After yuppies and puppies come the Muppies or Muslim upwardly mobile professionals who appear to be increasingly on the high road to white collar jobs and comfortable lives and demonstrate a desire to leave the ghetto real and metaphorical of the past behind.
Just weeks after minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid said that minority recruitment to public sector jobs has risen from 6.9% in 2007 to 9.24% in 2009, TOI correspondents from across the country reveal that the Muppie really does exist in India today. Across the country, large numbers of young Muslims are realizing their dreams through professional education. And as we report from Hyderabad, their families too are able to realize delayed, if cherished dreams of improved lifestyles through their childrens achievement.
The Muppie is breaking the stereotype. In just three years, the minorities share of government jobs went up 24%.
The Muppie looks to be here to stay.
Meet The Muppies
Only 5% Government Employees Are Muslim
Just 3% Are IAS & IPS Officers
Only 4.5% Are Railway Employees.
But young Muslims are increasingly upwardly mobile and embracing aspiration and achievement.
By Mohammed Wajihuddin
Mumbai: Last week, a group of Muslim NGOs organized a motivational talk in a city hall for aspiring engineers, doctors and other professionals. It was called Leap Talk and had half-a dozen achievers academics, technocrats, businessmen and bureaucrats sharing their mantra of success with aspirational young people. The hall was packed and we were surprised by the enthusiasm the Muslim youth showed to join the job market, says Farid Khan, one of the organizers. Surprising though it may sound, Muslim youth is increasingly motivated and career-conscious, defying the 1990s stereotype of being an angry, uneducated, unemployable and unemployed bunch. The communal and polarized atmosphere of the 1990s is a thing of the past. Instead of picketing thanas and staging protests, Maharashtra’s Muslim youth are joining others on the highway to cushy jobs and a comfy life.
Imran Khan, 31, is managing director of the Rs 180-crore Western India Metal Processors Ltd. He recalls the jeers he and two Muslim classmates actors Zayed Khan and Arif Khan faced at a prestigious school in Mumbai. Tum teen khan/Gadhe pe ho sawar aur jao Pakistan (You three Khans, ride an ass and go to Pakistan), his classmates would say. When he finished school, Khan worked hard to turn the moribund family business into a multinational company. Perhaps no Muslim child today has to suffer those humiliating remarks, he says, an unlikely victim in his smart clothes and with his swanky car.
Khans parents did not allow him to head to a US university because he was the only male child in my family but he says he has not suffered from it. In retrospect, I think I was lucky to stay back in India and be part of the inclusive growth the country has witnessed in the past few years. Khan is the stereotypical Muppie and Muslim upwardly mobile professionals are pushing the boundaries like never before. A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for a Muslim woman scientist to work alongside non-Muslim men at the prestigious Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).Today, Meher Tabassum, a scientific officer with the Centres research and development wing, is a role model for many. Muslims, especially girls, are looking beyond home science courses and making careers in pure science and technology. Globalization has opened limitless opportunities and Muslims too are grabbing them, says 36-year-old Tabassum, who has a gross salary of Rs 85,000 per month.
Clearly, todays young Muslims are dreaming of lives far removed from the cloistered, ghetto existence of yesteryears. Their dreams are being nurtured by Muslim-managed institutions such as the Anjuman-e-Islam in Mumbai. With more than 1,00,000 students in its 100 institutions, including colleges of catering, pharmacy, engineering and polytechnic, the Anjuman symbolizes Muppiedom or Muslim aspiration for educational and economic advancement.
The Anjuman’s president Dr Zaheer Kazi is emphatic about the change. This year one of our students topped the diploma engineering exams in Maharashtra while most of the toppers in various engineering branches are from our college. He adds, Our engineering and catering students are getting 100% placement.
Armed with good degrees, Muslim youth are now knocking on the doors of public sector enterprises such as the Indian Railways and banks. Salim Alware, member of the standing committee on National Monitoring Committee for Minority Education (an HRD wing),sees a definite surge in Muslim interest in public sector jobs. The underworld used to fascinate Muslim youth three decades ago. Then came the Gulf boom and many Muslims went to the Gulf. But now,as the charm of the Gulf has waned,many Muslims have turned to opportunities in the railways, banks and bureaucracy, says Alware who writes a column on careers for the Urdu daily Inquilab.
As education becomes a priority for young Muslims, more and more doors are opening to them. Shezan Ali Hemani, 18, cracked the IIT Joint Entrance Exam as well as MBBS entrance test this year. I chose the latter as I always wanted to become a doctor, says Hemani whose father runs a successful shipping business. He wants to follow his own dreams. My father turned stone into silver. I am trying to turn it into gold, he says.
