Madrasah: An Islamic School to Learn “Ignorance”
Out of all the heinous crimes modern societies have ever witnessed, the worst one obviously is crime against children. The barbaric violent acts of brutality against children often leave scars in their soft minds, which often never heals in their lifetime.
Islam is such a wonderful religion that legalizes many crimes in the name of God. If there is any ‘beauty’ in Islam, here it is. In fact this is the main reason; many condemned criminals (who otherwise are considered a burden on any civilized society) today are being attracted towards this wonderful religion. Crime against children is one of such many legalized crimes. There are many incidents where the keepers of Islam have shown merciless and cruel treatment towards children – child suicide bombers of Palestine, camel jockeys in Middle East and Islamic schools all over the world.
Madrasahs are Islamic schools to study pure Islamic ethics (is there any?). The culprits are the religious teachers and the victims include helpless innocent underage students. The sacred teacher-student relationship is given a new definition in these Islamic schools.
Following is the bitter experience of a 12 years old Madrasah student from Kenya who was rescued during January 2003.
“It was a terrible place, they chain both legs and both arms, sometimes hands and feet together, They beat us at lunch time, dinner time and grab both legs and hands and give us lashes on the buttocks. We sleep in chains, eat in chains, and go to the toilets in chains. Sometimes we are hooked on the roof in chains and left hanging. We have to memorize the Koran and get punished if we cannot recite the Koran in the classroom”.
This is the ‘legal punishment’ for a student who cannot memorize Koran in Arabic language. Like wife-beating; child-beating is also religiously allowed in Islam. Though the prophet of Islam was an illiterate village idiot and child rapist, he had given some ‘valuable’ opinion on children’s upbringing and education. According to Sunan Abu Dawud Book 2, Number 0495,
Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As:
The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Command your children to pray when they become seven years old, and beat them for it (prayer) when they become ten years old; and arrange their beds (to sleep) separately.
Prophet was very concerned about their religious upbringing. Ayatollah Khomeini was even one step ahead of his Prophet. Khomeini said “A man can have sexual pleasure from a child as young as a baby” (Paz, 2006). Like prophet, like follower. Anyway that is a different story.
Chaining incidents are comparatively rare in Bangladeshi Madrasahs than other backward Islamic nations. One major incident took place in Chittagong, a busy seaport-city of Bangladesh. More than 20 students were chained and subjected to inhuman torture. All of them were under the age of 14 years; some were as young as 11. One such child was forced to carry a section of a steel railroad tie for at least one-month continuation.
Child torture incidents in Madrasahs are reported mostly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan. The first two countries are safe haven for Islamic radicals, on top of their low economy. Bangladesh is in a much better position than those countries. There are many Muslim nations where very little state-fund education is available and the Saudi-funded Islamic schools are only means of education available. With the curriculum dominated by the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, often these Madrasahs – particularly in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, have produced exactly the same type of Jihadis (Atwan, 2006)
In most of the Madrasahs of Pakistan, the only subject taught is Koran, and that also in Arabic, which is a foreign language and unknown to the students. By end of 2005, there are about thirty-nine thousands registered Madrasahs in Pakistan, whereas during 1978, this number was three thousands only (O’Rourke, 2005). The number of students are estimated somewhere between eight hundred thousands to one million (Dalrymple, 2005). They are often run by religious organizations and lure young children mainly from poor families by providing free food and lodging. Some of the schools even provide intensive political and armed training. Recent estimates suggest that between 10 and 15 percent of Pakistan’s 46,700 Madrasahs (includes both registered and unregistered) promote violence openly (Davis, 2002). In Taliban schools of Afghanistan, often the first word children learn to spell is “jihad”, which means “God’s path to paradise”. There are at least six specialized Madrasahs in Pakistan which regularly supplies suicide bombers to the Taliban. (Al Qaeda Training Manual, 2001). During their heydays, Talibans had banned watching television, going to school, and learning modern sciences. Even learning of history, geography, and mathematics were totally banned and the only activities were the recitation and the memorization of the Koran. Learning English was a huge crime (Sohail, 2007). Many Taliban controlled Madrasahs are sponsored from the outset of Pakistani ISI (Atwan, 2006). In Pakistan and Afghanistan, still there are some orthodox Madrassh teachers, who teaches that earth is flat and stationary and sun rotates around the earth.
