Madrassa: Breeding ground of Jihadists

By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
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By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

3/30/2009 9:27:00 AM -

When I for the first time forecasted that Madrassa was becoming breeding ground of Jihadists, many of my fellow journalists instantly raised their fingers at me saying, I was serving the purpose of 'foreign interest'. Policymakers in the government were even much aggressive in bringing sedition, treason and blasphemy charges against me. They tried to give justification to such actions saying, my criticizing the Madrassa and forecasting the rise of Islamist militancy within such institutions; I was hurting the sentiment of Muslims and was doing harm to Islam!

Ridiculous indeed!

In this article, I will discuss many of the unknown and untold facts on Madrassas in the world, along with some very exclusive investigative information on such religious schools.

Muslims consider Madrassas as the basic place of generating clergies as well as those who can be the custodians of Islam in the respective countries. But, many are still unaware that in the name of religious education, major segment of such Madrassas are active as breeding ground of Jihadists. Instead of real Islamic education, the students are taught of religious hatred. Their brains are filled with the poison of hate towards everyone who is not a Muslim. Moreover, the very old notion of 'killing Jews and Christians' and remaining a good Muslim is very strong planted in the minds of thousands of students of such institutions.

For past several years, I have done extensive investigation into the Madrassa education system and the Qaomi [Koranic] Madrassa in Bangladesh as well as studied extensively on such religious schools around the world and each of my inquisitive investigations finally ended in identifying growth of radical and militant Islam right within the 64,000 Qaomi Madrassas in Bangladesh, as well others within the Islamic and non Islamic world.

Although people are always putting focus on Madrassas involvement in breeding Jihadists, they are yet to investigate the inside stories in Madrassas, where male and female students are sexually abused by the clergies on a regular basis. Sodomy is a growing phenomenon in the Madrassas, and according to various reports, silent spread of HIV and Aids is gradually putting a huge blanket on the large number of students and teachers coming of such institutions.

Terrorism and rise of radical Islam is a global problem. Islamic terrorism [also known as Islamist terrorism or Jihadist terrorism] is religious terrorism by those whose motivations are rooted in their interpretations of Islam. Statistics gathered for 2006 by the National Counterterrorism Center of the United States indicated that "Islamic extremism" was responsible for approximately 25% of all terrorism fatalities worldwide, and a majority of the fatalities for which responsibility could be conclusively determined. Terrorist acts have included airline hijacking, beheading, kidnapping, assassination, roadside bombing, suicide bombing, and occasionally rape.

According to some experts, Perhaps the most resonant incident of Islamic terrorism was the 9/11 attack on the United States. Other prominent attacks have occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Israel, Britain, Spain, France, Russia and China. These terrorist groups often describe their actions as Islamic jihad [struggle]. Self-proclaimed sentences of punishment or death, issued publicly as threats, often come in the form of fatwas [Islamic legal judgments]. Both Muslims and non-Muslims have been among the targets and victims, but threats against Muslims are often issued as takfir [a declaration that a person, group or institution that describes itself as Muslim has in fact left Islam and thus is a traitor]. This is an implicit death threat as the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death under Sharia law.

The controversies surrounding the subject include whether the terrorist act is self-defense or aggression, national self-determination or Islamic supremacy; the targeting of noncombatants; whether Islam ever could condone terrorism; whether some attacks described as Islamic terrorism are merely terrorist acts committed by Muslims or nationalists; how much support there is in the Muslim world for Islamic terrorism; whether the Arab-Israeli Conflict is the root of Islamic terrorism, or simply one cause.

Osama bin Laden is the millionaire son of a construction magnate. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden's deputy, is a medical doctor. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaida in Iraq was an uneducated street thug who converted to a radical form of Islam in prison. Recently we saw a female Belgian convert to Islam become a suicide bomber in Iraq. It is difficult to identify what such people have in common other than a willingness to kill — and sometimes to die — for a cause they are convinced is right. No study has so far been able to explain why some people become terrorists and others don't. Socio-psychological factors and questions of identity seem to be important and the dynamics of various cults have some striking parallels to terrorist cells. One thing we frequently see in the trajectory of terrorists is a conversion experience that occurs within a small, tight-knit group. The dynamics of such groups tend to reinforce personal conviction, especially among individuals whose other social networks have frayed or can't match the intensity of bonds forged in what is for them an existential struggle.

Often the group is led by a 'charismatic figure' such as a 'jihad veteran', or jihad entrepreneur who raises funds and recruits for jihad. Such groups are found in many contexts, from prisons to social clubs. Often they are associated with a mosque, but generally they do not hold meetings in the mosque itself. Also the internet is playing a role in this conversion by exposing people to extremist views and the possibilities presented by jihad.

Many of the members of such cells have little history of extremism — or of piety. The most pious are not necessarily those most likely to become terrorists. Indeed, one could argue that for some people it is their poor understanding of Islam — and for the young suicide bomber, perhaps even their naivety — that has made them susceptible to extreme views.

Some analysts have argued that the root causes of terrorism lie not with the psychology or life experience of the individual but with deeper underlying political and economic currents. These root causes are variously listed as poverty, underdevelopment, un-employment, the demography of youth bulges, Palestinian dispossession and so forth.

These so-called 'root causes' are relevant but they do not go to the heart of the issue. First, there is the obvious fact that many terrorists are middle class or even from elites. Social studies of terrorists show that they are generally better educated than the broader population.

Secondly, terrorism is not limited to developing countries: look at the history of terrorism in developed democracies such as the United Kingdom. Finally, behind talk of root causes there is an assumption that they are somehow more real than the terrorists' self-proclaimed motivations, that economic factors are more solid than ideology or identity. But as the protests over the Danish cartoons showed: issues of belief, identity and culture are just as real as material ones for many Muslims, and may well drive the emotions of many even more strongly.

That said, dysfunctional economies and authoritarian political systems magnify feelings of frustration and anger which, in turn, provide fertile soil for those who manipulate questions of identity and victim hood in the cause of violent jihad.

Since 9/11 the nature of the terrorist threat has changed. It has become more decentralized and amorphous. Al Qaida is still an active threat even if it has not been directly responsible for any major attack for the past two years. Al Qaida is fighting a war that it believes will last for generations. It has not given up its goal of conducting catastrophic attacks in the United States. We should not forget that eight and a half years passed between the first and second World Trade Centre attacks, and that the relative failure of the first attack seems to have acted more as an incentive than a dampener.

One of Al Qaida's 'achievements' has been to draw many groups and Jihadists out of their local struggles and focus them on the 'far enemy'. Zawahiri, now Al Qaida's chief ideologist, himself moved from a local, Egyptian preoccupation to a global, anti-US ideology. And the story of Jamaah Islamiyah in Indonesia is about the transformation of a group which grew out of a national Islamist movement — Darul Islam — and has gone on to adopt the global Jihadist view of Al Qaida and others.

The terrorist threat today is best understood as a network of networks.

Sometimes the groups and cells that make up this extended network are held together by formal alliances — the best example is the alliance between core Al Qaida and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al Qaida franchise in Iraq. But most often the links are informal, based on personal contacts. Surprising to some as it may seem, Al Qaida does not exercise command and control over this extensive network.

Consequently terrorists co-operate with each other at a variety of levels. This co-operation may not be 'official', and it is certainly not part of a giant global plot directed from a cave somewhere on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ad hoc cells are formed for particular operations. A terrorist 'entrepreneur' with good access to financial donors can supply money. Cells or individual facilitators can provide others with documents or at least with the knowledge of where they can acquire them. A more experienced group can provide a trained bomb-maker to a cell that has a plan but not the technical expertise to carry it out. Veterans can vouch for new recruits to get them into training camps.

This amorphous structure can make it extremely difficult to determine who was responsible for an attack and how it was carried out. After a major attack such as Madrid or London, the automatic question is 'Was Al Qaida responsible?'

It all depends on what you mean by 'Al Qaida' and by 'responsible'. Certainly Al Qaida's ideology and its record of attacks may have provided inspiration, but beyond that, the direct fingerprints are harder to find. Because of the nature of this network of networks, it is always possible to find intriguing personal links back to core Al Qaida — such links do not necessarily mean direct command and control. More importantly no direct Al Qaida involvement — for either planning or finances or other help — is needed to carry out successful attacks. Partly as a result of this network of networks structure, we should be careful not to ascribe to Islamist terrorism a monolithic unity. There are connecting threads: the conviction that the “US and its allies are waging a war against Islam”, the contempt for apostate' Muslim regimes, rejection of liberal democracy as atheistic and decadent and particularly the appeal of the single narrative of Muslim victim hood. But it is also the case that the Jihadist movement is diverse with a large degree of internal disagreement over goals and methods. Nor are terrorist groups exempt from the squabbles over money, personalities, and thwarted ambitions that afflict all organizations. One example of disagreement is the current debate between Al Qaida leaders such as Zawahiri on the one hand and Zarqawi's network in Iraq on the other over the legitimacy of killing Shia. Various groups have varying opinions on the legitimacy of killing any civilians. There is also the persistent debate over whether to fight the near 'enemy' — the allegedly corrupt and apostate regimes of the Middle East or Indonesia — or the far 'enemy', the United States which allegedly keeps those regimes in power. We should not however latch onto such disputes as evidence terrorist groups are about to implode. The Jihadist tent is a broad one. Whatever their differences, most Islamist terrorists see themselves as fighting for the same cause: God is one; His cause is one, so His army is one.

My contention that terrorism will be with us for some time yet is not intended to suggest that the fight against terrorism is failing. Rather I would say that while we have had some big wins it is perhaps premature to declare victory. Many terrorist leaders and planners have been killed or captured around the world. Crucial middlemen have been arrested, such as Hambali who was a link between Al Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah, as have skilled planners such as Khalid Sheykh Muhammad, the so-called mastermind of the 9/11 attack. The invasion of Afghanistan shut down Al Qaida and other groups' training camps there. Al Qaida's core leadership has been driven underground. Multilateral conventions have made the transfer of terrorist funds more difficult. Terrorists have been forced to limit their use of electronic communication and fall back upon couriers. Improved border security and more secure travel documentation have made travel more difficult. We have seen unprecedented co-operation at the bilateral and multilateral level among security forces and intelligence agencies. As a result plots have been disrupted and many terrorists have been captured.

These global efforts underline the global nature of the threat. Those waging the jihad certainly see it as a global struggle as events in Iraq demonstrate. There, Jihadists see an environment rich in both targets and propaganda opportunities. Iraq is being used as a rhetorical rallying point by Jihadist groups around the world. Jihadists see in Iraq an opportunity to attack the far enemy, the United States. Their target is also what they regard as the near enemy: the democratically elected government of Iraq which they portray as an American puppet. And in Iraq, as elsewhere, Jihadists have also been quite adept at exploiting communal and regional tensions. Videos of attacks on Coalition forces appear within hours on the internet and we know that such material is manipulated in the radicalization and recruitment process. Propagandists use the war to reinforce their narrative of Muslim victim hood, of the clash of civilizations and of cosmic war between Islam and the crusading West.

Also, terrorist networks and cells have formed to supply recruits, funds, and the everyday equipment of the bomber to the Iraq jihad. These facilitation networks extend throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Western Europe. It would however be a mistake to see the insurgency in Iraq as essentially a jihad campaign. Foreign Jihadists are responsible for a disproportionate number of the suicide bombings targeted at the coalition and Iraqi forces. But the foreign Jihadists in fact comprise only a small fraction of the overall insurgency which is more about Iraqi Sunni resentment at the loss of power than jihad against the west. And importantly the global threat from Islamist terrorism would exist irrespective of what has happened in Iraq.

Nor is Iraq in the same league as pre-9/11 Afghanistan as a base for global Islamist terrorism. So far terrorist groups have not been able to establish training camps in Iraq on the scale of Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s.

Also, most insurgents in Iraq are locals, and many will not want to extend their jihad outside of Iraq. There is a concern about the potential for a terrorist bleed out from Iraq — the Amman hotel bombings, for example, were planned in Iraq and carried out primarily by Iraqis under the direction of Zarqawi's network. Zarqawi, having been imprisoned in Jordan, has a particular grudge against that country. But a key point here is that the scale and nature of the Jihadists groups in Iraq are quite different to what we faced in Afghanistan.

Let me turn now to the importance of the internet for terrorists. Just like everybody else in our digital age, terrorists use the internet for many purposes. They use it to communicate and transfer funds, although counter-terrorism efforts have had some effect in restricting both. And they use it to raise funds — videotapes of attacks in places like Iraq and elsewhere are used to encourage further donations. But probably the most important use of the internet for Islamist terrorists is the creation of a virtual 'Ummah', or community of believers. Islamists are at the forefront of those recognizing the net's full potential to promote a virtual community. There are literally thousands of websites with chat rooms and bulletin boards where extremists can meet like-minded people. While such people are a small minority of the general population, the internet allows them to form a community of their own, reinforcing and radicalizing their views. It also provides a forum in which the merely curious, or disgruntled, can be exposed to extremist views. And while governments around the world can shut down extremist mosques, or deport radical imams, or even use new technology to increase their control of the internet, it is impossible to shut down the internet or deport firebrands to a place where they cannot access the internet and continue to preach in cyberspace.

