Don’t Blame Madrasas
THE SOURCE: “The Enduring Madrasa Myth” by C. Christine Fair, in Current History, April 2012.
Pakistan’s madrasas have gotten a bad rap, asserts Georgetown University political scientist C. Christine Fair. If you want to know how terrorists are groomed in Pakistan, she says, you need to look beyond the walls of these Islamic religious schools.
As Islamist terrorism became a bigger threat in the 2000s, U.S. analysts and politicians fingered Pakistani madrasas (which are attended by children and teenagers) as “nurseries of jihad,” Fair observes. The United States has since granted Pakistan $100 million in aid to improve public education and essentially “lure madrasa students back to public schools.” But claims that madrasas are “expanding dramatically” and “churning out jihadists by the thousands” are false, she writes. The misunderstanding can be traced to a 2002 International Crisis Group report that incorrectly stated that one-third of Pakistani students attended madrasas full-time. More credible research shows that the real number is between one and three percent. In addition, Fair’s research shows that madrasas’ share of the Pakistani student population has remained stable. There is no basis for the alarmist claims about the “burgeoning number of Pakistani madrasas and their supposed legions of aspiring terrorists,” she argues.
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