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Seminaries boom in absence of govt checks

Published Apr 29, 2016 07:15am

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ISLAMABAD: While the government’s plan to streamline the registration and monitoring of religious seminaries appears to be a pipe dream, the number of madressahs in the country, as well as the number of students enrolled in them, has been on the rise.

Even though seminary boards offer different reasons for the growing number of students and institutions in the country, the administrators of all five mainstream seminary boards believe that a lack of a clear policy was augmenting negative growth as well.

“The government is not doing anything, but it wants the five boards and the seminaries registered with us to be as perfect as a polished shoe,” said Sahibzada Abdul Mustafa Hazarvi, nazim-i-ala of the Tanzeemul Madaris Ahle Sunnat, the board for seminaries affiliated with the Barelvi school of thought.

“It was only due to misconduct that Wifaqul Madaris al-Arabia de-listed Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad in 2007, in wake of anti-state political activities. But what have the authorities done? The seminary still continues to hold classes, is increasing its branches, enhancing the number of students and even criticises the board for not registering it — this is the writ of government in Islamabad,” Sahibzada Abdul Mustafa exclaimed.

He said that there were around 9,000 madressahs affiliated with the Barelvi school of thought, imparting religious education to more than 1.3 million students. He said that there has been an increase of 10pc in the number of seminaries and students as compared to the previous year.

“To my understanding, the main reason for the proliferation of seminaries and seminary students is due to the growing population and a rise in poverty, since people cannot afford to send their children to schools,” said Mufti Muneebur Rehman, head of the Ittehadul Tanzeemat-i-Madaris-i-Deenia, an umbrella body of the five mainstream madressah boards in the country.

Four of the boards belong to the Barelvi, Deobandi, Shia and Ahle Hadith schools of thought, while the fifth, Rabtatul Madarisul Islamia, administers institutions affiliated with the Jamaat-i-Islami.

“There are around one million students in over 1,000 seminaries and that is because they are large institutions,” said Maulana Abdul Maalik, nazim-i-ala of Rabtatul Madaris, adding, “the number of students is on the rise because Western propaganda has prompted citizens to learn more about Islam.”

He said that the mass public participation in Mumtaz Qadri’s funeral was a clear indication that the people are against the policies of the present government.

“They might take up any issue against the seminaries to divert attention, because the government is weak and vulnerable and the Panama leaks have exposed them,” Maulana Abdul Maalik added.

Among the five mainstream boards, the largest network of seminaries belongs to the Deobandi school of thought, which are registered with the Wifaqul Madaris al-Arabia.

“Around 18,600 madressahs are registered with us countrywide, and they are imparting religious education to more than 2,000,000 students, both boys and girls” said Abdul Qudus Mohammadi, spokesman for the Wifaqul Madaris al-Arabia.

The board for madressahs belonging to the Ahle Hadith school of thought is the Wifaqul Madaris al-Salfia, which has 1,400 registered institutions with around 40,000 students.

Mohammad Yasin Zafar, the nazim of Wafaqul Madaris al-Salfia, said that the number of students was increasing as many Ahle Hadith communities, including those in Karachi, had established seminaries imparting both religious and contemporary education.

There are around 460 seminaries affiliated with the Wifaqul Madaris Al-Shia, with a strength of around 18,000, mostly boys.

However, the spokesperson for the Wifaqul Madaris al-Shia said that only a nominal increase had been witnessed in the number of students or seminaries and attributed it to an increase in the population.

“While we represent the wifaq, we still believe that the number of madressah students should be proportionate to the demand for them,” said Nusrat Ali, spokesperson for the board. “An oversupply of clerics will lead to a disturbance of the system and reduce their respect in society.”

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2016

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Comments (18) Closed



Rajesh Apr 29, 2016 08:39am

Breeding grounds for all kinds of extremism and regressive thinking.... Sad this is happening to a neighbour...

Mahmood Apr 29, 2016 10:49am

This is what you get when the country spends more on Arms and JF-17, F-16s than on education.

