The Solution to Extremism

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The Solution to Extremism

Postby shemrez » Tue May 18, 2010 5:04 pm


The Solution to Extremism: Troops or Teachers?

Extremism is a pervasive problem that fuels fundamentalism and generates terrorism as a necessary outcome. Extremism is different from fundamentalism in that a fundamental need not necessarily be extreme, but on the counter, an extreme fundamental fails to be a fundamental since it is no more an ideal fundamental; a basic prerequisite for fundamentals. Extremism is not only a process of thought; it is also a definitive characteristic that can overtake both thought and action, thereby giving way to militant extremism, and consequently, terrorism. An extremist mindset is bound to be borne out of a perception of arbitrary pressure – of force and oppression – and the most likely outcome of its actions is bound to be a last-ditch resort to extreme ends. The most dangerous thing in today’s world, therefore, is an extremist preacher who can not only practice extremism, but can also preach and train others in extremism, intolerance and professing of hatred. This process can be referred to as the ‘militarization of extremism’, where a cohort of followers is garnered not on fundamentals of a faith, or a religion, or a way of life, but on the extremist interpretation of any of those fundamentals. But is there a way out of this spiraling abyss? Can those who have been indoctrinated in the message of hate be reclaimed towards the message of tolerance and peaceful coexistence? A 2008 study from RAND Corporation, “How Terrorist Groups End,” concluded that ‘military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups’. Does that mean that by killing extremists, we are only fuelling extremism? Does that mean we need to convert extremists to moderation and balance?

Author: Spearhead Research Analysis - 18.05.2010

Download Link: ImageThe Solution to Extremism.pdf

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‘Civilians should have control over security establishments’

Postby Spearhead Research » Thu May 20, 2010 2:37 pm


‘Civilians should have control over security establishments’

By Peerzada Salman

KARACHI: “Pakistan has turned a corner in terms of civilian-military relations,” was one of the many poignant remarks made by Dr Daniel N. Nelson during a roundtable discussion on the topic of ‘Understanding civil-military relations’, organised by the US Consul-General Karachi at a local hotel on Wednesday.

Apart from being an academic, Dr Nelson is a businessman and has been a senior policy adviser to some known American political figures. He did his PhD in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.

Dr Nelson began his talk by saying that the terms ‘civil’ and ‘military’ should be understood in a broader context, for the former also included society, NGOs and the media, and the latter was not just confined to people in uniform, but included intelligence agencies and private-military companies.

He said if a civilian elected government was to continue, a five-point mechanism was vital: (1) Laws – the constitution, pieces of important papers, (2) change of culture – with respect to norms and beliefs, (3) structures and processes, (4) transparency and openness, (5) budgets.

Dr Nelson said the five points were taught in some very important regions, such as in Caucasian countries and in the Balkans, and generally proved successful.

Expanding on the first point, he said we had to have pieces of paper so that command was centralised, and there should be regulations so that people couldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of origin or ethnicity.

Touching upon the point of ‘change in culture’, he said it was important that a change in norm or belief (not in religion) was witnessed so that people could raise questions like ‘what should the military be?’ ‘should the military be in charge?’ ‘should it control the defence ministry or should it be subservient to the ministry?’ etc. He said a free media could bring about the change, particularly in villages or in poorer sections of bigger cities. Explaining the argument, he said there were times in the US when the military was seen as very important, and generals such as Eisenhower became presidents, but then it was felt that the culture had to change.

Describing ‘structures and processes’, Dr Nelson said, “In the US till 1947 we had departments of war, navy etc, and there were uncontrolled intelligence agencies, but then we passed a key act in 1947, the National Security Act. We established the CIA and the department of defence and brought them under civilian control.” He said before the Iraq War US intelligence agencies gave reports about the weapons of mass destructions and it started a war. After that “We had to restructure our intelligence.”

The fourth point of openness and transparency had primarily to do with the media. Dr Nelson emphasised freedom of information and described it vital to the whole process.On the last mechanism of budgets, he said in a democratic society the purse strings of defence were controlled by those who’re voted in by the public.

He said civilians required to be prepared for the above-mentioned mechanisms and be better than the military. He said there were countries (Turkey, Indonesia) who had graduated to the next level and there’s no possibility of a military coup there. He rejected the notion that Pakistan was unique, and instead argued that the country had many advantages and had the capacity to do as Turkey and Indonesia did. He said, “I don’t think that the military wants to run the government; they don’t want to be in charge.”

In the question-answer session, Dr Nelson recalled the Cold War and said, “We thought communism was a bad thing, and at the time Gen Ayub and then Gen Zia were in power. We had a bigger interest in defeating communism, so we had to deal with military dictators.” He said when 9/11 happened, Gen Musharraf was in power. “We didn’t choose him. We had to deal with him.”

Replying to a question regarding welfare versus security state, Dr Nelson said there’s a continuum of development in Pakistan, and it’s not true that Pakistan was underdeveloped.

He said there should be a new civil-military synergy because national security is threatened by insurgency. He argued in Pakistan there’s a corner being turned and there’s a yearning among intellectuals and students for that kind of a change.

Responding to repeated questions on America ’s support to military dictators, Dr Nelson said the US was not in love with Musharraf and did not bring him to power. He said the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was one of the worst things that could’ve happened to political life.

Talking about the military-bureaucracy nexus, he said it was important for civil society and the media to keep investigating the linkage; it could be controlled. Discussing if a civilian could head the ISI, he said the earlier attempt failed because the tensions were raw, but the second attempt might succeed.

He said the US wanted civilian control over the national security establishments, and the US presence in the region would promote the cause of civilian rule. However, the negative side to it was that there was a war going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, which meant large military expenditures.

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Postby Fatima Rizvi » Thu May 27, 2010 2:18 pm


Alternatives to madressahs

Ikram Sehgal
May 20, 2010 and May 27, 2010*

Established at first as an institution of higher studies, a madressah (Arabic plural "madaris") initially taught law, Islamic sciences and philosophy. During the 11th and 12th centuries, madaris specialised in law and jurisprudence. Today's madressah is an Islamic religious school (seminary) where students, as young as nine or ten, at times even younger, learn religious education, schooled first of all in reading and then in religious studies. Initially a part of a mosque, madaris only later became separate institutions. With the introduction of Western education under colonial rule their curriculum underwent a change.

