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Should We Send Our Kids to Madrassas?

Pakistani madrassas, or religious schools, have long been a part of the country's educational landscape. However, there have always been controversies due to the radicalization and violence associated with a minority of these institutions. Recently, my aunt and uncle enrolled my cousin in a local madrassa to become a Hafiz e Quran, triggering disapproving looks from the family. This decision, though radical to some, stems from a deep-seated skepticism formed by news reports associating terrorists and suicide bombers with the Taliban, often linked to madrassas.

The Islamic education offered to students in these madrassas follows a distorted vision of Islam where hatred is permissible, jihad justifies the murder of innocent civilians, and terrorists are celebrated as heroes. Martyrdom through suicide attacks is often encouraged and glorified. The radicalization of students that takes place in these madrassas shapes extremist ideologies. Students who graduate from such institutions are likely to join extremist groups and participate in armed conflicts within Pakistan and neighboring regions, as exemplified by the case of Afghanistan.

Not only this, but madrassas also produce graduates who are jobless and uninformed. This can prompt social turmoil and wrongdoing. For instance, a 2016 report by the Unified Countries Improvement Program revealed that madrassa graduates face double the unemployment rate compared to the national average, and they are more likely to be involved in criminal activities. The lack of skills and professional training further exacerbates their employment prospects, perpetuating social unrest.

With an estimated 30,000 registered and 22,000 unregistered madrassas compared to just 244 universities, there's an imbalance in the education system, hindering economic growth. Most madrassas neglect common subjects essential for modern employment, leaving graduates ill-equipped for the workforce. Furthermore, madrassas frequently have serious areas of strength for strict investigations, which can leave graduates with few attractive abilities.

Madrassas also frequently center around the past than what is to come. This attention to the past can make it hard for madrassa graduates to adjust to change. For instance, numerous madrassas do not teach software engineering or different subjects that are fundamental to the advanced economy. The emphasis on the past can likewise make it challenging for madrassa graduates to comprehend present-day culture. This prompts radicalism and narrow-mindedness, which fosters a culture of narrow-mindedness.


Despite several attempts to bring madrassas under state control, the government has been unable to curb the political radicalization and violence associated with these institutions. Most madrassas in Pakistan are run by private parties and rely on donations from individuals and organizations. This makes it difficult for the government to regulate and monitor the activities of these institutions. The government's attempts to incentivize madrassas to register with the government and improve their education standards have not been entirely successful, as most madrassas continue to operate outside the purview of the state.

Education is supposed to be a means of promoting peace, stability, and community development, not a contributing factor to armed conflict or economic instability. Madrassas have long lost the respect and value they had held as Islamic educational schools. While it is important to recognize that religious extremism has taken root in only a minority of madrassas, and some madrassa graduates do end up with worthy job prospects, it has profoundly shaped the public perception of these institutions among those who are aware of the issue. This growing association between madrassas and radicalization is also a matter of great concern for the future of Pakistan's youth and the stability of the region.

It is high time to address this issue with the seriousness and urgency it deserves to ensure that education continues to be a force for good rather than a contributor to extremism and social turmoil.

Will the government ever be able to address these issues? If not madrassas, where should people then send their children to get Islamic education?

Resources:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2023/08/10/the-role-of-madrassas-in-pakistan-a-challenge-or-an-opportunity/

https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna29842678

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16 Comments


Very thought-provoking! When it comes to choosing where kids should learn about Islam, it's a tough decision considering the debates around madrassas. I think having a good Islamic education is important, but it should also blend with teachings for today's world. While the government's rules might help fix things, families should also have other choices offering a mix of traditional teachings and modern education.Have you come across any successful initiatives or models that effectively blend Islamic teachings with modern subjects, fostering a well-rounded education? Additionally, what are your thoughts on potential collaborations or community-led programs involving traditional scholars and modern educators to address the challenges faced by madrassas?