But while the internet is important to the tactics of terrorism its role should not be exaggerated. Documents and videos posted on the internet can certainly be used for training. But despite the massive amounts of information on the internet, it augmented, not replaced, real world training in camps. The information on the internet is most useful to someone who has already received terrorist training. For example, the mere fact that there are recipes, of varying degrees of completeness, for chemical and biological weapons on the internet does not mean terrorists are successfully producing them. Nor has Islamist cyber-terrorism been a major problem so far. Whatever their wishes, Islamist terrorists currently have low capability to attack the internet itself or the infrastructure it supports. There are many states and criminal groups that have a greater capacity.

For Australia the trajectory of terrorism in Southeast Asia is of particular concern. And in many ways developments in Southeast Asia mirror those globally. Considerable progress has been made in counter-terrorism efforts. The political will to deal with terrorism is stronger today than in the aftermath of the first Bali bombings in October 2002. Better cooperation is occurring among security forces and intelligence agencies. Capacity building programs by Australia and others are bearing fruit. Key leaders have been arrested or killed. I have mentioned the arrest of Hambali, the main link between Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaida and a key player in the first Bali attack. Last year Azahari — also closely involved in the Bali 1 bombings — was killed. And around 300 Jemaah Islamiyah members have been arrested in Indonesia. Nevertheless, Jemaah Islamiyah remains a capable and resilient terrorist group. It retains links with Al Qaida but it is not dependent on Al Qaida for either funding or operational support. Under pressure it has become more decentralized in its structure and operational planning. But its strategic objectives and its targeting of Australia and the West are unchanged. Jemaah Islamiyah has continued to carry out attacks, most recently the second Bali bombing which targeted Westerners including Australians, but actually killed many more Indonesians. Jemaah Islamiyah can draw on a pool of trained bomb makers and a larger pool of sympathizers who can provide logistical support for a core of operational planners. This situation will not change soon, despite the general abhorrence of the overwhelming majority of Indonesians towards Jemaah Islamiyah's methods and goals. There are several other issues to which we must play close attention in Southeast Asia. One of the key elements of Al Qaida's method has been to globalize what are essentially local disputes and portray what are nationalist or ethnic conflicts as being part of a more important, and strategic global jihad. So we need to be alert to whether Al Qaida or Jemaah Islamiyah are succeeding in injecting themselves into the separatist conflicts in the southern Philippines and southern Thailand.

In the Philippines this is already the case with Jemaah Islamiyah's links into the southern Philippines giving it a longer strategic reach. In return for safe haven and a certain strategic depth, Jemaah Islamiyah has provided groups in the south with terrorist training. This relationship has extended the capabilities of all participating groups. In contrast we have seen little evidence so far that Jemaah Islamiyah or Al Qaida has managed to inject itself into the separatist conflict in southern Thailand, although the longer the conflict continues, the greater opportunity there will be for outside groups to interfere.

The war against terror is a misleading metaphor because it suggests there will be a decisive moment when we know whether we face victory or defeat. The reality is that this will be a long and incremental struggle waged on many fronts. Part of the struggle will involve finding and eliminating terrorists and constraining their support bases. But at a broader level it will also involve blunting the appeal of violent extremism by giving potential recruits a greater sense of hope than the nihilism which lies at the core of terrorist psychology.

It is in this area that economic and political factors intersect with the drivers of terrorism. Open societies delivering on the economic aspirations of their citizens are not a guarantee against terrorism. But they will go a large way towards blunting the appeal of extremists. Democracies are more likely to be responsive to the grievances that can lead people to adopt violence. They are more likely to implement the economic reforms which will not only increase the size of the pie but share it more equitably. In the long run democracy can break the political and economic hold of narrow elites, allow the kind of civil society that permits free expression, and reduce the corruption that plagues authoritarian societies. But democratization cannot be an immediate panacea. Firstly, groups like Al Qaida are not going to lay down their arms and participate in a democratic process. For Zawahiri and Zarqawi, democracy puts human law ahead of 'God's law' and is therefore abhorrent. They hate Islamist groups that participate in the democratic process as much as they hate the Middle East's current regimes. Terrorists would probably still target those governments — even with such Islamist groups in power — just as they target the democratically elected government in Iraq. Since new democracies would probably be supported by the West, then the West too will remain a target.

Secondly, democratization can in the short term increase strategic uncertainty. Due to the lack of secular or liberal political parties in the Middle East, it is probable that Islamist parties of some stripe would win many elections. And we simply don't know what a group like the Muslim Brotherhood would be like in power. The recent success of Hamas in the Palestinian elections illustrates these points. Certainly one can argue that the responsibility of governing should be a moderating influence in the long term. But whether this turns out to be the case in the short to medium term in the Middle East is by no means certain. And thirdly, radicals can exploit political space in democracies, especially newly emerging ones: space which authoritarian regimes would deny them. A militant Islamist fringe is now present in post-Suharto democratic Indonesia; a fringe which seeks to intimidate mainstream Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and parts of which is feeding recruits to Jamaah Islamiyah. Few Indonesians agree with their ideology, and even fewer with their methods. But enough are at least sympathizing with the Islamists' narrative of Muslim victim hood and “Western conspiracy” to make counterterrorism co-operation with Western countries politically sensitive.

While terrorism - even in the form of suicide attacks — is not an Islamic phenomenon by definition, it cannot be ignored that the lion's share of terrorist acts and the most devastating of them in recent years have been perpetrated in the name of Islam. This fact has sparked a fundamental debate both in the West and within the Muslim world regarding the link between these acts and the teachings of Islam. Most Western analysts are hesitant to identify such acts with the bona fide teachings of one of the world's great religions and prefer to view them as a perversion of a religion that is essentially peace-loving and tolerant. Western leaders have reiterated time and again that the war against terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. It is a war against evil.

Modern international Islamist terrorism is a natural offshoot of twentieth-century Islamic fundamentalism. The “Islamic Movement” emerged in the Arab world and British-ruled India as a response to the dismal state of Muslim society in those countries: social injustice, rejection of traditional mores, acceptance of foreign domination and culture. It perceives the malaise of modern Muslim societies as having strayed from the “straight path” and the solution to all ills in a return to the original mores of Islam. The problems addressed may be social or political: inequality, corruption, and oppression. But in traditional Islam — and certainly in the worldview of the Islamic fundamentalist — there is no separation between the political and the religious. Islam is, in essence, both religion and regime and no area of human activity is outside its remit. Be the nature of the problem as it may, “Islam is the solution.”

The underlying element in the radical Islamist worldview is a historic and dichotomist: Perfection lies in the ways of the Prophet of Islam and the events of his time; therefore, religious innovations, philosophical relativism, and intellectual or political pluralism are anathema. In such a worldview, there can exist only two camps — Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb — which are pitted against each other until the final victory of Islam. These concepts are carried to their extreme conclusion by the radicals; however, they have deep roots in mainstream Islam.

While the trigger for “Islamic awakening” was frequently the meeting with the West, Islamic-motivated rebellions against colonial powers rarely involved individuals from other Muslim countries or broke out of the confines of the territories over which they were fighting. Until the 1980s, most fundamentalist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood were inward-looking; Western superiority was viewed as the result of Muslims having forsaken the teachings of the Prophet. Therefore, the remedy was, first, “re-Islamization” of Muslim society and restoration of an Islamic government, based on Islamic law [Shariah]. In this context, jihad was aimed mainly against “apostate” Muslim governments and societies, while the historic offensive jihad of the Muslim world against the infidels was put in abeyance [at least until the restoration of the caliphate].

Until the 1980s, attempts to mobilize Muslims all over the world for a jihad in one area of the world [Palestine, Kashmir] were unsuccessful. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a watershed event, as it revived the concept of participation in jihad to evict an “infidel” occupier from a Muslim country as a “personal duty” for every capable Muslim. The basis of this duty derives from the “irreversibility” of Islamic identity both for individual Muslims [thus, capital punishment for “apostates” — e.g., Salman Rushdie] and for Muslim territories. Therefore, any land [Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Spain] that had once been under the sway of Islamic law may not revert to control by any other law. In such a case, it becomes the “personal duty” of all Muslims in the land to fight a jihad to liberate it. If they do not succeed, it becomes incumbent on any Muslim in a certain perimeter from that land to join the jihad and so forth. Accordingly, given the number of Muslim lands under “infidel occupation” and the length of time of those occupations, it is argued that it has become a personal duty for all Muslims to join the jihad. This duty — if taken seriously — is no less a religious imperative than the other five pillars of Islam. It becomes a de facto sixth pillar; a Muslim who does not perform it 'will inherit hell'.

Such a philosophy attributing centrality to the duty of jihad is not an innovation of modern radical Islam. The seventh-century Kharijite sect, infamous in Islamic history as a cause of Muslim civil war, took this position and implemented it. But the Kharijite doctrine was rejected as a heresy by medieval Islam. The novelty is the tacit acceptance by mainstream Islam of the basic building blocks of this “neo-Kharijite” school.

The Soviet defeat in Afghanistan and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union were perceived as an eschatological sign, adumbrating the renewal of the jihad against the infidel world at large and the apocalyptical war between Islam and heresy which will result in the rule of Islam in the world. Along with the renewal of the jihad, the Islamist Weltanschauung, which emerged from the Afghani crucible, developed a Thanatophile ideology in which death is idealized as a desired goal and not a necessary evil in war.

An offshoot of this philosophy poses a dilemma for theories of deterrence. The Islamic traditions of war allow the Muslim forces to retreat if their numerical strength is less than half that of the enemy. Other traditions go further and allow retreat only in the face of a tenfold superiority of the enemy. The reasoning is that the act of jihad is, by definition, an act of faith in Allah. By fighting a weaker or equal enemy, the Muslim is relying on his own strength and not on Allah; by entering the fray against all odds, the 'Mujahid' [Jihadist] is proving his utter faith in Allah and will be rewarded accordingly. The politics of Islamist radicalism has also bred a mentality of bello ergo sum [I fight, therefore I exist] — Islamic leaders are in constant need of popular jihads to boost their leadership status. Nothing succeeds like success: The attacks in the United States gave birth to a second wave of 'Mujahidin' who want to emulate their 'heroes'.

What is Madrassa?

The word madrasah is derived from the triconsonantal root, which relates to learning or teaching, through the wazn [form/stem], meaning "a place where X is done." Therefore, madrasah literally means "a place where learning/teaching is done". The word is also present as a loanword with the same innocuous meaning in many Arabic-influenced languages, such as: Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Indonesian, Malay and Bosnian. In the Arabic language, the word madrasah simply means the same as school does in the English language, whether that is private, public or parochial school, as well as for any primary or secondary school whether Muslim, non-Muslim, or secular. Unlike the understanding of the word school in British English, the word madrasah is like the term school in American English, in that it can refer to a university-level or post-graduate school as well. For example, in the Ottoman Empire during the Early Modern Period, Madrasahs had lower schools and specialized schools where the students became known as danismends. The Hebrew cognate midrasha also connotes the meaning of a place of learning.

A typical Islamic school usually offers two courses of study: a hifz course; that is memorisation of the Qur'an [the person who commits the entire Qur'an to memory is called a hafiz]; and an 'alim course leading the candidate to become an accepted scholar in the community. A regular curriculum includes courses in Arabic, Tafsir [Qur'anic interpretation], shari'ah [Islamic law], Hadith [recorded sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad], Mantiq [logic], and Muslim History. In the Ottoman Empire, during the Early Modern Period, the learning of the Hadith was introduced by Suleyman I. Depending on the educational demands, some madrasahs also offer additional advanced courses in Arabic literature, English and other foreign languages, as well as science and world history. Ottoman madrasahs along with religious teachings also taught "styles of writing, grammary, syntax, poetry, composition, natural sciences, political sciences, and etiquette."

People of all ages attend, and many often move on to becoming imams. The certificate of an 'alim for example, requires approximately twelve years of study. A good number of the huffaz [plural of hafiz] are the product of the madrasahs. The madrasahs also resemble colleges, where people take evening classes and reside in dormitories. An important function of the madrasahs is to admit orphans and poor children in order to provide them with education and training. Madrasahs may enroll female students; however, they study separately from the men.

In South Africa, the madrasahs also play a socio-cultural role in giving after-school religious instruction to Muslim children who attend government or private non-religious schools. However, increasing numbers of more affluent Muslim children attend full-fledged private Islamic Schools which combine secular and religious education. Among Muslims of Indian origin, madrasahs also used to provide instruction in Urdu, although this is far less common today than it used to be.

Madrasahs did not exist in the early beginnings of Islam. Their formation can probably be traced to the early Islamic custom of meeting in mosques to discuss religious issues. At this early stage, people seeking religious knowledge tended to gather around certain more knowledgeable Muslims. These informal teachers later became known as shaykhs; and these shaykhs began to hold regular religious education sessions called majalis [Sessions].

Established in 859, Jami'at al-Qarawiyyin (located in Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque) in the city of Fas, Morocco, is considered the oldest madrasah in the Muslim world. It was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant named Mohammed Al-Fihri. This was later followed by Al-Azhar University, established in 959 in Cairo, Egypt.

During the late Abbasid period, the Seljuk vizier Nizam al-Mulk created the first major official academic institution known in history as the Madrasah Nizamiyyah, based on the informal majalis (sessions of the shaykhs). Al-Mulk, who would later be murdered by the Assassins [Hashshashin], created a system of state madrasahs [in his time they were called, the Nizamiyyahs, named after him] in various Abbasid cities at the end of the 11th century.

