Need for madrassa reform

Published: December 13, 2011
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If a seminary can be used as a dungeon and torture cell for an indeterminate period of time, what other illegal activities are unmonitored madrassas getting away with? PHOTO: ATHARKHAN/EXPRESS

If a seminary can be used as a dungeon and torture cell for an indeterminate period of time, what other illegal activities are unmonitored madrassas getting away with? PHOTO: ATHARKHAN/EXPRESS

The recovery of 45 people, many of them minors, who were held captive at a seminary near Sohrab Goth in Karachi, highlights both the failure of madrassa reform and the need to restart the process of registering and monitoring these schools. Figures from the ministry of religious affairs show that there are about 18,000 registered madrassas in the country, but unofficial estimates put the actual figure at more than double that number. Part of the problem is that registration was made voluntary, ensuring that only those seminaries which intended on complying with the government would register, while those seminaries being used for extra-educational purposes would escape the government’s net. The education ministry had also been provided over $70 million in aid to modernise the curriculum in madrassas but most of the funds were not utilised due to non-cooperation from the seminaries. Obviously, the least of the problems with this particular seminary was its syllabus but had it been registered it would have given the government an opportunity to regularly monitor goings-on there. A lot of the captives, it turns out, had been sent to the seminary by their parents because they had drug abuse issues and other problems. In addition to those running and working for the seminary — who should have cases filed against them immediately — any parents who knew what was being done to their children and still consented to that treatment, should also be charged. And until that investigation is complete, it may be imprudent to hand the children back to their families.

While there is no reason to believe that this seminary was involved in militant activity, given the track record of madrassas in producing radicalised youth, the incident should serve as a wake-up call to police officials around the country. If a seminary can be used as a dungeon and torture cell for an indeterminate period of time, what other illegal activities are unmonitored madrassas getting away with? It would be unfair to tar all madrassas, most of which provide their students with free education, room and board, with the terrorism brush. But they have to, as all educational institutions should, be subject to regulation.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Azeema
    Dec 13, 2011 - 11:24PM

    There are many like this and parents who are shackled in their chains of poverty do not care as long as these children are getting some food, education and shelter!! What a shame… I am sure this did not come as surprise to anyone… We know so many of these kind of social evils but look away because we have no time beyond Veena Malik, MMQ etc. Or perhaps as citizens we feel there is nothing we can do to look into the deeper reasons for the existence of such institutions where chaining children is fine and parents accept it…

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  • Rashid Gujjar
    Dec 13, 2011 - 11:37PM

    Is it a Madressah or a rehabilitation center for drug addicts???

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  • ABC
    Dec 14, 2011 - 5:06AM

    Why there are madarsssas at very first place… Close them all

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  • siddiqa
    Dec 14, 2011 - 6:08AM

    My Question exactly @Rashid Gujjar, what is this about rehab?

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  • Mard-e-Haq
    Dec 14, 2011 - 6:10AM

    Pakistan is a hypocritical nation that focuses on things skin deep. But like the madrassas reveal, we remain in chains, justified by diktats of religion.

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  • SHARIQ
    Dec 14, 2011 - 10:26AM

    For a moment just wait a little!! Are we really portraying the real picture or some biased over religious people? We have to give space for their point of view – how fast you write an editorial on the subject without giving opportunity to hear their point of view as published in today’s various news papers. Slow down your speed to blame only these kinds of peoples of our society. I am also not agreeing with their school of thought but PRESS should be neutral like Judiciary. Thanks

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  • Mirza
    Dec 14, 2011 - 10:37AM

    This is not a religious school or rehab center. This is cancer that is eating the fabric of our society. If this cancer is not immediately treated it would be too late. Time for prayers is gone, time to act. God help those who help themselves. On the second thought let us not worry about anything the new leader (IK) would take care of all the problems.

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  • Sunil
    Dec 14, 2011 - 4:00PM

    Can you reform Madrassa?

    Can’t you think beyond and pose the question – Do we really need Madrassas?

    Think deeply.

    What value will a Madrassa give or has to offer?

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  • x
    Dec 14, 2011 - 6:21PM

    madrassas offer religious education as well as board, food and shelter. however, due to the exteme polarisation in our society, some extremist elements misuse madrassas and destroy their name whereas the other kind of ‘liberal extremists’ consider anything pertaining to religion as something to be feared and condemned. both views are wrong.
    madrassas should be reformed to expand the level of learning to include subjects such as science, geography, history, maths, etc.. also, they should be kept under a system of check to ensure they fulfill their main purpose of imparting religious education and prevent instances of abuse or violence or breeding extremism.
    all those who condemn or challenge the purpose of a madrassa, go party, this is something beyond your comprehension

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 14, 2011 - 7:42PM

    @Sunil,
    Yes i agreed the value of Madrassa are nothing when there is no other education than only reliegous and questian is why are not able to reform this system of 1800 when british occupy india first thing is our army they wanna keep these peoples so they can get some jihadis out of it second after partition our Bearocracy never bother to give us system where we become a one nation and last funny thing Army made Defence housing schems where they just wanna make money and they never try to make any housing scheme for low wages peoples
    and also in forces recruitment there are lot of discrimination exist where every body can not get commission easally and kashmir issue keeping common men a far behind from the world
    of advancment but not there rich fuedals and bussnismen and forces officers children.

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  • Annonymous
    Dec 14, 2011 - 9:28PM

    One thing that must be noted is that the first madrassa of our ummat was the suffah of the sahabas of the Prophet (PBUH), therefore every pure madrassa has a lineage that goes back to the very first believers of this religion. And because Islam is undoubtedly a pure religion if seen from a perspective bare of recent anti-islam propogandas, an islamic madrassa, i.e. an institute where Islam is taught, can only be deemed as an actual one if everything about it defines the principles of the religion.

    Obviously, the kinds of ‘madrassas’ being mentioned in the article above have only a few things similar to actual madrassas, one of them being their name. Other than that, the behavior in such institutions is unacceptable and the concepts being taught are not the true Islam.

    I strongly believe that if one believes himself to be an intellect or a beholder of even basic knowledge (may it be religious or secular), he should know better than too call such institutes the name designated only for true schools of the religion, that is madrassas. And as far as reform is concerned, true madaaris are on the same lines as secular bodies of ethics, and morality, if that is in fact the reform many readers are seeking.

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  • Ali S
    Dec 15, 2011 - 12:31AM

    Madrassas are part of the problem, but when the government schools are in shambles and there is no alternative for the poor to keep their kids under a roof and give them two meals a day, it’s no wonder why. The “liberals” need to do their part instead of sitting and whining about it to avoid the need for these places to arise in the first place.

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  • Ali-wali
    Dec 15, 2011 - 1:43AM

    Drug rehab for under ten, well alledgely kids were subject to ‘other’ kind of abuse, and I am not talking about physical. I can assure every body that all perpetrators will be honourably released by the courts, and it will be business as usual. Mad-ressa is here to stay as well as Saudi kings rely on Wahabism to make their rule look legit. These so called God fearing mulla have propensity for child molestation from centuries, their sickness is beyond rehab. Ordinary Pakistani do not give a damn about these mullas, and there are reasons behind that.

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  • Dec 15, 2011 - 8:20AM

    Really need to get a hold on Sohrab Goth and help it develop instead of letting it deteriorate into the hands of the extremists.

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