A madressah is not a Quranic school, or maktab, a place where Muslim children only read and recite the Quran at a very elementary level. Madaris offer a more organised institutional structure and different academic levels of religious studies. Most Pakistani madaris are affiliated with one of the five Islamic school boards, or Wafaq: three Sunni Madressah Boards (Deobandi, Barelvi and Ahl-e-Hadith), one for the Jamaat-e-Islami and one for Shias. This entire system, mostly belonging to the Sunni sect because Pakistan is predominantly Sunni, is supported largely by the private sector and communities through trusts, endowments, donations and zakat (religious tithes) contributions.

A madressah is mostly registered with the government as a charitable corporate body with acquired tax exemption. Among the Sunnis, the majority are Barelvi, a moderate group who seek to be inclusive of local rituals and customs, the seminaries run by the Jamaat-e-Islami are non-sectarian but politically very active. In the context of extremism, the remaining two streams of madaris are considered most important. The Deobandi school of thought (originating in the Indian town of Deoband, near Delhi), have long sought to purify Islam by rejecting "un-Islamic" accretions to the faith and returning to the models established in the Holy Quran. The Ahle-Hadith (followers of the way of the Prophet) have a similar emphasis on "purifying" the faith, but follow the Salafi fiqh (religious jurisprudence), as opposed to the Hanafi fiqh used by the Deobandis.

No comprehensive and/or credible census of madaris exists in Pakistan. A 2004 Congressional Research Service report, "Terrorism in South Asia," puts the number at 10,000-20,000, the seminaries extending along the borders of Afghanistan, from Karachi to Balochistan and continuing into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA). In April 2002 Pakistan's ministry of religious affairs estimated the number of madaris to be approximately 10,000, with 1.7 million students (including about 448 women-only madaris). The figure is probably closer to 12,000 with about two million students, by conservative estimates.

Seminaries mushroomed during the regime of military ruler Ziaul Haq. His Islamisation policies were meant mainly to establish his own legitimacy. Other factors include the Iranian revolution, the entry of Soviet troops into Afghanistan and the subsequent Afghan "jihad" against Soviet troops, and Pakistan's involvement in the Afghan war. Students in these madaris also come from other countries, especially Afghanistan.

For the poor, a madressah offers free boarding and food for their children, an opportunity to gain literacy and employment, an irresistible option of hope when compared to the bleak future availing from crumbling or non-existent government-funded secular schools. Successive Pakistani governments have tacitly encouraged this to avoid spending much on education. Only 7,000 Pakistani children attended madaris 30 years ago, compared to the two million today. Functioning as shelters and orphanages for many young children, runaways and refugees where the state apparatus is lacking, madaris have come forward as a parallel system of education that is more viable for the impoverished.

Stretching from Jhang to Bahawalpur, southern Punjab is an educational battleground, dotted with the most aggressive and militant of all madaris, dominated by feudal lords with large landholdings. The cities and towns of this region are teeming with the poor masses, both controlled by jihadi groups. Private citizens from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, thinking they are spreading the message of Islam through petrodollars, fund them generously.

This led to a sustained spurt in Deobandi madaris, not only in the Pakhtun areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border but also in Karachi, as well as inrural Punjab. This money also encouraged a Wahhabi jihad-centred curriculum. Almost the entire Taliban leadership are graduates from the Haqqania, including Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, while the Binori madressah, whose leader Mufti Shamzai was assassinated, was once suspected to be a possible hiding place of Osama bin Laden. Reportedly this is where bin Laden met Mullah Omar to form the Al-Qaeda-Taliban partnership.

A March 2009 report found that about 18 per cent of the madaris were affiliated with sectarian outfits such as Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Islamist texts advocating violent jihad against other religious sects form part of the curricula in some madaris. Militant pamphlets or magazines circulate in certain madaris, especially those openly aligned with a particular militant group. Research about the connection between Pakistani madaris and Islamic extremism finds a disturbing relationship between religious seminaries and sectarian violence. However, contrary to perceptions, a vast majority of madaris, almost 80 per cent, do not subscribe to this virulent hate. While they may be far from rendering adequate education, it is wrong to condemn them outright as all supporting jihadis.

After the September 11 attacks, madaris were widely associated with violence, even though all the 9/11 perpetrators were university educated, some in the US, and with no connection to any madressah. Pakistan was quickly assumed as being a culprit because Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding in the maintains straddling the Durand Line.

The US government put severe pressure on the Pervez Musharraf government. In 2002 he made key pledges regarding madressah reforms. The government promised:
(1) the registration of all madaris to know which groups were running which religious schools;
(2) regulation of the curriculum so that all madaris would adopt a common government curriculum by the end of 2002;
(3) adoption of measures to stop the use of madaris and mosques as centres for the spread of political and religious inflammatory statements and publications; and
(4) establishment of model madaris providing useful modern education.

Despite all the good talk, none of Musharraf's 2002 promises to reform madaris have been fulfilled, or even come close to it. Only three model madaris have been set up – one each in Karachi, Sukkur and Islamabad, with a total of 300 students. Compared to the estimated two million students in the more than 12,000 madaris in Pakistan this number is ridiculous. The curriculum of these model madrassas includes English, mathematics, computer science, economics, political science, law and Pakistan studies. These institutions were not welcomed by the ulema (religious scholars), because no real effort was made to involve them. Only a very small minority has supported the government in the modernisation of religious institutions.

There is a dire need for the fulfilment of the promises made by the Musharraf regime in 2002. More important is the need to implement alternatives to the madressah, to reduce the dependence of the poor and impoverished on it.

Visiting dozens of religious seminaries across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Alexander Evans found the system "characterised by both orthodoxy and diversity and host to a quiet debate about reform." He has spoken against the notoriety surrounding the madressah, and how wrongly all madressahs are taken to be "laboratories" for creating jihadists. These views are shared by a prominent group of scholars who have challenged the mainstream notion of madressahs as "weapons of mass instruction."

