Muslim leaders and students have slammed a fatwa banning mixed-sex schools and universities issued by India's top Islamic seminary.
The Darul Uloom seminar announced the religious edict last week, stating that co-education is unlawful because it potentially gives rise to evil.
'The fatwa, as it appears, is directed to keep the Muslims as a backward community,' said Muslim community leader Akhtar Alvi, professor at Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi.
Even some religious leaders expressed dissent against the fatwa.
'It is a proven fact that because we are lagging behind in education we have been unable to develop our community,' said Maolana Khalid Rashid, a religious leader and a member of India's Muslim Personal Law Board in Lucknow.
'There are many areas where separate schools for girls are not available,' he said.
'If we decide to keep girls away from the co-ed schools, we shall not be able to improve the miserable condition of India's Muslims.'
Shabana Yasmin, a management student in New Delhi, described the edict as 'a senseless fatwa'.
'We don't have management and other higher-education institutes reserved exclusively for girls in the country. Now, if we follow this fatwa, no Muslim woman can become a good professional at all,' she said.
'This fatwa in fact robs the fundamental rights of a woman.'