‘Mothering a Muslim’ book reveals shocking religious discrimination and hate at schools

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New Delhi : A new book ‘Mothering a Muslim‘ by Nazia Erum reveals shocking reality of religious discrimination and prejudice against Muslims among the children at tender age at schools in India. Studying on the contemporary fact finding basis to understand the conditions of the middle class Muslim parent in India. And by reaching to 145 Muslim families with kids studying in some of the top schools of the country the results was disturbing as the parents today can ensure meals at malls, membership to sports complexes, education at leading institutions and clothes in vogue, what they cannot ensure is that their children will not be bullied for their religious affiliations and as many as 80 per cent of Muslim children asked about their experience on some kind of religious bullying, from as young as six used to be there., the book reveals.

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The irrespective bullies and certain behaviours students used to learn from their parents & home which they do it with vulnerable children’s but the schools also unconsciously create such religious divides by participating it.

“Baghdadi, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Osama, ISIS. Being asked, do your parents make bombs…will your father kill me with a gun?” were just some of the taunts Muslim children faced at school, according to the book.

While the catchment area of one of Delhi’s best-known public schools includes Jamia and Nizamuddin, two largely Muslim localities. The school offers foreign languages along with Sanskrit and Urdu. a teacher of the school tells the author that, “My section has mostly Urdu students and a few French students. While it was not an all-Muslim class, the ratio is definitely skewed. So, one of the parents wrote a letter to the administration saying they wanted their child’s section changed as there was too much of ‘M factor’ (as they put it) in their present section. And they were obliged.”

It is been noted that specifically in northern india CBSE schools if they get 30 or more muslim students they make separate group of them on the basis of discrimination. As more Muslims embrace formal mainstream English-medium education, this trend is seeing a peak in recent years. Sanskrit is offered across most of India as an elective third language and is usually offered as a choice against a regional language or a foreign language. Whereas it is noticed that where there are a large number of Muslim students, often Urdu is offered as an elective. But many schools divide up the students of each year into sections based on the languages opted for. Thus, section A will comprise students who choose to study Sanskrit and section B of those who choose Urdu. This means that sections are not only divided along linguistic lines but also end up being divided along religious lines. For, with a few exceptions, most Muslim kids opt for Urdu and most non-Muslim kids choose Sanskrit.

Psychologically thinking beyond classroom divisions, if the child is demarcated on religious basis and the child when in adolescence age of 6-8 learns and adapts the same thing leading to a bad effect on their growth.

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While interacting with a parent from Bhopal Raiqa Khan says agonized way that, “Never were differences out so open in schools before. The author think this discrimination of the classes started since 2005 in Bhopal. I was also teaching in one of the leading schools at the time when it was introduced. The majority of the kids in a single section ended up being of a single religion. It did have an impact on the kids, as they were not ready to bond with students of other religions. Most of our friends are non-Muslims. My best friend is a Pandit. Earlier my son too had a healthy mix of friends from all religions. But (now), he has only Muslim friends. All the kids coming home are Muslims. That worries me. There is definitely a divide. I can feel it. I can see it.”

Due to this divisions parents started raising questions and school replied that timetables are easier to set and students do not need to be shuffled for a single class, and traffic in the school corridors is thus minimised. And when asked officially to school administrations they denied such prevalence of any practices. A school owner, on condition of anonymity, told to the author that, “It makes economic sense for the administration to group students together according to language. It’s a simple case of maximising resources. The administrations are only thinking about how much money is being saved, not about the ripple effects in society.”

By concluding the author expressed that if small kids are tagged and discriminated in these phases then how could they learn about each other’s way of living, thinking and cultures. They won’t be sharing any of these, neither they share tiffins nor make friends. If we ask the kids, they say, “Woh bante hi nahi hamare friends. Bas hi-hello ho jata hai. (They don’t become friends with us. We just greet each other in passing.)”

“At (a private school in Delhi), I was told that when a teacher got stuck on what the flag of Pakistan looks like, she turned to the Muslim child in class for confirmation… And we can’t expect teachers to do much either, as they may also have similar prejudices and biases,” said Annie Koshi, the principal of St Mary’s School in Safdarjung Enclave.

Sources : Excerpts from book ‘Mothering a Muslim’ by Nazia Erum / Hindustan Times

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