Madressah revisionists like William Dalrymple have added that the majority of madressahs are more "neo-fundamentalist" in their outlook than they are "Salafi jihadist." Their focus, "is more puritanical in nature: ensuring proper Islamic behaviour, like the correct fulfilment of rituals and ablutions, public covering of women, and so on, so to keep society morally intact–rather than participation in violent struggles or revolutionary activities."

The latest Economic Survey of Pakistan says government and private schools number about 224,000 (158,000 primary schools, 413,000 middle schools and 32,400 high schools). Of these 151,000 are for boys and 93,000 for girls), with approximately 1.2 million teachers for 32.3 million students. Approximately 12,000 madressahs "educate" about two million students. Or 3 per cent of school students in 0.5 per cent of available educational institutions. A significant number of 18 per cent madressahs (2,160 madressahs, 360,000 students) being on a jihadist trend, spouting venom and hatred, makes the search for alternative education imperative.

After nationalisation in 1973 and 1974, very good private schools became absolute disasters. Eventually, most were handed back to the private sector in dilapidated states. There are excellent educationists in the public sector, and some very good schools, but these are exceptions, few and far between. For the government to build and run more schools may be counter-productive. Government-run schools do not provide the quality of the private sector, as happens all over the world, including the US and the UK. With the proliferation of private schools (profit centres rather than centres of education), their quality has deteriorated. Teachers' training being virtually non-existent, the real problem area is quality of teachers.

Instead of "reinforcing failure" in attempting to reform the madressah, selected madressahs, those that are keen on reforms, can be affiliated to NGOs which have a proven track record in education, where, apart from religious education, subjects like mathematics, general science, computers and hygiene can be taught by teachers having good credentials, experience and expertise.

Armed with good knowledge about both the divine and the mundane, not weapons and venom, madressah students will have a clear option for admission and placement in higher education institutions or vocational training programmes. Steps should be taken to reform madressah curriculum to highlight pluralistic traditions in Islam in dealing with differences of opinion between faith and traditions.

The more viable and pragmatic alternative is to turn to the private-sector route. Private schools being profit-making centres, why not mobilise NGOs like the Citizens Foundation (TCF) and similar success stories, like CARE, Zindagi Trust, DIL, Punjab Education Foundation and Sindh Education Foundation, for the poor? The TFC, which has "quality education for the less privileged" as its motto, was established in 1995, with just five schools. In 2005 that number went up to 331. By 2010 the number doubled exponentially to 660.

TCF's principles are:
(1) education for the poor will not be poor;
(2) schools will be accessible by walking;
(3) take the children off the streets and into schools;
(4) build self-esteem;
(5) focus on girls' education; and
(6) have trained faculty.

Its impressive achievements are:
(1) 660 school units in 68 locations across Pakistan;
(2) more than 92,000 students with approximately 50 per cent female enrolment; and
(3) 4,800 full female faculty with total employment of more than 7,000.

The quality of education can be ascertained from the fact that 83 per cent secured first division in matriculation.

With children being provided free uniforms and books, it usually takes around ten months to set up a school on the TCF model, costing Rs11.000 ($130) to educate a child for one year (inclusive of uniform and books), Rs1.2 million ($14,500) annually to pay for the running of a primary school and Rs2 million ($24,000) for a secondary school. Even though TCF bears 95 per cent of the fees, it is not charity, which would rob poorer parents of their pride: they must contribute something.

Educating all the two million presently in the madressah system on the TCF model would amount to approximately $250 million a year. Compare that to what the US allocates annually for running the war in Afghanistan and for "Coalition Support Funds" for Pakistan?

Can the government be trusted to spend money responsibly on education? A "Human Resource Survey" was conducted by my company on behalf of the Primary Education Department (PED) of the Balochistan government in October 1997. The survey was meant to
(1) confirm the existence of about 10,000 schools established with UNDP and USAID funding;
(2) validate student enrolment from the school register; and
(3) ascertain the quality of staff members.

It found 15-20 per cent of the schools being used for other purposes--such as "autaqs" (guest houses) for the waderas. We could not find almost 1,000 (10 per cent) of the schools supposedly in existence, particular in the Bugti and Marri areas.

Nawab Akbar Bugti was furious at the adverse findings. He instructed his son, the late Saleem Bugti, the minister of education in the provincial government, to withhold payment for our services. Feudal lords, however "democratic" their rhetoric and posturing, seldom like their subjects to get an education that can eventually challenge their despotism.

George Soros reportedly offered up to $100 million to Pervez Musharraf during the WEF Annual Summit at Davos in 2006, provided something concrete could be done to reform the madressahs and/or provide alternative education. Unfortunately, donors, on the one hand, are hostages to the bureaucracies they create to ensure the largesse they dole out is being well spent, and, on the other, to governments paying lip-service to education. Nothing happened!

The way forward is to "reinforce success" and support NGOs like TCF, Zindagi Trust and DIL, with matching grants, allowing them to concentrate on quality education and the mechanism to sustain it. Instead of frittering away enormous sums in dubious education projects, the government, aid-giving agencies and philanthropists must look seriously at credible NGOs and route funds into transparent and accountable projects without the bureaucratic hassle that delays payments and/or siphons off significant parts of the intended money.

Grants and loans are available from the Islamic Development Bank, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Union, UNICEF, UNESCO, the UNDP, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the ILO, the WEP, USAID, CIDA of Canada, the British DFID, the German GTZ, Japan's JICA, NORAD of Norway and AUSAID of Australia. The funds allocated could be spent judiciously if an effective monitoring mechanism is set up. The bottom line is: put the money into a trusted mechanism with a track record of delivering the goods.

For the madressah system to be tackled positively, the challenge before donors is to look at models like TCF as an alternative.

