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The Role of Madrassas in the Rise of Extremism in Pakistan – Lessons to be learnt by the West

Open Panel

Abstract

In the aftermath of the 7/7 2005 London bombings, the role of Madrassas in Pakistan in the promulgation of religious extremist ideology has been brought increasingly under the spotlight. While these religious seminaries are thought to have educated British Muslims that have subsequently been involved in terrorist attacks, the role Madrassas play as primary education providers for poorer Pakistani communities is of increasing concern. It is thought that more than 11,000 Madrassas operate in Pakistan, providing a service that the government fails to provide. However, these schools largely remain unregulated, despite the Pakistan Madrassa Education (Establishment and Affiliation of Model Dini Madaris) Board Ordinance 2001 and the Deeni Madaaris (Voluntary Registration and Regulation) Ordinance 2002. The growth of support for extremist views is highlighted by increased support for religious parties and attitudes to the recent assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer - his assassin has been lauded as a hero by all sectors of society. This paper will first consider the role that Madrassas play in spreading fundamentalist ideology in Pakistan and the attempts of the Pakistani government to regulate Madrassas. Secondly, the paper will consider the lessons that can be learnt by Western, secular, liberal States from the Pakistani experience of faith schools. In particular the importance of regulation and a balanced curriculum will be considered. Further, claims that faith schools fuel social segregation will be balanced against the importance of allowing Muslim communities in the UK to access religious education.