Hmm, I think we all know the answer to this one…
- Bunglawussy doesn’t like this report one bit and blames the accuser:
“Humphrys presents no evidence whatsoever that the Jamia Binoria madrassa he visitedÂ in Karachi, and whose hospitality he has abused, is brainwashing its pupils into becoming terrorists.Â This is a man who blithely informs his readers that there are “relatively few Wahhabis compared to the Sunnis and Shias”, evidently oblivious to the fact that Wahhabism is a variant of Sunni Islam.”
Sure, there is never “any evidence” to prove that the ROP is bad news. Â A BBC reporter cannot be expected to bang his head on the floor as hard as the Bungla does, Â but that doesn’t change the substance. Not a bad effort from the otherwise useless Beep:
Inside a Pakistani school where children are being brainwashed into terrorists
“Even the Rabbi and his wife at Nariman House were sexually assaulted and their genitalia mutilated”.Â Remember, the Rabbi’s wife was pregnant.
Mumbai railway station, where 52 people were killed
The Imam in charge of the madrassa could not have been more welcoming.Â
I sat on the carpeted floor of his office enjoying the cool of the air conditioning, thankful for this temporary refuge from the broiling streets of Karachi – perhaps the most overcrowded and dangerous city on the continent of Asia.Â
On the other side of the madrassa’s high gates, 18million people were struggling to survive in the heat: the vast majority of them out of work with no hope of a job; millions living in slums as foul as anything I have seen anywhere in the world; small children dodging the lethal traffic, banging on the windows of cars stopped momentarily at a junction to beg for a few rupees, competing with old men and women doing the same.Â
And amongst them an unknown number of mostly young men playing an infinitely more dangerous game.
These are the men who threaten not only this city and the state of Pakistan, but who threaten us, too.
These are the men who are capable of walking into a mosque run by a moderate Muslim leader and blowing him to bits – as they did while I was here – or of driving a car loaded with high explosives into a hotel and reducing it to rubble, murdering dozens in the process.Â
Or strapping on a suicide belt and blowing themselves up on a London train.
* The result of this indoctrination you can watch here:Â Massacre in Mumbai:Â Graphic video of the attack in which Holy Warriors killed explicitly to uphold the “prestige of Islam.” The Religion of Peace in action!Â Chilling phone transcripts of Mumbai terrorists with their LashkarÂ handlers
It was because of men like them that I was here in the Jamia Binoria International Madrassa, the biggest in Karachi, pretending to enjoy the thick tea sweetened with condensed milk and several spoonfuls of sugar pressed upon me by the friendly imam, Mohammed Naeem.
I wanted to know whether his madrassa was one of those that gave shelter to these men or – even worse – brainwashed naive young people into believing that the best way to serve Allah was to murder those of us who do not share their views.
Let it be a lesson: John Humphrys reports from Karachi
Unsurprisingly, he said that was an outrageous suggestion. He was a man of peace, he told me, and Islam is a religion of peace.Â
Through the prophet Mohammed, God had made it abundantly clear that killing the innocent was a sin and, far from being received in heaven as a reward for jihad, the killers were to be condemned.
As he spoke, he flicked between the big television screens fed by closed circuit cameras that lined one wall, oddly incongruous in this setting.
‘Look!’ he said, pointing at the different images. ‘You see all these children? What are they doing? They are learning. That is why they are here; 5,000 of them, including 1,000 girls!Â
‘They are not being trained to kill people. They are learning the holy book. They come from all over the world to study here – from the West as well as this country.
‘You may go anywhere you want, talk to anyone, we have nothing to hide here.’
I spent the rest of the morning in the madrassa, wandering in and out of classrooms, half impressed and half horrified at the sight of so many children, some as young as six, sitting on the floor of their classrooms and swaying rhythmically to and fro, each with a copy of the Koran before them, reciting its words.
I asked a 15-year-old boy from California how long he had been here. ‘Two years,’ he said. And how long will he stay? ‘Until I have memorised the Koran from cover to cover.’