*This is a two-part article on the madressah system.
(The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:
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Postby Ahsan Waheed » Mon May 31, 2010 10:20 am


Education for all
Monday, May 31, 2010

With the budget for 2010-11 now just around the corner, the question of educational spending has come up again. At a pre-budget seminar, a demand has been made that the allocation for this vital sector be raised to three per cent of GDP. This makes good sense. While much lip service has been paid to the cause of education, in reality there has been no meaningful change for the people in the last six decades. The vital missing ingredient is the lack of will of both the government and the bureaucracy. Pressure from international agencies and funding from abroad have been the cause for some effort but results have had a negligible impact on actual statistics, with the number of schoolchildren growing at an alarming rate as the population multiplies rapidly. As far as the population factor is concerned, a literate and educated citizenry will have fewer children than an uneducated mass. It has been proven in many countries that the education of women has been the main factor in bringing down the birth rate. This is reason enough for the government to make an all-out effort to provide good education to all children, especially in the rural areas of the country. The economic benefits of a falling birth rate would go a long way in helping the economy, enabling the government to provide more facilities for health and education. Longer-term benefits would come in too, with fewer people fighting for the limited jobs available in the market. It goes without saying that the education of girls is as important as that of boys, so that they too can become part of the workforce and contribute to the family income.

Apart from the numerous economic benefits of education, there is the intrinsic value and satisfaction of having access to knowledge — to being able to read and understand literature and poetry, astronomy, economics or the millions of other subjects that can open new vistas for children and adults alike. People would then be able to take more informed decisions on all subjects, be it their children’s future, their health or the future of their country. Many education policies have been formulated, some good some bad. The problem lies in the fact that policies are not implemented in their entirety. Before one policy has been given time to show results, it is rejected when a new government takes over. A good policy, drafted by professionals, needs to be designed with the consensus of all the major political parties, and an agreement signed that no matter which party is in power, the education policy must not be subjected to change until the end of its agreed time period. More funds are needed to back this and set up the foundation for change that we so desperately need.

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Postby shemrez » Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:37 pm


Away from the madressah
By Taj M Khattak
Thursday, June 17, 2010

In the movie The Book of Eli, Eli (Denzel Washington) is charged by Providence to take a westward journey to deliver the very last copy of the King James Bible after an apocalyptic event that has left the world faithless and lawless. En route, he stumbles into Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who is in search of the same book and he hinges all his dreams of rebuilding and expanding his fiefdom on that possession.

At one stage, Carnegie exhorts his henchmen: "This is not an ordinary book. It is a weapon. With this I shall control the minds of an entire population and all their actions." Substitute the word Quran for the book and one gets the drift of where the extremists are taking this country.

The Holy Quran is a book of divine guidance and deliverance for humanity for all times to come. But for it to be used as a weapon by some in order to control the minds of a section of population to incite violence for their self-serving ends is an evil deed committed against God and the Holy Book.

Islam was spread in this part of the world by Sufis and saints through the immensely beautiful message of universal beneficence and enlightenment, and for centuries, the Quran primarily remained a radiant source of that light and wisdom.

But as the society and intellectuals vacated space to let clerics monopolise interpretation of Quranic injunctions and dominate performance of routine religious rituals, some misguided elements in robes began to see the Holy Quran as a weapon to control mass psyche.

With time, the madressahs, otherwise excellent models of social welfare and benevolence for the less privileged at the level of the local mosque, began to undergo a scary transformation. Today, it sends a chill down one’s spine to see young children rote-learning the Quran in madressahs. Their tender minds cannot even remotely comprehend its meaning, let alone grasp the finer nuances of Islamic teachings in such matters of fundamental and profound importance as, say, tolerance. Devoid of basic scientific education, they remain extremely prone to brainwashing and readily available to answer higher calls as perceived by their mentors.

The ugliest manifestation of this was witnessed recently when nearly a hundred innocent people from the Ahmedia community were killed for holding different beliefs.

Every madressah student is not a terrorist but every terrorist or suicide bomber has been a madressah student or at least visited a madressah. We may have come across other variants of this painful and uncomfortable formulation and even contested it, but it certainly is true in this case.

Nawaz Sharif echoed the sentiments of many by calling the members of the Ahmedia community our brothers and sisters.

It is generally believed that it was under Liaquat Ali Khan’s watch that the progressive outlook of the state suffered a setback, when he succumbed to religious pressures and introduced the Objectives Resolution in 1949.

This may be an unfair conclusion as the disease had been just beneath the surface for years before the Partition. It was just that until then the brainwashed had not been brainwashed into turning their bodies into weapons and becoming so deft in the use of automatic weapons that it was as if the weapons were limbs of their bodies.

Consider this: Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s liberal Islamic thought, as reflected in his 19th century Social Reformer and numerous other publications, sparkled in a few academic highlands but didn’t create any significant impact in the vastly stretched lowlands of illiterate and semi-literates where the local mosque’s prayer leader regulated daily lives and held complete sway over the minds and actions of its inhabitants.

Allama Iqbal’s six lectures on the reconstruction of Islamic thoughts, which would effectively have taken away the interpretation of Sharia from the bigoted to the intellectual religious scholar, caused a kind of backlash and we are all well aware of the reaction.

Many references are made to the Quaid-e-Azam’s Aug 11, 1947, speech, without it being realised that by then too much water had flown down the proverbial bridge and the Quaid may only have been trying vainly to light the fire of secular enlightenment in a pile of wood too soggy with obscurantist thought to catch fire.

If there was any doubt, the evidence was provided by the chants of "Pakistan ka matlab kya, la ilah ha ilillah" (Pakistan’s raisin d’etre is that there is no God except Allah) in an increasing number of public meetings as the Pakistan Movement peaked from 1940 to 1947. There is nothing wrong with the slogan, per se, except that we didn’t have to wear religion on our sleeves and kill innocent people in its name.

It is therefore not surprising that the Quaid’s speech quickly found its way into the archives rather than becoming the substance of the Friday sermon in every mosque across the land soon after independence. This would truly have been a living homage by a grateful nation to its founder; far better than his gleaming white marble mausoleum in Karachi.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto may only have exacerbated the situation in a futile effort at political longevity when he had the Ahmedia community declared a minority, at a time when the tide had clearly ebbed too far. Zia need not be glorified with a mention for his disservices. The religious rightists had smelled blood; shaking them off the scent at that stage was too late.

