Book Release Function (March 9, 2004) Speech delivered by Janab Saiyid Hamid, Chancellor, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi

One could hardly think of more significant and fruitful collaboration for a good cause when the one forged between the Institute of Objective Studies and the Indian Association of Muslim Social Scientists on the theme "The Empowerment of Muslims in India". The go ahead was given by a convention on the subject held in November 1998 at Patna. It commissioned an 11 volume series each volume dealing with various aspects of the theme. The first and second volumes of the series viz. 1) the Empowerment of Muslims in India, Perspective, Context and Pre-requisites and 2) Empowerment of Muslims through Education, are being released today. The eleven topics have been chosen wisely and appear to be fairly exhaustive designed to traverse most of the aspects germane to the empowerment endeavor. I would however, suggest addition of Health Care to the series. In the ultimate analysis no two things are more vitally relevant to empowerment than education and health. The realization that the backlog in education should be made up has albeit belatedly dawned on the Muslim community. But the almost equally important attention towards health care continues to be neglected with disastrous results. Before I proceed with my specific assignment of this evening I would venture to make another suggestion, Judging from the high standard set up by the distinguished authors of the first two books and the very valuable information contained and analysed in the books I would strongly urge that the Institute of Objective Studies prepare very brief digests of these books and, to begin with, have translations of the digests published in Urdu and Hindi and disseminated. The subject requires broad-based discussion and enlightenment.

I have had the privilege of going though both the volumes and being asked to release the first volume that has been authored by Prof. A. R. Momin.  I read Prof. A. R. Momin's path-breaking book with rapt interest. Incidentally, to call it a booklet, as has been done somewhere in the initial pages, I less than fair, in fact it is sacrilegious. The quality of a book depends not on its size but on the standard of scholarship it manifests the analytical acumen that it displays and the objective standards it adheres to.   

    A scholar who has accepted the commission to write a book, particularly one in a series that sets the destination for him, and to some extent predetermines his approach, evidently works under a twin handicap; first, he forfeits some of the freedom that his pen and his intellect are accustomed to; second, he runs the risk of his style losing its wonted verve culminating in producing something that turns out to be jejune. I am glad that A. R. Momin has surmounted the handicap and steered clear of the risk, the first because the predetermined design fell in live with his own thinking, the second because he possesses a style fashioned by erudition and animated and enlivened by conviction. The subject assigned to him elicits the sum total of his thinking and experience.

    That the author is emotionally involved in the theme chosen for him is evident, but that does not affect either his objectivity as a scholar or the detached style in which is perceptions are conveyed. It is evidently due to his reputation as an eminent sociologist that Prof. A. R. Momin has been asked to kick-start this meaningful series, this race towards a destination that continues, alas, to be clouded by uncertainly and unpredictability.

    The scheme of the book reveals the author's scientific approach to a major human problem. Instead of abruptly preparing road map for the empowerment of Muslims, which a lesser person would be tempted to do, A. R. Momin prepares a level playing field before the game starts. He begins by spelling out the concepts of the three vital processes that are going to form the hub of the entire discussion viz Development, Empowerment and Disempowerment. Then the proceeds to deal, again conceptually, with the hurdles that the empowerment race in any situation will have to surmount. It is in the last five chapters that the specific situation of Muslims comes up for analytical discussion. In the first two chapters the author, so to say, has hammered out the yardstick by which he proposes to measure the group assigned to him for diagnostic scrutiny. In the third chapter he spells out in all its depressing details, the magnitude of the disempowerment that Muslims in post-independence era, have undergone. In the two following chapters the author deals respectively with the external and internal causes of disempowerment, acknowledging by definition the fact that the decline and deprivation can nor and should not be laid at the doors of a blind cruel fate or an unsympathetic Govt. or a hostile segment of the majority community. These would not have come to pass but for the passivity and insensitivity of Muslims. The author concludes by a) making well-informed suggestions for creating circumstances conducive to the empowerment endeavor and b) the seminal steps that the community should take to secure and perpetuate empowerment.

    With my limited experience I would place security, education and health as the internal underpinning of the empowerment triangle. The devastating effect of insecurity on the Muslim psyche would require a separate study. It has eaten into the vitals of the community, lowered its morale and deprived it of positive thinking. All this adds up to a tremendous incapacitation. This gnawing sense of insecurity is much more pronounced in the rural areas than in the towns. In those villages where Muslim population is spares the impact of unrelieved and ever present insecurity is particularly debilitating.

    Health care and health orientation of attitudes and habits requires much more attention of the community than it has received. In the northern states the majority of the patients in hospitals is drawn from the Muslim community. Its habitations are marked by widespread disdain of hygiene.

    With regard to education, even where consciousness of its need has been sparked, both quality and continuity continue to be casualties. It is a distressing fact that after Syed Ahmad Khan and the luminaries that gathered round him, Indian Muslims did not produce any person who could take up education with organized and conceptualized zeal. For educational effort to culminate in generating quality Muslim homes need to be overhauled. In the towns they are generally located in heavily congested mohallas which are anything but conducive to pursuit of education and health. Such homes situated in suffocating areas cannot produce persons who can compete with members of the better-situated and more enlightened families. It is a very stultifying experience that whenever Muslims tried to open out and set up residential colonies at a distance from the ghettos that they live in, communal tension and riots have compelled them to roll back and seek shelter in the mohallas they had left.

    Muslim leaders have by and large been self-centered. They have shown total indifference to education, health care, economic reconstruction and removal of poverty and disunity.

    The chapters dealing with the disempowerment of Muslims proclaim the author's grip on the Muslim situation. The narration and the analysis are as realistic as they are perceptive. Anyone who wants to get a clear idea and a synoptic view of the Muslim situation in this country can do no better than turn the pages of A. R. Momin's book which is a marvel of compression in the course of which no significant detail has been excluded nor the correct perspective blurred. This is a well-documented objective and analytical description of the status of Indian Muslims. In also suggests steps for reconstruction. It serves with competence the twin objective of identifying deficiencies and adumbrating measures for their removal.

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