During the rule of the Fatimid and Mamluk dynasties and their successor states in the medieval Middle East, many of the ruling elite founded madrasahs through a religious endowment known as the waq'f. Not only was the madrasah a potent symbol of status but it was an effective means of transmitting wealth and status to their descendants. Especially during the Mamluk period, when only former slaves could assume power, the sons of the ruling Mamluk elite were unable to inherit. Guaranteed positions within the new madrasahs thus allowed them to maintain status. Madrasahs built in this period include the Mosque-Madrasah of Sultan Hasan in Cairo.

The following excerpt provides a brief synopsis of the historical origins and starting points for the teachings that took place in the Ottoman madrasahs in the Early Modern Period:

"Taşköprülüzâde's concept of knowledge and his division of the sciences provides a starting point for a study of learning and medrese education in the Ottoman Empire. Taşköprülüzâde recognizes four stages of knowledge - spiritual, intellectual, oral and written. Thus all the sciences fall into one of these seven categories: calligraphic sciences, oral sciences, intellectual sciences, spiritual sciences, theoretical rational sciences, practical rational sciences. The First Ottoman medrese was created in Iznik in 1331, when a converted Church building was assigned as a medrese to a famous scholar, Dâvûd of Kayseri. Suleyman made an important change in the hierarchy of Ottoman medreses. He established four general medreses and two more for specialized studies, one devoted to the hadith and the other to medicine. He gave the highest ranking to these and thus established the hierarchy of the medreses which was to continue until the end of the empire."

During this time, the Caliphate, or Islamic Empire, experienced a growth in literacy, having the highest literacy rate of the Middle Ages, comparable to Athens' literacy in Classical Antiquity but on a larger scale.

What is a Maktab?

In the medieval Islamic world, an elementary school was known as a maktab, which dates back to at least the 10th century. Like madrasahs [which referred to higher education], a maktab was often attached to a mosque. In the 11th century, the famous Persian Islamic philosopher, Ibn Sina [known as Avicenna in the West], in one of his books, wrote a chapter dealing with the maktab entitled "The Role of the Teacher in the Training and Upbringing of Children", as a guide to teachers working at maktab schools. He wrote that children can learn better if taught in classes instead of individual tuition from private tutors, and he gave a number of reasons for why this is the case, citing the value of competition and emulation among pupils as well as the usefulness of group discussions and debates. Ibn Sina described the curriculum of a maktab school in some detail, describing the curricula for two stages of education in a maktab school.

Ibn Sina wrote that children should be sent to a maktab school from the age of 6 and be taught primary education until they reach the age of 14. During which time, he wrote that they should be taught the Qur'an, Islamic metaphysics, language, literature, Islamic ethics, and manual skills [which could refer to a variety of practical skills].

Secondary education:

Ibn Sina refers to the secondary education stage of maktab schooling as the period of specialization, when pupils should begin to acquire manual skills, regardless of their social status. He writes that children after the age of 14 should be given a choice to choose and specialize in subjects they have an interest in, whether it was reading, manual skills, literature, preaching, medicine, geometry, trade and commerce, craftsmanship, or any other subject or profession they would be interested in pursuing for a future career. He wrote that this was a transitional stage and that there needs to be flexibility regarding the age in which pupils graduage, as the student's emotional development and chosen subjects need to be taken into account.

Higher education:

During the formative period of the madrasah, used to refer to a higher education institution, philosophy and the secular sciences were often excluded from its curriculum, which initially only included the "religious sciences". The curriculum slowly began to diversify, with many later madrasahs teaching both the religious and the "secular sciences", like logic, mathematics and philosophy. Some madrasahs further extended their curriculum to history, politics, ethics, music, metaphysics, medicine, astronomy and chemistry. Some Islamic schools by the 12th century also taught early ideas related to evolution. The curriculum of a madrasah was usually set by its founder, but most generally taught both the religious sciences and the physical sciences. Madrasahs were established throughout the Islamic world, the most famous being the 10th century Al-Azhar University and the 11th century Nizamiyya, as well as 75 madrasahs in Cairo, 51 in Damascus and up to 44 in Aleppo between 1155 and 1260. Many more were also established in the Andalusian citites of Córdoba, Seville, Toledo, Granada, Murcia, Almería, Valencia and Cádiz during the Caliphate of Córdoba.

In the Ottoman Empire during the early modern period, "Madrasahs were divided into lower and specialized levels, which reveals that there was a sense of elevation in school. Students who studied in the specialized schools after completing courses in the lower levels became known as danismends."

The origins of the college and university lie in the medieval Islamic world. While "madrasah" can now refer to any type of school, the term "madrasah" was originally used to refer more specifically to a medieval Islamic college, mainly teaching Islamic law and theology, usually affiliated with a mosque, and funded by an early charitable trust known as Waqf, the origins of the trust law. The internal organization of the first European colleges was also borrowed from the earlier madrasahs, like the system of fellows and scholars, with the Latin term for fellow, socius, being a direct translation of the Arabic term for fellow, sahib.

The funding for madrasahs came primarily from Waqf instititions, which were similar to the charitable trusts which later funded the first European colleges. Syed Farid Alatas writes:

"The madrasah was established as a charitable trust [waqf] founded by individual Muslims, which legally bounded the founder to run it as a madrasah. It had the legal status of an institution but was not a state institution. According to Makdisi, there are two arguments in favour of the idea of the Islamic origins of the college. One is the waqf or charitable trust and the other the internal organization of the college."

The first universities, in the sense of institutions of higher education and research which issue academic degrees at all levels [bachelor, master and doctorate], were the Jami'ah ["university" in Arabic] founded in the 9th century. While the madrasah college could also issue degrees at all levels, like a university college, the Jami`ah differed in the sense that it was a larger institution that was more universal in terms of its complete source of studies, had individual faculties for different subjects, and could house a number of mosques, madrasahs and other institutions within it. The University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco is thus recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest degree-granting university in the world with its founding in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri.

Al-Azhar University, founded in Cairo, Egypt in 975, was a Jami'ah which offered a variety of post-graduate degrees [ijazah], and had individual faculties for a theological seminary, Islamic law and jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, Islamic astronomy, early Islamic philosophy and logic in Islamic philosophy. Abd-el-latif also delivered lectures on Islamic medicine at Al-Azhar, while Maimonides delivered lectures on medicine and astronomy there during the time of Saladin. Another early university was the Al-Nizamiyya of Baghdad (founded 1091), considered the "largest university of the Medieval world". Mustansiriya University, established by the Abbasid caliph al-Mustansir in 1233, in addition to teaching the religious subjects, offered courses dealing with philosophy, mathematics and the natural sciences.

Madrasahs were the first to have law schools, and it is likely that the "law schools known as Inns of Court in England" may have been derived from the Madrasahs which taught Islamic law and jurisprudence.

The origins of the doctorate dates back to the ijazat attadris wa 'l-ifta' ["license to teach and issue legal opinions"] in the medieval Islamic legal education system, which was equivalent to the Doctor of Laws qualification and was developed during the 9th century after the formation of the Madh'hab legal schools. To obtain a doctorate, a student "had to study in a guild school of law, usually four years for the basic undergraduate course" and ten or more years for a post-graduate course. The "doctorate was obtained after an oral examination to determine the originality of the candidate's theses", and to test the student's "ability to defend them against all objections, in disputations set up for the purpose." These were scholarly exercises practiced throughout the student's "career as a graduate student of law." After students completed their post-graduate education, they were awarded doctorates giving them the status of faqih [meaning "master of law"], mufti [meaning "professor of legal opinions"] and mudarris [meaning "teacher"], which were later translated into Latin as magister, professor and doctor respectively.

The term doctorate comes from the Latin docere, meaning "to teach", shortened from the full Latin title licentia docendi meaning "license to teach." This was translated from the Arabic term ijazat attadris, which means the same thing and was awarded to Islamic scholars who were qualified to teach. Similarly, the Latin term doctor, meaning "teacher", was translated from the Arabic term mudarris, which also means the same thing and was awarded to qualified Islamic teachers. The Latin term baccalaureus may have also been transliterated from the equivalent Arabic qualification bi haqq al-riwaya ["the right to teach on the authority of another"].

The Islamic scholarly system of fatwa and ijma, meaning opinion and consensus respectively, formed the basis of the "scholarly system the West has practised in university scholarship from the Middle Ages down to the present day." George Makdisi writes:

"This very system found its way to London, in the development of the Inns of Court, four of which have come down to our times: autonomous, professional, and unincorporated guild schools of law, like the guild schools of law of classical Islam. The same system found its way also to the universities of the West, beginning with Italy, France, England and Spain, and later to the United States, when graduate work was introduced from Germany. In other words, the Islamic system of determining orthodoxy in religion was, in its essentials, the medieval Western university system of determining "orthodoxy", so to speak, in scholarship, which has come down to our day."

"It surely is no coincidence that in the next decades Mehmed and his successors brought in scholars from the Islamic heartland and established prestigious theological seminaries [medreses] as they moved their developing state toward Islamic orthodoxy."

"This scholarly system of determining orthodoxy began with a question which the Muslim layman, called in that capacity mustafti, presented to a jurisconsult, called mufti, soliciting from him a response, called fatwa, a legal opinion [the religious law of Islam covers civil as well as religious matters]. The mufti [professor of legal opinions] took this question, studied it, researched it intensively in the sacred scriptures, in order to find a solution to it. This process of scholarly research vas called ijtihad, literally, the exertion of one's efforts to the utmost limit."

But, the 'good era' of Madrassas are already over. For past few decades, madrassas are gradually turning into focal point of jihadist brainstorming centers and thousands of jihadists are coming out of these institutions each year thus getting spread in the entire world either as a clergie or as a member of Tablig Jamaat or just covert civilian in the society with extremely notorious orientation of hate speech, religious hatred and war against 'enemies of Islam'.

In India, there are around 50,000 operating madrasahs. The majority of these schools follow the Hanafi school of thought. The religious establishments form part mainly of the two large divisions within the country, namely the deobandies dominating in The Subcontinent, Then Darul Uloom Deoband One of The Biggest Madrasaah in World and the barelvis sizeable portion [sufi orientated]. Some notable establishments include: Jamia Ashrafia, Mubarakpur which is one the largest learing centres for the Barelvis. Darul Uloom Deoband Largest, is considered the most famous, Renowned Madrasah in World establishment. For past two decades, this madrassa has turned into one of the worst place of breeding Jihadists. According to various information, students coming out of this institution are heavy in their minds with the poison of religious hatred.

There are more than 73,000 madrasas currently operating in Pakistan. It is estimated that one to two million children are enrolled in madrasahs.The Madaris were few in number when Pakistan was created but were expanded during the rule of the dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq [1977-1988]. The expansion occurred both because of the growth in Pakistan's population and because their students [especially the Deobandis] were used to fight the Soviet Union during the Afghan war [1980-1987]. Later on the Taliban also had links with the Deobandi madrassas established by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. Some of the madrassas published lists of their students who had fought in Afghanistan and Kashmir against the Indian defence forces in the Kargil War over Kashmir, which is claimed by both Pakistan and India. The Talab of the madaris became involved in 1995 when the Taliban started their struggle against the Afghan warlords and Shumali Ittehad.

After 9/11, it became clear that a large section of Afghanistan's Taliban as well as other Islamist millitants came from Madarassa background. They were taught garrila warfare even during the 'reigious education'. Especially Madrassas in Pakistan are the major base of jihadist breeding. Altough there are arguments on the question of how much percentage of Pakistani madrassas or madrassas elsewhere are creating jihadists, it is definitely a fact, already endorsed by many that, Madrassas fail to at least create good and active citizen in any country due to various problems already existing within these institutions as well as due to badly weakened education system.

According to some experts in Pakistan, Madrassas in that country are regularly generating 'Mujahids' [Jihadists] especially for fighting against Indian government in Jammu and Kashmir front. Moreover, 'hate West' notion is planted in the minds of all the students of such institution, which encourages them in doing anything harmful to the Western societies or individuals or governments. Almost 99 per cent of the Madrassa students consider doing any harm to the West is their sacred duty.

Commenting on Madrassa education, a moderate former student of such religious school said, “It is true that there were good reasons for people jumping to the assumption of the Madrassa's' culpability. The terrifyingly ultra-conservative Taliban regime was unquestionably the product of Pakistan's Madrassas. Many Madrassas are indeed fundamentalist in their approach to the scriptures and many subscribe to the most hard-line strains of Islamic thought. It is also true that some Madrassas can be directly linked to Islamist radicalism and occasionally to outright civil violence. It is estimated that as many as 80% of Pakistan's Madrassas preach violent jihad, while a few have even been known to provide covert military training.”

“But it is now becoming very clear that producing cannon-fodder for the Taliban and graduating local sectarian thugs is not at all the same as producing the kind of technically literate al-Qaida terrorist who carried out the horrifyingly sophisticated attacks on the World Trade Center. Indeed, there is an important and fundamental distinction to be made between most Madrassa graduates - who tend to be pious villagers from impoverished economic backgrounds, possessing little technical sophistication - and the sort of middle-class, politically literate, global Salafi Jihadists who plan al-Qaida operations around the world. Most of these turn out to have secular scientific or technical backgrounds and very few actually turn out to be Madrassa graduates.”

