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The other side of the coin: education instigating conflict

As a privileged class of people, when describing education we would think of an enriching experience that opens our minds and allows us to think critically, analyze and understand. Our idea of education would be learning to be more tolerant towards each other and more inclusive. It would include resolving conflict and advocating for peace.

However, the unfortunate reality is that another side of the story exists.

This can be seen in education given in Madrassahs where extremist views are often passed on as Islamic teachings, inculcating strong ideas about jihad in the minds of young men. The textbooks contain imagines of guns and ideas about sacrifice for the greater good are taught to children. These brainwashed minds then become the flagbearers of religion, not shying away from attacking anything that does not go in line with their beliefs.

This is not only present within Madrassah education but also prevalent across mainstream education in Pakistan. The curriculum often reflects biased narratives of history and religion which perpetuates certain stereotypes in society. History textbooks are often fabricated presenting a certain state narrative and events like the war of 1971 and the conflict with India are shown in such a way that the other party involved is always the bad guy, always the enemy. Additionally, the Islamic studies that are taught also put forth the teachings of the dominant sect leaving out the rest. The result is hate and division within the community because of different religious and ethnic identities. Thus, religious and ethnic differences are become highlighted in a negative light, leading to resentment, conflict, and eventually violence amongst the masses and especially against the marginalized.

Therefore, it is imperative that the context behind all education is considered on a policy level. It is essential to regulate madrassah and school curriculums and include syllabus that does not cause a rift among the masses; the type of education that is inclusive and focuses on the importance of peace, stability, and growth.

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Your post also leads to the point of how some parents have no option but to enroll their children in madrassas because they can't afford other forms of education and madrassas provide free religious education. However, these students are only being trained for service in the religious sector. Their constrained worldview, lack of modern civic education and poverty make them a destabilizing factor in Pakistani society. For all these reasons, they are also susceptible to romantic notions of sectarian and international jihads, which promise instant salvation. That is why madrassas should be integrated into the formal education sector.

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There are now up to 45,000 such schools in Pakistan (the actual figure has never been confirmed), with enrollments ranging from a few kids to several thousands. Importantly, these new institutions tend to teach a more extremist form of Islam than was previously taught. They blend Wahabism (a puritanical style of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia) with Deobandism (a strand from the Indian subcontinent that is anti-Western, claiming that the West is the source of corruption in contemporary Islamic states and thus the laws of state are not legitimate).

The fundamental concern with the growth of the Madrassah system is not with the schools in general, but with the implications of a radical minority of them. Around 10-15% of…

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Great post!

It's during the 1980s that the Madrassah system underwent a complete change. The Zia regime in Pakistan, in an attempt to gain support from religious groups, began to administer a formalized zakat process which ensured that money was now automatically deducted from bank balances and dispersed at the local level to institutions deemed worthy of support by religious leaders, creating new incentives for opening religious schools. Then we also have the war in Afghanistan which brought from across the border millions of refugees and the radicalism of a jihad movement.

Stats show that today we have approximately 45,000 such schools within Pakistan, ranging in size from a few students to several thousands. It's imperative to observe as yoy…

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You have made some amazing points. People who live in poverty, feudalism, illiteracy, and ignorance have two options: either give up on their children's education, or enrol them in religious schools. Most madrassas offer free instruction, boarding, and lodging to kids, which is one of the reasons they are taken over by religious extremist fanatics who hypnotise kids' minds to produce ideal recruits for the extremist organisations. Given that it portrays Islam as a religion of violence and hatred, the curriculum presented in these madrassas needs to be given special consideration.

The government must take strong action to ensure that misguided madrassas are outlawed. A proper reform of the curriculum must be made. The state has the power and the…

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Your article reminds me of numerous bomb blasts that used to take place, where people used to attach the bomb to themselves and blow themselves up in a public place. One such incident was in a school, where a person who had been given madrassah education was taught that western education is haram and they are blowing themselves and others up for a greater cause. This relates to your idea that the children who are given an extreme form of education grow up with a narrow-minded thought process.

Secondly, the SNC has tried to include the madrassahs into their curriculum but not much implementation can be seen in the madrassahs themselves.

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