Maulana Fazlullah is a wanted jihadist whom the Pakistani government had pursued and located, but failed to arrest. He has also gained notoriety for warning followers to refuse the polio vaccine on the grounds that it caused infertility. He has now issued a fatwa declaring girls’ education “un-Islamic,” and the villages who support him are competing to eliminate it.
“Villages in competition to stop education of girls,” by Sher Baz Khan for Dawn:
IMAM DERI (Swat), July 21: Seven-year-old Shireena is playing in a stream with
some other children at a somewhat unusual pre-noon time on a busy working day. Normally,
she stays in her classroom at this hour except during weekends, but today she is not. She
is among more than 2,000 unfortunate girls of the area whose parents have decided to take them out of the schools after cleric Maulana Fazlullah issued an edict declaring girls’ education “un-Islamic.”
According to some locals, a majority of the girls stopped by their parents from
attending schools, were the first in their families to have had the opportunity of getting formal education and Shireena was one of them.
The female education ratio in Imam Deri and the nearby Koza Banda, Bara Banda,
Kabal and Char Bagh villages is very low. And things are likely to remain the same with little chances for many families to send their girls to schools after the edict.
Perhaps it was because of the very low literacy rate and vulnerability of the locals to religious propaganda that Maulana Fazlullah chose Imam Deri to build his first markaz, where he wanted to establish his first religious school, his FM radio station and all the facilities to gather people for sermons.
Fazlullah got a befitting response from parents in the area after he declared girls’ schooling un-Islamic.
According to local journalists and some elders, thousands of parents across Swat followed his edict and stopped girls from attending schools.
The maulana has adopted a successful method of putting various villages into
competition. He announces a fatwa on his radio station and gives the task to a single village to follow it. Then he announces the number of people from that village who follow the edict and promises them heavenly rewards for taking a step towards the implementation of sharia in the country.
Then he gives the challenge to another village to surpass the first one and the
response is always more positive.
“He is playing with the psyche of simple Pakhtuns who want to be ahead of
their neighbours in anything that is meant to spread the cause of Islam,” says Hidayatullah Khan of the nearby Kanjo village.
When Fazlullah announced recently that polio vaccination was un-Islamic, he
followed the same method and the response was amazing.
On the very first day, parents of about 5,000 children refused to get their sons and daughters vaccinated. The maulana congratulated all those parents on his radio station and appealed to more families to win heavenly rewards.
The next day, the anti-polio teams were denied permission to administer the vaccine to 8,600 children. The third day saw attacks on vaccination teams in many villages.