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Fiza Jaffer
Fiza Jaffer
Dec 01, 2023
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Thank you for your comment. You’ve asked a very thought-provoking question and i believe that there must be institutions who already blend traditional teachings with modern concepts as well, and we discussed in class about the concept of modern madrassas where students have all sorts of extracurricular activities while they recieve islamic education. Unfortunately, i have not yet come across any successful initiatives that effectively blend islamic teachings with modern subjects, fostering a well-rounded education. But thank you for bringing this up because I would like to be more aware of any existing institutions like these and contribute to it’s development in any way i can. A safe space for children is what I advocate for and I believe th…

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I think the questions brought forth by this article are important ones as within a Pakistani context religious education remains an utmost priority for most of the masses, and this priority is exploited by institutes such as madrassas operating from a place wherein, they know that no alternative option for religious education exists. This is not to say that all madrassas are historically teachers of extremism or promoters of violence, but with enough of them having aided this, the threat cannot be ignored. Yet, I do believe that the blog makes some generalizations in regard to the education supplied by these madrassas and the students that graduate from it. Perhaps religious education must be integrated in a suitable way into…

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Fiza Jaffer
Fiza Jaffer
Dec 01, 2023
Replying to

Agreed. What Pakistan needs right now is a formal public education system where the curriculum is regulated by the government. It is true that i have focused more on the negative aspects of the madrassas and it comes off as generalisations. However, research has also shown that madrassa graduates tend to have a higher unemployment rate because of the lack of skills and expertise in more advanced fields. Education of children must be the utmost priority and whether it is public or private schools or madrassas, the institutions should prioritise the development of children in all spheres of knowledge and extracurricular activities.

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Thank you for sharing this, I can understand how much religion seeps into our curriculum, especially when it comes to madrassas, I also acknowledge that you write from your own experience, however, I have seen friends who have been sent to madrassas and are some of the most intelligent, woke and creative thinkers (one of them is working at google right now).

I think media also plays a big role in the representation of these madrassas as breeding grounds for mujahideen. Similarly, madrassas are often associated with brainwashing and giving rise to suicide bombers. I think we can look at madrassas from two different angles, which means that one cannot generalise and say that all madrassas are bad.

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Fiza Jaffer
Fiza Jaffer
Dec 01, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for this. I chose to write about one side of this issue because that’s what i’ve seen all life; media portraying madrassas in a negative light due to which we tend to have preconceived notions about it. And yes, madrassas do produce intellectual students and it really depends on the trainings they receive. A modern madrassa may have subjects like art and other extracurriculars for students and this helps them become woke and creative thinkers. However, we cannot deny that there are certain madrassas that are extremely regressive in nature and cause more harm than good by teaching a distorted version of islam and encouraging hateful thinking.

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Thank you for sharing this. Your blog post on madrassas is quite well written and detailed. You have written in your blog that people who go to madrassas come out as ill-informed, don’t get jobs, and are mostly unemployed. I would say that is not true. I have seen many people who have done their education in Madrassas and are sitting in well-known, famous universities and have gotten great income-based jobs too. So, I believe they are well informed and have quite a bit of knowledge too. Also, I don’t think all madrassas are regressive in nature and focus on the past rather than the future. I think we do have madrassas that teach ICT and technology-based studies. I have…

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Fiza Jaffer
Fiza Jaffer
Dec 01, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your comment Naimol. I think you've misunderstood my blog. While I have focused in the negative stereotypes attached to the madrassas, I've tried to highlight the reasons for these assumptions and generalisations. You're right that many madrassa graduates are highly successful, and not all madrassas are regressive in nature. I don't want students to stop going to madrassas, I want the government to step in and formalize madrassas as educational institutions and streamline the curriculum for all madrassas. It is true that everyone cannot afford schools, but it doesn't mean we should just allow children of our nation to study in institutions that are not regulated by the government.

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Thank you for your insight Fiza. Your blog raises an important issue regarding madrasahs and how they are majorly associated with jihad and suicide bombers and I feel that this is an urgent matter that must be dealt with. As you yourself mentioned and even when it was discussed in class, not all madrassas are as regressive as they are posed to be, many madrassa graduates turn out to be quite enterprising individuals, however the generalised image of madrassas in our head is limited to them transmitting islamic education and creating forces like the mujahideen. many of us would have the same reaction as your family did when your cousin was being sent to the madrassa and that would be…

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Fiza Jaffer
Fiza Jaffer
Nov 30, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your comment Sarwat, this was exactly my point that there is an overarching image of the madrassas, a negative stereotype attached to it due to which the image that we have of them in our minds is very limited. But yess, sweeping generalisations are harmful because not all madrassas are regressive. Many madrassas have produced extremely successful individuals and as I said to Eesha as well that this needs to be discussed more, we should actively spread awareness about madrassas that are progressive in nature so people can send their students over there without any worries or disapproving looks. And you’re completely right, an incorrect overarching image can be extremely harmful and I would now choose my…

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