Thursday, December 2

Desecrating the Madaris?

AAMER WAQAS CH says that the Ordinance for the Deeni Madaris is likely to cause unrest among the religious seminaries if consensus is not developed between the government and the Ulema

The Ordinance for Registration of Deeni Madaris has been published, but since it has not yet been notified in the gazette, its enforcement has not taken place. In the meantime, virtually all major sponsors of religious schools have opposed the Ordinance. There seems to be an anomaly in the text as the Ordinance says: "Voluntary Registration of Deeni Madaris - All Deeni Madaris by whatsoever name called may voluntarily seek registration under this Ordinance...." But press statements of the federal ministers are quite clear in declaring that the Madaris which do not get registered, will be closed down. If that is the case, the word 'voluntary' may be misleading. In other words, the provision of the registration is going to be mandatory.
To bring the Deeni Madaris to accept registration the government may be in difficulty because it is facing opposition from the religious parties on the political front also. The religious organisations and management of the Madaris, belonging to five different schools of thought, have already said that they would resist the implementation of the Ordinance as according to them it is a measure adopted by the government to mould the functioning of the Madaris as per its wishes. The sponsors of the Madaris object to the Ordinance on the ground that no consultation was done with them despite a promise by the religious ministry to do so before drafting this law. The religious parties have, therefore, announced country-wide protests against the promulgation of Ordinance for the registration of the religious schools.
Qazi Hussain Ahmad is of the view that the government has imposed the Ordinance under the pressure of the West. "Islam is a religion of peace, but at the same time, it teaches Jehad and requires Muslims to get military training," he said. He is of the view that there is no harm in imparting military training to our youth, which was being done in our country till few years back under the title of NCC and Women Guard. "Military training was a compulsory subject in Russia and many other Western countries. Now, the West is afraid of Muslims and for this reason, they had pressurised the government to take strict measures against religious forces," Qazi Sahib said. The leaders of Ittehad Tanzeemat Madaris Dinya Pakistan has also criticised the government. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maulana Samiul Haq, Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, Maulana Salimullah Khan, Mufti Nizamud Din, Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi, Prof Sajid Mir, Abdur Rehman Madni, Maulana Gohar Rehman, Maulana Abdul Malik, Allama Abbas Ali Naqvi, Maulana Abdul Rauf Malik, Maulana Saif-ud-Din Saif and many leaders of the Ittehad have denounced the Ordinance and demanded the government to immediately withdraw it otherwise a joint movement would be launched against the government. The religious circles are of the view that the institution of a Maulvi in our society is a basic one. 'He is as a ray of light in the darkness of ignorance.' He imparts teaching to children in far flung areas where no body wants to go. He is performing this job in very adverse conditions. He does not get a penny from the government's account, which never thought of building classrooms, standard schools and residence for him. Then why the government is expecting so much from him! The religious circles are of the considered opinion that this institution is helping the poor to educate their children. If these Madaris are closed, who will take the responsibility to teach these thousands of children?
The Madaris are playing a key role to educate a large part of the population, while the government has banned grants for these institutes. The Ulema are of the view that the government should take a decision about the Madaris after meaningful consultations with them. They think that that the government can not ban any Madrassah without producing any concrete evidence of wrong-doing while the government has failed in providing proof of the involvement of any Madrassah in terrorist activity. Some politicians, rulers and orthodox religious leaders had been promoting sectarianism while there was no participation of the religious schools in that, they say. When the government cannot stop the unregistered doctors and quacks from practising their trade, so it is impossible to ban the functioning of the unregistered Madaris. They says that it is worrisome that the government is facilitating Christian missionary schools, but banning Islamic schools (Madaris). The Ulema are of the opinion that America and Europe are the victims of terrorist attacks from their own 'cultured' and 'civilised' citizens, and these terrorists are not the students of any Madrassah. The West is promoting terrorism even through movies, but it is ironical that they are blaming Muslims and their Madaris for promoting terrorism. They say that the government is spending more than Rs 100 billion on education, but there is nothing for Madaris except a meagre amount from the Zakat fund. These institutes do not only provide books and tuition, but free boarding. The strength of the Deeni Madaris students is around one million in about 35-40 thousand Madaris. As the government is not giving them anything, then why are they asking these for registration? However, the government's case has its own rationale for introducing this Ordinance.