Let us acknowledge that our religion has been acquired by extremists groups for use as a weapon of death and destructions. Whenever I see a madressah on the roadside, I am reminded of a flight with a delegation aboard an Iranian navy aircraft from Chahbahar to Tehran decades ago. Sailors being sailors, we were soon endeared to the cockpit crew. During the landing, the pilot overflew a renowned seminary and remarked: "Sir, this is our mullah factory, but thank God we have only one."

At the time, we laughed at this remark, but little did we realise that, in time, our own country, with unregulated, unchecked and unsupervised madressahs spread across its length and breath, would be a spawning a whole industry in comparison.

Let us defend the dignity of the Holy Quran. It was revealed as a book to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for the salvation and guidance of mankind; not as a political weapon to incite violence.

As said the Chinese say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Let’s take that first one.

The write is a retired vice admiral and former vice chief of the naval staff. Email:

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Postby Ahsan Waheed » Wed Jun 23, 2010 12:42 pm


From Muslim to Islamic schools
Quantum note
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

It may not be an exaggeration that the greatest challenge faced by Muslims all over the world is that of education. This challenge arose from a failure of the Muslim educational system in the 16th and the 17th centuries, which resulted in a historic watershed. Muslims lagged behind Europe in production of knowledge, and this ultimately led to a shift in the global balance of power. This shift took place at a time when European educational institutions were becoming powerhouses of new knowledge based on modern science. This situation soon enabled Europeans to conquer most of the known world, including almost all lands where Muslims had then lived for centuries.

The Muslim resistance to this conquest, heroic as it was in some cases, was simply doomed because there was no possibility for swords to come close to the hands which held rapid-firing weapons. The two World Wars after the conquest of the Muslim world condemned hundreds of thousands of Muslims to being slaughtered on battlefronts which were not of their own choosing. These Great Wars also produced successive generations of weapons, each being more deadly than the previous one. By the time Muslims woke up to the realities of the post-World War II situation, the entire map of the world had been redrawn.

At the heart of this reconfiguration of the world was an educational system which successfully wedded modern science with the corporate world, on the one hand, and the state, on the other. Knowledge production thus became handmaiden to the worldwide rise of the Western world led by the United States of America after World War II. Universities, research laboratories and institutions like MIT served as propellers of a new world order created through sheer force.

There is no escape from the basic realities of our times: we are now living in a world where ideas, products, social, economic, and political currents, all flow in one direction: from West to East. This tidal wave originates in the educational system of the dominant civilisation and spreads throughout the world. Compared to the powerhouses of knowledge, research, creativity, and vigour, the educational system in the Muslim world remains sluggish, drowsy, even dormant; certainly, derivative and subordinate to what comes from the West. The mushrooming of Western-style schools during the last quarter-century has made matters worse, as we now have millions of young men and women who have emerged from schools which ape the Western educational system without ever coming close to the excellence of the original.

History cannot be denied. There is no doubt that the current situation arose because the Muslim educational system was at the lowest ebb of its vitality at the time of the conquest and colonisation of the traditional lands of Islam. There is also very clear historical evidence that the resultant colonisation and the subsequent implantation of the Western educational system further uprooted the Muslim mind from its spiritual, intellectual and historical ground. It is also clear from history that the political freedom regained in the middle of the 20th century did little to relocate the Muslim intellectual landscape; instead, the new institutions modelled on the European and American systems mushroomed at ever-higher rates and continue to thrive and multiply in all 57 Muslim states which now constitute the traditional lands of Islam. These institutions teach a curriculum based on a worldview other than that of Islam, they use pedagogy which is not rooted in Islam, their content has no resonance to what great thinkers of Islam have left behind.

In order to reverse the global imbalance of production of knowledge--and consequently current military, political, economic, cultural, and social imbalance--Muslims need to revamp their educational system. This cannot be done by sprinkling Islam on thoroughly secular curricula. The entire system of education, including what is taught, how teaching takes place, and the environment in which learning takes place, has to be redesigned on the basis of a philosophy of education gleaned from the Quran and the Sunnah, the two primary sources of Islam, and anchored in solid scholarship.

This effort is not easy. It requires, first of all, a tremendous intellectual jihad which will furnish fundamental principles that can be applied to specific areas of education--from pedagogy to a curriculum design to outcomes. It also needs resources and, finally, it needs pilot institutions where the new model can be tested. Once proven to be better than the existing models, such a system of education will automatically receive warm welcome all over the world.

Given the current political, economic, and social conditions of the traditional lands of Islam, this intellectual jihad is almost impossible anywhere in the Muslim world.

There is not a single country in the world where the top leadership (in the political, social, and cultural economic strata) shows any willingness to even start thinking about this change. Rather, this stratum of the Muslim society, which makes all the important decisions, is quickly turning the Muslim world into an educational colony of the Western educational system, as scores of franchised educational institutions are popping up in these countries, which are aping American or British institutions.

There is, however, a silver lining to this gloomy scenario. A new awareness is spreading amongst Muslims living in North America and Europe which has the possibility of furnishing a new model of education, if it is pursued with vigour and critical control. There are groups of men and women (parents, homeschoolers, educators, thinkers), who have realised the power of education and the deadly consequences of the secularisation of the Muslim mind. They are keen to re-establish links with the spiritual, intellectual, social and cultural traditions of Islam and find ways to develop a new system of education which will be adequate for the challenges of our times, and train Muslim children to leadership positions in a world dominated by secularism.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:

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Postby Fatima Rizvi » Thu Jun 24, 2010 11:32 am


Army hands over Swat checkposts to civilian administration

* Most of the checkposts on Swat-Peshawar highway up to Kalam handed over to civilian administration as security situation has improved significantly

By Iqbal Khattak

MINGORA: The army has handed over a majority of checkposts in Swat to the civil administration and the journey through the former Taliban stronghold has been made much smoother with the removal of troops from the posts, suggesting improvement in security in Swat district.

The handover of these checkposts to civilian administration has been attributed to “improvement in security on the ground”, a local military spokesman said.

