Describing co-education in schools as 'anti-Islamic and against the sharia,' Uttar Pradesh Board of Madrassa Education (UPBME) has banned the system in seminaries across the state. This has evoked strong reactions from clerics and community members who oppose the ban. Most community leaders say that with the limited means and scope of education of Muslim children, such restrictions will deprive them of learning. In his defence, UPBME chairman Haji Rizwan Haq said that in Islam, 'parda' (veil) is essential and co-education encourages 'be-pardagi' (women without veils). This, he says, flies in the face of sharia and since madrassas are centres of Islamic education, 'It's important to implement the sharia in these institutions,' said Haji Rizwan.
In UP, there are more than 16,000 madrassas of which only over 1,900 are affiliated to UPBME. There are some seven lakh students. Specific courses framed on specialisations like Maulvi and Munshi (equal to matriculation), Aalim (BA), Kamil and Fazil (MA). Although only a few madrassas allow co-education, particularly in regions with specific institutions for Muslim girls, UPBME members believe that such a ban won't affect a majority of students. But some clerics, who oppose the ban, disagree.