The Solution to Extremism

This section contains Spearhead Special Reports researched and developed by our team of analysts and writers. All Special Reports are in PDF format.

Postby Ahsan Waheed » Thu Jul 08, 2010 11:12 am


‘6.5m children in country do not go to school’

KARACHI: It is necessary to provide education and other facilities to people living in backward areas for ending poverty and social injustice, Sindh Chief Minister’s Adviser Sharmila Farooqui said on Wednesday.

While speaking at the 25th anniversary programme of the Muslim Aid Serving Humanity, Farooqui said, “The major cause of social injustices and crimes in the society are unemployment, poverty, hunger, price hike and illiteracy; and the present government is making hectic efforts to overcome these problems on a priority basis.”

Education is the basic requirement for cultural, social and economic development, Farooqi added. Referring to a report, she said 6.5 million children in Pakistan did not go to school, while 72 percent of the school-going children left the school by fifth class and 28 percent before that.

Over 1.8 million people in the country are involved in bonded labour, 72 percent of which belong to Sindh, she added.

She also said, “Fifty percent of boys working at brick kilns are aged between 10 to 14 years, while these boys and the women working at kilns are not registered as labourers. As a result, they remain deprived of timely and due wages, and also face torture threats.”

She further said the United Nations had termed the Benazir Income Support Programme a role model as it had provided financial support to needy women. The government is working on various long-term projects to provide higher education, training skills, clean drinking water and other facilities to the people, she added.

The adviser said the Pakistan People’s Party had been striving hard to bring an end to violence against women and children, bonded labour, forced underage marriages and other social injustices.

She hailed Muslim Aid Serving Humanity’s mission of serving humanity.

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Postby shemrez » Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:34 am


Beyond Madrasas: Assessing the Links Between Education and Militancy in Pakistan

Rebecca Winthrop, Co-Director, Center for Universal Education
Corinne Graff, Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Center for Universal Education

The Brookings Institution
Download (PDF)

JUNE 2010 —


Increasing educational attainment is likely to reduce conflict risk, especially in countries like Pakistan that have very low levels of primary and secondary school enrollment. Education quality, relevance and content also have a role to play in mitigating violence. Education reform must therefore be a higher priority for all stakeholders interested in a more peaceful and stable Pakistan. Debate within the country about education reform should not be left only to education policymakers and experts, but ought to figure front and center in national dialogues about how to foster security. The price of ignoring Pakistan’s education challenges is simply too great in a country where half the population is under the age of 17.

There has been much debate concerning the roots of militancy in Pakistan, and multiple factors clearly come into play. One risk factor that has attracted much attention both inside Pakistan and abroad is the dismal state of the national education sector. Despite recent progress, current school attainment and literacy levels remain strikingly low, as does education spending. The Pakistani education sector, like much of the country’s public infrastructure, has been in decline over recent decades. The question of how limited access to quality education may contribute to militancy in Pakistan is more salient now than ever, given the rising national and international security implications of continued violence.

The second half of 2009 witnessed not only the Pakistani government stepping up action against insurgents but also the release of a new Pakistan National Education Policy that aspires to far-reaching and important reforms, including a commitment to increase investment in education—from 2 to 7 percent of gross domestic product. Hundreds of millions of dollars in international education aid have been newly pledged by donor countries. This renewed emphasis on education represents a substantial opportunity to seek to improve security in Pakistan and potentially also globally over the medium to long term. Policymakers both inside and outside Pakistan should give careful consideration to whether and how education investments can promote peace and stability, taking into account what we now know about the state of the education sector and the roots of militancy.

This report takes a fresh look at the connection between schools, including but not limited to Pakistan’s religious seminaries, known as “madrasas,” and the rising militancy across the country. Poor school performance across Pakistan would seem an obvious area of inquiry as a risk factor for conflict. Yet to date, the focus has been almost exclusively on madrasas and their role in the mounting violence. Outside Pakistan, relatively little attention has been given to whether and how the education sector as a whole may be fueling violence, over and above the role of the minority of militant madrasas.

