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Page last edited on 29 April, 2003

Facts about India's Muslim Community as against Popular Myths

By P.R. Ram. This extract is from chapter 5 ('Hindutva and the Exploited-Oppressed Sections of Society') of the book 'Fascism of the Sangh Parivar' published by EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), 1999.

Minorities: (1) Muslims

There has been a systematic creation of myths against the Muslim that successive governments pampered and appeased the community, that they are polygamous, that their fertility rates are higher and that they are anti-National.

Their status in employment and other parameters are a good index of their social status, and appeasement.

In Govt. sector in higher cadres, their representation is very small (Class I: 3.19%, Class II 4.30%. In Class IV is just 8.16%, while in private sector this figure is much lower). In High Courts, out of 310 judges as on 1.4.1980, only 14 were Muslims. In All India Services (IAS): In decision making posts Muslim representation was (1984 figures) 2.14%, in Indian police service 3%, Central Secretariat Service 1.43%, and only 0.72 of them were Section officers.

In Industry: Among the country's top industrial houses, not one is owned or controlled by a Muslim. As to participation in fresh growth of industries, the situation of industrial licenses issued for units between Rs. 3 crore and Rs. 20 crores during the year 1979 is as follows: Total No. 260, Muslims: 5 (1.9%), 1980 Total 386, Muslims 6 (1.5%).

Muslims are predominantly in the handicraft sector as skilled artisans. A countrywide survey, which covered 31 districts, 12 States, indicates that out of 12.68 lakh artisans employed in this Sector, 51.89 per cent were Muslims. But Muslim ownership accounted for only 4.4 per cent. In terms of financial assistance, Muslim borrowers were 4.3 percent, and the volume of loans paid out to them was 2.02 per cent. The total financial sector disbursed only 3.76 per cent differential interest rate credit to Muslims. The average per capita income of Muslims is 5 per cent less than average of Rs. 4,247. 

Education: According to the survey of Planning Commission, 87-88, the average literacy rate among Muslims was 42 percent, which is less than the national average of 52.11 per cent. In the case of women, only 11 per cent Muslim women were literate compared to the national average of 39.42 per cent.

Figures for the period 1980-81, indicate that the educational status of this community is that (1) only 4 per cent appeared in Class X (Board of Secondary Education) examinations in 8 States, out of the total that appeared for the examination, and (2) there were only 3.4 per cent Muslims in Graduate Engineering, and only 3.44 per cent in MBBS. In his book, "Muslims in Free India", Moin Shakir, reveals that at the time of the Partition, the representation of Muslims in armed forces was 32% but today it stands at a mere 2%.

The dominant communal forces which over the years have propagated myths like, Muslims are allowed to have four wives, they invariably have more children, they are opposed to family planning methods, their higher growth rate is due to Islam and due to their higher growth rate they will soon outnumber the Hindus. The communalists have on purpose projected the fear of Muslim population growth to consolidate their own electoral majority and towards this strategy they have effectively combined half-truths, ideological concoctions and rumour spreading techniques to entrench these myths to popular psyche.

We will like to begin with the myth that the rise of Muslim population is tremendously high and so they will outnumber the Hindus. The census surveys by religion totally negate this firmly held popular belief. Religion is one of the markers used in these surveys. As per 1971 survey Hindus constituted 82.7% and Muslims 11.2% of the population. The corresponding figures for 1991 census are Hindus 82.6% and Muslims 11.4%. (Malayalam Manorama, 1992). The marginal difference in the growth pattern as we will see a bit later has more to do with socio-economic factors rather than religious ones. Over all this statistics shows a reasonably 'stable' (religion wise) population. That apart even if the current differentials persist, it is not only unlikely, but impossible for Muslim population to overtake the Hindu population for the next century or so. On the contrary if the prevailing growth rates are analysed, it will be clear that between 61-71 and 71-81, Hindu population increase went up from 23.71 to 24.42, while between the same period Muslim population increase went down from 30.85 to 30.20. If these rate of growths are frozen at same level hundred years from 1981, Hindus and Muslims will record a decadal growth rate of 30.71 and 30.55 respectively, i.e, growth rates of Hindus will be higher.

