stealth madrasahs: secular educational institutes that disseminate sectarian strife and inculcate hardline attitudes in their students, under the guise of being “Sharia-compliant”.
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In the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, many government-sponsored madrassas have become so successful that they attract large numbers of non-Muslim students. In some institutions, non-Muslims outnumber Muslims.
The Brookings Doha Center, located in Qatar and sponsored by the Brookings Institution of Washington, cites West Bengal madrassas as models for modern education and has suggested that Pakistan emulate them.
Seventeen percent of the pupils studying in madrassas across West Bengal are non-Muslims, according to Abdus Sattar, West Bengal’s minority development and madrassa education minister.
Unlike traditional madrassas, Bengal’s state-run versions follow a mainstream school curriculum. Their students are being groomed to become engineers, doctors, scientists and other modern professionals.
West Bengal state’s ruling Communist Party government is happy to receive accolades from abroad, which it says it merits because it has ensured quality and progressiveness in madrassa syllabuses.
“Our good work in Bengal’s madrassas is being recognized today. It’s heartening to note that the study advises Pakistan to emulate the Bengal model,” Mr. Sattar said.
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Not a very nice story about madrassas in you-know-where and the young students from throughout the world who attend them along with thousands of Pakistani kids, including American youth.
Anas bin Saleem, a 12-year-old American, spends seven hours a day sitting cross-legged on the floor memorizing the Quran.
He is one of thousands of foreigners who have flocked to conservative Islamic schools in Pakistan, despite a government ban, the Associated Press has found through interviews with officials, documents, visits to the schools and encounters with dozens of students.
In Anas’ school, Jamia Binoria, several hundred students from 29 countries live alongside 5,000 Pakistani pupils, teachers said. Binoria is one of the largest schools in the country and one of at least four schools in Karachi with foreign students on its books.
Anas says he’s not taught militant Islam at Binoria. But clerics firmly endorse suicide bombings and jihad against Western troops in Afghanistan on the school Web site, and Anas admits he is fed up with anti-American barbs from teachers and pupils.
“I get it like every second,” says Anas, who left Louisiana last year with his Pakistani-born mother, barely spoke the national language when he arrived in Pakistan and misses Hannah Montana. “I’m like ‘shut up’ and don’t talk like that.”
Only a handful of the foreign students are Westerners; most are Asians and Africans in the late teens or early 20s. Many come to Pakistan for a cheap Islamic education, albeit a conservative one, part of a tradition of Muslims traveling to gain knowledge that goes back centuries.
I guess US kids in Pakistani madrassas don’t get it much easier than the children of US foreign service employees.
Pervez Hoodhbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear physics professor and writer on social and political issues, has seen the fury that drives men to take up violent causes during his meetings with members of the Pakistani community in the United States.
He says clamping down on militant networks on the Internet could be impossible for any government. But Hoodhbhoy emphasised that Pakistan’s policy of trying to modernise religious schools, some of which are seen as breeding grounds for extremism, may make the job more difficult.
‘The government put these computers and Internet into the madrasas as part of its reform package. The hope was that this would modernise the madrasas,’ said Hoodhbhoy, who has been called a traitor by militants on the Internet and received death threats.
‘In fact, it has given them means of networking with jihadist groups across the world.’