The Federal Minister for religious affairs Dr. Mehmood Ahmad Ghazi affirmed that the government has prepared a comprehensive package to modernise the Madaris. The Cabinet has okayed the Ordinance for disbanding the unregistered Madaris by taking strict measures including no government funds for unregistered Madaris and ban on foreign donations. However, the Minister has given an assurance that the government would not intervene in the current syllabi of the seminaries. Some other objectives of the government are: That the government never wanted to put curbs and impose a ban on foreign grants being received by the Madaris, but there must be a clearance and assurance that it would be spent only for the purpose for which it is meant. That the government wants to introduce a uniform education system without discrimination between the two parallel system of Urdu and English mediums. That the government wants to provide technical education to these students. So a change in the Syllabus would help them to seek knowledge about different modern subjects. The students will thus be able to work and get jobs in diverse fields. That the teaching staff is sufficiently qualified and adequately paid, so that they can produce a good citizen instead of an extremist, who has only stereo-type ideas. There is no room for institutions which promote sectarianism, terrorism or exploit religious sentiments. That the government has, therefore, blacklisted 115 Madaris involved in such activities. That the establishment of model Deeni Madaris will achieve the real objective of such institutions, which provide religious as well as modern education up to secondary school level. That modern subjects like English, Mathematics and Science will be included in the curriculum, so that these students can get admission in colleges and universities.
As against the stance adopted by the Madaris, the government says that the registration of Madaris is not a new phenomenon. Though the Ordinance has not been notified in the gazette yet, the government had put together into one law the earlier practice of getting the Madaris and mosques registered under the five different laws enforced since the creation of Pakistan. The government will ask the management of the Madaris for registration and affiliation with the board of Madaris so that the new curriculum suggested by the government is introduced. These Madaris will continue to run with donations by the masses, voluntary welfare agencies and philanthropists. Under the Ordinance, the Madaris will not be entitled to public and private funding unless it is registered with the government. Flow of funds to these Madaris from foreign countries will be strictly monitored by the government. Dr. Ghazi said that the government wants to bring the Maulvi in the modern set-up to enable him to teach, do any job instead of only staying in the Mosque and produce more Maulvis hauling the same orthodox ideas. The Interior Minister, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Moinuddin Haider has his peculiar way of looking at this phenomenon. He believes that the Deeni Madaris are only producing 'robots'. The Federal Minister for Religious Affair, while asserting that Jehad can only be waged under the edict of the government, has said that the managers (Nazims) of the Madaris involved in sectarian violence would be punished for two years.
The point to be noted is that if a religious school or Deeni Madaris does not follow the prescriptions from the government, it may not be guilty of an offence. After all everyone has a democratic right to impart any type of education provided it does not infringe any law of the land. Therefore, there seems to a legal case in their favour. The question then is: why this law? It is being alleged that this was done under pressure from the West. The West believes that terrorism had sprang from these schools. The government, while rejecting this assumption, has stated that Pakistan itself was a victim of sectarian terrorism and suitable laws to curb it had not been passed by the previous governments. Sectarian terrorism was a major concern. The root cause of that, says the government, is type of religious education imparted in some of these schools. In the final analysis, the Ordinance as and when it is enforced, is likely to cause unrest among the religious seminaries, and may itself cause law and order problem for the government. The government's insistence, therefore, that sectarian hatred cannot be instigated under the garb of religious education, is valid. The point is that the confrontation between the sponsors of religious schools and the government by winning over the opponents would be better. Restraint should be used while dealing with those who do not see eye to eye with the government.

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