In J-K, An Islamic Varsity That's High On Tech
2 August 2005
The Indian Express
Srinagar: In an effort to blend religious education with training in modern sciences and technologies, the J-K government is setting up the first ever Islamic university in the state. The move is seen as an attempt to provide a 'viable alternative to the madrasa-style religious education' and ensure that students keen to take up Islamic studies are also trained in the sciences. A self-financed institution without government grants, the Islamic University of Science and Technology will be run by the J&K Muslim Waqf Board-a government-regulated autonomous organisation looking after around 100 prominent shrines and mosques besides the properties of Islamic bodies. The state cabinet gave the approval for the project on Sunday. 'It will be the first such experience where Islamic studies and modern sciences will go side by side. It will be a blend of the two and there will be no deviation from the University Grants Commission guidelines,' said Iftikhar Andrabi,Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Muslim Waqf Board. In the first phase, the university will start three-year integrated courses in a host of subjects including microbiology, bio-chemistry, bio-informatics and computer sciences. It will be upgraded for higher courses subsequently. 'What makes this university unique is that Islamic studies will form a separate department where Koran, Hadees (Traditions of the Prophet Mohammad) and Fiqah (Islamic Jurisprudence) will be taught. And English will be the medium of instruction,' said Dr G N Shah, education officer, Waqf Board. The University is coming up at Awantipora in the outskirts of Srinagar at an estimated cost of around Rs 30 crore and the admission to the first batch in some courses will start from next year. 'We will receive no grant in aid from the government but will raise funds from locals as well as non-resident Kashmiris,' Andrabi said. After receiving approval from the government, the Board is now approaching the UGC for affiliation. The J-K Waqf Board was set up by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party-led coalition government which took control over all the shrines, religious bodies and properties that were governed by the Muslim Auqaf Trust, a body chaired by National Conference patron Dr Farooq Abdullah. After the takeover, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed became the chairman of the Waqf Board. The idea of setting up the Islamic university was initially conceived by the NC government which had identified the land in Ganderbal for the purpose. Unlike traditional religious educational institutions, this university will not focus on a particular school of thought and will rise above sectarian divides. 'It is, in fact, open to people from all communities and not just Muslims,' CEO Andrabi said. The move to establish an Islamic university has created fears among religious organisations. Maulvi Showkat Ahmad, President, Jamiat-e- Ahli Hadees, a prominent religious organisation, said if the government was sincere it should have cleared their proposal of establishing an Islamic university. Prominent Shia cleric and former Hurriyat chairman, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, said the government has no fair intentions and the purpose is only to take the credit for creating an Islamic institution. 'There are many areas in the Valley where the light of education is yet to reach. The best thing was to address the issue at the grassroots level,' he said.