Muslim influence in Southeast Asia dates back to the arrival of Arab traders, who established maritime trade routes to the Middle East as early as the seventh century C.E. Islam spread within Southeast Asia as trade with the Middle East flourished. By the thirteenth century C.E., trading outposts were firmly established on the islands of Java and Sumatra. In 1292, the Venetian traveler Marco Polo reported contact with a Muslim township named Perlak on northern Sumatra. These early Muslim inroads into Southeast Asia did not result in the religious violence characterized by the initial spread of Islam in the Middle East and Central Asia. This was due to two factors specific to the region. The initial wave of Muslims arriving in Southeast Asia were not driven by a desire to convert; rather, they were merchants and entrepreneurs seeking worldly profits. Additionally, unlike in the Middle East, where contention between the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam ran thick, initial Muslim expansion into Southeast Asia was met by peoples following Buddhist and Hindu belief structures. Proselytizing on the part of Muslims was thus not seen as a threat to the existing structure. This situation would continue until the arrival of Christianity in the region during the 16th Century.

The roots of religious and ethnic violence in Southeast Asia can be traced back before the arrival of the Spanish and Dutch in the mid-1500s. The introduction of Catholicism to the Philippines, however, provided an opportunity to extend the old conflicts between Christians and Muslims. The Spanish, recently victorious in their 800-year battle against the Moors on the Iberian Peninsula, were shocked to find that their hated adversaries had preceded them to the Philippines. The Spanish occupation of Luzon in 1571 was followed by operations to subdue Muslim areas in southern Mindanao. Though successful in defeating the Muslim sultanates on Mindanao, subsequent Spanish policies toward Muslim minorities and the introduction of Filipino Christians into positions of authority above Muslims ensured the creation of long-standing grievances. These policies were alleviated, but not eliminated, during the United States protectorate era. To some extent they remain at the root of current troubles.

Ethnic and religious violence in Southeast Asia has varied in intensity throughout the last five hundred-plus years. Today, radicals espousing an ideal of universal jihad have suborned the regional religious conflict in Southeast Asia. They have manipulated the legacy of regional violence into a campaign against the West and its allies. Dramatic events such as the 12 October 2002 Bali bombings and connections to both World Trade Center attacks demonstrate the effectiveness of efforts by certain radical elements within Southeast Asia to promote the goal of universal jihad. Recent counter-terrorist successes have offered more insight into the operations of these radicals. They provide a picture of a loose, trans-national web of like-minded organizations that not only share information, but also facilities, funding, training and personnel.

The legacy of religious violence that provides a foundation for the current Southeast Asian pan-Islamic movement gained momentum after the Second World War with the Darul Islam (Islamic State) rebellions in Indonesia. The Darul Islam rebellions in Aceh, South Sulawesi, and West Java started in the aftermath of Indonesia's separation from the Dutch government. The leaders of the movement were primarily from the urban middle-class who believed the umma (Muslim community) needed to return to the Quran and Hadith in order to eliminate impurities within Islam. Indonesian forces successfully defeated the rebellions by the mid-1960s but not before they had left a significant ideological mark on a new generation of Islamic radicals.

Two events in the latter part of the 20th century that further promulgated Islamic radicalism and, hence Islamic terrorism were the Soviet-Afghan War from 1979-1989 and the expansion of the Jihadist-Salafi movement supported both directly and indirectly by the Saudi-based Wahhabi sect of Islam. Wahhabism has been used as a vehicle by radical Jihadist-Salafis to promulgate a pogrom against all who do not support their beliefs. Jihadists are radical Muslims seeking revolutionary change to political and social order; dedicated to violence and terrorism. They actively support or conduct activities directed toward the realization of their goals. A thorough understanding of the Muslim history of jihad and its application in the Soviet-Afghan War, as well as the rise of Wahhabism is an important part of any examination of the increasing interoperability of radical Muslim groups in Southeast Asia.

Wahhabism is a late-18th century Islamic movement that forms the basis of the present Saudi Arabian state. It is also the foundation of the "teaching" going on at thousands of Madrassa, pesantren, or poh noh [Islamic schools] in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan and elsewhere. It promotes a literal interpretation of the Qur'an and Hadith that has served as an educational and normative tool for the Islamic radicals that feed into terrorist organizations. Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahab, the religious founder of the Wahhabiyya movement [Wahhabism], opposed any form of innovation in Islam, and called for a return to Islam's roots. He believed jihad could, and should, be carried out against any other Muslims who did not support his beliefs. Born in 1703 in an eastern portion of what would become the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abd al-Wahhab developed an ideology that sought to reform Islam by returning to its roots and eliminating any distortions. His beliefs were adopted and then promoted by the House of Al-Sa'ud. They would eventually become the state religion of Saudi Arabia. The relationship between the Salafi movement and Wahhabism is quite complicated and does not fall within the scope of the overview provided in this analysis. In many ways, Wahhabism is part of the Salafi movement within Islam. Salafis also promote a return to the roots of Islam and are violently opposed to religious innovations adopted by Sufi and Shi'a thinkers.

Were it not for the discovery of oil in the Saudi Arabian peninsula and the vast wealth it generated, Wahhabism would likely have remained a fringe movement inside Islam. It was the infusion of this great oil wealth that has allowed Saudi Arabia to export its Wahhabi beliefs in the form of public works projects and religious schools throughout the Muslim world. Saudi nationals formed the initial core cadre of Wahhabi 'missionaries' who have proselytized throughout the Muslim world. Their teachings have had a significant effect on the population of Southeast Asia. Its conservative, assertive brand of Islam has found great appeal, especially in the predominantly Muslim countries of Indonesia and Malaysia. Tens of thousand of Southeast Asian Muslims have traveled abroad to study in Islamic universities, including those in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan. Southeast Asian governments have no idea how many of their citizens have studied in or are currently enrolled in these Madrassas. Islamic religious schools have become the primary recruiting grounds and, in some cases, training facilities for Muslim terrorist organizations.

Opponents of Wahhabism state that its main goal is to destroy traditional Islam and replace it with an extremist, ultra-rigid version of Islam. They believe this is carried out through indoctrination, infiltration, and financial subsidies. Wahhabi-Saudi penetration of local Islamic communities often starts with infrastructure investments in the local community. A common tactic is the construction of mosques, often funded by Saudis. Later come schools, health clinics, etc. According to Stephen Schwarz, the immediate goal of Wahhabism is to capture and guide the global Islamic community, but its doctrines are "also deeply suffused with hatred of other religions." This hatred can lead to the promulgation of violence. Proponents of Wahhabism say that the movement is benign and that the radicalism comes from the Sufi and Shi'a elements within Islam. The truth lies somewhere in between. Whatever the case, one of the primary detrimental effects of the Saudi-based Wahhabi movement is the manner in which it disperses funds to virtually any Muslim cause with little or no oversight. Saudi money has flowed into Muslim causes throughout the world with little or no control. This has allowed Jihadists free reign to divert funds to separatist and terrorist organizations. It is true that Wahhabi Madrassas have become primary breeding grounds for terrorists. The problem is that in many areas of the world, a Saudi-backed Madrassa is the only form of education open to young men. International terrorist organizations have penetrated these schools and used them as a cover to preach their extreme form of hatred of the West. Students within the schools who appear to be open to their ideology are identified and selected for further indoctrination.

The Soviet-Afghan war was perhaps the most significant event in the formation of an international terrorist network. In the case of Southeast Asian groups, all the key figures went to Afghanistan to participate in jihad and experience the glory of defeating the Soviets. The war thus became a source of inspiration and training for many like-minded Muslim men throughout the world. It was in Afghanistan that future terrorists forged their initial links with Al-Qaida. Hundreds of Southeast Asians traveled to fight against the Soviets and later to fight alongside the Taliban in their numerous factional conflicts. The Madrassas formed the ideological front line against the Soviets, acting as recruiting grounds for potential Mujahidin. Once in Afghanistan, Mujahidin began a process of transformation, receiving training in various terrorist tradecrafts and establishing bonds of brotherhood with their comrades-in-arms that would allow them to carry jihad home. As noted in a White Paper published by the government of Singapore on 7 January 2003:

In Afghanistan, Al-Qaida taught these key figures sophisticated terrorist tradecraft and expertise. After they returned to Southeast Asia, they transferred the skills to other members of their organizations. Their shared experience training in Afghanistan also fostered links among these leaders, and between them and their Al-Qaida trainers and mentors. Collectively, they formed a loose but trusted "brotherhood" of militants and Mujahidin fighters that supported each other if any need arose. After the war, the Taliban regime continued to harbor and assist Al-Qaida in its pursuit of universal jihad. The Islamists in Southeast Asia maintained their links and continued to travel into Afghanistan. In the 1990s, CIA stations in Jakarta and the Middle East tried to keep track of some 700-1500 Indonesian students who had traveled to Egypt, Syria, and Iran for study. According to a retired CIA officer, "We figured 30% - 40% of them never showed up. We don't know where they went." It is fair to assume that a number of those unaccounted for ended up in training camps in Afghanistan.

Kindergarten Madrassa:

Since 1999, there is a growing phenomenon of mushroom growth of kindergarten Madrassas [Islamic religious kindergartens] in almost all the Muslim nations, preaching Wahhabism, which greatly encourages people towards jihad and killing of Jews and Christians. In present days, only in Bangladesh there are 64,000 Qaomi [Koranic] Madrassas, while the number of kindergarten Madrassas, mostly financed by dubious Afro-Arab sources has already crossed a few thousand throughout the country. And, of course, most interestingly, Madrassas and kindergarten Madrassas are the most notorious places to breed religious extremists and terrorists. Children are given orientations to accept Ossama Bin Laden as a hero, while endorsing the notoriety of Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah or Hamas as 'holy task'.

Bangladesh is known as a 'moderate Muslim country' and its people have the reputation of 'moderate Muslims,' free of rancor against other faiths. However, Bangladesh society, like many others, is being subverted by the efforts of Muslim extremists.

It is a fact that most people of Bangladesh still lack the opportunity for modern, scientific education and are therefore open to persuasion by religious extremists. In recent years there has been a strong upsurge in activities of religious extremist groups in a number of countries, including Bangladesh. In recent years, law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have captured members of quite a number of such groups in various parts of the country. These were operating under the umbrella of "Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas" or Madrassas financed by Afro-Arab organizations. Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas are supposed to be innocent institutions where young boys learn the elements of Islamic faith, but these Madrassas have a different agenda.

In the capital city of Dhaka in Bangladesh, even now such organizations are quite in evidence and have large memberships. Promoters of these organizations hire huge buildings in posh areas and target boys from the semi-affluent middle class. Previously, Madrassa education was mostly confined to lower income and less affluent groups. However, following the emergence of these so-called Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas in Bangladesh, the students are drawn from richer segments, and even include boys and girls of the richest class.

One of the accused arrested from one such institution confessed to Bangladesh police that they were planning to have an Islamic revolution in the country, and that they were anxiously looking for boys and girls from the affluent class since politics is mostly controlled by them. The accused admitted that they were heavily funded by a number of African and Arab countries.

The arrest and statement of the accused have been widely carried by local press. According to these reports, these belligerent people under the covering of various 'Deen' [true path] training organizations intend to coach a section of ill-educated and prejudiced people to be their followers. Through their clandestine campaigns they are plotting to wage a 'Holy War'. As instruments to induce rage and delude people, they are using different recorded tapes with extremist provocative speeches and songs. They also include messages from Osama Bin Laden.

In 2003, a Syrian teacher with an Islamic Education School was arrested in Bangladesh. He had belonged to an organization named the 'Al-Haramine Institution'. According to records of police intelligence in Bangladesh, members of this organization use the kindergarten Madrassa as camouflage. They regularly communicate with various underground armed groups in Bangladesh and even recruit locals and send them to Palestine as guerilla fighters. Each recruit gets US$ 1500-2000 as an up front payment for their 'new job'. Later family members or legal representatives or spouses of these guerilla fighters will receive US$ 150-200 per month as salary. If any of them are killed during the war, their family would get US$ 5,000 as compensation.

According to the police report, Al-Haramine Institution maintained secret training camp inside the compound of its kindergarten Madrassa. The recruits are given theoretical and practical training for seven weeks before they proceed to their destination. During training, they are given an elementary idea of their responsibilities and a practical knowledge about some of the weapons used by Palestinian fighters and other extremist groups.

Al-Haramine Institute was gradually spreading its wings in other parts of Bangladesh too, before it was identified and banned by Bangladesh authorities. Although Al Haramine's mission could not continue as its agendas were exposed, it is learnt that patrons and investors of such activities are continuing to breed Jihadists through other under cover institutions as well as Madrassas and Kindergarten Madaraasas.

Saudi Arabia funds terrorism?

Few years back, on September 11, 2001, most well-informed observers of the Middle East were shocked to hear that 15 out of the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were Saudi citizens. It was equally surprising that the mastermind of the worst terrorist attack on the United States in its history, Osama bin Laden, was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. This curiosity and wonder about the Saudi role in the attack came up once more with the release of the September 11 Joint Intelligence Report by the U.S. Congress and its disclosure of what the U.S. press called "incontrovertible evidence" linking Saudis to the financing of al-Qaeda operatives in the United States.

For decades, terrorism had been associated with states like Libya, Syria, Lebanon or Iran. Saudi Arabia had been a pro-Western force during the Cold War and had hosted large coalition armies during the 1991 Gulf War. Saudi Arabia had not been colonized during its history, like other Middle Eastern states that had endured a legacy of European imperialism. This background only sharpened the questions of many after the attacks: What was the precise source of the hatred that drove these men to take their own lives in an act of mass murder? The Saudis were initially in a state of denial about their connection to September 11; Interior Minister Prince Naif even tried to pin the blame for the attacks on Israel, saying it was impossible that Saudi youth could have been involved.

