Skip to comments.The Pakistan connection
Posted on 04/07/2002 2:42:03 PM PDT by milestogo
The Pakistan connection
A quiet probe by a Malaysian team found disturbing signs that a larger than expected number of its youth were in the hardline Pakistani madrasahs that produced the Taleban. Malaysia correspondent BRENDAN PEREIRA reports on what the yet-to-be-released Umno Youth study found
KUALA LUMPUR - A group of men from the country's ruling party slipped into Pakistan recently in search of an answer to this nagging question: How many Malaysian-Muslims live and breathe the conservative Islamic dogma that was the staple diet of the Taleban regime?
The team from Umno Youth visited crammed dormitories that passed off as madrasahs, infiltrated the closed network of Malaysian students and managed to piece together a fuller picture of a situation that has long-term significance for moderate Malaysia.
They have since compiled their findings into a report that will be handed over to the Mahathir administration.
The neatly-typed report would make disturbing night-time reading.
It confirmed that a larger than expected number of Malaysian students were studying in madrasahs across Pakistan. And while there was no evidence to suggest that they were involved with militants in Afghanistan or Pakistan, many of them were being fed with a narrow world-view.
It disclosed that some of the students left home just after reaching puberty and returned to Malaysia in time to set up home. It revealed that the students ate, slept and dreamt about religion, and nothing else mattered.
It recorded that the students led cloistered lives and were not allowed to mix with women.
It also reported that contrary to perception, the madrasahs in Pakistan were as popular with middle-class parents from the west coast of Malaysia as they were with supporters of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) from Kelantan and Terengganu.
The yet-to-be-released report is significant.
Up till this point, the Mahathir administration had only suspicions or anecdotal evidence that some young Malaysians were being schooled in a brand of Islam that is far less accommodating than the one that has made Malaysia among the most moderate Muslim nations in the world.
The arrests of more than 30 members of Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) last year and the detention of a few Malaysians involved in a bombing campaign in Jakarta gave the government a hint of this constituency's potential for creating instability and unrest.
Now it has something concrete to act on. And it must act, says Mr Zulkifli Alwi, a member of the Umno Youth delegation that visited madrasahs in Lahore, Islamabad and other areas in Pakistan.
'You have a group of young men who are spending the formative years of their lives being immersed in a system that is alien to Malaysia,' he says.
'They live in the most primitive of conditions and are being taught that only a strict Islamic form of governance is acceptable.
'The whole environment is in contrast to what the Malaysian system is all about. We embrace progress, multi-racialism and being open-minded.'
Another team of officials from the ruling party's youth wing will leave for Pakistan this month to conduct an exhaustive study and find out just how many Malaysians are there and blacklist the incubators of terror that have been masquerading as religious schools.
The first report by Umno Youth shows that the government estimate of 300 Malaysian students was off the mark. Dr Adham Baba, head of the movements education bureau, gives one example to illustrate the gap between fact and fiction.
He says that when the team visited a madrasah in Lahore, it was prepared to meet nine Malaysians. Instead, they were greeted by 50 faces.
'We were shocked,' he recalls. 'According to records, there were supposed to be only nine Malaysians registered in that madrasah.'
If this pattern is repeated in just a sprinkling of the thousands of religious schools spread over the country, the number of Malaysians in Pakistan could be closer to 1,000.
This situation has caused red flags to go up.
Says Dr Chandra Muzaffar, political commentator and social activist: 'What we have to bear in mind is that some of these madrasahs were successful in producing people who led the Taleban.
'If a large pool of Malaysians are being exposed to the same teachings, there is a good chance that some of them will return home with the same ideas as the Taleban.'
The ideological base of the Taleban was an extreme form of Deobandism. Deobandi madrasahs sprouted like mushrooms after rain following the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
Its early sponsor was the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI), a fundamentalist party.
During the 1980s, when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, hundreds of madrasahs were set up in the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan by the JUI. The schools offered young Pakistanis and Afghan refugees free education, food, shelter and military training.
These madrasahs received strong financial support from the military regime of President Zia ul Haq. In 1971, there were only 900 madrasahs in Pakistan, but by 1988, there were 8,000 madrasahs and 25,000 unregistered ones.
Most of the schools were in rural areas and Afghan refugee camps and were run by semi-educated scholars. Here, students studied the Quran, the sayings of Prophet Muhammad and other basics of Islamic law. Mathematics, science and history are not part of the syllabus.
They sleep in dormitories and live on a diet of flat bread and water. The students also grew up not knowing the company of women.
In his book, Taleban - The Story of Afghan Warlords, Mr Ahmed Rashid wrote: 'The mullahs who had taught them stressed that women were a temptation, an unnecessary distraction from being of service to Allah.
'So when the Taleban entered Kandahar and confined women to their homes by barring them from working, going to school and even from shopping, the majority of these madrasah boys saw nothing unusual in such measures.'
One such madrasah is the Jamiat-ul-Uloomi Islamiyyah in Karachi. It has more than 5,000 students, including some Malaysians.
It is also the owner of an unenviable track record, counting several former Taleban ministers among its alumni and several hundred former students as conscripted soldiers for Mullah Omar and company.
No one can say for sure if Malaysians who studied in some of the madrasahs had received military training or if they had fought alongside the Taleban.