In addition to promotion of violence against non-Muslims, often there are Madrasahs which promote sectarian violence (e.g, between Shia – Sunni etc). Several anti-Shia militias such as the Sipah-i Sahaba (army of Prophet’s companion) and Lashkar–i Jhangvi (Jhangvi’s army) hailed from extremist Deobandi Madrasahs and maintain close ties with other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, Kashmir and elsewhere (Nasr, 2006). The results, we are seeing everyday in Iraq, where not a single day passes without sectarian violence and killing.
During 1994, human rights commission of Pakistan investigated the child abuse incidents and results of the investigation shows that in many Madrasahs, the children are often locked in iron chains to a heavy wooden block in group of four or five. When one of them needs to go to toilet, rest all needs to follow him. Several children were found to have been continuously chained for up to one year. This prevents them from escaping from the school to avoid the burden of memorizing the Koran in Arabic.
During March 1996, police raided a Madrasah near Multan and rescued 64 such victims (Anon, 2004). They were held in strong ropes and chains. The religious head teacher of the Madrasah said that the students had fallen into bad habits of watching satellite television. In orthodox Islamic society watching television is a big religious taboo. The head teacher also said that, sometimes even the parents of the children instructed the teachers to chain their children. These incidents not only leave scars in their hands and feet but also in their soft minds.
In another incident in Pakistan, during September 1997, a 14 year old student, Muhammad Azam Dogar, somehow managed to escape from the Madrasah torture chamber with iron fetters still in his legs. It was not easy for him to remove the heavy iron fetters. In a desperate effort to remove them, he decided to put them on a rail track. Though he was successful to escape from the Islamic religious jail, he lost his life and was crushed to death under the on-coming train (Children in the Community and family, 2005).
Pakistani government is aware of this kind of heinous crimes against children. But there is hardly any effort on their part to stop this barbarism in the name of education. There are laws, which prohibit violence against children in the society. But when such crimes are committed in the name of religion the law remains within the book only. The political parties do not want to spoil their relationship with religious organizations that run such schools. Sometimes the influential religious parties even threaten retaliation if there is official probing and if they are closely controlled. The political force of this Madrasah system cannot be underestimated. Hence there are many cases of beating, chaining and other types of torture, which remain unknown to the outside civilized world. Even when the abuses become widely known, the authorities still appear unwilling to take significant action to protect the innocent children. The situation is that worse.
The children in Sudan are in even worse situation. There, the students are forced to drink the water, which is left from washing the dirty chalkboards (Anon, 2005) where Koranic verses are written. Students are convinced that, the holy wash-water will help them to memorize Koran! A great way of memorizing Koran, indeed! Can anybody imagine, all these things are happening in this 21st century?
The deep-rooted superstitious minds of Islamic teachers will take another thousand years to change. The only requirement of a student for the purpose of passing out from the school successfully is to be able to memorize the entire Koran. Many students take as long as nine years, whereas many others cannot complete the course and never pass out even after chaining and drinking wash-water.
Child abuse cases in pure Islamic schools are nothing new. It is traditional, but hardly few of these incidents come into limelight. Madrasah is a place for brainwashing young minds just to destroy all the future possibilities of the child to do something creative, and to make him a Koranic zombie. All the humanities are nipped in the bud. Countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and some Muslim majority parts of India, these schools are just mushrooming. They target children of poor Muslim families. Sometimes the families of the children are paid handsomely for sending their children to these schools.
Then, there are several cases of sexual abuse against children in Madrasah. Many of these teachers are hardcore paedophiles and homosexuals. Their only purpose of opening a Madrasah is not spreading Islamic education but to lure children from poor families for sexual pleasure, by providing them free food and lodging. There are reported incidents, where students are forced to engage on oral and anal sex regularly with their teachers. Though many helpless students succumb to such meanness, but occasionally, when a student is dare enough to reject giving such an inhuman pleasure, the consequences are severe.
