The web of schools promoting the ideaology of Osama Bin Laden in Islamabad. Mobeen Azhar investigates.
All over Pakistan a web of Imam schools are appearing to create Imams that propagate a purist understanding of Islam. Students dedicate eight years of their lives to the seminary after memorising the entire Koran. In return, they achieve ‘Imam’ status. Once they graduate, they are accredited to deliver fatwas and offer theological guidance on everything from contraception to mortgages.
Many Pakistanis believe these new-world Imam schools are responsible for a march towards a puritanical, fundamentalist Pakistan. In these schools, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yusafzai is a ‘whore of the secular west’ and Osama Bin Laden is ‘the leader of the true Muslims’. The man behind the schools is a hugely controversial and divisive figure.
Mobeen Azhar has been given access inside the controversial Jamia Hafsa madrassa in Islamabad to ask why so many parents are sending their children to these schools and what their children are taught. And, he hears the fears that the teaching the girls receive is simply fuelling a dangerous, fundamental Islamic fervour in the country. Mobeen joins lessons which are a heavy mix of housekeeping, theology, politics and Quranic recitation, and where students are taught that martyrdom should be aspired to and that the Pakistani government should be overthrown.
(Photo: A young boy studies the Koran in a classroom. Credit: Richard McIlroy)