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
By PETER BERGEN and SWATI PANDEY
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

2 comments:

Tahamei said...

SB,
I haven't read this particular article, but did read a few others on the subject earlier.

The point that these articles sometimes fail to point out is that for many of the poor in the Muslim world, madrassas are a means to a respected and paying 'job', where there is a severe shortage of opportunities.

But the catch for Muslims could be that with greater job opportunities and employment there may be a shortage of people entering madrassas...

Anonymous said...

I have not read the whole article but the title and related discussion shows that it is kind of a feel good article for muslims who are not willing to accept that there are serious problems in soceities due to madarrasahs. For many, madarrasahs are causing "religious colonisation" of thier soceities which happens to be the worst form of colonisation that mankind has seen.

Probably the NYTimes article has based their theory on one point -- whether madarrasah graduates are capable of attacking the west or not. Everyone knows that the madrassah graduates cannot attack the West. The West is technologically advanced with excellent law enforcement agencies and well established political systems that it is not possible for half-literate madarssah students (many of them still think that earth surface is flat and sun revolves around earth) to cause any serious harm to the West. For example, 15 years of relentless struggle by religious jihadists in Kashmir fail to cause any serious damage to India or Indian system (democracy). Although India is a poor country and lives next to Muslim countries and has a sizeable muslim population -- therefore more prone to problems. India passes the madarrash test with flying colors. Thus societies that are not Muslims wont be seriously affected by the Muslim madarrasahs. It is only the Muslims who will permanently suffer as I point out below.

The indoctrination that takes place in madarassah creates a large and vocal population segment that is obscurantist and reactionary. This population segment blocks development of progressive movements and democracy in muslim countries. That is where they cause serious damage to Muslim societies as is evident in Pakistan where Govt. could not repeal hadood laws and other black laws inacted by Gen Zia 20 years ago, although several commissions (set up by the same Govt.) have recommended to repeal them. And in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive -- you know why because the indoctrinated men are unwilling to allow this basic right to their women.

As with regard to the claim that "free food and shelter is provided by these madarassahs to poor students", many say that this claim is incorrect. There are strings attached to the free food and shelter.
The poor child pays a very heavy price in return -- by being brainwashed and indoctrinated he surrends his human rights of rational thinking, open mind and learning skills.
The madarrash education destroyes his brain cells for logic. He cannot tolerate differing views, and for rest of his life he remains a human robot, who hates those who donot subscribe to his ideology, and uses force or intimidation to enforce his views. This is the worst kind of exploitation that is happening on a large scale and has gone unnoticed by world human rights bodies.