“It underlines that the security has improved on ground in these areas,” Major Mushtaq told Daily Times. Previously, commuters were stopped at around a dozen checkposts for identification and checking in Upper Swat, where they were offloaded from their vehicles to ensure the implementation of the security procedure. “The checkposts were meant for our security, but they also caused irritation to the public,” Behram Khan, resident of Bara Dureshkhela, told Daily Times. “Now travelling through the area is no more painstaking,” he added.

Checkposts at Pir Kalay, Khawazakhela, Kuza Dureshkhela, Bagh Dhere, Fatehpur and Jari are no more manned by the army but by the community police as they guard Matta, Khawazakhela, Dureshkhela, and tourist resorts such as Madyan, Bahrain and Kalam against the Taliban.

Tourists: Making these checkposts “softer” has another perspective. It is aimed at “facilitating” the return of domestic tourists to Swat, who stopped travelling to the area due to terrorism. People associated with the tourism industry were exuberant over the move. “Uninterrupted movement is necessary for the revival of tourism and we welcome the army’s support to our main means of income,” said Salman, a shopkeeper in Madyan Bazaar. The military, however, is manning other key checkposts, such as ones at Dargai and Landaki. “We are maintaining tight vigilance in areas where the Taliban can use fields and uncarpeted roads to sneak into Swat,” the army spokesman added. A suspected militant was doing exactly that on Tuesday near the Landaki checkpost when security forces shot him dead. On the main Swat-Peshawar highway, other checkposts previously manned by the army were handed over to the civil administration. Meanwhile, a civilian security official hoped the Taliban would not return to Swat in the “next 50 years”, as last year’s operation had destroyed their command-and-control-structure.

“I personally believe they will not return to Swat for another 50 years as they have been hit so hard,” he said optimistically.

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Postby shemrez » Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:31 pm


Pakistan history, distorted by the literalists
by Dr.Shams Hamid
Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Literalists have always invented Islam depriving it of universalism

Recently released, the Brookings Institute report claims that the real cause of militancy in Pakistan is the public education system, and not religious schools (madrssas) because the majority of Pakistani students attend public school whereas only ten per cent attend madrassas. It states that Pakistani public schools disseminate militancy, hatred, jihad and distort history.

Until 1970, despite bureaucratic and military dictatorships, the Pakistani educational curriculum and textbooks, for example, had included the history of the Maurya and Gupta dynasties of the sub-continent conforming to the secular ideals of Pakistan clearly expressed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his speech to the constituent Assembly on 11th August 1947. Mohammad Ali Jinnah said:

“We are starting with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal Citizens of one state … Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual but in the sense as citizens of the state. …You may belong to any caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

Mohammad Ali Jinnah never used the term ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ during the struggle for independence nor after independence. Mohammad Ali Jinnah sternly scolded a prominent leader of Muslim League Raja Sahab Mahmudabad when he wrote to the historian Mohibul Hassan in 1939 that we want the dictatorship of Koranic laws. Sharifuddin Pirzada documented another failed attempt of an Abdul Hameed Kazi to propose a bill to create Pakistan as an Islamic state in All India Muslim League’s 1943 session.

In fact the term “Ideology” was first mentioned in 1962, fifteen years after independence, by a member of Jamat-e-Islami. In his monograph From Jinnah to Zia, Justice Munir writes:

“The Quaid-i-Azam never used the words ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ … For fifteen years after the establishment of Pakistan, the Ideology of Pakistan was not known to anybody until in 1962 a solitary member of the Jama’at-I-Islami used the words for the first time when the Political Parties Bill was being discussed. On this, Chaudhry Fazal Elahi, [who later became Pakistan’s president during Z. A. Bhutto’s regime], rose from his seat and objected that the ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ shall have to be defined. The member who had proposed the original amendment replied that the ‘Ideology of Pakistan was Islam’.”

The three rigid religious political parties Jamiat-i-Ulama-i-Hind, the Majlis-i-Ahrar and Jamat-e-Islami were opposed to Muslim league and the demand for an independent Pakistan. In Punjab Majlis-i-Ahrar exploited Islamic ideology to defeat Muslim League in pre-partition election of 1945 calling Muslim League leaders ‘Kafirs’ and opposing their demand for a separate state.

Ironically, the term “Ideology of Pakistan” was also first coined and used by Jamat-e-Islami who were against the creation of Pakistan and they did not participate with the Muslim League in the movement for the independence of Pakistan.

After the independence of Pakistan, Jamat-e-Islami established its Pakistan chapter claiming that Pakistan was created for Muslims to live according to Islamic Shariah. Jamat-e-Islami even forgets that the Ahmadiya community supported Independence of Pakistan after Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s assurance that Pakistan will be a modern Muslim state, neutral on sectarian matters (Report of the Court of Inquiry, 1954: 196). However, Jamat-e-Islami Pakistan still cannot justify their opposition to the creation of Pakistan if it was being created only for Muslims to practice the literalist interpretation of Islam.

In late 1970’s, after the fall of East Pakistan, the Pakistani educational system began to implement the Islamisation project based on the literalist interpretation of Islam practiced by a very small percentage of the Muslim population. Jamat-e-Islami and other religious political parties championed the Islamisation project. This is a shameful testimonial to the twisted logic of the handful of Muslim literalists.

The unholy alliance of 1980s, between the dictatorial military regime of Pakistan under General Zia-ul-Haq, the unelected literalist religious political party Jamat-e-Islami and American government, cemented Islamisation of all Pakistani institutions including public educational institutions. The national education policy was Islamised in accordance with the narrow literal interpretation of Islam. The national educational curriculum was revised and textbooks were re-written to re-invent Pakistan as a purely religious society only for Muslim citizens.

Syed Abul A’la Maudoodi of Jama’at-e-Islami prescribed that all educational subjects should be taught from the perspective of the literal interpretation of Quran. Maudoodi did not accept the distinction between the religious and the non-religious worldly disciplines of education.

“In the teaching material, no concept of separation between the worldly and the religious be given; rather all the material be presented from the Islamic point of view.” (Curriculum Document, Primary Education, Class K-V, 1995, p. 41.)

