Monday, August 24, 2009

Fwd: [nrindians] Words worth: Mr Maulvi's English August

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From: MB Qasmi <>
Date: Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Subject: [nrindians] Words worth: Mr Maulvi's English August

The Times of India

Words worth: Mr Maulvi's English August

Abdul Hameed starts his day with half-a-dozen newspapers, four of which are in English. Later, the 25-year-old logs on to news websites and sits down to write news reports that he contributes to English news portals and magazines. He hopes that he will end up as a feature writer with an English magazine. 

This is not what your standard madrassa graduate dreams of. But Hameed, an aalim (graduate) from the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, represents a modern rivulet watering the mindset of maulvis in Mumbai. In the Deoband school, English was treated like an alien tongue, the currency of the Christian West. But another organisation called Markazul Maarif Education and Research Centre (MMERC), which is devoted to Muslim upliftment, is all for linguistic freedom. In the last decade or so, MMERC's modest 'campus' — a group of rented rooms in an old building near Crawford Market (the school is moving to Jogeshwari) — has trained over 300 maulvis (including Hameed) to speak English, in order to prepare them for jobs in India and overseas. A brainchild of perfume baron and member of Parliament from Assam Badruddin Ajmal, MMERC recently awarded Diplomas in English Language and Literature (DELL) to 25 maulvis at a convocation. "They are not just encouraged to speak in English, but even told to dream in English," says Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, MMERC's director, who has made watching news on television mandatory. This is quite unlike most madrassas where television is banned. 

These unlikely votaries of English fly in the face of the ideology of the Deoband, which started as a madrassa in 1866 with one teacher and a lone student, Mahmoodul Hasan. The main purpose of the school was to prepare armies of holy men to oppose British imperialism, and Hasan went on to lead the nationalist ulema in undivided India. Since English was seen as a imperialist, and therefore hostile, tongue, Deoband had an adversarial relationship with Sir Syed Ahmed Khan's pro-English MAO College, which later became the Aligarh Muslim University. 

Although English still doesn't have many takers on the Darul's sprawling campus dotted with the minarets of several mosques, a number of seminarians who graduate from there turn their steps to the MMERC. "English is undeniably the world's language," says Javed Iqbal, a Deoband graduate who is researching Hadees (Prophet Mohammed's traditions) at the Mumbai centre. "We can't escape its influence." 

Iqbal, who like his comrades crams English with a messianic zeal, is keen to use the language to counter numerous misconceptions about Islam. Like Muslims everywhere, these maulvis blame the English press for fanning Islam-bashing, especially in the West, but now they have realised that English can be the cure too, if they can use it for dissemination. 

The wooden boards at the centre are pasted with articles and letters by MMERC alumni in various English publications. One prolific letter writer, Mohammed Ashraf, with 82 published letters on topics ranging from talaq to Taslima Nasreen, was feted at the recent convocation. "We only keep the articles published in English newspapers and magazines because almost everyone here can write in Urdu," says the director, agreeing that many a maulvi might be secretly dashing off love letters to an undisclosed beloved. 

Before they landed here, few of these bearded men had heard of Shakespeare. Now the skull-capped, attar-daubed maulvis can quote the Bard's sonnets. Ruskin Bond was a complete stranger to them and Khushwant Singh was no more than a purveyor of smut. Now, they revere these writers.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting Blog!! It's very difficult for me to read half dozen of Newspaper. I read newspaper to learn English word.