CAIRO – A leading Islamic organization has called for banning co-education in Indian schools as a way to curb rising rape in the country, inviting criticism from Muslim experts and students.
“Co-education should be abolished and proper education facilities meant exclusively for women should be made available at all level of education,” Nusrat Ali, Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), said in a statement to the government cited by Christian Science Monitor.The suggestion was among a number of proposals by the Islamic group to the government to curb rising rape accidents in India.
It followed a shocking case of a 23-year-old student, who was gang-raped on a bus in southern Delhi last December while returning with a male friend from the cinema.
Following the incident, a government committee invited suggestions from different quarters on how to improve safety for women in the south Asian country.
The committee received 11 lists of suggestions, including one from JIH, one of the country's largest Muslim organizations.
The set of suggestions included a ban on sex outside marriage, public execution of rapists and reference to co-education as leading to many social evils.
“In Islam pardah [veil] is very important, but co-education promotes bepardaghi [going without veil] which is against the Shari`ah,” Muslim scholar and JIH spokesman Abdul Hameed Nomani said.
Nomani said Islam favors education for all men and women, but asks its followers to avoid mixing with anyone besides close male relatives.
“It is giving rise to a number of evils, therefore we are against co-education,” he said.
The Noble Qur'an supports the rights of women to be independent, to keep their own names, to inherit property and to practice their faith without coercion.
The Qur'an also says that men and women are created from a single soul.
Muslims account for 160 million of India's 1.1 billion people, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, police figures show.
Reported rape cases rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011, according to government data.
But the call to ban co-education won opposition from the Muslim community in India.
“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,” said Samsul Alam, the vice chancellor of Kolkata’s Aliah University.
Alam noted that Indian Muslims have lagged behind in education, which has set back the community's development.
“But, in a changed positive trend, all across the country, increased number Muslims are sending their children to study in schools, colleges, and universities,” he said.
“In droves the Muslim girls are also pursuing studies and they are set to upgrade the socioeconomic status Muslims in the society.”
Opponents also argue that the absence of same-sex educational facilities for higher professional studies nips the suggestion in the bud.
“We should not restrict the girls from seeking education in co-ed institutions,” Tanweer Fazal, a professor of sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, told Christian Science Monitor.
“By all accounts, it is not segregation but healthy interaction that goes a long way in ensuring mutual respect.”
The suggestion also invited criticism from Muslim educators, female students, and working women across the country.
“If the girls go only to girls-only places for study, they cannot choose many of the professional careers,” said Dr. Yasmin Fathima, a 25-year-old medical doctor in Bangalore.
“I would have never been able to study medicine in a top college if I stayed away from co-ed institutions.”
Esha Meher, a student in Gujarat National Law University in Gandhinagar, sees that a co-ed background helps her adapt more easily to conditions in most of today’s mixed workplaces.
“I find the suggestion of banning the co-ed system ridiculous,” Meher said.“Right from the early stages of a child's life he or she has to know that girls and boys are equal and compete for the same goals. Only in a co-educational setup can a young boy or girl learn that the female gender is not in need of protection, but in fact is one among the others who can laugh, cry, celebrate, protest, and strike back, if wronged.”
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