One horrible incident was reported on 11th December, 2004 in The Daily Times of Lahore. A 14-year-old Madrasah student, Abid Tanoli, had acid thrown on his face by his Madrasah teacher. This poor fellow had lost both his eyes with more than 50 % burn on his face. Left side of his face was horribly disfigured. This incident took place on 1st July 2002 in Karachi (Petit, 2004). His fault was that he rejected sexual demand from his Madrasah teacher. The Daily Times also reported that, during the year 2004, there are total 500 complaints of child sex abuse in Pakistani Madrasahs, but there was hardly any successful prosecution (Khawaja, 2004). Presently, the teacher (who cannot be named for legal reasons), and two of his accomplice are in prison awaiting trial for attempted murder and rape. All three denied the charges. The fourth culprit is still absconding. These incidents are increasing in number every year.
Haroon Tanoli, the father of Abid, was threatened with harsh consequences when he tried to take up his son’s case with officials at the school. The school authority initially tried to hush up the matter by offering him a cash payment of one million Pakistani rupees (£11,300), but Haroon refused to back down and took up the matter with police (Ansari, 2004).
Haroon said to the journalist, “I despise hypocrites who sport huge beards in the name of religion and hinder the passage of justice in the name of Islam … I had a beard, and all my four sons were studying in a madrasa. However, following this incident, the first thing I did was to pull my children out of the madrasa – and shave off my beard” (Ansari, 2004).
Even when Abid was receiving medical treatment, the religious authorities pressed the hospital authority to discharge him. Haroon managed to get him admitted to a different hospital for safety reasons. The family is too poor and cannot afford an operation to save his sight. The poor boy lost his sight forever.
As per BBC report on 10th December 2004, Aamer Liaquat Hussian, a Minister in the nation’s religious affair department is facing death threats and denunciations from Islamic clerics for his insistence that Pakistani government must confront the sex abuse at its Madrasahs (Anderson, 2004). Hussain sticks by his point and reportedly to have said that he himself experienced attempted sexual abuse at a religious school when he was eight (Khawaja, 2004).
Zia Ahmed Awan, the president of ‘Madadgaar’, a joint project of LHRLA (Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid) and UNICEF, the United Nations children’s fund, said, “They [the sex scandal] are either hushed up and sorted out within the confines of school, or parents are pressurised not to report the incident to the media as it would give religion a bad name,” (Khawaja, 2004).
The Ulema, Imams and Maulanas and other religious teachers of Islam may not have advanced the cause of human knowledge by a single inch since the birth of Islam, but they should get some credit; they have done enough research, developed many ideas and have ‘doctorates’ in the fields of torture and human exploitation in the name of religion.
Now these types of nasty incidents are being reported in United Kingdom also. In UK, there are about 1000 such Islamic schools. As many as 40% of teachers in these UK schools hit or scold children, and between 15 and 20 cases of sexual abuse occur each year (Siddiqui, 2006; Anon, 2006). Because of the fear of child abuse, many UK parents prefer home tuition instead of sending their children to Madrasahs.
One enlightened ex-Muslim lady wrote in FFI,
“My experience of Madrasah was like any other glorifying Muhammad, chanting things we didn’t understand all day long and showing absolute disrespect to Christians and the other animists it was the thing to do”.( Rasheeda, 2004 )
Often the Madrasah pass out students are found to be less tolerant towards other religions, less logical power and blockheaded, blissfully ignorant of modern scientific developments, opposed to the social rights of women and violent repression, prone to child abuse, hateful towards non-Muslims, absolute theocracy, superstitious, prefer aggressive way for resolving disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims and supporting jihad in conjunction with terrorist groups. Their proper thinking power is skilfully paralysed during the course of their studies.
After so much torture, chaining, beating and wash-water drinking; the market value of these students is utter disgusting in today’s tough professional competition. With a total lack of modern education and knowledge of latest technology, these Madrasah students are not at all useful to any modern day employer. They remain fit for manual labourers’ class jobs like sweepers and garbage removers, where no education is necessary. Sometimes they are employed in the religious sector as prayer leaders and so-called Islamic scholars or Madrasah teachers. In fact I am not exaggerating if I say that they are even unfit for conducting sophisticated terrorist operations – their uselessness is so perfect. The only jobs they are fit for in a terrorist organization is a suicide mission, killing and torturing non-Muslims and blindly follow the instructions of their leaders.
The irony of the situation is that many students outside Arab even do not know what is written in Koran. They just recite the Koran in Arabic, but they do not understand the contents. They don’t even know what they have studied even after pursuing for several years. Is not it bizarre?
