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Education is the most important instrument of change for Indian Muslims: MJ Akbar

Education is the most important instrument of change for Indian Muslims: MJ Akbar

Former Union Minister MJ Akbar has urged the Indian Muslims to play an active role in the nation-building process, like they have been doing for the past many decades.“The dangers that we Indian Muslims face, and I think one of the most important ones, is the temptation of behave like victims. We are not victims.

We have been given a historic opportunity by democratic constitution, secular constitution and we have the opportunity to actually become leaders of change across the world,” Akbar, who was the chief guest Aligarh Muslim University’s Centenary International Webinar, said today. The webinar titled ‘The establishment of AMU and its achievements, 1920-2020’ was presided by Prof. Tariq Mansoor, the Vice Chancellor of the university and was also addressed by Prof David Lelyveld from USA’s William Paterson University.

“I would suggest that we do some serious thinking about the terms we use so easily, terms which have become a part of our narrative without us fully understanding what those terms mean. We must use this opportunity to be candid. We must think what is the meaning of minority? The way Indian Muslims were a minority when say the Mughals were in power. They were not. Demographically yes. But, not in the way we understand the term today. Which brings us to the conclusion that minority and majority are not a function of numbers but a function of empowerment. If we feel empowered we don’t think of ourselves as a minority,” said Akbar.

“We live in a nation where every morning begins with Azaan. I often tell visitors in Delhi that if they want to understand India, they must go to old Delhi in morning where they will first hear the Azaan, followed by the Hanuman temple bells, followed by the Granth Sahib recitation from the Gurudwara and followed by church bells on Sundays. That really is our country.

We are an essential part of the country’s past, a formidable part of its present and a vital part of our country’s future. This is the best way we can commemorate and celebrate the centenary year of Muslim University,” he added. The former union minister also commented on Professor Ali Ahmed Naqvi’s remarks saying there were two Taj Mahals, one in Agra and the in Aligarh. “May I just make one point which I think I would like to stress.

The Taj is a grave. Aligarh (AMU) is a very living institution. And Aligarh represents life of the present and, in Sir Syed’s conception, that it is the life of the future. We are also in centenary. For me, 1920 is an extremely important year because I believe that it is in 1920s that the long 19th century finally ended. And it ended because of a very significant change brought largely by Gandhiji.” Akbar suggested that AMU should have another word, which is ‘Aligarh Modern Muslim University’.

“Modern actually captures the essence of Sir Syed’s whole concept. He wanted to lift the community out of the fog of nostalgia and bring it to terms with the emerging world that was being created of colonialism.

His education was of the past, he studied mathematics, classical music, painting, archery, medicine, but his curriculum was for the future, encapsulated in the scientific society, which he conceived in his approach to technology.” Akbar also congratulated the present VC for AMU’s brilliant rankings and the part it is playing in contemporary research, including vaccine development for the Covid-19 pandemic.

He stressed on the importance of education by giving another example from the past. “Sir Syed faced many battles. Some of his battles took on angular characteristics. Some conservatives who accused him of trying to change Islam which was an absurdity. An eternal truth cannot be changed. What he was trying to change was to change the Muslims, he was trying to change communities, both Hindus and Muslims through the most important instrument of change – education.

If he had a message for the west, it was do not blame Islam for the sins of Muslims. And if he had a message for Muslims, it was to not blame others for your own sins. Sir Syed extended the concept of brotherhood to all communities. He said that the colour of Muslim and Hindu blood is the same, we both breathe the same air, we both drink the water of the holy Ganga and we’ve shared the same customs.”