Whither madrassa regulation?

Unregulated and unregistered madrassas continue provide militant groups with fodder for terrorist attacks.

Editorial March 27, 2011

Just about every terrorist attack in the last decade, it appears, has emerged from Pakistan’s unregulated madrassas. These religious schools, operating without government regulation, have become incubators of hate and tolerance. And, as a report in this paper on March 26 revealed, the current dispensation, much like the one that preceded it, has been unable to make any progress on that front. About six months ago, the interior ministry and the Tanzeem-e-Madaris Pakistan came to a ten-point agreement to enforce a uniform curriculum, ensure that madrassas do not teach hate literature and register all foreign students, among other things. Needless to say, this has not yet been enforced by the government. Indeed, the government has not even set up a committee to deal with madrassa reform yet.

The government’s inability or unwillingness to tackle madrassa reform is reminiscent of previous failed efforts by General Pervez Musharraf. In a speech in June 2002, Musharraf had promised to do much of what the PPP government is now supposed to enforce. Among his proposals, Musharraf called for the modernisation and regulation of madrassas to integrate them with Pakistan’s mainstream educational system. He conspicuously failed to do so despite earmarking more than $100 million for the task. After the Lal Masjid seige of 2007, Musharraf pledged once more to tackle the madrassa problem. Again he did not do so.

If anything, the problem has become worse since then. Unregulated and unregistered madrassas continue to proliferate and are still providing militant groups with fodder for terrorist attacks. Islamabad in particular has seen a mushrooming of madrassas since the Lal Masjid attack, funded by wealthy businessmen at home and expatriates from the Gulf. It is estimated that there are dozens of such madrassas, and students from at least one of them were involved in a militant attack at the Parade Lane in Rawalpindi. Apart from providing a steady stream of foot soldiers to militant groups, they are responsible for the ideological brainwashing of yet another generation of Pakistanis. For the government to be so tardy in pursuing real and meaningful madrassa reform shows just how blind they are to this threat. Fighting militancy will be ineffective unless its ideological root is also tackled.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2011.


Cautious | 10 years ago | Reply Despite the occasional rhetoric about controlling extremism - it's not going to happen - the reality is that Pakistan at it's core supports religious extremism. It's blatant to anyone who happens to be a minority in your country - it's obvious to anyone who reads the Pakistani newspapers. Most Pakistani's may not condone beheading but you do condone cutting off hands, executing blasphemers, don't mind blowing up Ahmadi mosque's, and sit back quietly when a politician is assassinated for the crime of moderation. You have made no serious attempts at moderating extreme views of Islam and the few that have made an attempt have been assassinated. No wonder you don't fight the Taliban - you are the Taliban.
John | 10 years ago | Reply I can not believe myself that I would be writing this comment. Yet, it is far more important to speak out than to remain quiet. So, here it goes: "I do not agree with all you say, but I will defend to death for your right to say it". In the biography about Voltaire, Evelyn Hall summarized his stance on free speech on the above quoted statement. Madrassa's should be free to teach what it believes to be correct. The pupils have the ability to discern what is right and what is wrong. I am surprised that the Fourth Estate joins with the state of PAK in curbing the religious freedom, though it is the one and one kind only in Pakistan, that is protected in the constitution. In so doing, the editor has fallen prey to the temptation that curbed the freedom of the press, blessed by the syndicate of State and Religion, centuries earlier. The press has no more right than the Madrassas and they are also advocating that the Press should be regulated. Shall PAK also regulate press? The context of the editorial is understood in the present climate of the PAK, but regulating madrassas by the state is not the solution. What next? Regulation that only college graduates or only those born to Muslim, as defined by second constitution, should attend Madrassa? The pupils can be offered a different Madrassa education, so that they can choose which one to attend to, as they do for their secular education. State regulation of religious institution is abominable, and it is a shame that ET editorial board joined in this witch hunt. "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue with conscience, among all liberties" said John Milton. The PAK society should give this liberty to her citizens, Muslim or not. Then the madrassas will raise in academic excellence or wither away.
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