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Postby Fatima Rizvi » Sat Jul 31, 2010 9:18 pm


War on terror no solution to extremism: Gilani
Published: March 05, 2010


PESHAWAR (APP) - Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said the government believed in the politics of reconciliation and was taking along opposition and coalition partners in its endeavours for the country’s interest. Addressing the members of PPP parliamentary party here on a day-long visit to the provincial metropolis, Gilani said his government was taking forward the vision of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to follow the politics of harmony and strengthen the democracy.

He said that unlike the past, his government believed in moving forward by taking along the opposition in all areas for the greater good of the country and people. He stressed upon the politicians belonging to different parties for getting used of living with each other amicably. He said the government believed in coming up with development projects having an impact on the people of their particular constituencies.

He said with improvement of law and order, greater investment will pour in with generation of increased economic activity. He said the Damage Need Assessment of the terrorism-affected areas of the NWFP had been completed and with the assistance of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan and other donors, the people will soon witness a positive change.

He said the military operation was no solution to terrorism and extremism, and it were the people who needed to step forward and decide about their future. He said the success in military operation could not be considered completed until the winning of the hearts of people.

He also paid rich tributes to the people of the province for being the front line in Pakistan’s war against terror and for rendering numerous sacrifices. He said it was the dividend of democracy that the Prime Minister was elected unanimously by the National Assembly and many resolutions and the budget too were approved in a similar manner. Regarding the forthcoming local bodies polls, he said on the recommendations of the Chief Ministers, it was decided that a similar system would be adopted in all the provinces. He stressed the need for showing flexibility and for pursuing the idea of accommodating each other to ensure that the democratic system flourishes in the country. He said there was nothing that was not doable and would find a solution to the problems being faced by the PPP parliamentarians.

Gilani said it was not only the prime minister who should deliver, but every member of the party had the responsibility to follow the manifesto to effectively complete the government’s five-year tenure.

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Postby shemrez » Thu Sep 02, 2010 1:06 pm


Who is a Pakistani?
By Saleem H. Ali

The recent exchange of polarised articles, following the Sialkot tragedy, have left me perplexed. Both sides have exhibited tremendous scorn for each other and questioned the authenticity of the ‘other’s’ commitment to Pakistan. The existential conflict which these articles exhibited remind me of a painting by the famous French artist Paul Gauguin which hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston titled: D’où Venons Nous? Que Sommes Nous? Où Allons Nous? Which translates as Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Gauguin painted this huge canvas in 1897 while living as a French expatriate in Tahiti. He questioned his own identity in this colonial. The crises that are befalling Pakistan are also leading the country to ask such similar questions. So what exactly does it mean to be a Pakistani? First, let us be clear that nationalism is an inherently synthetic phenomenon and there is nothing ‘natural’ about any form of nationalism. Those who suggest that somehow a larger Indian subcontinent was “natural nationalism” following colonial departure forget the motley assemblage of bitterly divided princely states that existed during much of the subcontinent’s history.

Human rights laws and international norms are increasingly critical of nationalism along ethnic lines. At a practical level, the most defining “natural” element of nationalism is language — because communication is the most essential element of human relations. We can look different and overcome our prejudices if we can communicate effectively.

Language is clearly a fracturing factor in Pakistani perceptions of their identity. Most of the readers of Pakistan’s English newspapers rarely read an Urdu daily. Gone are the days when poets like Faiz could be professors of English but write poetry in Urdu, allowing for an exchange of ideas across social strata that had been defined by language. A few veteran journalists such as Khaled Ahmed have to translate Urdu articles for the ‘Angraizi-walas’ who stumble through an occasional headline in the vernacular press. We are further divided by supremacist views about provincial languages. The only way out is for more Pakistanis to become multilingual at levels of proficiency that allow us to interact with the popular culture of communities across the nation.

