'Fight terror with education'
Abu Dhabi - 'Kerala scholar Kanthapuram says Indian politicians can learn a lot from UAE leaders
Education is the most powerful weapon in the fight against terrorism and also the best medicine against all social ills, feels Sheikh Aboobacker Ahmed, religious Muslim leader in India who is also the first scholar to issue a fatwa against the terror group Daesh.The All-India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama general secretary bats for special rules to facilitate rehabilitation of NRIs returning home from the Middle East due to the impact of low oil prices.The scholar from Kozhikode, also known as Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker Musliar, says Indian politicians have a lot to learn from the UAE leaders in terms of treating the poor and needy.He is the chancellor of the Kozhikode-based Markaz Islamic university, which holds the biennial Shaikh Zayed International Peace Conference to promote harmony. Markaz has launched a 'Peace Tree' campaign to plant 100,000 trees across India in memory of Shaikh Zayed.The founder-patron of Knowledge City in Kozhikode says the ambitious project is on track and will help promote skill-based learning. He feels there is no intolerance in India and the need of the hour is secular education. The 'Ustad' with political nous says a third force emerging to rule Kerala could be a possibility.Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
Religious extremism is the biggest threat the world faces today. How can education counter this menace?
Education and employment can help crush terrorism. The 'Education as the Answer' campaign launched by Markaz is aimed at countering religious extremism. Educated but jobless youth often fall prey to extremist groups lurking to recruit members. Even in India, such isolated incidents happen due to lack of education and jobs.Education is the foundation to become a better person. The first word in the Holy Quran is 'Iqra', which means 'read'. The first path shown by the Holy Quran is to read, write and attain knowledge. The technological advances we see now were once unknown to the mankind but he learned and then created and discovered things to make life better.
What are the steps taken to promote and develop education as a weapon against extremism?
We understand that social responsibility is an important factor, so all our institutions - Samastha Kerala Sunni Jamiyyathul Ula-ma, Sunni Youth Society, Sunni Students Federation and Kerala Muslim Jamaath - focus on promoting education. In this con-text, Jamia Markazu Ssaqafathi Ssunniyya, which was started in 1978, is significant. It's a university that blends modernity with morality. We have set up schools in almost all states and have more than 200,000 students. We offer them secular education. Those who assassinated our prime minister in 1984 and those behind the 2001 parliament attack were educated but were never taught about their civic obligations. In our institutions, we have changed the prevalent socio-educational model and have won a lot of global acceptance.
What is happening to the Markaz Knowledge City project? What is the progress in this venture?
Due to some unnecessary legal tangle, the project was struck for a year but it is now progressing well. The main campus, Unani Medical College, Cultural Centre and Law College, are almost complete. The main purpose is to churn out more students with skills to match international standards. With our Cultural Centre, we aim to find ways to generate revenue within our institution. We also want to promote the IT sec-tor in a big way.
What is the status of the proposed Shahre Mubarak Grand Masjid?
Yes, the plan is still under process. It will be in Kozhikode.
Do you think India is becoming increasingly intolerant, especially after the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power?
I don't think so. It's just one section of society who thinks that way. Compared to other nations, India is a much more peaceful place. When a new party comes to pow-er, others will naturally point fingers; such things are common. Overall we are a peaceful nation.
Last year you led a delegation of scholars to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Have any of your suggestions been implemented?
We were not asking the Modi government for any policy changes. We just wanted them not to alter history. India should remain India. If anyone reads about the nation, say after 100 years, he shouldn't find a new India. We were assured nothing would be changed. We also wanted an end to communalism and more focus on education.
The right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and members of the Sangh Parivar are trying to saffronise history books. What is Jamaath's action plan against such a move?
We will look into it. If this is true, then we will take legal steps against any such moves. We questioned when there was a proposal to honour (Mahatma) Gandhi's killer.
The Sangh Parivar is once again raking up the Ram Temple issue. How do you react to their call?
Such moves should be checked but that is not our job. It is for the government to act.
How do you rate the two years of the Modi government? He has made a number of state visits to the Gulf. Do you think they will bear fruit?
Having sound ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE are always good. The UAE Rulers are peace-loving and maintain cordial relations with all nations. But India should see to it that these ties don't turn sour. We have to wait and see how these tours pan out.
What are your expectations from the Left government in Kerala?
They should concentrate more on creating jobs for poor and educational opportunities. It's only the corporate world that usually gets attention but if this government strives to be different and help the poor, then the Left Democratic Front government will be a success. Otherwise they will not last. Malayalis are intelligent and they will not tolerate inefficiency.
When it comes to politics and governance, people in Kerala have limited options - it's either the LDF or the UDF. Does this make political parties complacent?
A third option cannot be ruled out. Yes, it can emerge. It is possible.
With the oil slide impacting Gulf economies, an expat exodus is happening from some countries. There is still no clarity on a rehabilitation plan for the returning NRIs. What step has Jamaath taken in this regard?
We have given a memorandum to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to look into the concerns of the Pravasis. Earlier there was a Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs at the Centre. With that no more there, we have sought a special parliament rule to address the concerns of the NRIs.When we say Pravasi, we mean the marginalised people who are struggling in the Gulf. Such people should be given a helping hand.
What can Indian politicians learn from the UAE rulers?
There is a lot to learn. The rulers here don't differentiate between a cook and a top official. They have so much love for the downtrodden. Now, the UAE government has started the Iqra Read Project for needy students. The founder of the UAE, the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, did two important things - he gave education to all and then created an environment for citizens to live and work, without depending on other nations. His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, along with Shaikh Zayed's children - His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan - are following the same path. The UAE rulers shower love and acceptance on expatriates. Here people of all religions are treated equally.Such an atmosphere should be one of our prime goals. The Indian government should strive to create such a social order. I also appreciate the UAE government's recent decision to free 69 Indian prisoners.
You have often been misquoted on women's rights. What is your stand on women empowerment?
Women's empowerment is something which we have mentioned in our memorandum (to Pinarayi Vijayan). Islam gives a lot of importance to women. According to Islam, a husband has to provide food, clothing, medicine and house and fulfil other needs of his wife. Men have the responsibility to take care of women. However, women's empowerment and women's liberty don't mean they can do what they want and go out any time they want to with anyone. It is unacceptable. The husband builds a house for the wife, not the other way around.
What are your views on gender equality?
Everyone talks about gender equality but during the Kerala Assembly elections how many women have won or even contested? We are not against gender equality but against commodification of women. Does anyone fight for more seats for women? Women should be brought to the forefront of society but not be treated like a commodity.
Love marriage and divorce rates are booming like never before and live-in relationship is becoming a trend even in Kerala. Is this a good sign?
No, we can't say that (it's a trend). There may be a handful of cases amid millions.