SPORTING black turbans or skull caps, the young men squat on a carpet in a crowded classroom and listen in silence to a lecture given by a thickly bearded, middle-aged cleric.
The students are at the final stage of their religious education at Darul Uloom Haqqania, one of Pakistan’s leading institutions of Islamic learning. Situated in the town of Akora Khatak, near Peshawar, the radical seminary is often described as the “University of Jihad”.
At least two of the London suicide bombers attended such a school.
The seminary, which was established in 1947, has been the cradle of the Taleban militia that ruled Afghanistan for more than five years before being ousted by the American-led coalition forces in 2001. Many of the Taleban leaders had graduated from the school.
The seminary has also been a recruiting centre for militant Pakistani groups fighting Indian forces in the disputed region of Kashmir. Many of its 2,500 students come from Afghanistan. But the number of foreign students has fallen after government pressure.
“The bomb attacks in London are the reaction against the British Government’s support for America’s war against Muslims,” said Maulana Samiul Haq, a fiery, black-turbaned cleric who is head of the seminary. He is also an MP in Pakistan. “The loss of innocent lives is regrettable, but the British Government should think why it all happened. It is time to review its policy on Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The school teaches the concept of jihad to prepare students to fight for the cause of Islam. “Jihad is an essential part of Islam,” said Mr Haq.
I would like to know how Sir Iqbal Sacranie would persuade Mr. Haq, on Islamic grounds, that his view of jihad is erroneous.