Another fracture that is apparent regarding Pakistani identity is connection to the physical land and residence within the country. Often resident Pakistanis dismiss those of us who live abroad as being unauthentic “sell-outs” and somehow lesser citizens. Yet in a world of structural inequality, diaspora communities are a seminal way of development. Consider the citizens of Lebanon — 70 per cent of whom reside outside their country but share a passion for their homeland. No doubt empathy and connection are important and getting a good dose of load shedding and local angst is often needed for an expatriate’s reality check. However, we should not question each other’s commitment and sincerity in this regard.

Perhaps the most potent fracture in Pakistan’s identity crisis remains religion. Pakistan, Israel, and East Timor are the only three countries to have been formed in modern times on the primary basis of religious nationalism. This is where we need to exert the most effort in peace-building. Such action does not mean we disparage religion, but rather that embrace a more pluralistic understanding of our dominant faith.

Going back to Gauguin’s painting, we should move beyond his first two questions and spend more time in considering his third question: Where are we going? Let’s quell the cynicism, sarcasm and innuendo and work on clear solutions for the problems that will define the future of Pakistan.

The writer is professor of environmental planning at the University of Vermont, US.

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Postby Fatima Rizvi » Sun Sep 05, 2010 6:11 pm


Rebuilding the Muslim Empire

Dogmatism, intolerance and rigid thinking have held Islam back since the decline of the Muslim Empire.

An inhabitant of today’s civilized Western democratic state, while alluding to human barbarism and fanaticism, always recalls the medieval ages. For a Muslim, however, the medieval ages are among the gloriously shining eras of history, when Muslim scientists and philosophers made monumental advancements for the benefit of mankind in almost all major fields of knowledge.

Today, every thinking mind wonders what made those giants fade into history without being followed by men of similar standing? What caused the severe moral and intellectual downfall of the Muslims? Leaving aside the political turmoil and dictatorships which happen to be an inevitable part of history, I want to devote some attention to the social and intellectual perspective of the medieval age Islam.

A time of prosperity

Unlike their Christian counterparts, Muslims devoted some serious attention to the “infidel” philosophies and in the process, they not only translated and thoroughly preserved the valuable philosophical Greek heritage of science and philosophy, they were the reason behind this philosophy being transported to the medieval West, which proved to be one of the prominent factors behind the renaissance.

With the Muslim advent in Iran and India, the wide philosophical heritage of these areas also enjoyed patronage by the Muslim philosophers. The basic purpose of most of the philosophers was to reconcile reason with Islamic principles and philosophers and political jurists like Ibn Rushd made considerable contribution in this regard. Ibn e Rushd(Averroes) is considered among the fathers of Secularism and is one of the most highly revered scholarly figures in Islamic history. Although his “Incoherence of the Incoherence”, which was a rebuttal to Ghazali’s “The Incoherence of Philosophers” and in which he defends Greek philosophy against the Ghazalian attacks, wasn’t as widely accepted as the book it responds to, it nonetheless, is considered one of the cornerstone works in Muslim philosophy.

Other people who tried to harmonize Greek philosophy with Islamic principles included such big names as Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn al Haytham (Alhacen) and Abu Rayhan Al Biruni. Al-Farabi, Al-Kindi and Ibn e Sina, due to their highly unorthodox philosophical interpretations and defense of Greek philosophy were even considered as non-Islamic philosophers by many. Ibn e Sina, other than his influence in the Muslims world, exerted a wide influence on European philosophical, theological and scientific though and is considered by any historians as “the most famous scientist of Islam” (Brickman, 1961).

Yet, despite their highly nonconforming philosophy and unconventional attitude, they were highly revered figured in the Islamic world. Their philosophy was debated and discussed in intellectual discourse and valued by students of philosophy.

Respect for non-conformity

Another openly professed atheistic philosopher was Muhammad ibn Zakariyā Rāzī, who like other scholars of his age, contributed widely in diverse fields of knowledge, and went on to challenge both Greek and Islamic dogmatic ideas in a rational manner. In his prolific life, he wrote over 200 books, including Kitab al-Mansuri, ten volumes on Greek medicine, and al-Hawi, an encyclopedia of medicine in 20 volumes.
Besides purely scientific pursuits, he published and advocated his radically atheistic philosophy throughout his life, yet his philosophy was not banished and he was not persecuted. Instead, the path of intellectual debate was chosen, which further flourished the gardens of knowledge. The principles of logic and the arguments presented by the Muslim philosophers echo time and again in Western philosophical thought. One even finds the roots of modern Western existentialism in the philosophy of Ibn e Sina and more eloquently, in the work of Mullah Sadra.