These individual success stories are good news for the entire community. Salil Bubere, an international student counsellor who holds a degree in computer science from the University of Wales, chose to counsel students rather than becoming a computer engineer because I love to help others find avenues of knowledge. About his non-Muslim sounding first name,Bubere,25,says,My father named me Salil, a common name among Hindus and Muslims, because he was worried about the discrimination in Indian society. He was needlessly worried. Our society has changed. The job market evaluates you on the basis of your qualification, not your religion.
This monsoon its raining opportunities and Muslims too are grabbing them. if they need just a little push, career camps and sessions such as Leap Talk are steps in the right direction.
It’s about faith in education
By Nandita Sengupta
Rampur (Western UP): Zamzam Jabeen repeats Inshallah as she presses her palms together.Shes waiting for local businessman Tariq to admit his three daughters to Furqania Girls School. Jabeen is the principal. The previous day,T ariq’s wife, who is uneducated, had brought their youngest daughter to Furqania for admission. When Jabeen learnt that the childs older sisters had never been to school, she convinced the mother to admit them too. But Tariq was wary. How would he pay the fees for three daughters Wasnt it enough to educate just the one Jabeen managed to calm Tariqs fears.She is at the forefront of a bold move to help Rampurs Muslim girls step out of the home.
Furqania was born 16 years ago, conceived by the madrassa whose name it bears. Jabeen has been principal for two years and she says she expends much time and energy convincing hesitant parents to send their daughters to school. Its not only fees they worry about, they worry about older girls being seen in public. Furqania observes purdah on its premises and does not have male teachers only the office staff and computer technicians are male. It is affiliated to the UP Board and has classes till the eighth standard.
Jabeen says Muslim parents do increasingly recognize the need to educate their daughters but must negotiate community beliefs. They tend to want to pull out a child once shes a teenager, we have to convince them. Its much better now with more parents willing to allow girls to complete mainstream schooling. Parents fear galat mahaul or an improper environment. We tell them, bacchi mein guts hona chahiye, says Jabeen.(Girls should have the courage [to fight impropriety].) But the marriage market,she points out,is driving parents to send their daughters to school. Grooms want educated girls.
Most of Furqanias students are lower middle class. Jabeen says her school appeals because it imparts a mix of regular and religious studies or dini taleem.Dini taleem is the teaching of namaaz, Quran and Hadith, a collection of the sayings and deeds of Muhammad. Friday is the weekly holiday and girls are taught regular subjects on four days and dini taleem on two. Dini taleem is taught by teachers from the Jamia-tus-Salehat nearby, India's pioneering girls madrassa, which started in 1956 with just two students.
This madrassa is very different from the Furania school. Jamia-tus-Sahlehat instructs 2,500 girls,1,100 of them boarders. It only has Islamic studies, teaching a little English and basic knowledge of computers. Purdah is strict. Of the105 teachers, only five are men and they teach the Quran and Hadith with a curtain separating them from their students. The pupils come from across India Kashmir, Bengal, Assam, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, even Goa, says general secretary Mukarram Husain Siddiqui.
The Jamia-tus-Salehat hostel is open only to girls above 10;students leave the madrassa aged between 18 and 22.They are taught literally to be keepers of the faith. Girls are trained to carry their religions legacy into the community, be responsible homemakers and beacons of faith.
The madrassas management sees no need to expand the curriculum.Say weve always been vegetable vendors. But people need plastic chappals too. And eat worms also. Is it necessary that we stock that too. Let them go where that is found, we don’t stop them. But why expect us to become a supermarket says the Jamia-tus-Salehats wizened chancellor, who wants neither to be named nor quoted.
But though the old guard protects the core, there’s no stopping the winds of change. We’ve tied up with Hamdard University to run BBA and BCA courses at subsidized fees, open to girls of all communities. Were trying to work out something with Open School, so our madrassa girls can have some exposure to such studies if they want to, says Siddiqui.
There’s demand all right. Salehat turns back 200-250 students a year. Furqania Girls has 450 girls, up from 350 in 2007.But even the slightest hint of communal disturbance can mean an exodus. Theyre ready to pull out girls at the slightest problem. Parents ke sath tal-mel banaye rakhna parta hai, says Jabeen. She knows, that at the end of the day, its a question of faith.
Daughters are agents of change
When Afsana Begum clickety clacks into her swanky office in her stylish peep-toe shoes; she doesn’t head for her desk but the washroom to remove her burqa. Underneath, she is wearing a smart pair of trousers and a shirt. Every day, Afsana commutes from a bylane in the Old City to her office in Banjara Hills.
