One thing’s for sure: the known “Tiny Minority of Extremists” never seems to get any smaller. Here are some more. “Pakistan’s female madrassas breed radicalism,” by Rebecca Conway for Reuters, June 15 (thanks to Ima Freeman):
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Varda is an accountancy student who dreams of working abroad. Dainty and soft-spoken, the 22-year-old aspires to broaden her horizons, but when it comes to Islam, she refuses to question the fundamentalist interpretations offered by clerics and lecturers nationwide.
Varda is among more than a quarter of a million Pakistani students attending an all-female madrassa, or Islamic seminary, where legions of well-to-do women are experiencing an awakening of faith, at the cost of rising intolerance.
What did you learn in your “awakening” of faith and/or conscience? As Varda relates below, she learned who deserved to be murdered.
In a nation where Muslim extremists are slowly strengthening their grip on society, the number of all-female madrassas has boomed over the past decade, fueled by the failures of the state education system and a deepening conservativism among the middle to upper classes.
Parents often encourage girls to enroll in madrassas after finishing high school or university, as an alternative to a shrinking, largely male-orientated job market, and to ensure a girl waiting to get married isn’t drawn into romantic relationships, says Masooda Bano, a research fellow at the British-based Economic and Social Research Council.
But, like Varda, many students at the 2,000 or so registered madrassas are university students or graduates looking for greater understanding of Islam, as well as housewives who, like others in Pakistani society, feel pressured to deepen their faith.
“I listened to what they said and I thought this is the correct thing to follow, and I wanted to learn more about my religion,” said Varda, who was encouraged by her neighbors to sign up to a part-time course at the Tehreek-i-Islami madrassa.
Asked about the killing of a governor earlier this year because he opposed the country’s controversial blasphemy law, Varda, without hesitation, said Salman Taseer’s murder by his own bodyguard was the right thing to do.
“If people … call themselves Muslims and they are members of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, then they should not be criticizing this law,” she said.
How about Christians? It’s a shame that no one apparently asked her that.
“I am sorry to say this, but this is what he deserved.”…