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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Worries about how meagerly-hiked salaries for imams etc. can trigger deeper issues

IndiaWorries about how meagerly-hiked salaries for imams etc. can trigger deeper issues

Chief Minister of Bengal Mamata Banerjee’s meager remuneration hike to imams, and muazzins raises many concerns imams and muazzins can face.

Mamata Banerjee graced the All India Imam-Muaddin Social and Welfare Organization’s conference in West Bengal as the chief guest.  The big event saw the participation of Imams and Muaddins, the revered leaders of mosque prayers. This congregation holds significance as minority votes hold a pivotal role in the impending Lok Sabha elections in Bengal.

“For two years, efforts have been underway to secure Mamata Banerjee’s presence as the chief guest for this conference. We intend to deliberate on avenues for fostering peace. With optimism, we anticipate that their presence will mark a transformative juncture,” Maulana Shefiq, the organization’s president, articulated.

However, there are unfounded fears about the salary hike from Rs. 2000 up to Rs. 500 making it Rs. 2500 that most of the public fail to see. While in India, including the state of West Bengal, imams, and muazzins often find themselves recipients of money from either the mosque itself or the immediate local community, this has sparked troubles in the past.

This recompense takes on various forms, which might include a consistent fixed monthly wage, a stipend, lodging provisions, and occasionally supplementary perks such as sustenance and healthcare coverage. It’s noteworthy that in specific instances, imams and muazzins might also undertake other vocations or revenue streams beyond their religious responsibilities.

The earnings of muazzins, responsible for the call to prayer, and imams, leading the prayers, exhibit substantial variation, contingent upon factors such as mosque location, congregation size, funding origins (governmental, community-based donations, etc.), and the economic climate of the area.

In regions like India, including West Bengal, imams, and muazzins typically receive recompense from either the mosque or the local community. This recompense may manifest as a consistent monthly wage, stipend, lodging, and occasionally supplementary perks such as sustenance and medical provisions. In certain instances, imams and muazzins might concurrently engage in alternate employment or possess alternative revenue sources alongside their religious duties.

Worries About This Remuneration Hike

Religious Remunerations From the Government Can Be Used for Political Gains

Firstly, is it really good practice to offer salary hikes to religious places?  Looking at the past, there is a history of Muslim clerics who have refused government assistance. Such is the example of Darul Uloom Deoband and Nadwatul Ulama renowned for their conservative and conventional approach to Islamic education and scholarly pursuits.

Both Darul Uloom Deoband and Nadwatul Ulama have earned recognition for their conservative and time-honored methodology in Islamic education and scholarly pursuits. Historically, they have favored sustaining themselves through contributions from the community, endowments, and alternative forms of private backing, as opposed to relying on government funding. This perspective emerges from a concern that government support might potentially compromise their autonomy and the integrity of their teachings.

This strategy empowers these institutions to maintain a particular degree of authority over their curriculum, administration, and decision-making procedures, free from external influences. Furthermore, it contributes to the preservation of their standing for imparting authentic and traditional Islamic education.

Religious people are often used for political gains.  This has happened during the Congress and BJP regimes and it is more than possible it will occur again.  There is an apprehension that imams and muazzins could be manipulated by politicians even with their meager salaries which incidentally are humiliatingly low.  These clerics would always vote for those particular politicians, such as Mamata Banerjee and others who offer the same, just for that tiny amount of money.

Clerics can become exploited by political parties to gain support from particular religious groups. This can lead to religious leaders becoming politically biased, and it can deepen political divides based on religious affiliations.

Can Bring Polarity to Indian Muslims

The polarity of Indian Muslims has divided them as a community where some have compromised with the system to get that low amount of salary.  This potentially creates objectives and amplifies divisions within the society.

Allocating salaries to clerics could potentially create divisions within the Muslim community itself. Different sects, schools of thought, and interpretations of Islam might vie for state recognition and funding, leading to internal conflicts.

Furthermore, when the state recognizes and funds specific clerics, it can unintentionally promote the legitimacy of their particular beliefs and practices. This can lead to disagreements and conflicts between different factions within the Muslim community, as various groups may seek recognition and financial support for their distinct interpretations of Islam.

While a considerable number of Islamic establishments in India, encompassing madrasas, seminaries, mosques, and religious personnel, uphold their financial autonomy, instances exist where certain entities receive backing or remuneration from the government. This is particularly true through financial allocations managed by Waqf boards.

Across diverse Indian states, including Delhi, Waqf boards oversee and manage assets and properties dedicated to religious and charitable objectives, including mosques and related religious institutions. A fraction of these resources is often earmarked to provide compensation for imams and muazzins fulfilling roles within government-recognized mosques.

Likewise, in various Indian states, government-endorsed madrasas also operate. These institutions might receive monetary aid from the government to sustain their operations and deliver education to students.

It is vital to acknowledge that the degree of government involvement and support can vary significantly among different regions, with no uniform approach. While some establishments preserve their independence, others opt to embrace government assistance to varying extents. This can be influenced by a range of factors such as local policies, community preferences, and historical traditions.

The competition for state recognition and funding can intensify existing tensions, as each group may try to assert its theological authority and establish itself as the true representative of Islam. This dynamic can result in internal conflicts and rivalries, eroding the sense of unity and cooperation that is often strived for within a religious community.

If certain clerics are perceived to be favored by the government, suspicions of political manipulation might arise, causing further fractures within the community. The divide could extend to questions of loyalty, with some questioning the allegiance of those receiving state funds.

In essence, the allocation of salaries to clerics can inadvertently create a hierarchy of religious authority and privilege, accentuating existing differences and potentially undermining the sense of collective identity that is important within any religious community.

To create a better method to ensure imams and muazzins receive salaries from other sources, it is imperative to engage in dialogue with religious establishments, influential figures within the community, and relevant authorities where collectively, they can delve into possible alternatives. The impact of open discussions and proactive participation is needed so as to raise awareness and advocate for fair and dignified treatment of imams and muazzins.

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