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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August, 2005, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
British diplomat visits madrassa

By Aamer Ahmed Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Mufti Abu Huraira, vice chairman of Jamia Islamia madrassa
The whole idea was to let the world know that nothing that we do in madrassas is a secret.
Mufti Abu Huraira, vice chairman of Jamia Islamia madrassa
The UK's deputy high commissioner in Karachi has visited a Pakistani madrassa, the first western diplomat to do so since the 7 July London bombings.

The Jamia Islamia madrassa in Karachi invited the diplomat to "see for himself the atmosphere of learning in religious seminaries."

Madrassas in Pakistan are seeking the West's support against the latest crackdown by President Musharraf.

It followed reports that a London bomber studied in a madrassa.

"Mr Hamish Daniel's visit was the beginning of a process of increasing our interaction with the outside world," Mufti Abu Huraira, vice chairman of Jamia Islamia, told the BBC news website.

He said the Jamia had first extended an invitation to Mr Daniel in the letter of condolence it sent to the deputy high commission immediately after the London bombings.

He said the Jamia had wanted the visit to be a major media event but the local authorities refused.

Charm offensive

"We have lodged a strong protest against not being allowed to invite the press to the event," Mufti Huraira said.

"The whole idea was to let the world know that nothing that we do in madrassas is a secret."

According to madrassa officials, the visit lasted a little over two hours.

Mr Daniel went into junior and senior classrooms and spoke to students and teachers about their academic pursuits, officials said.

Security outside Jamia Islamia madrassa, Karachi
Security was increased for the diplomat's visit
"I can tell you that they seemed pleased with what they saw," Mufti Huraira said.

"They also seemed impressed with the students' enthusiasm and openness."

Earlier in the month, Jamia Islamia held a seminar at a local hotel which was addressed by the US Consul General.

Several madrassas in Karachi have invited foreign diplomats to visit the facilities and get a feel of the atmosphere.

The move is being billed as a major charm offensive by the madrassas following General Musharraf's recent attempts to increase regulation of their affairs.

Madrassa leaders are particularly upset at the government's decision to expel foreign students studying at Pakistani seminaries.

Jamia Islamia is now planning a seminar to which it hopes to invite every foreign diplomat in the country.

Madrassas ask for foreign support
02 Aug 05 |  South Asia
Madrassa expulsions spark anger
31 Jul 05 |  South Asia

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