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?