This report from The Institute for War & Peace Reporting notes that Pakistani madrassas, or religious schools, remain a primary recruiting and training tool for a variety of terrorist groups. The report focuses on madrassas in Pakistan’s northwest that are used to train Afghan children. An excerpt:
One 17-year-old in Laghman province, home on vacation from a madrassa in Peshawar, described the school’s curriculum.
“We were always being told that the Jews and Christians had attacked Muslim countries. They destroy the dignity and faith of Muslims. We were shown footage of the Americans searching people’s homes and killing them… or killing civilians in bombardments,” he said. “They showed us Israeli massacres in Palestine. Young people, even children, were therefore prepared to wage jihad against the United States.” The 17-year-old’s parents said he would not be returning to Peshawar.
A representative of the Taliban in Kapisa province, who spoke on condition that his name not be used, justified the course of instruction at madrassas in Pakistan.
“Those who say these people are being deceived are puppets of the United States. During their studies in Pakistani madrassas, people learn the path of virtue and jihad,” he said. “They come to understand the reality that human beings are guests in this world for just a few days, and that they must do something for their religion and the next life. They learn the Islamic precepts in which jihad has high status, and thus they arrive at practical action they fight for the interests of Islam, they satisfy their God, and they bring illumination to the next life.”
Keep in mind that this problem is not new to Pakistan, nor is it limited to remote areas of Pakistan’s northwest. A US diplomatic cable that was released by WikiLeaks this spring notes that Pakistan was well aware of the problems with radical madrassas in Punjab province, but failed to move against them. The cable is dated Oct. 13, 2008. From The Long War Journal report:
The cable paints a disturbing picture of radical Islamic groups running rampant in the Pakistani province of Punjab, and a government unwilling or unable to stop the spread of terrorist groups that have been sowing havoc in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and beyond.
The cable was sparked by the US State Department’s “Principal Officer’s discussions with religious, political, and civil society leaders” during a visit to the southern Punjabi cities of Multan and Bahawalpur. Pakistani government officials and religious leaders described “a strengthening network of Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith mosques and madrassas, which they claimed had grown exponentially since late 2005.”
The network of radical mosques and madrassas was being funded by religious and nonprofit entities based in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who are thought to be backed by those governments.
Officials estimated that about $100 million a year “was making its way to Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith clerics in the region from ‘missionary’ and ‘Islamic charitable’ organizations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ostensibly with the direct support of those governments,” the cable states.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.