Among various non-Muslim names, Saadia Garon, an Egyptian Jew Rabbi, contributed in the Jedeo-Arabic medieval theological philosophy. The famous House of Wisdom, in Baghdad, Iraq, was the center of knowlege where philosophers, both Muslims and non-Muslims, translated knowledge from other languages into Arabic while making their own important contributions. This process is known as the Translation Movement in history.

Philosophy aside, Muslims preserved the heritage of previous nations in other fields like medicine, mathematics, astronomy and physics. Ibn Al-Haytham was known as “The Physicist” in the medieval Europe due to his immense contributions in the fields of physics, optics, engineering, medicine, philosophy, psychology, anatomy and astronomy. Greek and Indian mathematics was preserved and further developed to new heights by these scientists.

Hence, the culture of intellectual discourse and scientific and philosophical discussions and debates was encouraged by the rulers and flourished through the efforts of the scholars. Thomas Aquinas famously used to call Ibn e Rush “The Commentator” while Michael the Scot translated several of his works from Arabic within fifty years of his death, such was their intellectual worth for those who valued it. Professor Abhishek Gandh, in his book “Preservation and Transmission of Greek Philosophy in Middle Ages” notes:

“On of the Rulers of Muslim Spain, Al-Hakim II, made an effort to gather books from all over the Arab world, creating a library which would later become a center for translation into Latin, (Lindberg, 1978). As books were gathered, so were many Arab scholars who had studied Greek ideas in the east. For example, Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdul’ and ‘Abdul’ Rahman Ibn Ismail came to Spain and introduced many ideas about medicine as well as several of the works of Aristotle and Euclid. Ibn Bajjah (known as “Avempace”) and Ibn Rushd (known as “Averroes”) were among the other famous philosophers of Spain who furthered the expansion of Greek ideas in medicine and philosophy, (Laughlin, 1995).”

The downfall

With the unfortunate and eventual intellectual decline of the Muslim world, moral and social decay closed in. The cherished culture of tolerance towards intellectual discourse, diverse ideas and the patronage of knowledge gradually vanished into the annals of oblivion.

Muslims imposed on themselves a stagnancy that could only breed intolerance and fanaticism emerging out of rigid dogmatism which needs critical intellectual modification through the exquisite process of “ijtihaad”. They revelled in the lost glories of the past while living in a present that was in severe clash with that past and hoping, in vain, for a bright future.

Finally, Western colonialism proved to be the fatal blow in our region. However, this intellectual and moral stagnancy is certainly self-imposed, for if Islam is meant to be for all places and all times, it has much greater potential to expand and generate new knowledge, the common heritage of all mankind. It isn’t meant to decay in the abyss of dogmatic sternness and literal rigidity, because that is against established human nature – and if Islam prohibits us from anything, it’s going against this very human nature which must take us out of a state of stagnancy.

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Postby shemrez » Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:33 am


In a New Role, Teachers Move to Run Schools

Published: September 6, 2010

Brick Avon Academy, a public school in Newark with 650 students, began operating on Thursday under its teachers’ leadership. Ruby Washington/The New York Times

NEWARK — Shortly after landing at Malcolm X Shabazz High School as a Teach for America recruit, Dominique D. Lee grew disgusted with a system that produced ninth graders who could not name the seven continents or the governor of their state. He started wondering: What if I were in charge?

Dominique D. Lee, 25, is the main founder of Brick Avon. Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Three years later, Mr. Lee, at just 25, is getting a chance to find out. Today, Mr. Lee and five other teachers — all veterans of Teach for America, a corps of college graduates who undergo five weeks of training and make a two-year commitment to teaching — are running a public school here with 650 children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

As the doors opened on Thursday at Brick Avon Academy, they welcomed students not as novice teachers following orders from the central office, but as “teacher-leaders.”