For each trip to London for Medical Checkup , you have to ask, how many schools could be built so poor families don't have to resort to Madarssas. And when the come out of these seminaries as radicalized, but no practical skills to feed themselves, they become easy recruits for extremists groups. And then we complain and condemn them!?

What a sorry state of affairs. We all know the problem. We also have means to solve the problem. But those who can influence government policies have their own vested interests to serve. Thus loosing yet another generation to radicalization! And the vicious cycle will continue.

Skeptic Apr 29, 2016 11:04am

While one cannot generalize, but I fear a new batch of extremist young men could emerge from these seminaries in a few years and then the country would wonder: 'why didn't we invest more in education and provided normal schooling for this kids?

Secular Pathan Apr 29, 2016 11:09am

Total Destruction Coming.. Please do something

Hassan Apr 29, 2016 11:12am

Government failure to make education a priority. Education until 10th grade should be free and available to all children. Now they getting funneled into these extremist Madressahs, brainwashing them. Our Government fails us once again.

Muzzamil Apr 29, 2016 11:47am

In Europe, it is very rare that a new church is built. Most of the chuch goers are old people. In Pakistan, most of the madrassas goers are kids and young generation. There should be a check and balance what these madrassas are teaching to the students. I think there should be a surprise check to each madrassas to identify those that are radicalising kids. Please spend more on education. We can live without Kashmir but not education.

M. Malik Apr 29, 2016 11:52am

Within a mere decade this reliance of poor families on seminaries to educate their kids will come to haunt the entire nation.

In the meantime, Pakistan legislature, leadership and opposition are MIA, busy looting and plundering the country; living in England or Dubai to enjoy the wealth, or bickering among each other to notice.

Skeptic Apr 29, 2016 11:53am

Did someone ask how some young men become radicalized!?

Here's your answer. And now wonder why?

Factual Apr 29, 2016 12:51pm

If there are no decent schools, where do you think poor folks will send their children?

Arsalan Apr 29, 2016 01:04pm

Gov has no guts to stop funding of these fundamentalist from friendly countries. It's ironic that after all these disastrous social transformation the country is still sluggishly pushing along in isolation.

Azhar jamil Apr 29, 2016 01:28pm

We, no more need of clerics, what ever school of thought. But we need so many Aligarh movements. There is an extreme need of personalities, like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, Deputy Nazir Ahmed as well instead of present lot of Muftis.

Asif Apr 29, 2016 02:43pm

@Muzamil, Masjids use to be wealth of knowledge. But we have turned them into breading grounds for sectarisim and haterd. I believe that government needs to make these Majida and Madrasha into a proper religious education institutions where pupil should learn religious as well as worldly education. We have produced wonderful artists, intellectuals and architects in past, why can't we do it now? We need to get rid of these corrupt lot and see the difference.

justice Apr 29, 2016 03:10pm

Worst governance in the history of Pakistan.

Zak Apr 29, 2016 03:32pm

Not all are terrorist leaning, 90% do good service. But the government should bring it under government supervision and only approved tutors should be allowed to teach.

Omar Apr 29, 2016 03:35pm

Oh my!! Here's another powder keg waiting to go off.

Bitter truth Apr 29, 2016 06:44pm

Human should be liberal in his thought .

Mohammad Apr 30, 2016 12:18am

We have the lowest spending on education and these madrasahs are the alternative. As is evident the majority of students that will come out of these schools will be radicalized and with little normal education to become productive members of society. They will have the potential to be terrorist sympathizers,Nawaz Sharif is great at publicizing big ventures but has to be the most economically ignorant PM in Pakistan. General Musharraf clearly showed great foresight in economics and Pakistan greatly prospered under his rule albeit the war with the Taliban. Why don't leaders read these articles or do something about it.

Samir sheikh Apr 30, 2016 09:52am

Our priority should be clear. We either need to be a developed and a modern nation; or be a regressive country laced with fundamentalist institutions. Somehow I feel that we want to be both at the same time!!! By history, no country can develop its most resource and that is manpower without modern education. We are somehow out of touch with reality and living in a schizophrenic world. God bless us with ....