A popular madrasa in a northern India state has prohibited girls being admitted to the institution and forbidden the entry of those currently enrolled, saying that co-education is against Islam's basic tenets.
Madrasa Azizia, at Bihar in Nalanda district, issued a decree that it will no longer accept girl students since it said Islam forbids co-education of boys and girls under the same roof, India Today reported on October 15.
The school's headmaster, Mohd Mumtaz Alam, said the decision came from the madrasa's administration. He noted that Islam does not permit male teachers to teach female students.
"A decision has been taken as co-education is against the religion. Boys and girls cannot study together and male teachers should not lecture the girl students in our madrasa," S.M. Ashraf, secretary of Madrasa Azizia was quoted as saying.
The religious school will not accept girls until separate campus arrangements are made for them, including appointing women teachers and providing separate sitting arrangements, said Ahsraf.
"But it would take a few months," he noted.
He also said his predecessors' decision to allow coeducation at the madrasa was completely un-Islamic.
"I do not know under what circumstances the girls were allowed to join the madrasa but it is illegal as per the Islamic laws," he pointed out.
Run by Soghra Wakf Estate Committee, Madrasa Azizia is a government-affiliated institution. Students get free bicycles, uniforms and books, among others.
The president of the committee, B. Kartikya distanced himself from the new policy, denying knowledge of it.
But the official pledged the committee will look into the incident, reported International Business Times.
The decision drew sharp criticism from local people as well as from female students currently enrolled at the madrasa.
"This institution takes a grant from the Bihar government which has done so much for female education," India Today quoted local social worker Mohd Murtaza as saying.
"There is so much importance on the taleem (education) of girls in our religion and yet, they are being denied the opportunity to learn."
Surprised at the decision, female students assembled outside the school gate on October 13, urging institution officials to overturn the decision.
The protesting students said the madrasa had "taken the regressive step" when the governments and charitable institutions were trying to promote girl education across the world.