ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) in its new report has suggested that poetry be introduced in madressahs to decrease extremism.
The think tank launched two studies on Tuesday, with the first titled ‘Role of Post Noon Engagements of Madressah Students in Radical Orientation’ and the second ‘Reconstruction of the National Narratives and Counter - Violent Extremism Model in Pakistan’.
The first study, which was conducted at three seminaries in Peshawar and two in Islamabad, assessed the day-to-day activities of students after their study hours, according to PIPS Director Mohammad Amir Rana.
The research found several differences and similarities between madressah and university students.
“There are several issues relating to madressahs, the more important of which is that there is no authentic research or database regarding religious students in the country,” he said.
The report says that even if the direct involvement of madressahs is disputed, what is not disputed is the sectarian line of thought they adopt.
The lead researcher of the report, Dr Qibla Ayaz, who is the former vice chancellor of the Peshawar University, said that seminary students also use social media including Facebook like other students and also read newspapers and magazines.
“The only check on part of the [government] for determining the extent of extremism in madressahs is usually checking their syllabus and curriculum but learning through social interactions after the classes are never monitored,” Dr Ayaz said.
He said there is now a trend in seminaries of getting students to hifz, or learn by heart, the Quran, chapters on hadith while they do not focus on fiqh or jurisprudence, philosophy and logic.
“This is mainly because the idea is not to produce learned ulema, but to breed a lot that will either become teachers in some Quran teaching institute or clerics,” he added.
Dr Ayaz also talked about other tendencies in the society that was also encouraging extremism among seminary students.
“We as a society prefer conspiracy theories and discuss West-phobias for hours. The same tendency can be seen in madressah students and like the general public, they also get inspired by anti-west [theories],” he said.
The study also suggests that madressahs be encouraged to update their curriculum, like those in Egypt, Indian state of Bengal and Turkey have.
It showed that seminary students have a high degree of respect for their teachers and that though this trait is praiseworthy, it can lead to the demise of independent thinking.
PIPS has recommended that madressah managements adopt a flexible attitude towards changes in the curriculum and enhance interactions with society.
The other study reported on reconstructing national narratives along with tabling a ‘Counter-Violent Extremism Model’ (CVE) in the country.
It said extremism is an intellectual change which is caused by flaws in the education change and problems related to the state, constitution and politics.
The report says that providing justice is the basic responsibility of the judicial system and that there is a need for reform in the lower courts and the justice system in general.
The study suggests that the authority for issuing fatwas be handed over to a credible institution which represents all Islamic schools of thought.
Religious scholars will have to take up the responsibility of responding to militants’ use of some of the concepts and legal rulings for justifying their use of violence, including the concept of takfeer, it says.
PIPS has suggested that gender equality and effective implementation of the National Action Plan needs to be ensured to discourage extremism.
“Any discussion on the CVE model will be useless if NAP is not included,” Mr Rana said.
Analyst Khursheed Nadeem said Pakistan was established as a secular state and that the country’s national security narrative had been turned to a religious orientation, especially in light of the 1948 Kashmir war and the Afghan jihad during the 1980s and onwards.
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2016