So, all the effort to pass out from schools remains useless for all practical purposes in today’s world. They cannot blend into an advanced western nation. They are total failure in sophisticated operations, where even basic minimum technical expertise is required. Some of them even lack basic mathematical skills (Fair & Haqqani, 2005). They are blissfully ignorant of the various developments and wallowed in a state of nostalgia about the glorious feudal past of militant Islam. History, if taught at all, would be Islamic history and not modern history or world history. Some students may acquire good proficiency in Urdu and Arabic languages at the best, but without other knowledge they find themselves quite ill-equipped to transact business in present day society (Shourie, 2004).
What stuns the educated people is that they do not blame themselves or their educational-background for their misery; they just put the blame on western world. “Afghans suffer poverty because of America’s disproportionate wealth” – this is what Madrasah teachers say in Afghanistan.
This is the bottom line of Madrasah education. The basic essentials of a successful education system are never fulfilled. Education involves transference of knowledge and values accumulated by mankind from one person to another. Humanity is inseparable from education. The best process of education encourages the students to ask questions, which propel them on the path of further learning. Without this, education becomes a burden. Scientific enquiry also enriches mankind with knowledge. Education improves the reasoning power of a person. Neither memorization of a book nor physical punishment helps the students. Students can learn not only through reading, but also by experience, by watching others and also by observing the world in general. Unfortunately, Madrasah education lacks all of the above. Education is an important area to advance the civilization further. If it is left in the hands of some semi-literates, sadists, paedophiles and homosexuals, this is bound to happen.
Books, Thesis, Journal and Newspaper
1. Lindsey A. O’Rourke, (2005) – A Sociobiological View of Palestinian Suicide Bombers, (Undergraduate Philosophy Thesis) The Ohio State University; submitted on 7th March, 2005.
2. Atwan A. B (2006), The Secret History of Al-Qa’ida, pp 74, 152. Second edition. Clays Ltd, GB.
3. Nasr V. (2006), The Shia Revival – How conflicts within Islam will shape the future, Chapter – 5, pp 165. First Edition, Norton, London.
4. Davis C (2002) – “A” Is for Allah, “J” Is for Jihad; World Policy Journal, Spring 2002 issue.
5. Shourie, Arun (2004), India under threat, Part-III, The ticking bomb inside mosque and Madrasa , The Indian Express (daily newspaper) of dated 17th December, 2004.
1. Al Qaeda Training Manual (2001), U.S. Department of Justice, online release 7th December 2001; URL: Link
2. Anderson Paul (2004), Madrasas hit by sex abuse claims, BBC News, Islamabad, 2004. URL: Link
3. Anonymous (2006) – Breaking the Chains of Islam, Children in Chains... URL: Link
4. Anonymous (2006), Muslim group calls for madrasa regulation. URL: Link
5. Ansari Massoud (2004), Acid attack on boy who refused sex with Muslim cleric, Karachi. URL: Link
6. Children in the Community and family (2005), Amnesty International (AI) Publications, London. URL: Link
7. Dalrymple William (2005); Inside Islam’s “terror Schools”?, Times of Pakistan.URL: Link
8. Fair C.C & Haqqani H (2005); Think Again: Islamist Terrorism “Madrasas Are Terrorist Factories” pp-2 , URL: Link
9. Khawaja Irfan (2004) – Sex and the Madrasa, URL: Link
10. Paz (2006), Khomeini’s Teachings on sex with infants and animals. URL: Link
11. Petit Juan Migual (2004) – Rights of the child. URL: Link
12. Rasheeda (2004) – Why I Became an Apostate. Published at FFI in Leaving Islam section on 07/01/2004, URL: Link
13. Siddiqui Ghayasuddin (2006), Child Breaking the Taboo of Child Abuse, Protection in Faith-Based Environments, A Guideline Report, sponsored by The Muslim Institute Trust, Bait al-Mal al-Islami, March 2006. URL: http://www.muslimparliament.org.uk/Documentation/ChildProtectionReport.pdf
14. Sohail (2007), Reminiscing the Nights and Days of Talibans—the True Islam in An Afaghan’s eye-witness account of Taliban, Part – 1(an e-mail exchange with Abul Kasem, published at FFI on 25th June / 2007). URL: Link