“This is a fantasy,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s six passionate people who came together and said, ‘Enough is enough.’ We’re just tired of seeing failure.”

The Newark teachers are part of a growing experiment around the country to allow teachers to step up from the classroom and lead efforts to turn around struggling urban school systems. Brick Avon is one of the first teacher-run schools in the New York region, joining a charter school in Brooklyn started in 2005 by the United Federation of Teachers.

Others have opened in Boston, Denver, Detroit and Los Angeles.

At Brick Avon, the principal, Charity Haygood, who calls herself the “principal teacher,” teaches every day, as do the two vice principals; Ms. Haygood started her career in Teach for America and eventually became vice principal for five years at another school.

While they are in charge of disciplining and evaluating staff members, they plan to defer all decisions about curriculum, policies, hiring and the budget to a governance committee made up largely of teachers elected by colleagues.

The school has 38 teachers, including Mr. Lee, Ms. Haygood and the other four Teach for America veterans who took it over.

Teachers have more say over what they teach, and starting next year they will have more time to work with children when they introduce a longer day.

To an unusual degree, they are shown they matter, as with the air fresheners left in the faculty lounge and bathrooms, or the new air-conditioner that will be raffled off at the end of the month to a teacher with perfect attendance.

Driving the establishment of teacher-run schools is the idea that teachers who have a sense of ownership of their schools will be happier and more motivated.

But some educators and parents question whether such schools are the solution for urban districts, which typically have large concentrations of poor students and struggle with low test scores and discipline problems.

They say that most teachers have neither the time nor the expertise to deal with the inner workings of a school, like paying bills, conducting fire drills and refereeing faculty disputes.

“Ever try to plan a vacation with a large extended family? That’s what it’s going to be like,” said Michael J. Petrilli, a vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy group in Washington. “It’s a good idea in theory, but there are just a handful of teachers who can pull it off.”

On the steps of Brick Avon last week, Lisa James, 26, a home health aide with a daughter in second grade, said she worried that teachers doubling as administrators would lose their focus.

“Teachers should be teachers,” she said.

Teacher-run schools are spreading as many districts seek new ways to raise student achievement and compete more effectively against charter schools.

This year, Los Angeles has turned over 29 city schools to groups of local teachers who worked with parents, administrators and union leaders to beat out established charter operators like Green Dot Public Schools.

Detroit is opening an elementary school without a principal; its motto is “Where teachers lead, children succeed.”

Another school with no principal was started last year by the Boston Teachers Union, with teachers ordering supplies, giving feedback to one another and deciding whose hours to reduce to save money.

“It’s really a collaborative environment,” said Betsy Drinan, 57, a teacher-leader at the Boston school. “I haven’t worked in schools before where they come to you and say ‘What do you want’ and ‘What do you need?’ ”

While teacher-run schools started as early as the mid-1990s, most had fewer than 350 students or were charter schools, including some teacher-owned cooperatives in Minnesota.

Tim McDonald, an associate with Education Evolving, a policy group in St. Paul that supports teacher-led schools, said studies showed that when teachers were given control — much like doctors or lawyers running their own practices — schools had higher morale, less turnover, more efficient decision-making and greater motivation to improve.

Ed Crisafulli teaches science. Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Charity Haygood, foreground, and Chris Perpich, in tie, are principal and a vice principal of Brick Avon Academy. Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Still, Mr. McDonald was skeptical that a truly collaborative model could succeed widely in school districts, unless it was somehow freed from the traditional bureaucracy.

“You’re trying to run an upside-down pyramid in a pyramid structure,” he said. “There is so much momentum against being completely different in most districts.”

James H. Lytle, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania who teaches a course on urban school reform to Teach for America teachers, said the test of school leaders was whether they could make a school work smoothly.

Teachers, he said, “want the textbooks to be there and the students to come on time.”

“The question is whether teachers have the patience to do the ‘adminis-trivia,’ ” said Dr. Lytle, a former principal and superintendent in Philadelphia and Trenton.

