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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 July 2005, 02:34 GMT 03:34 UK
Views from inside Islam's schools
Attention has fallen on the role of madrassas, or Islamic religious schools, following evidence that one of the London bombers may have attended one.

Five young Muslims attending madrassas in Pakistan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir spoke to BBC Urdu Interactive's Rifat Ullah Orakzai and Mohammed Ishtiaq about studying in the religious institutions and how they compare to secular education.

Hafiz Rahmanullah:

Shakirur Rahman:

Tajammul Islam Jilani:

Muhammad Hashim:

Abdul Baseer:

HAFIZ RAHMANULLAH, Shamshtoo refugee camp, Peshawar

Hafiz Rahmanullah
Hafiz Rahmanullah has memorised the Koran

I am Afghan but have been living at Shamshtoo refugee camp for the last 18 years.

When former USSR forces invaded Afghanistan, our family migrated to Pakistan and stayed at Shamshtoo camp, about 30km east of Peshawar City.

I recently completed Hiffaz [learnt the Koran by heart].

The seminary I attend was founded by famous Jihadi leader Maulvi Younas Khalis, the chief of Hizb-i-Islami, many years ago. More than 200 students, all Afghans, are studying with us.

Besides Hiffaz, the madrassa offers other Islamic subjects such as Islamiyat, Arabic grammar [surf wa nahoo], Usool-e-Fiqa, Hadith, Usool Hadith, Muntaq [logic], mathematics and English.

All these subjects are studied at a detailed level but English and mathematics are only learnt partly.

The religious seminaries in Pakistan are accused of being centres of terrorist activities and producing anti-Western and anti-American clerics.

But these accusations are totally baseless, unfounded and highly exaggerated.

There is no truth in these reports. We have even no time to spend on these useless things.

I have been in Hijrat madrassa for eight years and I swear that I have never noticed any special sermon or other activities against the West or America.

MUHAMMAD HASHIM, Madrassa Tajweedul Quran, Hangu

Muhammad Hashim
Muhammad Hashim wants to become a 'computer master'

I am 13 years old. I come from Bagato village a few kilometres away from Hangu city. I was admitted to the Madrassa Tajweedual Quran two years ago.

The Holy Koran is comprised of 30 chapters and I have learnt seven chapters by heart so far.

My father is a mullah and he wants me to become a mullah like him.

I have a religious background. My grandfather was a mullah of Bagato village. He taught my father religious education and he is now the imam of a mosque in our village.

Our family is made up of three brothers and two sisters. My older brothers are studying in regular schools but my father has taught them the basics of an Islamic education.

I have also learnt about computers which is a very useful thing but unfortunately there is no computer in our madrassa.

I want to become a computer expert.

My father says that school education is now becoming necessary for madrassa students because the world is rapidly progressing and Muslims are far behind in some present-day subjects.

We have to answer for all our actions before God, so we should lead a peaceful life and obey orders of Allah Almighty and teachings of the last Prophet Muhammad.

Muslims will remain in decline if they do not stand together on one platform.

SHAKIRUR RAHMAN, Daraul Uloom-e-Islamia Hunfia, Peshawar

Shakirur Rahman
Shakirur Rahman feels that Muslims are 'targeted everywhere'

In the world today Muslims are being targeted everywhere. Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq are the places where innocent Muslims are being massacred and defamed.

I do not support the terrorist attacks.

Just take the example of Guantanamo Bay. A few copies of the Koran were put in the toilet.

I think desecration of any holy book whether it is of Christians, Jews or Muslims is an act to be greatly condemned.

I lived in the Eastern Ningarhar province, Afghanistan. Our family has four brothers and three sisters. My father is a government official at Jalalabad.

Learning the Koran by heart was my desire. My father is not a cleric but he is a religious-minded man and he supported me when I expressed a wish to be religiously educated.

Now restrictions are being imposed on religious seminaries. No one will oppose these changes if the outdated system is replaced with a new and modern one.

Seminaries should be required to register and a regulatory authority should set up to monitor their work.

But will any government assure that America and other Western powers refrain from anti-Muslim activities?

ABDUL BASEER, Leepa Valley, Kashmir

Abdul Basseer
Adbul's seminary is 'dearer' to him than his own home

I quit the regular school in Class Nine. I believe my life at regular school was without any aim. There was no respect for others.

I had even given up showing respect for my parents.

However, after joining this seminary, Islam gave me a lot. Here, I learnt to respect humanity, to respect my parents and other elders.

I believe that the seminary students have a far more positive attitude towards their country and humanity compared to the students of regular schools.

I am learning the Koran, Hadith [teachings of the Prophet of Islam other than the Koran], Fiqqah [study of Islamic jurisprudence] and many other Islamic subjects. I also regularly play sport.

I am in the fourth stage here and have to study for four more years before getting a degree.

This seminary is dearer to me than my own home - I have my friends here.

I would like to get a degree in law from the International Islamic University in Islamabad after completing my education here. Then I will go back home.

I come from a very backward area and the people do not know much about religion. I will try to introduce a system of learning in my village which caters for both religious and secular education.

We, the students of religious schools, have a positive attitude towards world affairs.

Just because I do not watch television does not mean I do not know anything about global events.