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute found four major themes emerging strongly from their analysis of the curricula and textbooks of the three compulsory subjects:

“1. that Pakistan is for Muslims alone;
2. that Islamic teachings, including a compulsory reading and memorisation of Qur’an, are to be included in all the subjects, hence to be forcibly taught to all the students, whatever their faith;
3. that Ideology of Pakistan is to be internalized as faith, and that hate be created against Hindus and India; and
4. students are to be urged to take the path of Jehad and Shahadat.”

Literalists have always invented Islam depriving it of universalism and divesting its teachings of its historic context. ‘Pakistan ideology’ is also a case of their figment of imagination that has no basis in Pakistani history.

Islam has multiple interpretations and only one of those interpretations, i.e., the literalist interpretation of Islam, is fatalistic and anti-humanistic. However, there are only a few Muslims who accept or live by the literalists’ interpretation of Islam, whereas more than 95 per cent of Muslims consciously reject the literalist interpretation of Islam.

Literalists themselves fail in avoiding contradictions in their own literal interpretation in their attitude and lifestyle. Zakir Naik, an Indian Muslim preacher of these parochial views of unequal human rights for men, women and for people of different faith has recently been restricted from giving a speech in UK and Canada but he is fighting against this verdict on the grounds of freedom of speech and equal human rights. They are not ready to allow equal human rights in their society while shamelessly demanding it from the secular societies.

These literalists simultaneously benefit from all the modern technologies, like getting photographed, using phones, watching television, flying in airplane, using western banking and so on; and criticise them all for being ‘non-Islamic’ and ‘secular’.

Literalists have a very small following because most people find it difficult to live in bad faith with a false consciousness, i.e. believing in one thing and doing its opposite. They have changed already, they should understand and accept it. The idea of a return is impossible; you cannot travel back in history.

Pakistani public education needs to focus on re-designing its curriculum, re-writing and reconstructing teaching material including textbooks and constructing a non-violent, democratic learning environment in the public schools to disseminate tolerant views and employment-oriented education.

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Postby Ahsan Waheed » Fri Jul 02, 2010 11:22 am


Jihad Inc.
By Ali K Chishti
July 01, 2010

A recent survey puts the number of madrassas in Pakistan at over 28,000 – almost 10 times the number in 1988. Their students are by and large indoctrinated and a mindset is created which is intolerant, fearful of outside influences and increasingly militant.

The madrassas are particularly attractive for those who are from poorer families, in large part because they provide housing and lodging to their children once admitted. This, to many poor Pakistanis, seems like a worthy alternative to sending their children to the local government school. Of course this whole system is funded by donations and because of state patronage, which started during General Zia’s time. The donations come mostly from Saudi benefactors, and others in other Middle Eastern countries. During Zia’s time, madrassah graduates who had otherwise no formal education were allowed to compete for government jobs. And it was during this time that the patronage extended to madrassas was extended by the establishment to then use their students as proxies in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Now, especially after 9/11, the focus on the madrassas has become all the more sharper. This has to obviously do with their role in promoting jihad worldwide and this has consequently led to a lot of pressure on the Pakistani state to monitor and regulate the functioning of these institutions. Somewhat reluctantly, the Musharraf regime agreed to modernise the curriculum of the madrassas and to require that they be registered – just like government schools and colleges. Large sums of foreign aid were received for these aims but the sorry fact is that not much was done. Of course, there was a lot of hype but it all turned out to be the typical bluff and bluster.

The regime wanted the madrassas to register with the government and to submit their accounts to scrutiny but the mullahs running them simply took to the streets and in turn used their students to put pressure on the government. When the policy of using a stick failed, the Musharraf regime then tried to use a carrot – in the form of aid to all those madrassas which would agree to register. America played a role in this, funding a plan worth millions of dollars.

The Musharraf government is now history and so is the plan, it seems, to reform the madrassas. The reforms process initiated by that government was essentially on paper, and this current government has not done anything on this front either. The seminaries continue to ‘teach’ hatred and intolerance and their ‘graduates’ are recruited by the Taliban and al Qaeda without any checks or monitoring. Clearly, the government needs to wake up and do something about this – or are we going to keep burying our heads in the sand and ignore this at our own peril?

The writer is a freelance contributor (

Ahsan Waheed
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Postby shemrez » Wed Jul 07, 2010 11:47 am


When supply meets demand

By Anwer Sumra/ Zahid Gishkori/ Aroosa Masroor
July 07, 2010

Parents send their children to madrassas for a better future, a dream which is not always realised. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI/LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Eleven-year-old Bakht spends at least six hours a day sitting cross-legged on the floor, memorising the Holy Quran. He is among the 110 students who are enrolled in a small madrassa, Darul Huda, in Benaras, Orangi Town, Karachi. “He knows at least 50 surahs by heart,” his older brother Zahid Badshah, who is also a Hafiz-e-Quran, says proudly. But what Bakht does not know is that his school, like most others in the neighbourhood, is unregistered.

“No one cares about that here,” is Badshah’s immediate response. “When registered public schools don’t deliver, parents have no choice but to send them to unregistered madrassas where children at least learn to recite the Holy Quran.”

According to the ministry of religious affairs, Pakistan has at least 14,061 religious institutions, teaching about 1,191,430 students. Unofficial estimates are much higher.

Dr Manzoor Ali Azhari, head of the Institute of Religious Education in Taxila, says that according to some rough estimates, at least 24,000 madrassas are functional across the country in which about 2.7 million students are enrolled.

However, figures are conflicting as according to the Punjab home department alone, there are around 13,500 madrassas of different schools of thought in the province with a student population of approximately 453,670.

Meanwhile, the Sindh home department had registered 900 madrassas in the entire province as of March 2010. However, the presence of at least 70 to 80 madrassas only in Orangi Town, Karachi, bears witness to the fact that most of them are being allowed to run unregistered.

The question of funding

A lot of madrassas charge a nominal fee of Rs50 to 80 that parents in low-income neighbourhoods can often afford. This helps finance the seminaries to a certain extent.

“Sometimes when students can’t pay the fees we ask for chanda (donation) and are able to raise sufficient funds,” says Wali, a teacher at Iqra Islami Tajweedul Quran in Karachi.