The union-run UFT Charter School in East New York, Brooklyn, has run into problems. Two principals resigned after clashing with teachers, and recent test scores have been disappointing; only 22 percent of last year’s eighth graders passed state tests in English and 13 percent in math, compared with citywide rates of 37.5 percent in English and 46.3 percent in math.

Here in Newark, Mr. Lee and his partners — Ms. Haygood; Chris Perpich, who is one of the vice principals; Bernadette Scott; Princess Williams; and Mindy Weidman — worked at night and on weekends for 18 months to develop the blueprint for Brick, which is an acronym for Building Responsible Intelligent Creative Kids.

The school has a global focus, with plans to seek approval as an International Baccalaureate school and to require Mandarin as well as Spanish.

The group asked Newark district officials for a school to run in the South Ward, a poor, crime-ridden section of the city, because, as Mr. Lee put it, “you go where the need is greatest.”

They were given the former Avon Avenue School. In 2009, only 38 percent of Avon’s eighth graders passed state tests in language arts and 14 percent in math, compared with 82.5 percent and 71.8 percent statewide.

Mr. Lee, soft-spoken and unflappable, raced through the school last week, handing out class lists to teachers, security guards, even a surprised custodian. Later, he was wiping down cafeteria tables for lunch.

“It has to get done, so teachers can focus on teaching,” said Mr. Lee, who serves as Brick Avon’s operations manager as well as executive director of Brick, but also will be teaching in the school.

The teachers are raising money — $125,000 so far — to pay for extras like teacher training and an after-school program for students. They have tried to build good will in the community by holding a barbecue in the schoolyard, stopping by block parties and knocking on families’ doors.

The day before classes started, Ms. Haygood, the principal, stood before the other 37 teachers in the auditorium, two-thirds of whom had previously taught at Avon. She read from the book “If You Don’t Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students.”

Then she shared her vision of a collaborative teacher-run school and asked them to demonstrate how they planned to take charge. Those without enough enthusiasm, she joked, would be required to get Brick tattooed on their backs.

Some teachers sashayed across the floor, while others cheered B-R-I-C-K. A group that included the music teacher broke into song. One teacher even slid into a split.

Afterward, Ms. Haygood asked them to jot down their feelings about the coming year.

Ed Crisafulli, 57, a science teacher working for his eighth principal at Avon, wrote down “hopeful” and then “finally.”

“We finally have someone who is a teacher,” he said, “someone who understands teachers from the smallest little thing to the biggest.”

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Postby Fatima Rizvi » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:25 pm


How to fight the Taliban… with Islam

Daniyal Noorani


The emphasis of the Islamic education is on orthopraxy and doctrine
Pakistan just can’t get a break. If it is not being drowned by floods, it is being set ablaze by suicide bombers. On Friday, at least 53 people were killed and 197 injured in a suicide bombing targeting a Shia Muslim rally in Quetta. A day before, three bombs exploded at a Shia procession in Lahore, with a mounting death toll of 35 people and wounding over 170.
The Taliban has taken responsibility for these attacks and boldly asserted that Shias are their targets. The argument that the Taliban use to justify their actions is simple, Shias are non-Muslims and apostates, hence they deserve to die. There is such confusion currently in Pakistan that this ideology is tacitly supported by the people and the government, as is evident from the apathetic response to the Ahmadi attacks. This belief that “Shias and Ahmadis are apostates, hence deserve to die” needs to be put in the ground once and for all.

Even though Pakistan is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the floods, there needs to be a continuous concerted effort to challenge the ideology of the Taliban, so that they have no legs to stand on. For a country that calls itself the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there is a significant deficit in Islamic education and intellectualism beyond doctrine and blind faith. It is this lack of Islamic education that is resulting in a rigid and exclusive interpretation of Islam espoused by the Taliban, in which the killing of innocent people is justified. If Pakistan is ever going to successfully tackle the Taliban, they must provide better Islamic education to the people of Pakistan, so that the people have the tools needed to challenge the Taliban’s ideology.

