Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Madrassas in Pakistan and Elsewhere -- Myth and Reality

A New York Times article was making the rounds late last week:

OPINION | June 14, 2005
Op-Ed Contributor: The Madrassa Myth
There is little or no evidence that the Muslim religious schools produce terrorists capable of attacking the West.
(The full article might no longer be available online without paying a fee.)

Here's my reaction. To quote the article itself:

"While madrassas are an important issue in education and development in the Muslim world, they are not and should not be considered a threat to the United States."

Translation: To the West, they are just a bugbear and the West should shut up about them. But the issue of how well the institutions that we refer to as "madarassas" today--there was a time when the word was used for a very different type of institution; the Sindh Madarassa, for example--prepare Muslim youth for the 21st Century is an internal issue for the Ummah, one that we MUST analyse and engage with--on our own terms and in our own way; but very urgently.

As a postscript, the #1 Most Emailed Story at the NY Times the same week was another story on Pakistan that promises to be around with us for a while. Here's the list quoted from the same mails that sent the above article:

> 1. Op-Ed Columnist: Raped, Kidnapped and Silenced
> 2. Next Generation of Conservatives (By the Dormful)
> 3. Snake Phobias, Moodiness and a Battle in Psychiatry
> 4. Finding Nirvana on Two Wheels
> 5. Op-Ed Columnist: One Nation, Uninsured
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