More background here on why the Musharraf regime is fighting for its life. The madrassas — all too many of them — “were preaching jihad before September 11, and they are still preaching jihad.”
And they don’t mean an interior spiritual struggle, either. “Osama is a Muslim, and whatever he is doing is in the interest of Islam,” says Muhammad Allahyar, who clearly must be some kind of Islamophobe.
“Reforms fail at many madrassas,” by Willis Witter in the Washington Times (thanks to all who sent this in):
…Just a tiny fraction of the madrassas “” estimated by some to number nearly 30,000 “” have complied with rules requiring registration with the government, an accounting of private donations and an expanded syllabus that adds traditional subjects such as math and science to core religious classes.
The Jamia Naeemia madrassa in Lahore, which was visited by The Washington Times last month when the prospect of emergency rule seemed out of the question, stands out as an exception.
“There are two kinds of madrassas, those who changed their courses after September 11, and those who did not,” said Sarfraz Naeemi, the school’s headmaster.
“There’s no jihad, there’s no terrorism here,” Mr. Naeemi said of the school for 1,350 boys, a white-columned three-story complex that surrounds an open courtyard of smooth paved stone.
Unlike seven years ago, its graduates earn accredited bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Arabic and Islamic studies, in contrast to many madrassas where students become well-grounded in anti-Western Taliban theology but are unable to read or write.
But even if the students at Jamia Naeemia are well-educated, one can question whether they are any less militant, anti-Western or anti-American in their outlook.
Of schools that refuse to register and follow government guidelines, Mr. Naeemi said, “They were preaching jihad before September 11, and they are still preaching jihad.”
Those guidelines were announced by Gen. Musharraf in a Jan. 12, 2002, speech in which he proclaimed a new “jihad against backwardness and illiteracy” “” an effort that drew much praise in Pakistan and the West.
His plan required all madrassas to stop accepting money from non-Pakistani sources such as wealthy Saudis who adhere to a militant form of Islam that helped inspire and fund the Taliban in past years. It also included a requirement to add four core subjects: math, science, Pakistan studies and English.
“The children in these madrassas need to be brought into the mainstream of life,” Gen. Musharraf said a month later at the White House, with President Bush at his side calling the reforms “visionary.”
Gen. Musharraf again pledged a crackdown on madrassas after the July 2005 suicide attacks in London’s transit system, in which 52 persons and four bombers died. One of the four bombers, a 22-year-old Briton of Pakistani descent, had studied religion at a madrassa in Pakistan.
Gen. Musharraf subsequently said he had expelled more than 1,000 foreign students and promised to refocus on the reforms that he had announced more than three years earlier.
Among the harshest critics of the madrassas is opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who often accuses the Islamic seminaries of “brainwashing our children” and of producing “mindless robots” of intolerance.
Given the recent turmoil in Pakistan, including a suicide attack on Mrs. Bhutto’s motorcade last month that killed at least 140 supporters, madrassas and the broader goal of education reform are likely to remain on the back burner.
When Gen. Musharraf appeared on state-run television Saturday night to explain his emergency declaration, madrassas were not mentioned once.
In a report issued more than a month before the latest outbreak of violence in July, the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said the madrassa-reform effort was in “shambles.”
“Plans are announced with much fanfare and then abandoned,” the report said. “In any case, the introduction of secular courses would only be of slight value unless there were also deep changes in the religious curriculum to end the promotion of violent sectarianism and jihad.”
At the Jamia Naeemia madrassa, Muhammad Allahyar, 22, expects to complete his bachelor’s degree sometime next year. He said that he once dreamed of studying in the West, but that his ambitions have changed and now he wants to remain in the Islamic world.
“I want to serve my religion. I want to preach Islam. By the grace of God, it will happen over time,” he said.
When an American visitor posed a question about bin Laden, he felt compelled to defend the terrorist mastermind.
“Osama is a Muslim, and whatever he is doing is in the interest of Islam.”