Education Minister: Country's Islamic Schools Promote Interfaith Tolerance and Harmony

April 4, 2006


On April 4, 2006 reported, "Education Minister in India's state of West Bengal Kanti Biswas said Tuesday, April 4, that Islamic religious schools (madrasahs) are promoting tolerance and communal harmony among different faiths in the multi-religious country. 'People find it difficult to believe, but our madrasahs ... are reflecting modern aspirations and expectations of the community irrespective of religion,' he told Reuters. 'We had carefully planned the madrasahs reforms to make young minds understand the values of religious tolerance and it is finally paying off.' Officials began reviewing Islamic schools in 1977, introducing history and social sciences beside the study of the Noble Qur'an. Geography, science and computing were also introduced into madrasahs after 2002. There are also plans for foreign languages soon. The reforms have been credited with bringing about a change in the social outlook of the state's various faiths, and have attracted both teachers and students from other religions to the madrasahs. Now, nearly 25 percent of the 400,000 students who attend madrasahs, and 15 percent of their 10,000 teachers are non-Muslims. Hindus make up the majority of the 80 million population in West Bengal but a quarter of the populace is Muslims."