Re-Educating the Madrasas

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Free school, free shelter and food. In a developing nation with a pitiful system of public education, who would turn down such an offer? Over the past couple of decades, the poor boys of Pakistan have thronged to the religious schools. Originally, madrasas, like seminaries and yeshivas, were meant to train religious leaders. But in Pakistan, many madrasas evolved into anti-Soviet, then anti-American training grounds for holy warriors: first the mujahadeen, later the Taliban. Pakistan’s General Musharaff, under pressure from America and India, now says it’s time to re-write the rules for the schools, to drop arms training and extremism. But redefining an Islamic education means fighting religious elements in the military, and on the street.


Vali Nasr, associate professor of political science, University of San Diego

Najeeb Jan, doctoral candidate in history, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Kathy Gannon, Associated Press bureau chief in Pakistan, based in Islamabad

and Shamshad Ahman, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations