Seminaries oppose govt move to ban foreign students

Updated February 15, 2015

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A student at the seminary near Gunj Gate of Peshawar. — AFP/File
A student at the seminary near Gunj Gate of Peshawar. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The expected move by the government to streamline and restrict the admission of foreign students to religious seminaries has not gone well with the board of religious seminaries belonging to the Deobandi sect.

While Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia has expressed concerns over the proposal to ban the admissions of foreign students in seminaries, the madressah boards belonging to the Barelvi and Shia sects demanded the government carry out strict regulations in this regard.

In a statement, Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia, the religious board for seminaries of the Deobandis, stated that the government move to ‘shut the doors of religious education on foreign students’ was a conspiracy to sabotage the upcoming negotiations between the government and the seminary boards.

The ministry of religious affairs is set to meet a delegation of five madressah boards on February 18.

The four boards related to seminaries belong to the Barelvis, Deobandis, Shias, Ahle Hadis while the fifth board represents the seminaries managed by Jamaat–i-Islami.

The largest network of seminaries in the country belongs to Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia which blamed the government for taking the step at the behest of foreigners.

A statement by the secretary general Wafaqul Madaris, Qari Hanif Jalandhri, said imposing restrictions on foreign students to study in madressahs would widen the trust deficit with the government.

“If there is a complete ban on foreign students in seminaries despite valid documents, it will only add to the image problem of Pakistan,” said Qari Jalandhri.

However, an official of Tanzeemul Madaris Ahle Sunnat Pakistan, the board of seminaries owned by the Barelvis, said they might extend an open support to such a move.

“We have to take a policy decision but the general consensus is that the rules for foreign students in seminaries should be the same as applicable in the formal educational institutions,” the official added.

Similarly, an office-bearer of Wafaqul Madaris al Shia also supported the government proposal to streamline the madressah education sector.

“There has to be a rule of law and implementation of regulations in the religious sector too,” said Maulana Afzal Haideri, the general secretary.

Published in Dawn February 15th , 2015

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