"Address at the Muslim Educational Conference organized by the Educational Branch of the All Ceylon Muslim League and held at Kalmunai on Sunday, 15th May 1949"

I consider it a proud privilege to be called upon to preside over the deliberations of this Conference, and I feel that the great honour that has been conferred upon me  on  this  occasion  is  not so much an honour to me personally as a recognition on your part of the important position in Muslim Education occupied by Zahira College, Colombo, which may be rightly termed the Mother of Muslim Denominational Institutions in Ceylon. Zahira as "the radiating centre of Muslim thought and activity," was naturally connected with the first All-Ceylon Muslim Educational Conference which was held in the year 1924. Its deliberations were presided over by Zahira's then Principal and present "guide, philosopher and friend" the Hon'ble Mr. T.B. Jayah whom we are happy to have here with us.

It is hardly necessary for me on an occasion like this to point out that upon the education  of  the  members  of our Community the fate of our Community depends. The value of periodical Conferences of this nature to us, Ceylon Muslims, who have a great deal of leeway to make up in the sphere of education cannot be exaggerated. We are holding this Conference in an area which has recently become the political centre of the Muslims of Ceylon. Kalmunai area which was raised to the status of an Emergency District during the last years of the last Great War occupies a warm place in my heart. I was placed in charge of its Kachcheri during the dark days of 1942 and 1943, when Ceylon was not free from the fears of either a  Japanese invasion or a terrible famine. It was then my hope that Kalmunai's Emergency kachcheri would in due course be transformed into a full-fledged District kachcheri. I now find that the Emergency Kachcheri has been closed down but the District kachcheri has  not  taken  its  place. I  still  hope that, with the growing importance of the Gal Oya Scheme and the almost unlimited possibilities of land development in the area, Government will be persuaded by the Members of Parliament to establish a  permanent Kachcheri in the near future. The office of the A.G.A. (Emergency) enabled me to come into intimate contact with the people of Kalmunai and it was in this area that I became fully aware of the importance of education. I realized that education, and education alone, is the master key that could unlock all the doors to progress and that in any social programme of the Muslims the  first  and  foremost  place  should definitely and  distinctly be  given to  education. If I may be permitted to be personal in my remarks, I should like to mention here that my active interest in Muslim education commenced at this stage. Praise be to Allah that I am called upon to preside at this very place and on this very important occasion over the deliberations of a  conference  solely devoted to the problems of education. The Chairman of the Reception Committee, Mr. M.A.L. Kariyapper, has referred  to  my  period  as a  Government  Officer  at  Kalmunai. I take this opportunity  of  thanking  him  and  all  the  people  of  Kalmunai  for  the co-operation that was readily extended to me in my efforts to carry out to the best of my ability the instructions of the Government.
The idea of an Educational Conference owes its origin to Sir Seyed Ahmad  Khan,  who  founded  the  All-India  Mohammedan Educational Conference, "as an integral part of the Aligarh Movement, which had as its main object the propagation of liberal education in general and of modern higher education in particular." These  Conferences  spread throughout India a net-work of  Muslim  Educational  Institutions  and  brought  about an intellectual renaissance. Ceylon was not unaware of the establishment in 1875 of the Aligarh Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, and a suggestion was made by the late Mr. I.L.M. Abdul Azeez that similar Conferences should be organized in this  country.  Unfortunately  no Conference was held in his lifetime, despite all his untiring efforts to create public opinion in its favour. Such was the apathy that prevailed then. Many years elapsed before the first All-Ceylon Muslim Educational Conference was held in 1924 under the Presidentship of Zahira's Principal, Mr. T.B. Jayah. The second Conference took place several years after in 1936 with Mr. A. Yusuf Ali, widely known among us as a translator of the Holy Quran, guiding its deliberations. The third Educational Conference was held recently in 1945 in Matale. The late Dr. Sir  Ziauddin  Ahamed,  Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aligarh, presided on that occasion. Today, as far as I am aware, we are having the fourth Muslim Conference. That the Ceylon Muslims have been able to hold only four educational conferences between the years 1924 and 1949, that is during a period of a quarter of a century, shows clearly the extent to which we have been wanting in the  ability to organize ourselves systematically and unitedly. Let us not forget that this is the first Conference we are having after the attainment of Independence by our country and as such our Conference is invested with a special significance. Let the watch-word of the late Quaide Azam Mohamed Ali Jinnah, namely, "Faith, Unity and Discipline" inspire us in all our future efforts and endeavours.