Sunday Review understands that the Umno Youth team had a tough time extracting information from the few students who were willing to risk being ostracised by fellow students for speaking to members of Prime Minster Mahathir Mohamad's political party.
So on a few occasions, the Umno Youth members had to use intermediaries to glean more information from Malaysians studying in religious schools.
Mr Zulkifli believes that many of the students are either supporters of PAS or members. 'Some of them are openly hostile to anyone from the government. That is an unusual posture for those who are learning religion.'
Umno Youth believes that PAS, its rival for the Malay vote in Malaysia, has set up an organisation in Pakistan to look after students, push its agenda for an Islamic state in Malaysia and shape their thinking on politics.
The youth wing thinks that it knows why the Islamic fundamentalist party is nurturing these students: All the graduates end up invariably in religious schools, training more teachers and building pressure on the government to move towards full Islamic law.
At the same time, the pool of conservative Muslims in Malaysia will grow.
PAS secretary-general Nasharudin Mat Isa dismisses the theory. He says that the party is active in all countries where there is a sizeable number of Malaysians studying.
'As a political party, we have to put across our message and recruit members and future leaders,' he says. 'There is nothing sinister about what we are doing in Pakistan.'
The graduate of a Deobandi madrasah in Lucknow, India, says that the government has nothing to fear about the flow of students from Malaysia to Pakistan.
He says: 'Most of the students are seeking only to deepen their religious knowledge. There is no evidence tying any of them to extremism.'
Actually there is. In the early 1990s, a group of Malaysians studying in Pakistan crossed the border and entered Afghanistan for a training stint at a military camp.
Among them was Taufik Abdullah. He underwent military training from April 1994 to August 1995. He was expelled from Pakistan in 1996 for militant activities and deported.
His name cropped up last August after a bomb he was to detonate went off prematurely in a shopping complex in Jakarta. He believed he was doing God's work by targeting Christians.
Mr Zulkifli says the arrests of KMM members show that the government had to keep tabs on what goes on in religious schools in Malaysia and places like Pakistan.
He says: 'We cannot afford to be caught off guard. The government will have to draw up a list of acceptable and recognised madrasahs and make sure that Malaysians only send their children there.'
A nice and compact suggestion. But one terribly difficult to execute.
Mr Astora Jabat, a well-known columnist who visited madrasahs in Pakistan and spoke to Malaysian students there recently, notes that 'the main reason why many families choose to send their children to schools here is that the tuition fees, board and clothes are provided free. Even pocket money is given'.
Just listen to Mr Rahman Sidek, a clerical officer from Perak. His 14-year-old son has been studying in a ramshackle Islamabad religious school for the past three years.
The boy memorises the Quran and learns religious text from many centuries ago. The cost of his board and lodging comes up to about RM300 (S$145) for a term.
Says Mr Rahman: 'He seems to be happy and is doing quite well. It is my duty as a father to make sure he becomes a committed Muslim.'
I think you know why.
Not everyone here wants Pakistan to be a friend of the US. It probably pisses them off no end that Turkey is an ally, too.
We allow a wide range of opinion here, but my experience shows that the vast majority here are reasonable. Don't let the extremists define us.
Rich Lowry- NRO
The Pakistanis eventually dropped Hekmatyar, not because he was killing people, but because he was killing them ineffectually. He was losing the war. The Pakistanis picked up the Taliban instead, who could kill and degrade women and actually take over the Afghan government.
Ground zero for radical Islam
ISRAEL AND THE JEWS are a threat to his peaceful way of life, Madani said. I wondered if he lectured his students with the same rhetoric. We were at ground zero for radical Islamic studies a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan, where many say anti-Western terrorism has its roots.
Some 30 students spend their day memorizing the Quran, Islams holy book, and learning the art of reciting its passages. Extremists, usually in the guise of hard-line religious parties in Pakistan, reportedly select the graduates of these schools to divert the innocent study of Islam into an agenda of hate and holy war against the West.
How about striking at the heart of Deobandi terror.. where it all began... In india
There seems to have been a marked difference in the attitude of the Deobandi adherents from India and those from Pakistan / Afghanistan, at the World Deobandi Conference held at Peshawar in Pakistan during April 2001.
To quote a report on the deliberations :
" The delegates from India quite obviously did not want to be drawn into the controversies that were bound to arise because of the rhetoric of Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and Maulana Fazlur Rahman. Maulana Asad Madni, who was the chief guest at the concluding session, confined himself to praying for Allah's religion to be observed by Muslims. Maulana Marghoobul Rahman made a scholarly speech referring to the educational, literary and political achievements of Dar-ul-Uloom in Deoband. He urged Muslims to refrain from aggression so that they are not labeled as terrorists or fundamentalists.
In marked contrast, their host Maulana Fazlur Rahman strongly criticised the United Nations for its alleged hostility to the Muslim world. He poured venom on the United States and voiced support for the "oppressed Muslims" in Kashmir, Palestine, Bosnia and Chechnya."
The link :
Why not moot Malaysia as an ally ?
Malaysia is a truly multi-religious, multi-ethnic, basically democratic, economiically sucessfull,muslim majority nation.
In my view Malaysia more than Turkey, notwithstanding Turkeys considerable achievements in its political/economic/cultural evolution, represents the model for all muslim majority nations to emulate.
Majulah Malaysia !