Yet over time it became clearer how Saudi Arabia could have provided the ideological backdrop that spawned al-Qaeda's attack on the United States. In a series of articles appearing in the Egyptian weekly, Ruz al-Yousef [the Newsweek of Egypt], this past May, Wael al-Abrashi, the magazine's deputy editor, attempted to grapple with this issue. He drew a direct link between the rise of much of contemporary terrorism and Saudi Arabia's main Islamic creed, Wahhabism, and the financial involvement of Saudi Arabia's large charitable organizations:

Wahhabism leads, as we have seen, to the birth of extremist, closed, and fanatical streams, that accuse others of heresy, abolish them, and destroy them. The extremist religious groups have moved from the stage of Takfir [condemning other Muslims as unbelievers] to the stage of "annihilation and destruction," in accordance with the strategy of Al-Qa'ida – which Saudi authorities must admit is a local Saudi organization that drew other organizations into it, and not the other way around. All the organizations emerged from under the robe of Wahhabism.

I can state with certainly that after a very careful reading of all the documents and texts of the official investigations linked to all acts of terror that have taken place in Egypt, from the assassination of the late president Anwar Al Sadat in October 1981, up to the Luxor massacre in 1997, Saudi Arabia was the main station through which most of the Egyptian extremists passed, and emerged bearing with them terrorist thought regarding Takfir – thought that they drew from the sheikhs of Wahhabism. They also bore with them funds they received from the Saudi charities.

Thus, while some Western commentators have sought to explain the roots of al-Qaeda's fury at the U.S. by focusing on the history of American policy in the Middle East or other external factors, a growing number of Middle Eastern analysts have concentrated instead on internal Saudi factors, including recent militant trends among Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi clerics and the role of large Saudi global charities in terrorist financing. This requires a careful look at how Saudi Arabia contributed to the ideological roots of some of the new wave of international terrorism as well as how the kingdom emerged as a critical factor in providing the resources needed by many terrorist groups.

The particular creed of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, which is known in the West as Wahhabism, emerged in the mid-eighteenth century in Central Arabia from the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. This Arabian religious reformer sought to rid Islam of foreign innovations that compromised its monotheistic foundations, and to restore what he believed were the religious practices of the seventh century at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors. He established a political covenant in 1744 with Muhammad bin Saud, the ruler of Diriyah near modern-day Riyadh, according to which he received bin Saud's protection and in exchange legitimized the spread of Saudi rule over a widening circle of Arabian tribes. This covenant between the Saudi royal family and Wahhabism is at the root of modern Saudi Arabia.

In retrospect, Wahhabism was significant for two reasons. First, it rejuvenated the idea of the militant jihad, or holy war, which had declined as a central Islamic value to be applied universally. Under the influence of Sufism, for example, jihad had also evolved into a more spiritual concept. Second, Wahhabism became associated with a brutal history of political expansion that led to the massacre of Muslims who did not adhere to its tenets, the most famous of which occurred against the Shi'ite Muslims of Kerbala in the early nineteenth century and against Sunni Muslims in Arabian cities, like Taif, during the early twentieth century. These Muslims were labeled as polytheists and thus did not deserve any protection. The highest spiritual authority of Islam during this period, the Sultan-Caliph of the Ottoman Empire, regarded the Wahhabis as heretics and waged wars against them in defense of Islam.

Yet it would be a mistake to focus on Wahhabism alone as the ideological fountainhead of the new global terrorism. Modern Saudi Arabia in the 1950s and 1960s hosted other militant movements that had an important impact, as well. For reasons of regional geopolitics, King Saud, King Faisal, and their successors provided sanctuary to elements of the radical Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Syria. Some were provided Saudi stipends. Others were given positions in the Saudi educational system, including the universities, or in the large Saudi charities, like the Muslim World League that was created in 1962. For example, while Egyptian President Abdul Nasser had the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sayyed Qutb, executed in 1966, his brother, Muhammad Qutb, fled to Saudi Arabia and taught at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He was joined in the 1970s by one of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood from Jordan, Abdullah Azzam. In 1979, both taught Osama bin Laden, a student at the university.

Saudi Arabia's global charities, like the Muslim World League, permitted the spread of the new militancy that was forged from the cooperation between the Wahhabi clerics and the Muslim Brotherhood refugees. After 1973, these charities benefited from the huge petrodollar resources dispensed by the Saudi government, which undoubtedly helped them achieve a global reach. Abdullah Azzam headed the offices of the Muslim World League in Peshawar, Pakistan, when it served as the rear base for the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He was joined by his student, bin Laden, who with Saudi funding also set up the Mujahidin Services Center [Maktab Khadmat al-Mujahidin] for Muslim volunteers who came to fight the Red Army. After Moscow's defeat in Afghanistan, this office became al-Qaeda.

Thus, the Saudi charities became the chosen instrument for Riyadh's support of the continuing global jihad. Bin Laden's brother-in-law, Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, ran the offices of the International Islamic Relief Organization [IIRO], a Muslim World League offshoot, in the Philippines. Local intelligence agencies suspected that it served as a financial conduit to the Abu Sayyaf organization. Muhammad al-Zawahiri, brother of bin Laden's Egyptian partner, Ayman al-Zawahiri, would eventually work for IIRO in Albania. An IIRO employee from Bangladesh, Sayed Abu Nasir, led a cell broken up by Indian police that intended to strike at the U.S. consulates in Madras and Kolkata; Abu Nasir explained that his superiors told him of 40 to 50 percent of IIRO charitable funds being diverted to finance terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Summarizing this history, former CIA operative Robert Baer wrote: "When Saudi Arabia decided to fund the Afghan mujahidin in the early 1980s, the IIRO proved a perfect fit, a money conduit and plausible denial rolled into one."

While these developments may seem far beyond the horizon of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a careful examination of some of the worst suicide bombings by the Hamas organization against the State of Israel also leads to Saudi Arabia. As of September 2003, Saudi clerics were featured prominently on Hamas websites as providing the religious justification for suicide bombings. Of 16 religious leaders cited by Hamas, Saudis are the largest national group backing these attacks. The formal Saudi position on suicide bombings, in fact, has been mixed. To his credit, Saudi Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, has condemned these acts. Yet at the same time, Saudi Arabia's Minister for Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Saleh Al al-Sheikh, has condoned them: "The suicide bombings are permitted...the victims are considered to have died a martyr's death."

The Hamas-Saudi connection should not come as a surprise. Hamas emerged in 1987 from the Gaza branch of Muslim Brotherhood which, as noted earlier, had become a key Saudi ally in previous decades. When Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin was let out of an Israeli prison in 1998, he went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment and Crown Prince Abdullah made a high-profile visit to his hospital bedside. As late as early 2002, Abdullah was hosting Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Bin Laden had made the fate of Sheikh Yasin an issue for his al-Qaeda followers as well. In his 1996 "Declaration of War," he listed Sheikh Yasin's release from prison as one of his demands or grievances.

Saudi support for suicide bombings has wider repercussions. Other militant Islamic movements cite Saudi Wahhabi clerics to justify their activities – from the Chechen groups battling the Russians to Iraqi mujahidin fighting the U.S. in western Iraq. Coincidentally; the ubiquitous IIRO was lauded by the Saudi press for its support activities in the Sunni districts of post-Saddam Iraq, as well. Its presence was usually indicative in other regions of Saudi identification with local militant causes. In order to evaluate the significance of these religious rulings, it is necessary to focus on the stature of these various Saudi clerical figures that Jihadist movements worldwide were citing.

For example, just after the September 11 attacks, it is true that many Saudi government officials condemned them. But there were other voices as well. Shortly thereafter a Saudi book appeared on the Internet justifying the murder of thousands of Americans, entitled The Foundations of the Legality of the Destruction That Befell America. The Introduction to the book was written by a prominent Saudi religious leader, Sheikh Hamud bin Uqla al-Shuaibi. He wrote on November 16, 2001, that he hoped Allah [God] would bring further destruction upon the United States. Al-Shuaibi's name appears in a book entitled the Great Book of Fatwas, found in a Taliban office in Kabul. Sheikh al-Shuaibi appears on the Hamas website, noted earlier, as a religious source for suicide attacks. Attacks on U.S. soldiers in western Iraq by a Wahhabi group called al-Jama'a al-Salafiya were dedicated to his name and to the names of other Saudi clerics. Al-Shuaibi's ideas, in short, had global reach.

The question that must be asked is whether a religious leader of this sort is a peripheral figure on the fringes of society or whether he reflects more mainstream thinking. In fact, al-Shuaibi had very strong credentials. Born in 1925 in the Wahhabi stronghold of Buraida, he was a student of King Faisal's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al al-Sheikh. Al-Shuaibi's roster of students read like a "Who's Who" of Saudi Arabia, including the Grand Mufti and the former Minister of Islamic Affairs and Muslim World League secretary-general, Abdullah al-Turki. When al-Shuaibi died in 2002, many central Saudi figures attended his funeral. In short, he was in mainstream. His militant ideas about justifying the September 11 attacks were echoed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman Jibrin, who actually was a member of the Directorate of Religious Research, Islamic Legal Rulings, and Islamic Propagation and Guidance – an official branch of the Saudi government.

In 2003, the religious opinions of Saudi militant clerics were turning up in Hamas educational institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For example, the Hamas-oriented "Koran and Sunna Society–Palestine," that had been established in 1996 in Kalkilya, had branches in Bethlehem, Salfit, Abu Dis, Jenin, and the Tulkarm area. It distributed Saudi texts praising suicide attacks against "the infidels" and condemning those who dodge their obligations to join "the jihad." The pro-Hamas "Dar al-Arqam Model School" in Gaza, that was established with Saudi aid, used texts that cited Sheikh Sulaiman bin Nasser al-Ulwan, a pro-al-Qaeda Saudi cleric, whose name is mentioned in a bin Laden video clip from December 2001. Both the "Koran and Sunna Society–Palestine" and the "Dar al-Arqam Model School" were supported by the Saudi-based World Assembly of Muslim Youth [WAMY], and were part of the "civilian" infrastructure of Hamas. Militant Saudi texts extolling martyrdom were infiltrated into schools throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, creating a whole generation of students that absorbed their extremist messages. The export of this Jihadist ideology to the Palestinians was reminiscent of the Saudi support for Madrassas in western Pakistan during the 1980s, that gave birth to the Taliban and other pro-bin Laden groups.

As already demonstrated, Saudi Arabia erected a number of large global charities in the 1960s and 1970s whose original purpose may have been to spread Wahhabi Islam, but which became penetrated by prominent individuals from al-Qaeda's global Jihadist network. The three most prominent of these charities were the International Islamic Relief Organization [IIRO; an offshoot of the Muslim World League], the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, and the Charitable Foundations of al-Haramain. All three are suspected by various global intelligence organizations of terrorist funding. From the CIA's interrogation of an al-Qaeda operative, it was learned that al-Haramain, for example, was used as a conduit for funding al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, Russia's Federal Security Service charged that al-Haramain was wiring funds to Chechen militants in 1999.

It would be incorrect to view these charities as purely non-governmental organizations [NGOs] or private charities, as they are mistakenly called. At the apex of each organization's board is a top Saudi official. The Saudi Grand Mufti, who was also a Saudi cabinet member, chaired the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League. The Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs chaired the secretariat of WAMY and the administrative council of al-Haramain. All three organizations have received large charitable contributions from the Saudi royal family that have been detailed in Saudi periodicals. Indeed, according to legal documents submitted on behalf of the Saudis by their legal team in the firm Baker Botts, in the 9/11 lawsuit, Prince Sultan provided $266,000 a year to the IIRO for sixteen years. He also provided a much smaller sum to WAMY. In short, these Saudi charities were full-fledged GOs – governmental organizations.

The earliest documented links between one of these charities and terrorists was found in Bosnia. It is a handwritten account on IIRO stationery from the late 1980s of a meeting attended by the secretary-general of the Muslim World League and bin Laden representatives, indicating the IIRO's readiness to have its offices used in support of militant actions. As already noted, IIRO has been suspected of terrorist funding in the Philippines, Russia, East Africa, Bosnia, and India. Al-Qaeda operatives became accustomed to Saudi Arabia being their source of support, in general. In an intercepted telephone conversation, a senior al-Qaeda operative told a subordinate: "Don't ever worry about money, because Saudi Arabia's money is your money." As in mid-August 2003, the former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage admitted in Australia that "some money from Saudi private charities had gone toward funding militants in Iraq."

But the strongest documented cases that demonstrate the ties between Saudi Arabia's global charities and international terrorism are related to Hamas. These ties were allegedly already in place in the mid-1990s when a Hamas funding group received instructions to write letters of thanks to executives of IIRO and WAMY for funds it had received. In 1994, former US President Clinton made a brief stop-over in Saudi Arabia during which he complained about Saudi funding of Hamas. These charges about Saudi Arabia bankrolling Hamas have become even more vociferous in recent years.

Teaching the children to kill non-Muslims:

In the Palestine's public schools, whose textbooks were financed by the European Union, incitement against Israel and the glorification of martyrdom are prominent themes, embedded in nationalistic aspirations. Needless to say, interest in reconciliation with Israel is notably absent. Elementary school teachers and principals commend their young students for wanting to "tear their [Zionists'] bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they will ever know." Posters in university classrooms proudly remind the world that the Palestinian cause is armed with 'human bombs'. Sheik Hassan Yosef, a leading Hamas member, summarized this process of incitement in his own words: "We like to grow them from kindergarten through college." Palestinian Brigadier General, Mahmoud Abu Marzoug, reminded a group of tenth grade girls in Gaza City, "as a Shahid [martyr], you will be alive in Heaven." After the address, a group of these girls lined up to assure a Washington Post reporter that they would be happy to carry out suicide bombings or other actions ending in their deaths.

