Teachers are tasked with training tomorrow's leaders. In this country, that means equipping the next generation of Americans to succeed in fields such as law, medicine, business, teaching, and art. In the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere in the Muslim world, it can mean developing in unknowing children a hatred for free societies, a desire to murder innocent people, and an ability to lead terrorist organizations. This perversion of education—which takes place in religious schools known as madrassas—makes the classroom ground zero in the war against Islamic radicalism.
While radical madrassas operate in many corners of the globe, this column will focus specifically on madrassas in Pakistan, as that country’s educational challenges are representative of those facing countless other nations.
Estimates about the number of madrassas in Pakistan vary, but we can safely assume that at least 20,000 and perhaps as many as 45,000 currently operate in the country. No matter the actual number, the rate of growth in the number of Pakistani madrassas is astounding; as late as 1995 the country had just 4,000, according to the International Crisis Group.
Americans should know three things about the madrassas in Pakistan—they are free, effective, and many espouse radical Islamic ideology. Poverty prevents many Pakistanis from purchasing materials—books, for example—needed to attend public schools. The allure of a free education therefore is potent. Enter Saudi Arabia, which assumes much of the costs of operating madrassas in Pakistan and other countries in the Muslim world. Since Pakistan spends only 2.2 percent of its gross domestic product on education, the influx of Saudi Arabian resources is a welcome development; many Pakistani children would not otherwise receive an education. The problem is that the majority of madrassas do not provide instruction in math, science, or computers; instead, they focus exclusively on Islamic scripture and history. In turn, poor students fail to develop the skills necessary to compete in the global, knowledge-based economy, which ultimately fixes them in a state of poverty, which makes them even more reliant upon the one thing they do know and understand—radical Islam.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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