The fundamental break with the past in the political sphere, connoted by our Independence, inevitably involves a New Order in Education. Credit should go to  Mr. C.W.W. Kannangara  and his colleagues of the Special Committee  on Education for having anticipated  our  status  of  a  New Dominion and provided us with the broad outlines of this New Order. Any failures in the administrative sphere should not blind us to the intrinsically sound features of the new national policy in education envisaged by the Special Committee. The Educational system that was good for a Crown Colony could not be good for an Independent Dominion. The Special Committee on Education emphasised that it was their "task to recommend an educational system suitable for a democracy. Such a system should, on the one hand, enable the pupil to achieve the highest degree of physical, mental and moral development of which he is capable irrespective of his wealth or social status; on the other hand, it should enable the pupil as a result of his education to use his abilities for the good of the nation in the fullest possible measure and exercise intelligently the franchise that the State has conferred on him." A diversified education was naturally considered to be an essential feature of the system – an education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the pupil. Henceforth  the  relationship between  Education  and  the State was to be of a fundamentally different kind. The  State  was not merely to superintend education but to control it directly through State schools and indirectly through assisted schools.
It was readily conceded that education is the birth-right of every child. It was  realised  that  "without  education a man is not so circumstanced that he knows how to make the best of himself and that therefore, for him, the purpose of society is, ab initio, frustrated" and that the right to education is an important and inalienable right. The State and the Society should therefore have a true estimate of the nature and value of education. Such an education could not be mere instruction and all educational problems could not be treated as mere problems of pedagogy. In these changed circumstances education becomes  "social  philosophy  in action." The present age has been aptly described as "the Century of the Common Man." Education has thus to be conceived in broader and deeper terms. An education that was concerned merely with the upper classes and with higher education might have suited the days of Sir Seyed  Ahmad Khan but is thoroughly out of date for our purposes. A perpetual renewal is called for in the sphere of education and if we are to progress educationally, we should be alive to the changes in the social order and to the trends of events that are taking place in our country and other countries, particularly Muslim and Asian.
It behoves  us  to  examine  the fundamentals of the New Order in Education and see whether they are compatible with our culture that cannot be separated from our religion.  The  New Order is averse to any further perpetuation of the two nations in Ceylon – the English educated upper class, and the vernacular  educated  lower class.  Class  conception  is  always abhorrent to the spirit of Islam and therefore we Muslims must welcome its abolition in the sphere of Ceylon's education. The New Education Scheme is the final repudiation of Macaulay" conception of education in which the aim of education was to make us "though not English in blood and colour, English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect." Let us proudly remember that this repudiation came very much earlier from the Muslims despite the heavy price that was paid by way of the present educational backwardness and the loss of many material advantages. The New Education Scheme rejects the symbol of the  narrow  educational  ladder  and  attempts  to  replace it by them of the broad highway aiming thereby the equalization of educational opportunity. We Muslims having suffered for want of educational equality welcome this  feature  most enthusiastically. The New Education Scheme introduces  in  addition a new  conception as regards  State  neutrality in religious education. At one time State neutrality meant equal indifference to all religions. It now means equal encouragement of all religions. We are happy indeed that the State has at  last  accepted  in  unequivocal  terms, that a complete education is not  possible  unless it has a religious background. Muslims  have  always  emphasised   that  the  religious  background  is  indispensable in education and therefore are  encouraged  greatly  by  this new attitude of  the State. The  absence  of  these  features   in   earlier  educational  schemes was the chief cause of the Muslim community's attitude of either non-co-operation, partial co-operation with the State. But with the chief Islamic features of democracy and social equality  that characterize the New Education Scheme, we can confidently look forward to a period of full co-operation with the State. We are indeed tempted to say,
"Bliss is it in this dawn to be alive
But to be young is very heaven."