Is this really what he wanted to do with his teenage years, I wondered. ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘I want to be a good Muslim.’Â
The veteran BBC reporter at the Karachi Madrassa Jamia Binoria
And how did he have fun? ‘When I finish my studies every day I am allowed to play computer games in my room,’ he said.
I thought of what my own children were doing when they were 15 and felt sorry for him, but why should I? At his age I too knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life and, if this was indeed what he wanted, who was I to question it?
As for the thousands of other children in this vast madrassa, many far too young to make up their own minds, aren’t they better off in the calm and safety of these tranquil courtyards and classrooms, getting three decent meals a day, mixing with Islamic scholars, rather than out there on the filthy, violent streets where, for millions, survival is all that matters?
Yes, they are being indoctrinated – you might even say brainwashed – into accepting that the Koran is the one and only guide to living a decent life; but I remembered the Jesuits and their boast: ‘Give me the child and I will give you the man’ and wondered if there is really such a difference between a Catholic seminary and a Muslim madrassa like this.
The answer to that, of course, depends on whether you take the imam at face value when he flatly denies harbouring potential terrorists. The only time he appeared evasive in our long conversation was when I asked him where the money comes from to pay for his hugely expensive operation.Â
With Imam Mohammed Naeem from the Madrassa
At first, he just grinned and said: ‘That’s a very good question!’ Then he told me most of it comes from ‘zakat’ – the charitable donations all Muslims are meant to pay if their income is above a certain level – a minimum of 2.5per cent.
I raised that with two senior security officials in Karachi. They were perfectly happy to talk to me at their headquarters, but they asked me not to identify them: men like Imam Naeem wield a great deal of influence in this society.
Did they believe zakat paid for the madrassa? They did not. Did they believe the madrassa gaveÂ noÂ succour to extremists? They did not. Could they prove it? They could not.
I asked why they did not simply raid madrassas in the way they would raid any other premises they suspected of harbouring terrorists. They merely smiled.
The question of where the money comes from is a crucial one. When I first reported from Pakistan in the early Seventies the number of madrassas could be counted in the dozens. Today, there are about 20,000.
And many – probably the majority – are funded by the most extreme Muslim denomination, the Wahhabis. There are relatively few Wahhabis compared to the Sunnis and Shias but their influence is out of all proportion to their size.
Wahhabis arose in Saudi Arabia in the 18th century and when the oil started flowing from beneath the Saudi deserts they became vastly rich. They have used billions of pounds of that wealth to fund madrassas around the world.
What makes their more extreme followers so frightening is that they believe God gives them the right to kill people they deem to be ‘infidels’.Â
The Imam shows the Today programme team the wall of CCTV screens
It was Wahhabis who flew the planes into the World Trade Centre and it is they who count Osama Bin Laden among their adherents.
The explosive growth of the madrassas scares not only intelligence agencies in the west – including our own MI6 – but the government of Pakistan, too.Â
More than 5,000 Pakistanis have died over the past few years in bombings and shootings carried out by Islamic militants, most of whom either have direct links with the more extreme madrassas or are influenced by the ideology they peddle.
The fanatics who manipulate the suicide bombers and persuade them to sacrifice their own young lives are not short of human material.
There are millions of people in this one city alone who have no education, who live in the slums and who have seen any hope of decent, democratic government betrayed time after time.
It is hardly surprising that they are easily seduced by the promises and lies from the lips of plausible men who are happy to shed the blood of others in pursuit of their own perverted beliefs.
What is surprising on the face of it is that successive governments of Pakistan have done nothing to stop them.Â
More than five years ago, the army general who was then president, Pervez Musharraf, came under great pressure from the West, and promised to crack down on the madrassas and extreme religious teaching. Nothing happened.
The madrassas remain either unregistered or registered under laws that are totally ineffectual. There is no single government agency with the authority to regulate them and most have refused to co-operate with even modest reforms when it comes to their curriculum.
I spoke to one of Pakistan’s most respected academics, Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy of Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University, who is appalled at what has been happening to education in Pakistan.
