Of Churches and Madrassas

Madrassa (n): A building or group of buildings used for teaching Islamic theology and religious law, typically including a mosque.

We have all heard about rampant child abuse and cover-ups in Catholic Churches in the US, Ireland, Australia, Germany and many other countries. Recently there have been extensive reports in the media about a cover-ups of scandals from the 70s involving the Pope himself. Despite the apologies, one can be sure that there will be investigations and the buck has to stop somewhere.

The pattern of abuse is and has been well and alive in a more camouflaged manner in the seminaries of another monotheistic religion. Islamic Madrassas, considering their arrogant teachings to the young, should be the first stop for anyone wishing to investigate abuse under the banner of religion. It is rife and rampant and for the most part stays under any and all radars.

add to that a death upon all non-conformist believers

The fact that madrassas, especially ones established with Saudi funding during and after the Afghan Jihad, have had production lines of militant Islamists, sectarian murderers and hardliner jihadis for many decades; is well known. The rise of Islamic militancy in Central and South Asia has been synchronised with rise of Madrassas. While Madrassas had traditionally been very local in their influence, with the inception of Afghan Jihad, Madrassas started popping up all around the then Communist-ruled Afghanistan with the main concentration being around major Pakistan cities of Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Southern Punjab. Elsewhere grand Mosques and madrassas were constructed, funded by oil revenue, in newly independent Central Asian states as well as Western Chinese province of XinJiang.

I think that one of the tragedies of this story is that the Saudi Arabians exported their problem by financing the schools, the madrassas, all through the Islamic world. I saw this in Uzbekistan a few years after Uzbekistan got out of the Soviet Union, became an independent state in cities like Tashkent and Samarkand, where the Saudis were funding these schools teaching Koranic studies and creating a class of people for whom education was simply the Holy Book, the Koran. – Richard Holbrooke, then US Ambassador to the UN

The exploitation of young minds and emotions through past-expiry-date religious text, propagation of voilence and hate is in itself an unforgivable abuse of human dignity. Taliban leadership and the bulk of their cadre were a direct output of Pakistan based madrassas. Madrassas in Northern Pakistan have been labeled as Taliban universities for their unashamed and open vocal and material support for the Taliban-Islamic fascism during its life in power.Unlike ordinary graduates, graduates from these universities ended up fighting for to spread the past-expiry-date teachings of Mohammad and his companions in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechniya and other vulnerable spots as well against sects and groups they deemed as not-islamic-enough such as the Shiites, Ahmadis and others.

Others such as the infamous Red Mosque Madrassa in the Pakistani capital Islamabad sought to implement Shariah, first through kidnappings of people they deemed as unholy, then through armed protests and then a confrontation with the Pakistan state that ended up in hundreds of casualties. In addition to that the Pakistani Taliban leadership in Swat and Waziristan have all been madrassa students and instructors.

Madrassa students tend to come from poverty stricken families, many of whom give up their children so that they can worry about making even more of them without concerns for their upbringing. Once in the madrassa the issues extend beyond what has already been mentioned and sexual abuse, beating, torture and exploitation are the norm:

“In December, in another part of Karachi, Muhammad Askoroni’s mother noticed a bite on the 10-year-old boy’s neck. The child started crying and vomiting when asked what happened, said his mother, Dil Jauher. The boy’s claim: a cleric at his madrassa sodomized him after evening Quran classes, according to a complaint filed with police and the rights group Madadgaar.

Jauher claims a madrassa official and village elders offered her a bribe to keep the incident quiet. ‘But I want justice for my son,’ she told AP.”

Even when reported, these incidents attract little to no attention as they guys with beards and AK47 are usually deemed to be above the law.

“The files of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan include the affidavit of Atif Rehman, who was 11 when he was admitted to the Lahore Children’s Hospital in April 2004 with head injuries and extensive bruises. He told investigators he was routinely beaten with iron rods at a madrassa in the northern city of Faisalabad and was chained when he tried to escape.

‘The boy was bleeding from the mouth and nostrils,’ said his father, Muhammad Aashiq, according to the commission report.

A madrassa teacher, Qari Mahboob Aalam, denied the torture allegations, but admitted ‘it is a practice to chain students,’ the report said.”

The cases are not only limited to the madrassas in Pakistan:

“In Bangladesh, rights groups have increased calls for madrassa investigations after a teacher was arrested in March and charged with raping girl students, who are allowed to attend the schools that in many other countries are male-only.”

I was surprised to find that there are roughly 1600 madrassas operating in the UK alone and even in the country built on bills such as Megna Carta, madrassas have lived up to the expectations:

“Students have been slapped, punched and had their ears twisted, according to an unpublished report by an imam based on interviews with victims in the north of England. One was ‘picked up by one leg and spun around’ while another said a madrassa teacher was ‘kicking in my head – like a football’, says the report which was compiled by Irfan Chishti, a former government adviser on Islamic affairs.”

Such abuse and practices are rife in Madrassas all across the world as the fundamental principles being taught and practiced in these seminaries leave room for all sorts of exploitation, abuse, voilence and murder so long as it is done under the banner of the guy in the sky.

Dubai: A private Quran teacher, charged with raping an 11-year-old schoolboy over a seven-month period and showing him pornographic material on his phone, has been referred to court.”

and so, religious seminaries continue on wrecking the lives, thoughts and emotions of the young and the weakest in the society and from there on, the whole society. So long as the open discussion of these topics remain cultural taboos, Islamic centers will abuse anyone and everyone of their choosing. Unlike the international fury and criticism aimed at the Catholic Church for its part in Child abuse and subsequent cover up, few dare to talk about the menace that these madrassas symbolize.

  1. What a sad and horrific thing for people who claim to be so religious and godly to do to poor innocent children.

  1. April 26th, 2010

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