When the PA assumed responsibility for education in the West Bank and Gaza in 1994, it adopted textbooks from Jordan and Egypt. These schoolbooks contained egregious anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, including overt calls for Israel's destruction. After much international criticism, a curriculum review project was initiated by the PA, which resulted in the publishing of new textbooks for grades one and six, for the school year 2000–2001. While much of the explicit incitement against Israel and Jews that existed in the old schoolbooks is gone, there is still considerable de-legitimization of Israel and denial of any Jewish historical connection to the land. Israel is omitted on all maps of the area, and all cities and natural and historic landmarks in Israel are taught as being 'Palestinian.'

In the new sixth grade textbook entitled "Reading the Koran", Palestinian children read about Allah's warning to the Jews that Allah will kill them because of their evil. Elsewhere, they are taught that Jews are like donkeys and that they will be expelled from their homes by Allah. In the assessment of the Palestinian Media Watch, this religion-based anti-Semitism is the most dangerous, as children are taught that hating Jews is God's choice and command. Moreover, although Islam also has positive traditions regarding Jews, the PA educators chose to incorporate only hateful religious traditions. Israel is portrayed as foreign to the Middle East and is described as a colonialist conqueror. There is a strongly implied message that all such conquered Arab land must be "liberated." This message is pervasive in all subjects, sometimes subtly, almost subliminally, as in the first grade science book in a chapter on 'sight'. The young student is instructed to look at little things using a magnifying glass. An illustration demonstrates what would be seen when looking through a magnifying glass at a piece of paper with writing that is barely visible without the magnifier. The part under the magnifying glass can be read clearly: "Palestine is Arab." In all contexts of the education system, "Palestine" includes all of Israel.

Other grades are still using the Jordanian and Egyptian imports, which glorify hatred of Israel and Jews, and glorify death in jihad. For example, in an eighth grade book for "Islamic Education" we find, "The Muslim sacrifices himself for his belief, and wages jihad for Allah. He is not swayed, for he knows that the date of his death as a Shahid on the field of battle is preferable to death in his bed." A tenth grade reading text claims, "Martyred jihad fighters are the most honored people, after the Prophet."

Violent death is sanctified throughout the Palestinian areas. The streets are plastered with posters glorifying the exploits of individual suicide bombers. Children trade 'martyr cards', purchased at their local shops, instead of cricket cards. Necklaces with pictures of martyrs are also very popular. One favorite wall slogan reads: "beware of death by natural causes." Suicide bombing is considered a source of neighborhood pride, as streets are named after the perpetrators of these atrocities. There is even a musical group named 'The Martyrs', whose lyrics espouse the virtues of "sacrificing yourself for Allah." Under these cultural influences, many children readily admit that they want to become suicide bombers. Some draw pictures and fantasize about the day when they will achieve their goal. Boys are taught that, as suicide bombers, they will ascend to a paradise of luxury staffed by 72 virgins waiting to gratify the martyrs as they arrive. An American psychiatrist with 22 years of experience studying and treating suicidal patients stresses that suicide bombers – both children and adults – are "tools used by terrorist leaders" with "a whole culture encouraging [them] to die."

Pakistani Government-controlled schools and private schools teaching the Government-prescribed curriculum may teach conventional disciplines, but hardly provide a more rational education than provided at Madrassas and training camps. The educational agenda of these schools is to instill the "ideology of Pakistan" into the minds of students, and/or the belief that Islam is superior to all other religions and that Pakistan is the Muslim homeland. Dr. Yvette Clair Rosser's study for the Observer Research Foundation revealed the prejudices found in Pakistani textbooks. In one seventh grades textbook, the section explaining different political systems on democracy, theocracy, and military rule was replaced with chapters titled "What it means to be a Good Pakistani" and "Standing in Queue." As stated by one student: "we have covered the same material year after year… we don't have to study for the tests, because the ideology of Pakistan has been instilled into us."

On an ethnic level, textbooks embody supremacist phrases condemning outside religions. In Pakistani textbooks, Hindus are referred to as "diabolical and conspiring against Pakistan." Further, Hindus are described as "backward, superstitious, wife burners, and that they are inherently cruel and if given the chance would assert their power over the weak, especially Muslims, by depriving them of education and pouring molten lead into their ears." This supremacist rhetoric continues on a global level and other countries are vilified in a similarly negative light. Textbooks portray Pakistan's existence as being threatened by a "Machiavellian conspiracy." As stated in Mohammed Sarwers' Pakistan Studies book, "at present particular segments in the guise of modernization and progressive activities have taken the unholy task of damaging our cultures heritage and thereby damaging our nation's integration."

Pakistani state-run education is not substantially different from what is preached by Islamist fundamentalists at Madrassas. The latter proclaim the need to perform jihad against India and on the West, which they believe is run by Jews. They also proclaim the goal of "planting Islamic flags in Delhi, Tel Aviv and Washington." One of the Lashkar-e-Toiba's Websites had a list of Jews that it claimed were working for the 'Clinton Administration'. Included in this list were presidential officials Robert Nash [an African American from the United States] and CIA director George Tenet [a Greek American].

For many Palestinian children, incitement begins at home. The parents' role in encouraging their own offspring to become martyrs is difficult to understand. They believe that the death of their child for the sake of holy jihad and Islam will guarantee him or her everlasting life and bliss in the hereafter. This type of sacrifice is held in such high esteem in certain segments of Palestinian society that it has become a badge of pride. Parents of toddlers proudly recount their little children saying they want to become martyrs. The father of a 13 year-old says, "I pray that God will choose him" to become a Shahid [Martyr]. One mother of a 13 year-old who perished as a result of his participation in the Intifada, told a journalist from the Times [London]: "I am happy that he has been martyred. I will sacrifice all my sons and daughters [12 in all] to Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem." Another mother boasted that she bore her son precisely for the purpose of participating in such a Jihad, while the child's father proudly claimed to have provided his son with the training. After 15 year-old Ahmat Omar Abu Selmia was killed on his way to attack the Israeli community of Dugit, his father celebrated his 'martyrdom' at a street festival attended by about 200 men.

A photograph in the Jerusalem Post on February 26, 2002, showed Palestinian fathers teaching a group of toddlers and young children to properly hold assault rifles while trampling on American and Israeli flags. The most shocking evidence of the extent of such brainwashing was found in the family photo album of a wanted Hamas militant. This album contained a photograph of a baby dressed as a suicide bomber, complete with a harness of mock explosives and the traditional Shahid's red headband.

Another reason that Palestinian parents allow and even encourage their children to get involved is the financial incentive offered to families of 'martyrs'. Thus, the PA furnishes cash payment of $2,000 [USD] per child killed and $300 per child wounded. Saudi Arabia announced that it had pledged $250 million as its first contribution to a billion-dollar fund aimed at supporting the families of Palestinian martyrs. In addition, from the beginning to the current Intifada until the capture of Baghdad by allied forces in April 2003, the Arab Liberation Front, a Palestinian group loyal to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, paid generous bounties to the injured, and the families of the Palestinian dead, according to the following sliding scale: $500 for a wound; $1,000 for disability; $10,000 to the family of each martyr; and $25,000 to the family of every suicide bomber. These are lavish sums, particularly given the chronic unemployment and poverty of the Palestinians who reside in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

It is important to note, however, that many Palestinian parents have attempted to restrain their children, and have resisted those who would place them in harm's way.

One public opinion poll of Palestinians living in the West Bank revealed that 74.1 per cent oppose the participation of children under the age of eighteen in the Intifada. Unfortunately this still leaves a substantial percentage that supports the participation of children, corresponding to hundreds of thousands of parents. Could their reluctance to exercise routine parental authority, by discouraging their children from participating in the violence, be attributable to the threats by armed PA officials?

Some in the PA leadership are apparently uncomfortable with the international and local criticism their use of children has engendered and are beginning to acknowledge the inherent risks of mixing child protesters with Palestinian gunmen. However, their reactions to the use of children in the Intifada are far from uniform or consistent. Mixed signals still emanate from various factions of the PA leadership.

For example, in January, 2003, marches and rallies were being planned by Fatah, the largest faction of the PLO, to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the founding of the movement. The then PA Minister of Interior, Hani al-Hassan, warned the Fatah activists against any display of weapons or the wearing of masks [to hide their faces] during the demonstrations. Hassan's directive was completely ignored, however, and witnesses said that the marchers "carried almost every kind of weapon, turning the celebration into a military parade." Shots were fired into the air from rifles and pistols. "The shooting continued all day," said one Palestinian. "It was like being in a battlefront. People were terrified, and it's only a miracle that no one was killed or injured." Many Palestinian bystanders were especially disturbed by the participation of several hundred children brandishing Kalashnikov rifles during the demonstrations. Some of the children were dressed in white uniforms, and wrapped in explosive belts to emulate Palestinian suicide bombers. Pictures of the children appeared in both local and foreign newspapers, much to the annoyance of the Palestinian Journalists' Association. The Association has banned journalists from taking pictures of armed children and threatened sanctions against any journalist, local or foreign, who disregards the ban. Association members are concerned that such pictures will further damage the image of the Palestinians in the eyes of the world.

The same ideology of martyrdom of their children is shared by many Pakistani parents. Stern found that "mothers claimed that they would donate sons, because it will help them in the next life – the real life." One father stated "whoever gives his life to Allah lives forever and earns a spot in heaven for 70 members of the family chosen by him." Whenever there is a martyr in the village it encourages more children to join Jihad.

As there is allegation of Palestinian jihad, organizations been set up in Pakistan to help the families of martyrs. These organizations help to pay debts, improve the families' living conditions and help start businesses. One such organization, the Shuhda-e-Islam Foundation, founded in 1995 by the Jamaat-e-Islami [JeI], claims to provide financial support to over 364 families and to have paid out over three million Pakistani rupees. When interviewed, one mother whose son lost his life to jihad claimed, "God is helping us a lot," pointing to the new additions to her house. She stated that she wanted to martyr her youngest son, who was ten years of age. When questioned what he wanted after he grew up, he claimed "respect and jihad."

The mysterious kindergarten Madrassas:

An extensive study was conducted on the existing kindergarten Madrassas in Bangladesh. All of them, having quite a handsome amount of expenditure each month for maintaining posh class rooms, air-conditioned transports and high standard accommodation for male and female students, could not show any acceptable source of income. For example, one of such Madrassas in Dhaka's Uttara area spends more than US$ 8000 per month while their income from student's tuition fee is less than US$ 2000. When asked about their source of income, Moulana Abdus Sakur, the principal of the institution said, they receive donation from Muslims abroad on a regular basis, which helps them to sustain. It was even revealed that, such institutions do not enroll with the Bureau of Non-government Organization [NGO]s in Bangladesh to declare their source of money. Rather any citizen in the country is entitled to establish a kindergarten Madrassa with a Trade License issued by the City Corporation just with an annual fee of US$ 10.

Talking to me, a senior official with NGO Bureau said, country's intelligence agencies have gathered substantial evidence of several kindergarten Madrassas receiving donations from foggy Afro-Arab sources. In many cases, these Madrassas invite 'speakers' from these countries for orientation course of certain period ranging between 2-6 weeks. Generally, those speakers are extremist Islamist scholars, preaching jihad and religious hatred to the innocent children. Such lectures are extremely hypnotizing, leaving great impact on the minds of children, who get allured towards suicide or jihad and killing Jews and Christians in exchange of heaven and 70 virgins during the next life.

Most alarming information on the Madrassas and kindergarten Madrassas is there is no monitoring by the government of Bangladesh on the activities of such religious institutions. Although the Education Ministry had been trying to bring them under enrollment for past several years, a large number of influential radical leaders are some how avoiding such enrolments for reason understandable.

A student in fifth grade with one of the kindergarten Madrassas said, "Islam is the ultimate for the entire world. We have to fight every enemies of our religion so that one day, the whole world will come under the umbrella of Islam. Allah promises us heaven if we fight and even embrace death in this holy task".

There is information on a hidden agenda of some of the kindergarten Madrassa preparing their adult female students for a particular group for a specific agenda named 'Operation Penetration'. Generally, girl students mostly from lower income group, having excellent looks are recruited for this purpose. They are given proper education to attain highest efficiency in speaking English, French, German or Spanish. Moreover, they get training in computer and various IT related works. These students are destined for various jobs in Western destinations with airline companies, IT companies, hotels, restaurants, large commercial enterprises and even in sensitive organizations. Once completed educational career, their back ground of having education in Madrassa are generally kept secret. Even some are given Christian names. There are several ways of 'penetrating' these well-trained females to western countries. One is as spouse of any male immigrants, by meeting targeted Western partners through internet or by taking the job of any kind of job in companies and secondly as tourists or performers/artistes. Prior to their departure to West, these girls are injected HIV positive virus. But, for making such 'sacrifice' generally their families receive US$ 5,000-10,000 as compensation. Main objective of these females, once already entered to the Western countries are to make friendly relations with men and ultimately establish physical relations, thus passing the virus. While on domestic job, they will push infected needles in the body of children at home, when their parents are out for work. Some of such females establish day care centers in the West, and continue to get the children infected to HIV virus mainly through needles. The 'operation penetration' has a target of infecting at least half million Westerners by the end of 2010. According to internal sources in the Madrassas, this is the latest technique of Islamist radicals in causing maximum degree of damage to the Western societies.

