New Delhi: In a significant outreach to the Muslim world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Islam for emphasizing the importance of education.
“The Quran mentions the word ‘ilm’ 800 times. It is among the most repeated words after Allah. This is the importance of knowledge in the religion,” Modi told an audience comprising the high commissioners of Saarc countries and envoys of Muslim nations such as Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and Indonesia at his residence during the launch of the book “Education of Muslims” by historian JS Rajput and India Islamic Culture Centre president Sirajuddin Qureshi.
The PM, who broke with the capital’s tradition and did not host Iftar parties, also used the occasion to express his good wishes to the guests for the month of Ramzan starting in a few days.
The PM’s outreach so far has been usually limited to meeting community members and clerics. This book launch was the first such meeting where Modi hosted high commissioners of Muslim countries for an informal tea.
In his address, the PM highlighted India’s diversity as its biggest strength. “We are lucky that we live in a country where people speaking the same language and following a similar culture follow different faiths. This understanding of different perspectives is not possible anywhere else in the world,” he said. “Understanding each other is the meeting point between various communities,” he added.
He recalled a Muslim education seminar in Ahmedabad in 1894 and elaborated that a Hindu hosted it and one of the resolutions about educating Muslim girls which was unanimously adopted was also moved by a Hindu to emphasize how knowledge sharing has been happening in India for years.
Stressing on the need for openness and moving with the times, Modi said, “No community or region can ignore modernity. If we do not embrace modernity, the world will move ahead and we will be left behind.” He also said that just as India had overcome polio, it could share its knowledge with Pakistan to overcome the menace.
He insisted that every religious text gave a lot of importance to knowledge and it was the only light that could show various communities the right way.
Qureshi said the PM’s message of sharing knowledge between communities should help build trust in the Saarc region. Rajput said it was imperative for people to know the basic tenets of Islam to get over the atmosphere of mistrust and distrust. Modi too said his recent visits to Saarc countries had reinforced his belief that only knowledge could bridge boundaries. The PM also stressed on the importance of education for each community and the role India stands to play in the “century of knowledge”.