Like in the post-September 11 days,
After the September
11 events, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf acted quickly by distancing his country from the Taliban regime in
The key question now is could
he successfully escape the new situation? The answer depends on the way he
will deal with thousands of madrassahs – once described by former
Stung by charges from Washington that he allows
terrorism to breed under the guise of religious education, Musharraf has tried in recent years to regulate these madrassahs beginning with a requirement that they report on the numbers and
names of students and teachers, types of facilities, educational
programmes, and financial details. Besides, he urged them
to broaden their curriculum
by teaching modern subjects.
The move, however, has not generated the desired results.
Only some 4000 of the estimated 50,000 madrassahs agreed to be regulated. The
others firmly rejected the plan, dubbing it “foreign-sponsored”
and describing Musharraf as a pawn in the hands of
recent weeks, and as a result of the Pakistani connection
One of the most dangerous madrassahs is Darul Uloom Haqqania- where most of the Taliban leadership was educated. Christina Lamb of the London-based Times, who recently visited the school, said that the only posters on the walls were of Kalashnikovs and bin Laden and that the young students she spoke to were unable to do simple calculations and had never heard of dinosaurs or astronauts landing on the moon. When she asked them what they wanted to be in future, many talked of becoming jihadis and ending as martyrs so they would go to paradise.
Another equally dangerous madrassah is Khuddamddin. Its principal once proudly told a reporter that nearly 13,000 trained jihad fighters of different nationalities had passed through his school, adding that “the world has to go the way we want and all people must become Muslim”.
Musharraf, therefore, needs to do more, not for the sake of the West but for the sake of
Such a task, however,
cannot be undertaken without solid commitments from the international community to assist the Musharraf regime
both politically and economically. The West, in particular, must play the major role in any such
plan, simply because a massive mushrooming
of the madrassahs and a significant increase in their militancy was a result of the West-baked
jihad war against the Soviets in the 1980s. As explained by a
former Pakistani official, there
were only 2000 madrassahs in
In brief, without the aforementioned plan and enough proper, free state-run schools, millions of poor Pakistani parents will have no alternative but to send their children to the madrassahs, where the fiery mix of fundamentalism and intolerance is creating cannon fodder for religious wars around the world.
Dr. Abdulla Al-Madani
Academic lecturer and researcher in Asian affairs