PUBLISHED IN THE MILLI GAZETTE JANUARY ISSUE 2014
We already are well aware of the thin literacy rates among Indian Muslims. A large majority of this thin population is sent only to same gender schools. I remember, while I studied in Lucknow (a city with dense Muslim population), I never had more than four Muslims in my classroom. The conventional Islamic wisdom of men and women gatherings in separate areas is well lived until today. Sadly, it makes Indian Muslims look like a bunch of double standard, non secular hobbits who cannot be loyal friends with anyone. Non Muslims also send their children to same gender schools, not just Muslims, but they have different reasons. Most importantly, is it worth it?
As far as imagination can possibly think, the main reason for choosing same gender school for their kids is because these parents are afraid that their children might get attracted to the opposite gender and do un-Islamic things which bring shame upon the family. They might elope or get into wrong company. Their hearts might close to Islam and they may adopt non Islamic habits and rituals etc. think about it honestly, cant they do all this stuff in the same gender schools?
For a moment, let us consider what happens when you send your child to a same sex school. Since, this axe befalls on the female gender largely, think about an all girls school. When your kid see only girls around, the first impression she gets as a child, is that a boy is forbidden. As human psychology dictates, this creates an extra curiosity and interest in your girls mind about the opposite gender. What did curiosity do to the cat, remember? The same happens with the growing young woman and she finds it more and more rebellious to just speak with a man, which incites her curiosity furthermore. In a co education school system, this barely happens because gender disparity is negligible and young boys and girls interact with each other WITHOUT considering the gender in the weird way.
Another important element missing in a same gender school is the gender related etiquette. In a girl’s college, for example, girls gossip and talk about issues and the opposite gender in the rudest manner possible. If a girl student’s brother is lost alone in the corridors of a girl’s school, he is most certainly going to be bullied, if not harassed. While in a co education school system, both the girls and boys learn to behave and interact with each other respectfully and un- offensively. By separating our girls and boys at the very young age, we are creating an unnecessary sexual tension between our kids and killing their opportunity to learn how to behave with the opposite gender.
India is a multi cultural nation and you cannot guarantee that the next place your daughter will visit will be an all women kind of a place, professionally or personally. NO, you cannot guarantee that. But what is guaranteed to happen is that when a young woman who has never interacted with the opposite gender has to speak with him for any reason, she either gets nervous (then suffers from gender inferiority complex) or she feels she has met the man of her life (as she does not know any other men at all). This same gender ideology works in Saudi Arabia because the nation is accustomed to it BY DESIGN, India is NOT! India is a secular nation and this makes an Indian Muslim truly unique and commendable, because of the challenges they face and the cultural dilemma they solve in everyday life. I remember a friend who got so frustrated with her parents, isolating her from the opposite gender (not letting her work or study), saying “why don’t they even marry me to a woman, if the thought of any man even speaking with me bugs them so badly”.
Moving with age, a young woman who has been sent to a same gender school always, will most certainly be married in the conventional “arranged” manner, (if she has not already eloped with the milk man or the newspaper guy or the plumber). Arranged marriages have been running in India for centuries and most people take pride in this tradition, basing it on the statistics of success rates of such marriages. This is why Social Sciences and qualitative research is a thriving profession now because numbers DON’T tell you the whole story. The reason for the success rates of arranged marriages is because most of these girls have been educated in same gender schools, if at all educated. They suffer from gender inferiority complex and personality disorders. Their development and growth only includes the vague notions of old cultures placing women under the feet of men. I remember the words of a close friend, struggling to make her marriage work, “I cannot enter Paradise, unless my husband agrees to it”. Women are made to think that their deen, dunya and akhira are dependent completely on their husband, no matter how big of a jerk he is. Arranged marriages are not necessarily happy marriages, in fact not marriages at all in many cases. They are only deals and compromises where women are forced to stay with their jerk-of-a-husband because they are aware that they will be blamed if the marriage snaps. They will also be looked down upon if they go back and live with their parents and if they have children, their life becomes all the more hell.
In a way, we have closed all doors for Indian Muslim women. You did not educate them enough so that they can go out and earn a decent living for their sake. The result is that they have to slave themselves for their entire lives for a man who does not deserve them, to run a marriage which is more of a money vs woman’s beauty deal and to win the approval of a society which blames women and makes her pay the price of even just being a woman. On the other hand, women who study in co education school systems may be out going and career oriented. And yes, they may consider their options and bring a man home to introduce to their family. Doesn’t it actually solve the whole “searching process” for the family and makes their life much easier? And yes, the divorce rates for arranged turned love marriages may be higher. But the only reality that indicates is that these women were strong enough to come out of relationships in which they were not appreciated and are now enjoying freedom. This is why Allah (s.w.t) said that divorce is NOT forbidden. It is least preferred by Him, but yet not forbidden.
Thus, it all starts from an early age when your kids barely understand what gender means. As parents you chose for them and Allah (s.w.t) has ordained you to choose the best for your children. Sending your girl to an all girl’s school will NOT necessarily make her a pious girl and sending your son to an all boy’s school will neither make him a women-respecting, non violent, sensitive gentleman. It is YOUR upbringing that will make your daughter a pious woman and your son a gentleman. Small minds work that way- considering that an all girl’s school will solve all the problems of your life. India is a country where gender disparity shows its ugly face in the form of barbaric incidents. If you want to keep your daughters safe, teach your sons to respect and protect women. And start it from the school.