Our culture  is frankly and fully religion-dominated. Class and race conceptions have no place therein. Proud of our culture and determined to defend it at any cost against friends and foes alike, we are naturally against any form of cultural unification, either by the suppression of all the different cultures that prevail now, in favour of a "brand new" one, imported from abroad or concocted within Ceylon; or by the suppression of all but one of the prevailing cultures. We hold that cultural diversity strengthens democracy and therefore seek  political  unity  in  the  midst of cultural diversity. Under no  circumstances   shall  we  be  persuaded  either  by the pleadings of partition-lovers or otherwise to favour a United States of Lanka in preference to a  United  Lanka. Our cultural  differences  no  doubt  create  special  educational problems of our own, which necessitate a Muslim Educational Conference instead of an Education Conference.
The step-motherly  attitude adopted towards education by the State during the Colonial period of Ceylon History helped the further education of the educated and hindered the education of the uneducated. The Muslims were thereby the greatest sufferers. Conditions considerably improved with the inauguration of the Donoughmore Constitution, and our special needs were  most  catered  for during the latter years of the State Council. The "filtration theory" of education that held the fields previously even among some of the Muslims was forced to retreat as a result of the establishment of several vernacular primary schools in Muslims areas, particularly remote and rural, where almost complete illiteracy prevailed before. It was realized by the Government that Muslim  education could not be promoted without a sufficient  number of  Muslim  trained teachers. Special institutions were therefore established at Alutgama and at Addalaichchenai. Having regard to the lost educational opportunities of the Muslim community the Government gave special concessions in respect of the age and the admission of Muslim students  as  well  as  of  the  recognition  of  Muslim  "denominational" institutions.  Arabic  was recognised as  a  subject in  the  curriculum of Government Muslim Schools, and special teachers were appointed for the purpose. The Muslim community owes a debt of deep gratitude to Mr. C.W.W. Kannangara, who was then the Minister for Education, for the great interest evinced by him in Muslim educational welfare. I feel that I should not let this opportunity pass without quoting the words of the Soulbury Commissioners relevant to this subject.
"Education  among  the  Muslims, for instance, has in the past, for various reasons, been relatively backward. We were much impressed by the efforts of the Minister for Education, himself a Sinhala and a Buddhist, to promote the educational advance of the community." It is also our duty at this stage to remember  with  gratitude the great services rendered to Muslim education by the two Muslim members of the Executive Committee, the Hon'ble Mr. T.B. Jayah and Senator Al-Haj A.R.A. Razik, O.B.E.
The policy of Mr. C.W.W. Kannangara and his colleagues is reflected in the  following  paragraph of the  Report  of the Special Committee on Education. "This diversity should not be a source of weakness but a source of strength. Each  community has some peculiar contribution to make to the common stock. It can effectively be made, however, only if there is equality of opportunity, and it is one of our tasks to iron the inequalities so that every individual may contribute his utmost. When we emphasise the special needs of the Kandyans and Muslims our purpose is not to forward their interests as communities but to enable the members of those communities to share equally with others the facilities that the nation affords. We refer to the communal problem not because we favour  communalism, but because owing to the accidents of history the members of certain communities as individuals have not been able to claim equality. Our essential aim is to secure a sentiment of national unity, and so long as  members of particular communities labour under a sense of frustration and a sense of grievance neither they nor the rest of the population will be able to think in other than communal terms. The more the nation as a whole determines its own destiny, the more its sections claim their right  to take part in the determination. Sectionalism may thus appear to develop precisely because a national consciousness is developed. Our effort should be to remove inequalities so that national unity may be developed still further."
It is heartening to find that the present Minister of Education the Hon'ble Major E.A. Nugawela is a signatory to this Report -a signatory without a dissent and without a rider in the midst of many dissents and many riders. His understanding  of  our  special  needs may be gauged from the following message he sent on 28th April, 1948 to the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund.