Our seminary has newspapers, computers and the internet and the students all discuss world affairs.


Syed Tajammul Islam Jilami
Tajammul wants to set up a school to 'educate poor children'

I had a regular education up to the fifth class. Then I quit that school and learnt the Holy Koran by heart.

I felt that the education system in our country was very outdated and not capable of creating good human beings. The system could make a man literate but not a good human being.

I joined a religious school to become a good human being.

After completing my education here, I want to introduce a similar education system where my family comes from so students can receive both religious and general education.

We are learning different subjects here - the more important being the study of the Koran and Hadith.

Our seminary also teaches computer studies and I have learnt the basics of computer science.

You might have come across newspaper reports saying that graduates commit suicide because of unemployment. But you would never hear that about a seminary graduate. This is because God helps them and they are never reduced to starvation.

All our politicians and political leaders are highly educated but they have given nothing to the country - most of them are involved in corruption.

However, if they had been trained as religious scholars those people would not act in a corrupt manner.

I can explain the Koran to the world in a very effective way.

This education has given me confidence.

My present course lasts for eight years and I have to study for three more years to complete it.

The type of education we are getting here is not meant to give us a big post. Rather, it is aimed to make us capable of serving the people.

I will set up my own institute to educate poor children.

Your comments:

I have studied in Pakistan and it made me in to a person who shows respect, love and understanding
Mullah Hafeezud Din, Birmingham
I really can't thank the BBC enough for having something positive on their webpage about madrassas and the Islamic teachings. I, too, although, born and bred in UK, have studied in Pakistan and it's most definitely made me in to a person who shows respect, love and understanding to fellow human beings.
Mullah Hafeezud Din, Birmingham

I agree with these students and respect what they are trying to achieve. I believe media has created a negative image of religious madrassas when the reality on the ground is different. I would like the government to work with the madrassas authorities and help the students to learn additional skills (computers, technical skills etc) which could help them keep up with the rest of the world.
Shahzad Haider, Maryland, USA

What is it with the BBC and Islam? Do you really feel that learning the Koran and Hadiths by heart promotes a healthy functioning individual?
Chris Hyde, Paris, France

In the states, we were never taught to respect, and in many cases, teachers weren't respectful of students. I was lucky enough to learn this from my parents, but not all people are so privileged. Human interaction has been forgotten even by some of the top scholars, but those with inner respect know that stars always fade. Thank you for showing the world that you can help those less fortunate.
Jen, Seattle USA

These so-called students aren't actually learning anything outside of Islam
HM, Los Angeles, USA
Chilling. These so-called students aren't actually learning anything outside of Islam - no history, art, science, or social science. And, of course, there are no women at these schools.
HM, Los Angeles, USA

Religious education is good and should be learned as it teaches good things. But madrassas should teach modern sciences as well. I am sure madrassas can produce well qualified doctors, engineers and lawyers.
Ehsan, Islamabad, Pakistan

I would like to hear their views on the perceptions about madrassas in the West and what are they doing to eliminate this, if they claim of no involvement in terrorist activities.
Imdadullah Khan, Lahore, Pakistan

There are 20,000 madrassas in Pakistan and they are providing food, shelter and education to almost 2 million children free of cost. Madrassas are the biggest NGO in the world and they are helping millions of children to become good human beings. There could be some madrassas that teach hatred to their students but they are very few. We should not discourage the good ones.
Imran, Islamabad

The solution is to regulate them so that the good work may be carried out, and troublesome elements identified more easily
Tughral T Ali, studying in UK
Reading these interviews makes me realise that there's a different world in the madrassas, which we on the outside are failing to understand. The perception is that these madrassas are breeding grounds for trouble makers. I think that's misguided, based on a few miscreants. The good these madrassas are doing is making up for the lack of a proper education system in a third world country, by reaching out to poor children, and families. The solution to our problems is to regulate them so that the good work may be carried out, and troublesome elements identified more easily.
Tughral T Ali, studying in UK (from Lahore, Pakistan)

No one can actually say that all Islamic religious schools teach every student to be against the West. It is important for the government to monitor the schools and ensure they are registered. Most of the students are taught moral and ethic values which they can take away and teach others. I can only see that as a good thing.
Ash, Leeds

Kudos to the BBC for shedding light on the fact that a majority of madrassas in Pakistan teach the basic concepts in Islam: tolerance and love for mankind. Most of the pupils of these madrassas earn their living by teaching other kids the Koran. Most are law abiding and peaceful citizens. The very word 'Islam' literally means peace in Arabic.
Mustafa Zulqarni, Rawalpindi

Now that the BBC has interviewed students from madrassas, I hope people will understand that they are not training terrorists back there. These interviews falsify all the allegations that have been made against madrassas. More subjects should be taught to these students, so they are no less educated than students from regular schools.
Hammad Qureshi, Karachi, Pakistan

All religions are trying to encourage us to be decent human beings
Hugh, London
Why are there no women in this cross-section? I went to Sunday School for 10 years so I have some appreciation for the universal tenets of humanity that any religious teaching can bring mankind. I do not believe Islam gives an 'edge' - all religions are trying to encourage us to be decent human beings.
Hugh, London



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