Afsana,25,is an investment advisor with a multinational. As a child, she doesnt remember girls being encouraged to study but by the time I was in Class X, things were changing. My father was keen that I take up a professional course.
Till a decade ago, the girl who lived in the Charminar area could hope to do nothing more than a B Ed. By 20,most would be married off. Teaching at a local school was considered a safe and good job.
No longer. Morning rush hour here sees dozens of young women on buses bound for the new city, zipping to work on two-wheelers, often with burqas firmly in place.
The next generation is already sold on the idea of education, professional qualifications, a good job and aspiration. Naheeda Sultana, who lives in Shaheen Nagar in the Old City, is a fruit-sellers daughter. An MA student, she won the Urdu medal from Hyderabad Central University, which is a three-hour commute from home. I change four buses to reach the campus, Naheeda says, adding that she has signed up for the M Phil course.
Rafia Nausheen of Mahita, an NGO that works with adolescent Muslim girls in the Old City, says its all so different from 10 years ago.( Then),I had to make personal visits to each house to convince parents to put their girl children in school. Now we needn’t convince as they are aware themselves. She adds that with the aspiration has come material attainment. There is a visible difference in the lifestyle of people whose daughters work,she says. They have water purifiers, sofas, electronic goods.
Dr S A Shukoor, director of Osmania Universitys Centre for Educational Development of Minorities, says the emphasis on education has changed Hyderabads Muslim community and the emphasis is now on medicine, MBA,MCA and even engineering.
'The community wants to catch up with others'
Mewat, a Muslim-dominated district of Haryana, is one of northern India's most backward regions. On August 1, it makes a significant effort to pull itself up by its bootstraps. The region's first engineering college opens its doors. The college was set up by the Haryana Waqf Board and is seen as a pathbreaking project for the Meo Muslims in the area. Aftab Ahmed, 44, a trained lawyer, is the local MLA. He played a key role in making the new college a reality. He tells Deepender Deswal what it means for the Meo community, Mewat and the Muslim community as a whole across India. Excerpts:
How and when did the Haryana Waqf Board decide to open an engineering college in Mewat?
In 2008, A R Kidwai, then governor of Haryana, came up with the idea and asked the Haryana Waqf Board to take the initiative. Now, the admission process has started and 42.5% seats are reserved for Muslim students. We hope to begin Masters' degrees and MBA courses in the second and third phases.
How hard was it to get government clearances for this college?
Almost the entire process — from procuring land to getting affiliation and approval — has been smooth. The Waqf Board had 13 acres land and four more acres were procured from two nearby villages. The college got AICTE approval and is affiliated to the Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak. The funds were no problem for the Waqf Board, thus, at present there is no need to look to the government for funds.
What difference will this college make to this backward region?
The lack of literacy and education has been the main cause of the area's backwardness. But the engineering college will be a catalyst in development. The local people are excited about the project. The college is a symbol of changing times. I hope it will create new aspirations and provide inspiration to the younger generation.
Why is your region, just 50 km from the national capital, still so underdeveloped and backward?
Too much focus of the Centre and state governments on developing Gurgaon as a world-class city led to complete neglect of its rural hinterland comprising the Mewat region, which was earlier part of Gurgaon. For almost 25 years, urban Gurgaon remained the priority and nobody went beyond the city to see what's happening in the countryside. People could not raise their voice against this lopsided approach due to lack of awareness and education. The focus, however, has been reset since Mewat was made a new district. Now we have administrative machinery that's dedicated to the district and the state government has been liberal about releasing funds for infrastructure projects in the region. Around Rs 1,200 crore is being spent on a road network in the district.
Some say the Haryana initiative is part of the Muslims community's desire to change and modernize. Is the Haryana board encouraging other boards in the country to take similar steps in the field of education?
Earlier people were hesitant in allowing their children to go for higher studies. Now they have realized that an educated and trained child is an asset to the family. People here want to change. Though the Haryana Waqf Board manages many madrassas and other educational institutes, setting up the engineering college is a unique project and I hope other states will follow the Mewat example.
Is there really a significant change in the way Muslims now view education and professional qualifications?
The fast changing economic and social scenario in the country has led to a change in the thinking in the community, which had confined itself to a closed way of living. Now they know that they need to open up. The realization that they have been lagging behind has given additional thrust to their efforts. Apart from this college, a medical college at a cost of around Rs 650 crore is under construction in Nuh. It is one of the biggest, it will have 1,000 seats... six other ITIs are being upgraded. These projects will bring big change here.