Following the violent gang rape of a young medical student on a Delhi bus last month, some top Muslim clerics say ending co-ed schools would prevent rapes.
Soon after the Delhi rape, a government committee sought suggestions from different quarters on how to improve safety for women in India. The committee received 11 lists of suggestions, including one from Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), one of the country’s largest Muslim organizations. Among a set of suggestions ranging from a ban on sex outside marriage to public execution of convicted rapists, JIH highlighted that co-education leads to many social evils.
“Co-education should be abolished and proper education facilities meant exclusively for women should be made available at all level of education,” the JIH statement, issued by Secretary General of JIH Nusrat Ali said.
In spite of JIH being one of India’s largest Muslim organisations, the idea is unlikely to find much support from other parts of the community.
But many Muslim educators, female students, and working women across the country have opposed this suggestion, charging that it would be detrimental to the development of the Muslim community in India. The public resistance highlights the growing appetite among Muslim parents to improve their minority community’s trailing status through education, including that of girls.
Indian Muslims have lagged behind in education, which has set back the community’s development, says Samsul Alam, the vice chancellor of Kolkata’s Aliah University.
“But, in a changed positive trend, all across the country in increased number Muslims are sending their children to study in schools, colleges, and universities. In droves the Muslim girls are also pursuing studies and they are set to upgrade the socioeconomic status Muslims in the society,” says Professor Alam. “If now we stop sending our girls to co-ed institutions, they would be deprived of advanced education and it would be disastrous for the community.”
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Islamic scholar and JIH spokesman Abdul Hameed Nomani says Islam favors education for all men and women, but asks its followers to avoid mixing with anyone besides close male relatives.
“In Islam pardah [veil] is very important, but co-education promotes bepardaghi [going without veil] which is against the Shariat. It is giving rise to a number of evils, therefore we are against co-education,” Mr. Nomani says.
Basically, their approach remains that if you dress inappropriately as a women you’re asking to be raped.