India’s Muslims are finally breaking new ground India’s young Muslims hold out hope for the

community as they defy great odds to empower themselves Aijaz Zaka Syed It has been raining cats and dogs in India. This year, it has truly been an extraordinary monsoon with the country already receiving more than its share of rainfall. In Hyderabad where I come from it seems to be raining forever. Monsoon has always been a big deal in this land of plenty and poverty. It not just replenishes the vast network of rivers and reservoirs of this giant country, helping its farmers feed the nation, it revives and rejuvenates the physical landscape--literally. India is witnessing another metamorphosis at another level. It may not be as obvious and spectacular as the monsoon. But it is certainly nearly as transformational. The latest statistics from the National Sample Survey Organisation offer new hope for India’s long struggling Muslims. Unemployment in the community is down and has declined from 2.3 per cent in 2004-05 to 1.9 per cent in 2009-10 in rural areas and from 4.1 pc in to 3.2 pc in urban areas. These figures are indeed heartening although a vast majority of Muslims both in rural and urban areas are not part of the organised workforce and cite self-employment as the chief source of earning. It is yet to be ascertained if the positive trend that coincides with two terms of the Congress-led UPA coalition is a result of government initiatives—hopelessly limited and ineffective as they are given the size of Muslim population, not to mention the daunting systemic apathy—or an outcome of the community’s own struggle and hard work. Nevertheless, it is sure to lift the spirits of a people struggling at the bottom of the pit for the past many decades, encouraging them to step up the efforts to reclaim their space. This struggle has been going on at another critical front--perhaps the most crucial front. This year nearly 50,000 Muslim students from Andhra Pradesh made it past the Eamcet, the overwhelming entrance examination for medical and engineering courses. And it is not just these prized professional streams; Muslims are increasingly seen breaking new ground and surmounting formidable challenges to conquer new frontiers. A silent revolution is taking place among India's Muslims, the largest religious minority and one of the biggest Muslim populations anywhere in the world. Increasingly, Muslim students are not only competing with the best of the best in realms where they rarely ventured before, they are even outshining their peers. There was a time, even 10 years ago, when professionals were a rare species in the community. They still are in most north Indian states. Today, it is common to come across a doctor or at least an engineer in most Muslim families.

Besides founding India's first university to teach modern sciences. this young lot of Muslims are fighting their way up. They are showing the way forward. a language long neglected for its ostensible association with the Muslims and Pakistan of course. Under the Nizams. Maharashtra and Karnataka are pioneering the revolution to give a new identity and sense of direction to India's Muslims. Karnataka and Kerala--home to significant Muslim populations--that are leading the change and new wave of Muslim empowerment. like fellow travellers elsewhere. they are not only helping themselves and their families. The community has yet to regain its self-respect and confidence it lost after the fall of the mighty Mughal Empire and the 1857 war of independence. especially in the Hindi heartland where education leading to empowerment . the carnage and destruction that the Partition spawned only forced the community further into its shell. Defying all odds. they might give a new lease of life to their people who have for decades been weighed down by a crippling sense of deprivation and helplessness. Karnataka and Andhra (or Telangana?). Many of them come from incredibly poor neighbourhoods and state-run. However. Hyderabad set up world-class centres of learning and scientific inquiry. wallowing in self-pity. They are a compelling source of hope and inspiration to their kind elsewhere. While a great majority of Indian Muslims. Which is why it is so uplifting to see young Muslims down South demonstrate that with hard work and perseverance you can beat all adversity and change the world. Some thought the creation of Pakistan could put an end to their insecurity and all their problems. one feels totally humbled by what these young girls and boys have managed to accomplish. comprising parts of Maharashtra. pathetically ill-equipped schools that teach in Urdu. the so-called English-medium schools and colleges that are producing Muslims who rub shoulders with the best of the best. the State of Hyderabad.This revolution is happening far from the traditional Muslim strongholds of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. these young Muslims could transform the profile and identity of their community that has long suffered in silence. arts and humanities in an Indian language. Like the nourishing monsoon rains. It is therefore perhaps only apt that today hundreds of thousands of students and professionals from Andhra. Maharashtra. continues to live in its grand past. it is not just modern. attracted the best of minds and talent from across India and the world. It is states like Andhra Pradesh. Considering the perennial lack of teachers and text books and continuing government apathy that these schools routinely battle and tremendous sacrifices Muslim parents make to send them to school. inch by impossible inch. Interestingly.

And this may be the way forward for the community. India’s young Muslims have the potential of transforming the landscape around them. And when you change yourself. At the end of the day. no one can change your life for you. You have to do it yourself.com/aijazzakasyed . Even when it is realised it usually ends at the neighbourhood madrassa. Follow him on twitter. as the Quran would insist.and a better life remains a distant dream for many. from Morocco to Malaysia. *Aijaz Zaka Syed is a commentator on the Middle East and South Asia affairs. you change the world. and the talisman against the many monsters stalking it.

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