But it is not just the low-income neighbourhoods in Karachi, but also localities such as Clifton that have also witnessed a rise in the number of religious schools. And there is no check on what is being taught.

“The government has not even been able to check the number of madrassas that have increased over the past few years and they talk of regulating them? That is just not possible,” comments an activist and president of Pakistan Women’s Foundation for Peace Nargis Rahman.

The curriculum war

In order to implement ‘madrassa reforms’ and revise the curriculum of seminaries across the country, the government should first identify the unregistered madrassas which cannot be held accountable for what they are teaching, says Nargis Rahman.

But Federal Education Secretary Imtiaz Qazi is bent upon implementing the government’s vision of ‘modern madrassas’ without doing much homework. Recently, the ministry decided to introduce 20 subjects in the madrassa curriculum, aiming to lead some five million students across 20,000 madrassas of the country towards scientific and technical education, according to reports.

Clerics have not exactly welcomed the decision.

“We are tired of these repeated ‘reforms’ that governments propose one after the other,” says Mufti Naeem of Jamia Binnoria al Almiya in Karachi. “Governments initiate projects to introduce a ‘secular curriculum’ only to please the West and get some financial aid in return.”

According to Naeem, the government has never been serious about implementing these which was evident in 2002 when funds worth Rs5,759 million lapsed because the education ministry was unable to utilise them for this purpose. “I still remember that former minister for education Zobaida Jalal had promised to provide us with 100 computers for our madrassa back in 2002. I am yet to receive those.”

“Everyone points a finger at our fund-raising mechanism. How come no one questions the government about the money they get from the US?” asks Naeem, refusing to disclose the main source of funding for his madrassa.

According to an estimate, Jamia Binnoria al Almiya spends at least Rs700 per student on a weekly basis. This includes food and lodging. Meanwhile, according to Azhari, around Rs0.15 million are normally spent on a student who graduates with the Dora-e-Hadis degree, equivalent of a BA degree, after spending 14 years in a madrassa.

Immune to government pressure

Mufti Naeem argues that the government has no right to try and regulate the curriculum at his seminary where subjects such as science, mathematics and computer studies are taught. “We are aware of the challenges of the modern world; we are not training our students to be terrorists.”

Jamia Binnoria al Almiya is affiliated with Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia, the governing body of the majority Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan which controls about 8,000 seminaries.

Apart from the Deobands, representatives of other seminary boards – Barelvi, Ahle Hadith, Shia and Jamaat-e-Islami – affiliated with the Ittehad Tanzimat Madaris-e-Deeniya – also refuse to comply when it comes to regulation of their syllabus.

“The government first sponsored these madrassas during Zia’s era because the West demanded so and now they want to modernise religious schools again to please them,” says Barelvi cleric, Maulana Shabbir Abu Talib.

Qari Zakiur Rehman, who heads Jamia Hanfiya Qadariya in Lahore, also feels that blaming madrassas for militancy is propaganda hatched by Western lobbies. He also denies that madrassas get funding from abroad, saying that the schools reach out to philanthropists for donations. Charity, alms, donations, hides on Eid and zakat are the main sources of funding, he says.

However, Al-Azhari, who is a PhD from Al-Azhar University, is dissatisfied with madrassas because of their unwillingness to teach modern subjects.

Regarding funding of these institutions, he says that the majority of madrassas are being supported by Pakistanis whether in the country or abroad.

However, some religious organisations are being funded by Gulf countries, he says, and adds that the ongoing war on terror has negatively affected this kind of fund raising.

Azhari feels that the madrassas, along with the government, need to revamp the system so that they can produce graduates with skills to do well in the modern world.

The future of madrassa students

After graduating from madrassas, students opt for various jobs, in the government as well as the private sector, says Qari Zakur Rehman. The majority of imams in mosques in Europe were educated in Pakistan, he adds.

Meanwhile, according to Mufti Imran Ahmed of Jamia Naeemia, Lahore, many of their students are serving in the police, the army and civil administration.

However, madrassa students seem to feel that they have limited opportunities once they leave the seminaries.

Haider Khan, a student of Jamia al Ashrafia in Islamabad, feels that the education provided in madrassas does not provide the students with means to do well in life. “Seminary students can only work in mosques or madrassas, which is a poor means of earning a living,” he says.

“Most of my friends ended up as maulvis at their neighbourhood mosques and here I am teaching at a madrassa,” says Wali, who graduated from a madrassa in Karachi last year.

However, he adds that owing to limited opportunities of employment in the mainstream market, he is content with what he has. “It is frustrating at times but at the end of the day, at least I am able to put food on the table from the Rs3,500 I earn.”


Waqar Ahmed, a boarding student at Jamia Hanfiya Qadariya, says he has been studying at the seminary for the last three years where he is also being taught all subjects. There are no lessons on militancy and terrorism, he adds.

Notables of the vicinity finance this seminary and we were being provided good food and other facilities, says Ahmed. “I belong to Azad Kashmir and come here to get religious education as my parents are poor and they could not afford to send me to school.”

Muhammad Aslam, who received his primary education in his village, is now in Lahore to become a Hafiz-e-Quran.

The Punjab secretary of the zakat and ushr committee, Karim Bukah Abid, says that eight per cent of the budget of the district zakat committee is fixed for students of madrassas. This money is paid according to the grade students are studying in. For instance, eligible students till Matric receive Rs500, Intermediate and BA students receive Rs750, and MA students receive Rs1,000.

Mufti Ahmed of Jamia Naeemia, says that most of their graduates and post-graduates are teaching in government colleges and universities. He says that Tanzeem-ul-Madarass issues post-graduate degrees to their students after conducting examination.

As for funding, Ahmed says, the government contributes as it does for colleges and universities under the education department.

Senator Sajid Mir, who runs several seminaries in Lahore, feels that all madrassas should be registered with the ministry of religious affairs.

The time has come when we have not only to think about the madrassa students, who after completing their education do not meet the needs of the modern era, but also to mould the seminaries in the same lines as foreign religious institutions, which never ignore modern education in madrassas, he says.

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