Editor’s note: Last year, Yasmin M Khan, a Paris-based researcher whose area of interest is Muslim education, visited a collection of small and large madrassas in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. She spent three months interviewing administrators, students, former students, and local Muslim leaders. Her inquiries ended in September, by which time she had gathered a large quantity of information and opinions on the relevance of madrassas, their role in Muslim radicalisation and the impact the government's madrassa modernisation programme has had on these institutions.
Khan found Muslim opinion divided. Many thought madrassas were being unfairly targeted because of “anti-Muslim prejudice” and that the debate ignored the role they played in providing Islamic learning and providing free education to poor Muslim children. Others argued that these institutions were an “anachronism” and called for greater regulation around their sources of funding and their curriculum.
There was near unanimity on one issue: it was all very well to modernise madrassas by introducing computers, but not at the expense of mainstream “secular” schooling. Parents in rural areas told Khan they were “forced” to send their children to madrassas owing to the lack of proper schools in villages.
Firstpost invited Khan to write a series of four articles drawing from her travels. We commissioned pencil drawings by Maitri Dore, a Bengaluru-based architect, to serve as visual elements accompanying Khan’s pieces; she was not allowed to photograph her subjects.
Read the articles: