J01328086.pdf?id=2293
5. Muslim Statistics (Education and Employment)
6. International Islamic news agency report
7. Demographic trends in OIC
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