Sardar Abdul Sami
The term is basically specified from Arabic term Madrasa, which means a place to learn or any educational Institute. However, in the Western countries and Pakistan it refers to a religious school specific for Islamic discipline or Madaris e deeniya. It generally offers religious course based on typical religious subjects including Hifz, Tafseer, Hadith & Islamic Law. This course leads to become an accepted Scholar in the Islamic community. Though its archive covers hundreds of years however, in Pakistan, the figure grew rapidly during and after the rule of General Zia ul haq.
According to a research, in 1947 there were only 189 Madrasa’s but the current estimated figure of Madrasa’s vary between 30,000 to 40,000 across the country. While, one of the cause in this fast growth is the negative effect of weak economy due to which it is popular among poor families, as the Madrasa’s usually provides free food and accommodation to their students. It is an intense truth that our central Government never tried to regularize these Institutions in a proper way nor these were monitored by any provincial authority. Wherefore, these institutes have been accused of participating in the extremist activities on different National & Global platforms.
Shortly after 09/11 attacks, Western television analysts widely associated our Madrasa’s with violence and extremism. After which, President Musharaf tried to overturn the perception of any religious involvement but later on, it was considered as a failure. In response to these attacks when the United States attacked Afghanistan, the students of these Madrasa’s were prepared to defend Afghanistan. Despite all the circumstances, when American’s entered in Afghanistan they first accused us of all this militancy. The reason for this was only one, the United States had detected after the Soviet Union war that these Madrasa’s have the power to do so. Whatever happened in Afghanistan during those years, our Pakistani religious circles specifically Madrasa’s played a strong role behind the whole scene. Therefore, Afghani’s who used to eat our food had begun to hate us.
During my two decade of direct relations with this industry, i realized that they really encourage extremism in different shapes. That is why many incidents of terrorism, especially the profiles of suicide attackers are often connect with these Madrasa’s. On the other hand, human rights organizations have regularly condemn the living standards, discipline and harsh punishments in these institutes. As a Muslim, I do not have any objection to their existence, but i completely oppose their administrative structure, curriculum, life standard and discipline. Possibly, their strength is a huge figure which directly linked with the Madrasa system, according to a survey, the number of students directly acquiring Islamic education from these Madrasa’s across the country is more than 2.5 million Male and almost half a Million Female.
Maulana Sami ul Haq, who was assassinated few days back, played a vital role in both Afghan wars. His Madrasa “Jamia Haqqania” was very active during that time and that’s why Taliban had suggested his name for negotiation, and due to this reason he was often called as “The father of Taliban”. The seminary “Jamia Haqqania” is also known as University of Jihad due to its role in supporting the Taliban and many Afghan Taliban leaders and other affiliated group leaders has been part of its alumni. In this way, due to negative role of these Madrasa’s, Pakistan has always faced the criticism globally especially from our neighbors. Furthermore, the Scholars of these Madrasa’s have frequently issued decree (Fatwa) against people and State Institutions. There are many examples of such cases where the killers were influenced by such Scholars to kill the people by calling them infidel and blasphemer, including the murder of Salman Taseer (Ex Governor Punjab).
Other than that, they always forced the government to accomplish their demands, and if they are not considered, they starts spreading violence by protesting on the streets, by damaging public property, by closing transport and by limiting the life of citizen. There is a history of agreements between the Government and such protesters including the protest against Asia bibi’s release, a Christian lady who was accused by a group, of being involved in blasphemy. The Supreme Court of Pakistan issued release order, after confirming that she was not involved in blasphemy. A protest was carried out across Pakistan to force the court to cancel their own orders; meanwhile, the Government signed a draft after negotiations to stop this protest. I stayed more than 5 years in the United Arab Emirates, during this period i have closely observed their Islamic educational system, and the best thing i have experienced was the quality education and supervision of their Religious Affairs department.
After all, it is the time that the government should take necessary steps to revise the system of our religious education. So that, the Western concept to affiliate extremism with Pakistan can be over. For this, Pakistan will have to bring the UAE style plan to limiting the Madrasa’s negative role, by monitoring their funding, by regularize the network like Government schools system, by modernize their syllabus and life standard. In UAE, no religious Scholar have power to issue any decree, nor they can force self opinion as a propaganda against any state institution while it is only limited to religious affairs department to make such type of decisions . In fact, it is a difficult task for newly formed Government to revise the Madrasa education system but it is the urgency of time as well.