He told me about a primer distributed in private religious schools aimed at children in their first year.Â
Here’s part of the ‘alphabet’:
A is for Allah.Â
B is for bandook (gun).Â
T is for thakrau (collision). The picture illustrating ‘collision’ was a jet airliner crashing into the side of the World Trade Centre.Â
Z is for zenmoub (sin). It is illustrated by pictures of alcohol, guitars, a television and a chess set.
Professor Hoodbhoy is a brave man. To speak out in the way he does against extremism and the imposition of Sharia law is seen by the militants as being hostile to Islam itself. The appropriate punishment for that, in their eyes, is death.
So why have Pakistani governments over recent years allowed this sort of thing to continue? Even more importantly, why did it take them so long to begin to crack down on the Taliban who pose such a threat to the security and stability of this country and its 170million people?Â
The simple answer is that the militant Taliban are a monster largely of Pakistan’s own creation.
Cast your mind back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan’s neighbour, in the Eighties. You may recall mujahideen who crossed the border to fight with their Muslim brothers, the Afghanis, against the might of the Soviet army and how we in the West cheered them on. They were brave, resourceful and ruthless.Â
The Soviets, our Cold War enemy, were eventually forced to pull out of Afghanistan, licking their wounds, in 1987.
But the mujahideen, who had been funded and encouraged by the Pakistan army, did not return to their villages and settle down to a quiet life. They turned their guns on to different targets, and they did so with the approval of the Pakistan army.
Hamid Gul is a former head of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI. He told the writer William Dalrymple recently that for more than 20 years the ISI has, for its own purposes, ‘deliberately and consistently funded and incubated’ a variety of Islamist groups including militant Taliban organisations. They saw them as an ‘ingenious and cost-effective means of both dominating Afghanistan and bogging down the Indian army in Kashmir.’
The problem is that once you have trained and unleashed an attack dog you cannot be absolutely sure that it will not turn and bite you or your children – which is what has happened with the militant Taliban in Pakistan.
Nor can you negotiate with fundamentalists. The Pakistani government has tried that – giving way to them in the North West Frontier province, even allowing Sharia law to be introduced in parts of it. But the Taliban took what they were given, brutalised the people under their control, and demanded more.
Finally, the Pakistani army went in with their tanks, heavy artillery and helicopter gunships. While I was in Karachi the defence minister claimed victory – but many I spoke to in Pakistan were sceptical.
‘Where are the bodies of the Taliban?’ they asked me. ‘Why have they not produced them for the cameras?’
The first time I came to Pakistan I was a fresh-faced young reporter and this country was barely 25 years old. It was fighting to survive as the state born from the partition of India in 1947. It lost. The eastern half of the country wanted independence and, when India went to war on its behalf, it got it. Pakistan surrendered and Bangladesh was born.
Now, nearly 40 years later, it feels as though Pakistan is, once again, fighting for its survival. I found no one who believes the Islamic extremists can take over the country – but what they can do is create fear. They have been very successful.
Pakistan is now regarded as a dangerous place to visit. British Airways no longer flies here.Â
The manager of the hotel where I stayed told me a big British bank had cancelled a conference of senior executives who were due to arrive the next day. They were afraid to come.
This is a fractured country, divided by obscene extremes of wealth, by language, by class and by ethnicity. Secessionist movements with their own military wings fight for independence just as East Pakistan fought in the Seventies. In some areas the military have effectively ceded control to them.
When a state is threatened by a foreign power its people rally behind the flag. But when the threat comes from within, they have to feel they have a real stake in the defeat of the enemy – and it’s easy to see why many people in this country feel the state has not done enough for them to justify their unconditional support.
When you talk to some of the poorest as I did, you wonder what they have to lose when they already have nothing.
The risk – however remote – of this becoming a failed state prey to extremists should send a chill down the spines not just of the people of Pakistan, but of us in the West, too. When the nation split in half in 1971 it was a devastating blow to those who still called themselves Pakistanis.
But two things have changed since then. One is the rise of Islamic extremism. The other is that Pakistan now has nuclear weapons.
We must all hope that Pakistan can overcome what its own president has called the present threat to its survival.