Wrong practice

From day one in Pakistan, the emphasis of the Islamic education is on orthopraxy and doctrine, and little attention is given to trying to understand Islam and its history. It is more important for a Muslim in Pakistan to know how to offer his prayers than to know what his prayers mean. In addition to this, asking questions regarding Islam is discouraged or worse, could be considered blasphemous. You are supposed to take Islam as a given and blindly follow the practices of your forefathers. This blind following of faith and lack of Islamic intellectualism is creating an environment which empowers groups, like the Tehrik-e-Taliban. People in Pakistan do not have enough knowledge regarding Islam to challenge the claims of these self proclaimed experts.

There is a dearth of Islamic intellectualism in Pakistan. It is not taught in schools in Pakistan that after the death of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) there were substantial debates and conflict amongst the Muslim community regarding the “Muslim” identity. The history of Islam and the context in which the Quran was revealed is complete ignored. This allows for verses from the Holy Quran to be taken out of context and be used by the Taliban to espouse their violent ideology. Without an understanding the rich history of religious tolerance and debate within Islam, the people of Pakistan are ill equipped to see how flawed the ideology of the Taliban is. This is an ideology in which they believe that everyone must share their belief or be subjugated by them.

While I am sure the Taliban could also find verses from the Holy Quran to espouse their ideology, the most important thing that could come out of improved Islamic education in Pakistan is that a dialogue would occur and a counter opinion would be formulated. Through this dialogue an ideology which is more representative of the peace loving people of Pakistan will emerge.

In the current Islamic education system the exclusive nature of Islam is emphasized, but with an improved Islamic education system the inclusive and tolerant nature of Islam will come through. An improved Islamic education system in Pakistan is the only sustainable way that Pakistan can tackle the Taliban. It will remove their ability to manipulate Islam to further their cause and negate their twisted justification for the killings of innocents.

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Postby Ahsan Waheed » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:44 pm


Upper Dir lashkar claims killing 167 Taliban in two months

Thursday, 06 Aug, 2009

PESHAWAR: A lashkar allied to Pakistani soldiers on Thursday claimed to have killed at least 167 militants in two months, an indication of the growing reach of private armies in the northwest.

Officials have said up to 1,000 villagers in Upper Dir formed a lashkar two months ago to avenge a mosque bombing that killed 38 people on June 5 in the village of Hayagai Sharqai.

‘We started with 200 men and now there are 3,000 people,’ Malik Moatbir Khan, the chief of the lashkar, told AFP.

‘We have killed 167 Taliban militants so far in many gunfights helped by the army,’ Khan said, adding that 97 volunteers were also ‘martyred’.

There was no independent confirmation of the death toll.

Suicide and bomb attacks have killed 2,000 people in Pakistan in the last two years.

Government forces have been bogged down, fighting for years against Taliban militants spreading out of tribal areas into settled areas.

Saddled with a standing army that lacks equipment and counter-insurgency specialists, one of Pakistan's answers has been to arm and support tribesmen to protect local communities.

Pakistan's Frontier Corps paramilitary had no details about death tolls, but confirmed that security forces were cooperating closely with tribal lashkars.

‘The local lashkars are helping security forces close in on militants and we have close coordination with them,’ a local paramilitary spokesman told AFP.

‘We are providing them with rations, vehicles and ammunition,’ he said.

Pakistan claims that recent fighting largely ‘eliminated’ extremists from three northwest districts, but many fear that Taliban fighters have disappeared into the mountains rather than been outright defeated.

Commanders say more than 1,800 militants and 166 soldiers were killed in the latest assault, two years after the Taliban first rose up in the Swat valley under Mullah Fazlullah to enforce sharia.

Leader of private militia vows to take out militants

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Postby shemrez » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:00 am


A new system of education


Graduates from colleges and universities should take it upon themselves to impart their education to the less fortunate in schools across Pakistan.
The idea is simple and yet has the potential to make a big difference. I suggest a National Education Service be setup in Pakistan which makes it compulsory for all college and university students and graduates to spend six months to one year teaching in remote parts of Pakistan.
The dynamics of the process like curriculum, rotation and teaching structure etc. can be worked on – it won’t be rocket science – but as a start it might help to make enlistment to this service compulsory for all people to serve in areas far away from their domicile.