"As a  Kandyan I  can  heartily sympathise with a people who, on account of a denial of adequate  educational  facilities  in  the past, have perforce to take a comparatively secondary place in the onward march of men and  events in a  free country." Unless  we  Muslims  educate  ourselves sufficiently satisfactorily, we shall not be in a position to contribute our due share to the progress and advancement of our country which has regained its freedom only recently. A free country demands of its citizens harder work and greater efforts. When we remember that the strength of a chain lies in its weakest  link,  our  responsibilities  in the sphere of education are better appreciated. The  wearer  knows best where  the  shoe  pinches, and our educational disabilities are best known to ourselves. Thus it becomes our duty to point out to the Government our special needs and seek redress wherever necessary. Our educational equality has no doubt been guaranteed, but when the policy of this equality strangulation into administrative details, there is always the possibility of our special circumstances being either unknown, forgotten or insufficiently remembered and our special needs being uncared for or inadequately appreciated. Eternal vigilance on our part is the price of this educational equality which is our right. It is therefore our religious duty to encourage Educational Conferences and educational organisations.
I beg here to quote a recent message from Professor. A.W. Mailvaganam, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ceylon.
"I am pleased to write this short message for the Magazine of the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund….. of a total student population of about 1,600 in the University the Muslims number only 40, a bare 2 1/2 cent; and if we place the strength of the Muslim community in the country at 400,000 this means that only 0.01 per cent. of this important minority community is receiving higher education. These  figures  ought to  make  the  leaders among the Muslims anxious about the future of their community." The situation calls for a complete review of the kind of primary and secondary education that is received by our students, of the facilities available to them in their homes for general reading as well as for the preparation of their lessons, of the steps that are taken at present to ensure that no talented boy or girl is deprived of his or her education for want of financial assistance, of the boarding facilities that are available to Muslim students who come from homes outside important urban areas, of the opportunities that are available for secondary education in English to Muslim students who have successfully completed their primary education in the vernacular with a marked aptitude for academic studies, of the details of the curriculum adopted in Muslim schools, of the text books that are now being used by the Muslim students, and of the kind of advice now available to them in  regard  to  the choice of subjects in the secondary stage of their education. Muslims who  are  closely  associated  with  teaching institutions have a special responsibility in this matter. A quick solution that would produce over  night  all  the Muslim graduates we need cannot be available to us. Therefore let us start taking such steps now as will produce at least within the next  five  years  University students among ourselves in proportion to  our numbers. The situation brooks no delay and let not the warning of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor go unheeded.
I should now like to deal with our most important educational problem which unfortunately has so far received insufficient attention from us. I am referring to the question of the medium of instruction. As far as I am able to see, the  Government  has already made its decision in regard to primary education, and there does not seem to be any likelihood of the present policy being reversed. The following  quotations  respectively  from the Report of the Special Committee on  Education  and  from the Report of the select Committee on Sinhalese and Tamil as Official Languages would support my statement.
"356 (a) We recommend that the medium of instruction in the primary school shall be the mother's tongue.
To cover doubtful and difficult cases, we have evolved the following definition of mother-tongue :-
(1)Where both parents are Sinhalese or Tamil, then Sinhalese or Tamil, as the case may be, shall be the mother-tongue.
(2)Where  the  parents  belong  to  different  communities,  the home-language, be the mother-tongue.
(3)In the case of  all  other  persons,  any one of the following languages English, Sinhalese, Tamil or Malay – which ever the parents choose to adopt shall be deemed to be the mother-tongue."
"48. The medium of instruction in the primary school shall be the mother-tongue. English shall not be taught at this stage as a second language."
