Paki Education Jihad: Mullahs fight government attempt to introduce non-religious subjects like math into madrassas

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“Religious schools are very good because they teach you the true meaning of Islam.” And yet they consistently produce so many Misunderstanders of Islam, who believe that their religion mandates supremacism and violence. Now, why is that?

“Mullahs Fight Math in Madrassas,” by Ashfaq Yusufzai for IPS, February 22 (thanks to JW):

Other Paki News:

PESHAWAR, Feb 22, 2011 (IPS) – The government has launched a programme to modernize religious schools so that students get a basic education in such subjects as math, English and even computers.Sardar Hussain Babak, education minister for the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said the move was aimed at providing both students and teachers proper education. But leaders of religious schools see the programme as interference, and have turned down government support.

“Most of these teachers are unable to teach properly. They don’t have modern education. The government wants to support them financially and technically but they don’t want (that),” he told IPS.

Babak said the decision to modernize was made amid reports that some of these schools were the breeding ground of militants. The government wants to integrate religious education with formal education and bridge the gulf between the two systems.

Muhammad Asif, a teacher at the Uma Hatul Momineen, explained the need for such a programme. He said about 96 percent of students of religious schools are illiterate “because they don’t go to formal schools but take admission directly in seminaries.”

“Religious schools are very good because they teach you the true meaning of Islam. But religious schools must teach modern education, such as computer, mathematics, English etc.,” said 25-year-old Asif, who first went to a government high school and then joined a religious seminary where he obtained a degree in Islamic jurisprudence….

Religious seminaries in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), have hogged the limelight after the U.S. blamed them for training militants in the mould of the Taliban.

“Taliban means students of religious schools. Towards the mid-nineties, Taliban drawn from Pakistani and Afghan seminaries (madrassas) ran over Kabul and within weeks were in control of 95 percent Afghanistan,” said Jawad Khan, a political science teacher at the Government College Peshawar….

The five major governing bodies of seminaries represent different schools of thought: Tanzim-ul-Madaras (Barelvi), Wafaq-ul-Madaras (Deobandi), Wafaq-ul-Madaras (Shia), Wafaq-ul-Madaras (Ahle Hadith) and Rabita-ul- Madaris (Jamaat-e-Islami).

About 10,887 registered seminaries had an estimated two million students in 2010, up from 201 in 1947, the report said. About 5,000 students are enrolled in FATA, with 15 percent of Afghans. About 85 percent of these schools cater to students from Sunni sects while the rest serve Shias.

“The government’s efforts to modernize the religious schools have yet to see light of the day because the religious seminaries don’t like interference by the government,” said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa education minister Babak….

The U.S. has often accused these religious schools of promoting terrorism. The Pakistani army and the U.S. have attacked several seminaries inside Pakistan and Afghanistan for their alleged role in promoting terrorism. The U.S government has asked Pakistan to scrutinize and modernize them.

The heads of religious schools vehemently deny charges they are producing militants. “More than 4,500 students study in our school,” said Maulana Samiul Haq, chancellor of Darul Uloom Haqqania, the biggest religious seminary in Pakistan. “All of them are peaceful and apolitical. They had taken part in the fight against Mujahideen leaders just to safeguard Afghanistan against the bitterly divided and corrupt Mujahideen government in Kabul.”

Haq said parents send their children to the religious schools to arm them with knowledge of Islam.

“The international reputation of Taliban is due to their being armed fighters who have unleashed a wave of violence in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan, including devastating suicide bomb attacks,” said Brig retired Mahmood Shah, former secretary security of FATA.

Muhammad Israr, a student of Darul Uloom Banoria Peshawar, said he had learned the Quran by heart and was now gaining more Islamic knowledge. Israr, a resident from Jalalabad province in Afghanistan, said he would be returning home after graduation.

“My mission is to spread love, peace and create harmony among the people to defeat terrorism,” Israr said. “It’s what the Islam tells us – to respect the people of all religions.”…

Bannu has 221 religious schools which have 4,386 male and 3,577 female students. “It is the duty of every Muslim to know about the basic teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The Darul Uloom (religious school) is doing exactly the same,” Begum says.

Under the proposed plan to modernize education, which was hammered out early this year, Babak said the students would as usual be taught Nazirah-e- Koran (Koran recitation), Tahfeez-ul-Koran (Koran memorisation), Tajweed (correct pronunciation), darse-e-nizami (the standard syllabus of a religious seminary), tafseer (Koranic analysis and interpretation), hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), and Fiqah (Islamic jurisprudence).

But other subjects will include Arabic literature, Urdu, English, science, math, computers and information-technology, and vocational training.