If Molly ever realizes what she has thrown away by choosing this life over the one she left behind in Scotland, it will likely be much harder, if not impossible, to escape. Molly Campbell Update. “In public, Molly wore purple … but two hours later The Times found her in a black burka in a madrassa linked to the Taleban,” by Zahid Hussain and David Lister for the Times Online:
Molly Campbell, the 12-year-old girl at the centre of an international custody battle, is wearing a burka and living in a religious seminary suspected of harbouring Islamic militants, The Times has learnt.
Barely four months after fleeing her mother’s home in the Outer Hebrides to live with her father in Pakistan, Molly, who wants to be known by her Islamic name Misbah Rana, has enrolled at the Jamia Hafsa madrassa in Islamabad, known for its pro-Taleban views and suspected links to al-Qaeda.
Just two hours after facing the press yesterday dressed in a traditional purple headscarf and shalwar kameez, she spoke to The Times at an office at the madrassa, with her face only partially visible behind a black burka. Surrounded by officials at the madrassa and appearing slightly overwhelmed by her surroundings, she spoke briefly about the latest twist in the custody battle between her parents.
Molly”s mother, Louise, has given up the fight for her daughter’s return because of the strain it has put on her health, it was disclosed yesterday.
Molly did not talk about her new education, but Sajad Rana, her father, confirmed that his daughter had moved out of his home in Lahore to study at the seminary. Admitting that he did not know when she would be back, he said: “She is a grown person, she is an adult. I would have liked her to be near me, but she wants to study Islam and she has
joined this group for her education.”
He added: “The last time we were in Islamabad she spent a day at the madrassa, but now she’s made up her mind and she’s going to join it.”
The Jamia Hafsa madrassa is affiliated to Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, which has been repeatedly accused by President Musharraf’s Government of providing shelter to Islamic militants wanted on terrorism charges. Both the madrassa and mosque were raided after the London bombings of July 7, 2005, when Tony Blair called on Pakistan to crack down on radical Islamic schools.
The clerics who teach there include Mullah Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who has praised Osama bin Laden and has described his students as “the local Taleban”. He has said that Muslims are “obligated” to rise up in holy war against Americans in Islamic countries occupied by US troops.
The Lal mosque was also raided in 2004 by police looking for six clerics who issued a fatwa declaring that Pakistani soldiers who died in operations against al-Qaeda militants did not deserve an Islamic burial.
The Lal mosque, the oldest in Islamabad, is run by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a pro-Taleban party and part of the powerful Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal religious alliance that rules the Pakistan North West Frontier province.
Molly”s father said that his daughter had decided to attend the seminary after meeting human rights activists in Islamabad at a demonstration last month organised by the Islamic Centre for Research and Defence of Human Rights, which called for the Government to release suspected terrorists. Asked whether he knew that the Jamia Hafsa madrassa, which
teaches about 3,500 girls aged 5 to 20, had been accused of harbouring terrorists, Mr Rana said: “I don’t know about that. What concerns me is whether my daughter is happy. If she is happy in Islamabad then it doesn’t matter to me what kind of views they have, I am not bothered with that.”
Pakistan’s 13,000 madrassas have been under increasing scrutiny since the London bombings highlighted the extremist links of some schools.
Molly, who is expected to board at the seminary, was sceptical of an offer by her mother, Louise Campbell, to drop her attempt to take her back to Scotland. Lawyers for Ms Campbell, 38, told the Supreme Court in Pakistan that she would abandon her attempt to gain custody in return for regular access to her daughter and telephone calls. Nahida Mehboob Ellahi, Ms Campbell’s lawyer, told the court that her client wished to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
Ms Campbell was no longer insisting on full custody because of the “mental and psychological strain” of fighting the case, she said.
Molly, who did not attend the hearing, appeared suspicious of the offer, which comes weeks after a judge in Lahore ordered her to be sent back to Britain. Her father is appealing against that decision in the Supreme Court. She said: “I don’t want to meet my mother. She made me do things which I didn’t want to do.”
If that was your main grievance in Scotland, you’re going to be sorely disappointed in Pakistan, Molly.