The benefits will be many, not only will an increased interaction between different people and children from different provinces help create better understanding and alleviate ethnic tension, a direct solution to illiteracy also stands a chance. There are a lot of modalities that need to be looked into of course, like the feasibility of such a project. How can the existing setup of educational institutions in Pakistan play a role in this? Can a meaningful curriculum be introduced? Can such a service be introduced at all; is it pragmatic, will it really help allay ethnic – socioeconomic divisions in society? Are there past experiences that can be looked into for precedent? There is a chance that it might succeed, there may not be ghost schools anymore or more missing teachers on pay rolls, we can trust the young and educated elite of Pakistan to have a better conscience than most and discharge their duties effectively.

Ways to avoid any corruption or abuse of the system or to improve its performance can be done after a pilot is run. If budgetary allocations can be made I propose a progress center be built in every town and village which provides classrooms, a health center, IT center and accommodation for visiting faculty and in time, doctors. The IT center can help the locals learn more about the outside world and build their own career paths.
An increased role for women in society and education needs to be encouraged. For a start the problem that women face of not being able to work or study after getting married can be partially solved if their children are going to school at timings which are similar to office working hours. If a mother has school going children, she has to ensure they are fed, clothed and ready for school at around eight in the morning. If her children are at school from 8am to 5pm, then she has a better chance of entering the workforce.

Increasing school going hours will ensure more time per subject, vacations should be limited to only 3 weeks a year instead of three months which would mean that children have more time to educate themselves and study. Class duration should be increased so that more time is spent per subject. These ideas may seem out of the box and Utopian but they are actually being practiced by an educational institution called KIPPS in the US. KIPPS is a government school, so the curriculum remains the same as all public schools; it’s just that more time is given to students to learn and teachers to explain concepts better. The results have been remarkable – kids have an actual chance of a good higher education, 90 per cent of KIPPS graduates have moved on to higher education.
I bring these points to light in the hope that something good can be picked from them. A combination of KIPPS style education by graduates on National Service – teaching all over the country sounds Utopian but is a realistic possibility.
Singapore, Greece and Israel have a compulsory National Service for their men and women to serve in the militarily. What we need more is an educational solution otherwise we will fail to progress as a nation ethically, morally or scientifically. It’s a vicious cycle trying to enforce such a ‘National Service’ given the law and order situation but the buck stops at education in any problem, so it must be addressed in every aspect.

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Postby Fatima Rizvi » Mon Oct 11, 2010 2:26 pm


Madrassas do not fuel terrorism: Wafaq-ul-Madaris

Leaders of Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia Pakistan on Sunday asked the government to identify seminaries which are allegedly inculcating jihadi ideas in the young minds.

ISLAMABAD: Leaders of Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia Pakistan on Sunday asked the government to identify seminaries which are allegedly inculcating jihadi ideas in the young minds.

Rejecting the allegations levelled by Interior Minister Rehman Malik last week that some seminaries were promoting terrorism in the country, they said that the government should bring evidence against such seminaries. The interior minister said that some madrassas were teaching literature that was fuelling terrorism and moulding students’ minds with Jihadi ideals.

“Malik should not sabotage the good relationship between the government and the seminaries, on the issue of protection of the sovereignty of the state, as the madrassas are promoting Islamic education,” a statement issued by Wafaq-ul-Madaris’s media centre said.

Maulana Salimullah said that the minister should not criticise the role of madrassas because they have always promoted peace and provided higher education to millions of poor students who would have remained uneducated otherwise. He said that the religious parties would support the government to ban madrassas if the charges that they were promoting terrorism proved true.

It is pertinent to mention here that religious leaders have issued this statement at a time when various banned outfits have been found to be involved in killing dozens of people. The suicide attack on Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine last week is a case in point.

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Fatima Rizvi
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