Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh set off a furore when he recently compared madrassas with schools run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and accused both of hate-mongering. On February 21, the Congress leader tweeted, "Is there a difference between Madarsas and Saraswati Shishu Mandir Schools run by RSS? I don't think so. Both spread Hatred. (sic)."
Is there a difference between Madarsas and Saraswati Shishu Mandir Schools run by RSS ? I don't think so. Both spread Hatred.— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) February 22, 2017
Singh now faces a barrage of criticism from representatives of madrassas, who have condemned him for his ‘ignorance’ and for playing ‘politicial games’.
Dr Sheikh Mohammad Abdul, spokesperson for the Madrasa Muhammadiya Taleem-Ul-Islam in Hyderabad, accused Singh of being ignorant of how madrassas function. “We educate students from poor backgrounds, or children who are orphans. Here we struggle to even pay salaries to our teachers, but people are still dedicated to their purpose. We educate children not only by providing religious knowledge, but also teaching other subjects like Mathematics and English,” he said.
He added that Singh only aimed to create a panic with his comments. “By saying madrassas spread hatred, he wants to create a panic among people. We teach children about our religion, and Islam is a peaceful religion. So, how can he say that we spread hatred?”
Reiterating the point that madrassa education is both secular and religious, Hafiz Abdulla of the Madrasa Islamia Faiz-Ul-Malaris accused Singh of playing political games. “I don’t know what the RSS’s agenda is, but we not only teach children about our religion, but also give them education. I don’t know why he said what he said, but all this is a political game of his.”
Strong reactions have emerged not only from madrassa representatives, but also from several Muslim social groups and political parties.
Hafiz Peer Shabbir, the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh chief of the Jamiat-e-Ulama Hind, hit out at Singh’s statement, calling it baseless and lacking any evidence to back it. “If he is saying that madrassas that fought for India’s freedom against the British are spreading hatred, I want him to show me one example. Show me any madrassa that teaches students to carry weapons and commit violence. Here children are taught to be peaceful,” he said.
Many have also objected to the fact that Singh’s comments have not received a single word of censure from the party leadership. Amjed Ullah Khan, a spokesperson of the Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT) in Telangana, said the lack of Congress reaction has been the most shocking element of the whole episode.
“I don’t know what his agenda is behind doing this. What I am shocked by is that Congress Party leaders, particularly Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, did not react to this. They should take prompt action against his comment,” he said.
Mufti Haroon Nadvi, Minority state president of the Samajwadi party in Maharashtra and the Maharashtra Chief of the Jamiat-e-Ulama Hind, suggested that Singh first experience madrassa education before venturing to comment on it.
“He should take admission in a madrassa first, then he will understand what is being taught there. We demand that he should immediately apologise for the comment, or the Congress should throw him out of the party,” said Mufti Haroon Nadvi.