Another firmly held belief in popular conception is that Muslims do not practise family planning because of their religion. It is true that a section of Islamic fundamentalist clergy does pass occasional fatwas to disapprove family planning, but a section of clergy can neither be equated with Islam, nor to Qurán nor to emerging Islamic practices as such. On the contrary many Ulemas of different countries have actually favoured temporary forms of family planning. In his book 'Family planning and legacy of Islam' Islamic scholar A R Omran of Cairo dispels the myth that Islam is inherently against family planning, as per him there is no text in Koran prohibiting prevention of pregnancy. In Islamic countries like Turkey and Indonesia family planning methods are quite popular. In Turkey for example 63% of the population in the reproductive age group uses contraception and in Indonesia the figure is 48%. In India, the number of Muslim couples in the child bearing age practising family planning in 1970 was 9% (Hindus 14%) and in 1980, 22.5% (Hindus 36.1%) (Operation Research Group, Baroda 1981). Thus the number of additional Muslims taking to family planning is keeping pace with the number of Hindus doing the same. Like all other social programmes, family planning is also linked with socio-economic status, level of general social awareness, etc. We will be repeatedly encountering this fact that a large number of Muslims being in the low socio-economic strata, share these statistics more than other socially disadvantaged sections of society.

Similarly, the myth of polygamy amongst the Muslims is also very firmly rooted in popular mind. The correlation of polygamy with increase in population is the most simplistic concoction to have taken grip of our psyche. Overall the number of children born depends on the number of women in the reproductive age group and is limited by that. On first count it is immaterial whether a man is having one or more wives as the total number of children depends on the number of women, which does not get influenced by polygamy. If at all, this number of women has more to do with the prevalence of social practice of female infanticide and 'bride burning' in the areas where the practice of extortion by parents of 'grooms' called dowry is prevalent. Secondly, the male/female ratio can not permit the 'luxury' of four wives to the Muslim males unless three-fourths (75%) of them go without marriage. As per 1981 census, the male/female ratio for Muslims was 1.068 and for Hindus was 1.072 i.e. for every 1000 Muslim females there are 1068 Muslim males. One has to conceive of gigantic mental acrobatics, in the light of these statistics, to believe that many a Muslim males can have four wives.

A slightly earlier but relevant statistics of polygamy (1961 census report) totally smashes the myth of Muslim polygamy, unless the social trends have worsened drastically, which obviously have not. As per this, the incidence of polygamy is highest among the Adivasis (15.25) followed by Buddhists (7.9), Jains (6.72), Hindus (5.80) and behold, followed by Muslims (5.70). Research carried out by Mallika B Mistry of Gokhle institute of Pune, concludes that "there is no evidence that the percentage of polygamous marriages (among Muslims) is larger than the Hindus". A comparison of nuptiality patterns for Hindus and Muslims shows great similarity, the incidence of polygamy has been declining among both Hindus and Muslims.

From the above it will be interesting to draw the religion based fertility patterns. These patterns differ within Muslim community itself, they vary from region to region as per the socio-economic and educational levels of the community concerned. Those in the better socio-economic and educational ladder have lesser population increase, while those on the lower rungs of socio-economic educational ladder have higher rate of population growth. This conforms to regional, urban and rural distribution as well. Birth rates in Malabar region of Kerala, whose Muslim population is 40% is significantly lower than those in Uttar Pradesh with a Muslim population of 15%. The contrasting case is that of Kashmir, a Muslim majority state. Here the fertility rate of Hindus is almost twice that of Muslims. Here again the birth rate was lower 31.4 (per thousand) than in UP (36.5), MP 36.4, Bihar 34.8 and Rajasthan 33.4.

Can we bother to realise that the overall rate of population increase in educationally and socially advanced states like Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka, is overall lower, both for Muslims and Hindus, compared to the rest of the country. Also let us have a look at Urban rural divide. More than one third of the Muslim community is concentrated in the peripheral and decaying areas of urban economic life. Incidence of urban poverty is higher among them by 17% (vis-a-vis Hindus). The number of Muslims living below poverty line is close to 45%. They are generally living in older areas of modern cities, which are well known for poor sanitation, lack of health facilities and basic amenities. On the top of this the repeated outburst of communal violence against them is 'ghettoising' them with the result that improvement in their lot is becoming more and more difficult.

Overall, one observes that there are multiple factors that determining the rate of population growth, religion being very low on the weightage scale, if at all it counts at all. Socio-economic betterment and education are the foremost factors helping in the control of population growth. Feeling of insecurity and poor socio-economic status counter the efforts to promote family planning, (nee welfare, which is the term conveying the goals of this exercise more precisely), and these two factors transcend the religious factor by number of times. In such a complex scenario, the propaganda machine of the Sangh Parivar has done a 'remarkable job' by making 'Ham do, hamare do: Woh panch, unke pachees'  (We (Hindus) practice two children norm, they (Muslims) practice four wives, twenty five children norm), a part of 'social common sense'. One has to 'complement' the Gobbelsian methods of Hindu right, which have concocted this offensive slogan which is far removed from the truth.

Thus far from being a pampered lot, poor Muslims are victims of overt and covert discrimination. Their social indices are very close to those of Dalits who in more ways than one have been the most discriminated lot of Indian society.


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Last updated on 29 April, 2003

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