Madrassas in United States:

Despite a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Va., has continued to use textbooks that teach hatred of everyone not of their specific brand of faith, the U.S. State Department has yet to act to close down the school. Officials of the academy, which has about 1,000 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12, promised to excise passages in the textbooks that disparage Jews and Christians, but according to an examination by The Washington Post for the 2006-2007 school year, though “much of the controversial material had been removed, at least one book still contained passages that extolled jihad and martyrdom, called for victory over one's enemies and said the killing of adulterers and apostates was 'justified.'”

Once again, Islamic Saudi Academy officials have promised to clean up the text.

There are at least two questions that should be asked. One: are they telling us the truth this time? Probably not. Two: why do we allow such schools in our country when nothing close to a Christian, Jewish or even secular school would be permitted in Saudi Arabia, whose government specifically treats as contraband any religious text other than the Koran and prohibits even private worship of any God but Allah?

The Center for Islamic Pluralism [www.islamicpluralism.org], a Web site that bills itself as a voice of moderate Islam, quotes David D. Aufhauser, a former Treasury Department general counsel, who told a Senate committee four years ago that estimates of Saudi spending on these schools worldwide are “north of $75 billion.” The Center says that the money financed construction of thousands of mosques, schools and Islamic centers, the employment of at least 9,000 proselytizers and the printing of millions of books of religious instruction.

The Center for Islamic Pluralism says Saudi Arabia has a “pervasive influence on Islamic education in the United States [that] has led to the development of a new breed of American: the jihadist.”

One would be hard-pressed to find a greater threat to public health, safety and welfare than this training ground for a new generation of jihadists. The State Department isn't known for having a spine in such things. Does Fairfax County, or will it pretend it can take Saudi money without suffering consequences?

Inside Madrassas in United Kingdom:

Muslim children are being beaten and abused regularly by teachers at some British madrassas - Islamic evening classes - an investigation by influential British daily newspaper The Times has found.

Students have been slapped, punched and had their ears twisted, according to an unpublished report by an imam based on interviews with victims in the north of England. One was “picked up by one leg and spun around” while another said a madrassa teacher was “kicking in my head - like a football”, says the report which was compiled by Irfan Chishti, a former government adviser on Islamic affairs.

Almost 1,600 madrassas operate in Britain, teaching Arabic and the Koran on weekday evenings to about 200,000 children aged from four to their mid-teens.

While there is no hard evidence to indicate how many are involved in the physical abuse of children, The Times has uncovered a disturbing pattern in one town - Rochdale - through interviews with mainstream school teachers, Muslim parents and the children themselves.

One woman told The Times that her niece Hiba, 7, was slapped across the face so hard by her madrassa teacher that her ear was cut. It later became inflamed and she had to have emergency medical treatment.

When the teacher refused to apologise, Hiba's aunt, Jamila, insisted that her niece should be moved to another madrassa. “I have absolutely no respect for religious teachers who behave like this,” she said.

Another girl described how, at the age of 12, she was hit by her madrassa teacher whenever she mispronounced a word or forgot a verse of the Koran.

When Imam Chishti, a religious education teacher who also runs the Light of Islam Academy in Rochdale, decided to carry out his own investigation into the problem he was shocked by how even the victims had grown to accept the abuse. “They all joked about it,” he said. “There's a culture that accepts it.”

Imam Chishti said that part of the problem was that some madrassa teachers were ignorant of British law. Corporal punishment was banned in state schools in 1986 and in all schools in 1998. Under current law teachers acting in loco parentis may use only “reasonable punishment” such as a smack, providing it does not cause any marks or bruising.

But the abuse discovered by The Times investigation goes far beyond what could be termed “reasonable force”. One particularly brutal form of punishment practised in some madrassas is known as the Hen, in which the victim is forced to hold his ears while squatting with his arms fed through his legs.

The magnitude of the problem in Rochdale has led primary school head teachers to break the silence surrounding the problem. Several disclosed that they had asked social services to investigate complaints of physical abuse in madrassas made by pupils but that the victims' parents refused to press charges against the perpetrators either because they felt that physical abuse was normal practice or they feared being ostracised by their community.

Tina Wheatley, deputy head of Heybrook Primary School, said: “If a child comes in with an injury of any sort and it's non-accidental, then schools will refer it to parents, then also to child protection.”

But she said that social workers were often faced by parents who refused to take action against the abusers. “When child protection turns up at the parents' [home], parents don't want to take it any further. There are a lot of head teachers in this area who have spoken to the authorities. It's so sensitive,” she said.

Sandra Hartley, head teacher at Brimrod County Primary School in Rochdale, where 93 per cent of pupils are Muslim, said that she feared that some Muslim parents regarded physical beatings as normal because they had been subjected to the same treatment when they were children.

“You know, it's very much accepted that children are experiencing that type of coercion, unfair treatment and sometimes physical abuse,” she said. “Parents knowing that this is happening and not wanting to move their child from that type of extra-curricular activity is very much the pattern that we have here.”

The Times has also learnt that Rochdale police and social services have met local Muslim leaders six times this year to discuss child protection issues after investigations prompted by claims of physical abuse at madrassas.

Terry Piggott, the executive director of Rochdale Borough Council, admitted that it was difficult for the authorities to take action.

“Because of the rapid turnover of volunteer teachers at madrassas - and the fact that many are part-time - it makes it difficult to regulate and monitor the people who are working with local young people,” he said in a statement.

The problem is not confined to Rochdale. Ann Cryer, Labour MP for the Yorkshire constituency of Keighley which has a large Muslim population, said that mainstream teachers had complained to her about the punishment their students faced at madrassas. She added her voice to those from Muslim community calling for madrassas to be brought within the regulatory framework.“I think we should have some sort of review at a very high level as to how madrassas are being [run] ... they seem to be a law unto themselves,” she said.

Madrassas and similar religious classes are not subject to any regulation nor are their teachers required to be vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau. Many madrassas are not even known to the authorities because they are run on an ad hoc basis by people in their own living rooms. Even those attached to a mosque which is registered with the Charities Commission are not monitored.

Ms Cryer called for the authorities to be given powers to perform “spot checks” on madrassas and shut down any in which children are being abused.“As the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities grow so do the number of madrassas and therefore the risk to children increases every year,” she said.

The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board [Minab] - a government approved organisation established in 2006 - has set up a minimum standard for mosques which includes guidelines to safeguard child welfare. However, membership is purely voluntary and Minab has yet to recruit a single mosque.

A spokesman for the board, Yousif Al-Khoei, admitted that some mosques were run by teachers who may be abusing children.

“There is of course a minority of madrassas which have a village mindset who may be practising it but you have to look at it from both angles,” he said. “No community is perfect.”

The Minister for Community Cohesion, Sadiq Khan, urged his fellow Muslims to turn in those responsible for violence against children.

“We need to have religious leaders saying in clear and religious messages that it's unacceptable and that there's no place in Islam for child abuse. It's pure village culture mentality,” he said. “Everybody should expose this. The neighbours who know about it should expose it, the teachers [at mainstream schools] should expose it. We need a culture which says that whistleblowing on these things is a badge of pride not a badge of shame.”

He added: “We are hiding behind the defence of cultural sensitivities and our children are not being protected.”

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “We're crystal clear that all organisations, including faith-based, must abide by children protection and safeguarding laws.

“Any actions that go beyond reasonable punishment are absolutely unacceptable and must be dealt with the courts. We urge anyone who is aware of such incidents to report them to the police and relevant authorities.”

Commenting on the situation, Head of Muslim Parliament in Britain wrote in the British newspaper Times, “Child protection legislation may as well not exist for Muslims who operate and teach at some of Britain's 1,600 or so madrassas, or Islamic schools. For such people, who either consciously flout the law or are completely ignorant of it, beating children is not a form of abuse but a method of enforcing discipline.

“It may surprise many people to find that, unlike schools and other institutions dealing with children, madrassas are not subject to government regulation. The situation is compounded as even many mosque-run madrassas are not registered with anyone.”

“A recent survey by the Charity Commission found that 11per cent of mosques in London were unregistered. Travel north to the Midlands and that figure mushrooms to 70 per cent. But even the registration of mosques is limited in the type of protection that it offers children, because, while registration ensures random checks by the commission, it does not ensure the regulation of madrassas within the mosques.”

“Only two years ago my organisation, the Muslim Parliament, published a report to highlight the problem of child abuse in madrassas, including the mentality that holds such abuse as a taboo subject that is best kept quiet. We said then that too many members of the community seemed more interested in protecting it from embarrassment than in ensuring the wellbeing of innocent and voiceless children.”

“The report highlighted that up to 40 per cent of madrassas exclude uncooperative pupils, and its estimate of 15-20 cases a year of sexual abuse was considered an understatement. Those parents whose children are abused remain silent for fear of being ostracised by their community or stigmatised by mainstream Britain.”

“I recall a conversation with a former madrassa pupil who emphasised the importance of the schools in Muslim life. But when I asked him whether he would send his son to one, he answered without hesitation: “No.” Then he opened up about the physical abuse he was subjected to by madrassa teachers.”

“The Children Act 2004 places the responsibility for protecting and promoting the welfare of children on local safeguarding children boards that include local health authorities and the police. The Department for Children, Schools and Families lays down the guidelines for how such agencies should cooperate to protect children within the framework of Working Together to Safeguard Children.”

“Many local safeguarding children boards have begun to engage the faith and voluntary sector and have organised workshops and training courses in their respective areas. However, it seems that these activities have been attended by only a handful of mosque and madrassa organisations.”

“In the absence of a national register of mosques and madrassas, it is difficult to say what percentage of them have taken advantage of these provisions and have gone on to put in place child protection policy and procedures in their own madrassas. I am not sure how many madrassas have even done Criminal Record Bureau checks on staff who routinely deal with children.”

“Some charities and local authorities are taking the initiative. Kirklees Council has produced Safe Children Sound Learning - Guidance for Madressahs which has proved an excellent resource for propagating good practice. There is a need for such resources to be made widely available, backed by effective training programmes delivered by local safeguarding children boards.”

“Sadly for the 200,000 children in Britain who attend madrassas, however, the situation will not improve and may even get worse unless new laws are introduced to ensure that every madrassa is regulated by a government body. Such laws could force the closure of madrassas in breach of the Child Protection Act. Until then, children who attend madrassas, whether those connected to mosques or one of the many makeshift varieties operating from people's homes, will remain at significant risk of physical and sexual harm.”

Physical and sexual abuse by Islamist clergies:

Case – 1 [Pakistan]: In June 2004, when five-year-old Talha did not return from the Lajna mosque in Lahore, where he had gone to take Quranic lessons from Maulvi [clergy] Mohammad Altaf, his mother went to fetch him. She found the boy in the corridor of the mosque, bleeding and unconscious; the Maulvi was missing from the mosque. A case was duly lodged. Altaf was subsequently arrested and Tahla identified him as the person who had sodomised him.

The family was determined to pursue the case. But soon different religious groups began to mount pressure on them to drop the case; the family was even told that these "Maulvis have links with Al Qaeda". Pressure was, apparently, also brought upon the police. The family ultimately relented in July, agreeing to not pursue their case and withdrawing their witnesses.

Case – 2 [Pakistan]: Sanam, 9, daughter of Mohammad Saleh Kori, a resident of the Microwave Colony, Sukkur, Sind, was a student of Abdul Wahid Chachar's Madrassa. On February 15, 2004, at the end of her classes, Maulvi Abdul Wahid told her that she was his wife and would have to live with him. Sanam rushed out to tell her parents about the incident. When her father went to the Madrassa to complain, Abdul produced a Nikahnama [Marriage Certificate] bearing Mohammad Saleh Kori and his daughter's signatures.

The father-daughter had been tricked into appending their signature to the marriage document. Apparently, the Maulana had asked them to sign on a form, claiming it would enable the family to receive zakat [charity money]. The illiterate father, obviously, couldn't distinguish between a zakat form and a Nikahnama. Worse, the local Chachar tribesmen began pressuring him to hand over 9-year old Sanam to the Islamist Clergy.

Although according to existing law in the world, marrying a 9-year old girl is against the laws and considered to be serious crime, many of the Muslim clergies continued to pass sermons giving legalization to marrying of infants.

Case – 3 [India]: Shaheeruddin, chief of the Bodh Gaya-based residential Madrassa was sent to jail on July 25, 2008 on charges of sodomy.

The madrassa chief was arrested late on Thursday evening on the complaint of a 13-year-old madrassa inmate who said that Shaheeruddin had been sodomizing him for about six weeks against his wishes.

Irfan [name changed], the victim, a resident of Malmal village of Madhubani district, along with his guardian, met senior police officials at the Janata Durbar on Thursday to register complaint against the Madrassa chief.

According to the Bodh Gaya DSP Rajvansh Singh, on the instruction of senior police officials, the victim was examined by Dr. Sartaj Khan at the Anugrah Narain Magadh Medical College and Hospital.

During the medical examination, the doctor found signs of sodomy on the victim's body. The victim told police officials that though Shaheeruddin had been sodomizing him for the last several weeks, the last time it was done was on July 20, 2008.

After initial hesitation, the victim revealed his trauma to one of his Madrassa mates and then went back home to narrate the story to his family elders, who in turn complained to the police.