The Government has no doubt allowed us the choice of the medium but that does not necessarily solve our problem. At one time when the country favoured English as the Medium of instruction from the Kindergarten stage upwards the  Muslim  community  was  indifferent to the possibilities of English education. As a result, apart form other disabilities, we are still not having our proportionate share of the administrative and other Government posts that are available. The country  has  now considerably modified its attitude towards English. But we seem to be oblivious of the important changes that have taken place recently. The urgent problem that cries for a solution on our part is whether we should continue to favour a medium, namely, English, that has  been  abandoned  by  both  the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Their population figures according to the last census are as follows : Sinhalese 69.6%, Tamils 22.7 and, the Muslims constitute only 6.5% of the population. If 92.3% of the population have abandoned English as the medium of instruction for primary education on sound educational and psychological grounds, it behoves us to consider seriously whether we are wise or unwise in our present attitude of going in the opposite direction of the country. The gulf may not be very wide now. Let us not therefore forget that the gulf becomes wider and wider month by month and year by year. We adopted this kind of a wrong attitude once  and  we  are  still  not free from its evil consequences. I therefore personally feel that we should not depart in this matter from the policy of the country, whatever our transitional difficulties may be. The most unfortunate feature is that English which has become our mother-tongue within inverted commas for the limited purposes of the Education Ordinance and the Code is not our  mother-tongue. It  has been estimated that in 1921 Ceylon had a literacy in English of only 7%, this  figure should be very much lower in respect of the Ceylon Muslims. I am inclined to think that to us the choice lies between the Sinhalese  and  the  Tamil  Languages. Roughly 40% of the Muslims are purely Tamil-speaking, whereas the remaining Muslims speak both Tamil and Sinhalese. Practically all the present Electoral Districts where the Muslims have a voice are in purely Tamil speaking areas. There is already Muslim literature in Tamil of quality, and the language is popular with our "Katheebs" and "Moulavis." On the other hand, Sinhalese is the language of 69.6% of the people of our country and proposals have  already  been made for the adoption of  Sinhalese either by itself or with Tamil as the official language of the country. It has been suggested  by  some that Muslims in Sinhalese areas should adopt Sinhalese and those in Tamil areas Tamil. This would entail the disruption of the present linguistic unity. It is obvious that there is no easy solution to the problem. That should not make us feel that there is no problem at all. I would strongly recommend the appointment of a Special Committee that will study this question in all its aspects and tender its advice to the community.
I do not pretend that I have dealt with all the educational problems of the Muslims. I  have referred to the problems which I feel are urgent and important in the context of current events and I am not certain whether I have not omitted some of them. I thank you all for the patient hearing you have given me. We have special and urgent problems and it is therefore necessary for us to meet periodically and review our educational problems with a view to taking all the necessary steps that will enable us to occupy our rightful place in our country. In our deliberations and plans let us seek His aid whom we worship and who will show us the straight way.
a p p e n d i x
The following resolutions were passed at the above Conference:
(1)That this conference declares that the Muslim Community, while being an integral  part of  the Ceylonese Nation, has its own distinctive educational problems, on the satisfactory solution of which depends the ability of the Ceylon Muslims to contribute their due share towards the progress and advancement of the country.
(2)That   this  Conference   expresses  its  gratification  at  the recommendations  contained  in para 7  of the Report of the Special Committee on Education (Sessional Paper XXIV, 1943) which assures equality of educational opportunity not merely between individuals but also between communities.
(3)That this Conference thanks the Chairman and the members of the Executive Committee of Education for the great interest evinced  by  them in Muslim Educational Welfare during the period of the State Council and requests the present Minister of Education to continue the policy of the Executive Committee of Education in regard to, inter alia –
(a)the appointment of Muslim teachers to Government Schools in Muslim areas;
(b)the provision of  special  facilities  for the admission of Muslim students to Training College (Primary as well as Post Primary);
(c)the admission of Muslims to the University of Ceylon;
(d)the establishment of Muslim Assisted Schools;
(e)the choice of the medium of instruction and the minimum language  requirements  for  S.S.C.  (English) and other examinations;
(f)the teaching of Arabic in Government Schools, and in the University; and 
(g)the age qualification in respect of admission to schools, entrance and scholarship examinations.
(4)That this Conference thanks the present Minister of Education for the proposed establishment of a Special Training College (Primary) for Muslim women.
(5)That this Conference requests the Minister of Education to have established more Central Schools for girls on the lines of the Alutgama institution with a view to the encouragement of higher education among Muslim girls.
(6)That  this  Conference  urges on all Muslims (a) to establish Voluntary Organizations to look after the Educational interests of particular localities; (b) to establish as many Muslim Assisted Schools as possible; (c) to take active steps for the liquidation of illiteracy in their areas; (d) to induce the wealthy members of the community to contribute lavishly to educational causes.

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