The Bodh Gaya DSP said that after medical confirmation of the sodomy charge, the police picked up the Madrassa chief. A case under Section 377 has been instituted against the Madrassa chief.

Section 377 says "Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment with life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine."

The news of the Madrassa chief's arrest was received in Bodh Gaya with shocked disbelief, as Shaheeruddin is considered to be an influential person in the area.

The Madrassa, housing hundreds of poor children from different parts of the state, is run on charity and Shaheeruddin is regarded as the main resource mobilizer for the Madrassa where the inmates are supposed to receive religious education with an emphasis on pious conduct.

Hundreds of supporters of the Madrassa chief laid a siege around the Bodh Gaya police station demanding immediate release of the accused. The Madrassa chief's supporters said the charges were cooked up by the Madrassa boy who, according one of the supporters of the Madrassa chief was earlier awarded corporal punishment by the institution head.

Case-4 [Brunei]: Hearing of a sodomy case facing a Madrassa teacher who is alleged to have sodomized five of his students between the age of eight and 10 starts on March 25 at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam.

The accused, Mohamed Hatimu (28), is appearing before Resident Magistrate Hadija Msongo.

Prosecutor Nassoro Sewaya told the court On February 1, 2008 that investigation into the case had been completed and asked the court to set a hearing date. Sewaya said he would call 16 witnesses to testify.

Hatimu is alleged to have committed the offence between April and June 2007 at Mwanayamala in the city. The accused is out on bail.

Case – 5 [Pakistan]: When, on the morning of 21 February 2007, a bearded man walked up to a woman and asked 'Why aren't you wearing proper Islamic dress?' he was not looking for an answer. It was just a rhetorical question because, before the woman could respond, he had pumped a bullet into her head which killed her.

The woman – dressed so traditionally that only her face was visible – was Zill-e-Huma, who at the time was addressing a public meeting in her capacity as Social Welfare Minister of Pakistan's largest province, Punjab.

After shooting the Minister, Hafiz Muhammad Sarwar calmly stood his ground, allowed the police to arrest him and said loud and clear: he had killed the Minister because, as a good Muslim, she was supposed to be staying inside her home and not ruling men. The rule of women, said Hafiz Muhammad Sarwar, was anti-Islamic. Women seen outside the home are evil. 'I have killed her out of conviction that she was leading an un-Islamic life and spreading an evil influence on other women.'

He also proudly claimed that in the past five years he had killed twelve prostitutes and seriously injured dozens more for being immoral women: 'One immoral woman will cause one hundred men to go to hell in the hereafter; hence no immoral woman should be left to stay alive.'

The police officers there confirmed that Hafiz Muhammad was a well-known prostitute-killer. When asked what would happen to his children, he replied: 'I am not worried about the future of my children. I have killed the women in line with God's commandments and He will take care of my children.'

Hafiz Muhammad Sarwar, a Wahhabi by religious persuasion, started his 'divine mission' on the night of 3 November 2002 when he shot Dabbi, a poor prostitute. Within six months he had killed half-a-dozen prostitutes and hurt many more in Lahore and Gujranwala, and came to be known as 'Serial Killer'. At the time of his arrest in 2004 he proudly confessed to having killed 'immoral' prostitutes. His favourite method of attack was to knife or shoot the prostitutes just above the crotch. If they survived the attack they would be paralyzed or permanently disabled [which actually happened].

But he was never punished, because his affluent Islamist friends and patrons took care of the murder witnesses and the relations of the prostitutes, either by paying them the Shari'a-sanctioned blood money, or by simply terrorizing them. During his incarceration he was examined by a noted psychiatrist who pronounced him 'normal' but religiously fanatical. Thus, after spending one year in jail, he was a free man. His patrons helped him set up in business as a locksmith, and he enjoyed the reputation of an honest, clean man.

Case – 6 [Pakistan] : A religious seminar student Muhammad Asif [12] was scarred with hot iron for refusing to have sexual intercourse [sodomy] with the teacher of Madrassa, Abdul Rashid, who injured his private parts in anger. The incident took place in December 2005.

Meanwhile, a Madrassa teacher and two other were jailed awaiting trial in Karachi, Pakistan for an acid attack on a 14-year-old boy after he refused to have sexual intercourse with the cleric. The boy was blinded and badly injured. In 2004, Pakistani officials stunned the nation by officially disclosing more than 500 complaints of sexual assaults against young Madrassa students in that country.

Due to increase of influence of Talibans and Madrassa educated population in the Muslim nations, series of new laws are being created under the garb of Sharia Law in a number of Muslim nations. In most cases, such Sharia Laws are very much against the codes of civilized society practices.

For example, let us have a glimpse on the existing marriage law in Islamic Republic of Iran. In Iran, marriage law has become extremely complicated, confusing and mostly against the rights of women. Let me begin with a quote from a fatwa by the late and unlamented Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, where the readers will possibly understand the state of mind of the Islamist clergies on this particular issue:

"A man can marry a girl younger than nine years of age, even if the girl is still a baby being breastfed. A man, however is prohibited from having intercourse with a girl younger than nine, other sexual acts such as foreplay, rubbing, kissing and sodomy is allowed.

A man having intercourse with a girl younger than nine years of age has not committed a crime, but only an infraction, if the girl is not permanently damaged. If the girl, however, is permanently damaged, the man must provide for her all her life. But this girl will not count as one of the man's four permanent wives. He also is not permitted to marry the girl's sister."

Other forms of sexual abuse inflicted on children by Muslim clergies include fondling of genitals, coercing a child to fondle the abuser's genitals, masturbation with the child as either participant or observer, oral sex, anal or vaginal penetration by penis, finger or any other object.

Another technique used by Muslim clergies is called "thighing". The child's legs are pressed together and the abuser inserts his penis between the thighs of the little boy or girl. This was approved of by Ayatollah Khomeini who in his Little Green Book asserted “It is not illegal for an adult male to 'thigh' or enjoy a young girl who is still in the age of weaning; meaning to place his penis between her thighs, and to kiss her.”

Full text of rulling by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini on marriage:

"A woman may legally belong to a man in one of two ways; by continuing marriage or temporary marriage. In the former, the duration of the marriage need not be specified; in the latter, it must be stipulated, for example, that it is for a period of an hour, a day, a month, a year, or more."

"A man can marry a girl younger than nine years of age, even if the girl is still a baby being breastfed. A man, however is prohibited from having intercourse with a girl younger than nine, other sexual act such as foreplay, rubbing, kissing and sodomy is allowed. A man having intercourse with a girl younger than nine years of age has not committed a crime, but only an infraction, if the girl is not permanently damaged. If the girl, however, is permanently damaged, the man must provide for her all her life. But this girl will not count as one of the man's four permanent wives. He also is not permitted to marry the girl's sister."

"A father or a paternal grandfather has the right to marry off a child who is insane or has not reached puberty by acting as its representative. The child may not annul such a marriage after reaching puberty or regaining his sanity, unless the marriage is to his manifest disadvantage."

"Any girl who is of age, that is, capable of understanding what is in her own best interest, if she wishes to get married and is a virgin, must procure the authorization of her father or paternal grandfather. The permission of her mother or brother is not required."

"A marriage is annulled if a man finds that his wife is afflicted with one of the seven following disabilities: madness, leprosy, eczema, blindness, paralysis with aftereffects, malformation of the urinary and genital tracts or of the genital-tract and rectum through conjoining thereof, or vaginal malformation making Coitus impossible."

"If a wife finds out after marriage that her husband is suffering from mental illness, that he is a castrate, impotent, or has had his testicles excised, she may apply for annulment of her marriage."

"If a wife has her marriage annulled because her husband is unable to have sexual relations with her either vaginally or anally, he must pay her as damages one-half of her mehryeh [her price] specified in the marriage contract. If the husband or wife annuls the marriage for any of the above-mentioned reasons, the man owes nothing to the woman if they have had sexual relations together; if they have not, he must pay her the full amount of the dowry."

"A Moslem woman may not marry a non-Moslem man; nor may a Moslem man marry a non-Moslem woman in continuing marriage, but he may take a Jewish or Christian woman in temporary marriage."

"A woman who has contracted a continuing marriage does not have the right to go out of the house without her husband's permission; she must remain at his disposal for the fulfillment of any one of his desires, and may not refuse herself to him except for a religiously valid reason. If she is totally submissive to him, the husband must provide her with her food, clothing, and lodging, whether or not he has the means to do so."

"A woman who refuses herself to her husband is guilty, and may not demand from him food, clothing, lodging, or any later sexual relations; however, she retains the right to be paid damages if she is repudiated."

"If a man who has married a girl who has not reached puberty possesses her sexually before her ninth birthday, inflicting traumatisms upon her, he has no right to repeat such an act with her."

"A man who has contracted a continuing marriage may not leave his wife for so long a time as to allow her to question the validity of the marriage; however, he is not obligated to spend one night out of every four with her."

"A husband must have sexual relations with his wife at least once in every four months."

"A woman who has been temporarily married in exchange for a previously established dowry has no right to demand that her daily expenses be paid by her husband, even when she becomes pregnant."

"A temporary marriage, even though only one of convenience, is nevertheless legal."

"A man must not abstain from having sexual relations with his temporary wife for more than four months.

"If a father [or paternal grandfather] marries off his daughter [or granddaughter] in her absence without knowing for a certainty that she is alive, the marriage becomes null and void as soon as it is established that she was dead at the time of the marriage."

"To look upon the face and hair of a girl who has not reached puberty, if it is done without intention of enjoyment thereof, and if one is not afraid of succumbing to temptation, may be tolerated. It is however recommended that one not look upon her belly or thighs, which must remain covered."

"To look upon the faces and hands of Jewish or Christian women, if this is not done with intention of enjoyment thereof, and if one does not fear temptation, is tolerated."

"A woman must hide her body and her hair from the eyes of men. It is highly recommended that she also hide them from those of pre-pubic boys, if she suspects that they may look upon her with lust."

"If a man is called upon, for medical reasons, to look upon a woman other than his wife and to touch her body, he is permitted to do so, but if he can give such care by only looking at the body he must not touch it, and if he can give it by only touching, he must not look at it."

"A woman who becomes pregnant as a result of adultery must not have an abortion. If a man commits adultery with an unmarried woman, and subsequently marries her, the child born of that marriage will be a bastard unless the parents can be sure it was conceived after they were married."

"A child born of an adulterous father is legitimate."

"The best person to breast-feed a newborn baby it its own mother. It is preferable that she not ask to be paid for such service, but that her husband pays her for it of his own free will. If the sum the mother asks for is greater than that charged by a wet nurse, the husband is free to take the child from its mother and turn it over to the wet nurse."

"A man who repudiates his wife must be of sound mind and past the age of puberty. He must do so of his own free will and without any constraint; therefore, if the formula for divorce is spoken in jest the marriage is not annulled."

"A woman temporarily married, say, for a month or a year, has her marriage automatically annulled at the end of that time, or at any other time when the husband releases her from the balance of her engagement. It is not necessary for this that there be any witnesses, or that the woman has had her period."

"A woman who has not yet reached the age of nine or a menopausal woman may remarry immediately after divorce, without waiting the hundred days that are otherwise required."

"A woman who has had her ninth birthday, or who has not yet entered menopause, must wait for three menstrual periods after her divorce before being allowed to remarry. If a woman who has not reached her ninth birthday or who has not entered menopause gets temporarily married, she must, at the end of the contract or when the husband has released her from part of it, wait two menstrual periods or forty-five days before marrying again."

"If the father or paternal grandfather of a boy has him marry a woman for a temporary marriage, he may prematurely cancel it in the boy's interest, even if the marriage was contracted before the boy reached the age of puberty. If, for example, a fourteen-year-old boy has been married off to a woman for a period of two years, they may return her freedom to the woman before this time has run its course; but a continuing marriage cannot be broken in this way."

"If a man repudiates his wife without informing her of it, and continues to meet her expenses for a period of, say, a year, and at the end of that time informs her that he got a divorce a year earlier and shows her proof of it, he may require that she return to him anything he has bought or given her during that time, provided that she has not used it up or consumed it, in which case he cannot demand its return."

"If a child dies within the mother's womb and it is a danger to her life to leave it there, it must be extracted in the easiest way possible; it can. if need be, cut into pieces; this should be done by the woman's husband or a midwife."

"A woman who wishes to pursue her studies toward the end of being able to earn her living through respectable work, and who has a male teacher, may do so if she keeps her face covered and has no contact with men; but if-that is inevitable, and religious and moral tenets are thus undermined, she must give up her studies. Girls and boys who attend coeducational classes in grammar schools, high schools, universities, or other teaching establishments, and who, in order to legalize such a situation, wish to contract a temporary marriage may do so without the permission of their fathers. The same applies if the boy and girl are in love but hesitate to ask for such permission."

I am almost done with my new book titled 'Inside Madrassa', where readers will be able to know lots of unknown and untold stories about Madrassa education, sodomy inside Madrassa, repression of women in Muslim society, prostitution under the cover of so-called marriage, terrorism breed inside Madrassa etc.

This book contains above 600 pages and I had to work for more than six years in collecting information, fact and evidences for various chapters of the book.

SALAH UDDIN SHOAIB CHOUDHURY
Journalist, Columnist, Author & Peace Activist
Skype: shoaibnoca
Editor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz www.weeklyblitz.net
PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award 2006
Key to the Englewood City, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007

Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

No one ever move forward by aiming backward.
By: Julius Sitsofe Yao M