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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Should foreigners have to leave madrassas?
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said that all foreigners studying in madrassas, or religious schools, must leave the country.

Madrassas have been under the spotlight since it was reported that one of the London bombers had attended one.

The move by Gen Musharraf is part of his clampdown on extremism in the country. It will affect around 1,400 students currently in Pakistan.

Is it fair for foreign students to have to leave? Are you a foreign student studying at a madrassa? Were you planning on going to study at a madrassa in Pakistan? Or have you studied at a madrassa before?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far:

The notion that only foreign students can be radicalized is ridiculous
Scott, Seattle
The notion that only foreign students can be radicalized is ridiculous. The real problem is to identify and remove from their positions those who teach such extremism. This policy does nothing to do that.
Scott, Seattle

Instead of expelling innocent people wishing to understand Islam at a higher level, they should ensure that these schools are monitored and vetted. Having lived in Pakistan for many years, I understand the importance that these schools have in the culture of Pakistan. Most of these institutions are a model for Western societies it is just unfortunate that a small minority of these are teaching terror instead of Islam.
David Florijn, London

No, it's not right. These students have to gone to Pakistani madrassas for a proper religious education. Throwing them out is not a solution, but just putting these kids in a limbo about their education. Going to these madrassas is not just learning how to read the Koran, it is a detailed study of the whole Islamic structure and laws and takes years to be completed.
Anis Hoda, Los Angeles

I think this is a very wrong decision to expel all foreign students. I know so many students from abroad namely Malaysia, Indonesia and Kenya. After graduating they are the best people who are most down to earth.
Zulfiqar Khan, Halifax, NS

Perhaps they just need to formalise foreign entries
NOM, Tenerife, Spain
It seems like a rather extreme measure that will only generate resentment at grassroots level. I can understand the need to control who studies at madrassas, but perhaps they just need to formalise foreign entries. Banning foreigners outright seems like a panic measure!
NOM, Tenerife, Spain

No I don't think so. I was the student of Darul-Ulome Haqqania Akora Khattak, one of the biggest Islamic universities in Asia, and I haven't seen anything like this. There were just pure students whose aims were just to study and not to interrupt in anyone's life.
Pirzada Hammad Ali, Nowshera

As a British born Muslim, I fail to see what is being taught in these schools that cannot be learnt in the UK.
Ghazanfar Ali, Birmingham

It will make no difference at all, apart from denying innocent people the chance to study in Pakistan. Again it's a policy that looks at the symptom and not the cause of terrorism.
Nathan, Lincoln, UK

Once the new system is in place the students can return to studies
Debi, Tucson, AZ USA
Yes, I think this is a good way to clean house initially. Once the new system is in place the students can return to studies. It sends a clear message that the Pakistani government and the good people of Pakistan can clear their country of those misguided people.
Debi, Tucson, AZ USA

Not sure that this was the correct decision. Better regulation would have been a good idea. Surely, our intelligence gathering bodies would have found information about foreign attendees useful, but now that opportunity has gone elsewhere.
Iain Campbell, Southampton, UK

By announcing this irrational act, Musharraf has made Pakistan an inhospitable place for all. If people cannot come to Pakistan to study, then he should disallow Pakistanis going out of the country to study also. It would make this a pretty balanced decision.
Arif Khan, Karachi

One of the reasons extremism is rife in Pakistan is because it is a mono-cultural society. Expelling foreign students will only serve to isolate Pakistani society even further. What Musharraf has decreed is the equivalent of Tony Blair expelling all Pakistanis and their children in name of preventing terrorism. What Pakistan needs is more contact with the outside world, not less.
Yahya, London, UK

This is a start, but not any means a complete solution to the issue of radicalism in Pakistan. 1400 foreign students are a mere drop in the ocean when you consider the sheer number of potential radical domestic recruits being churned out each year from a total madrassa enrolment of 1.7 million.
Saj Chakkalakal, UK/Saudi Arabia

Madrassas teach how to read the Koran and a basic understanding of Islam
Kamran, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Madrassas are not extremist schools. Madrassas teach how to read the Koran and a basic understanding of Islam. Extremism is taught by other abusive facilities that Western people have started to call madrassas. The Pakistani president has done the right thing. If the British want their kids to study Islam, they should do it in Britain and keep an eye on what type of education their children are receiving.
Kamran, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Instead of getting upset with Musharraf why not direct your anger towards the suicide bombers who forced him to make this tough decision? How would that make him look if another one of these students went on to become a suicide bomber?
Phil, Chicago, US

Instead of expelling foreign students from its madrassas, why doesn't the government of Pakistan re-evaluate what is taught inside them? Islam does not condone terrorism. If the Pakistani government believes its madrassas are producing terrorists, then it had better focus on internal corruption, not a handful of exchange students.
G Willow Wilson, Cairo, Egypt

The schools and the foreign students are not the problem. The hate that is being taught is the root cause! The Mullahs and Imams who profess this corrupted version of Islam should be removed and the true teaching of Islam promoted.
Gary A, Washington, DC, USA

Most of these madrassas are simply giving good Islamic education and taking kids off the streets
F Hussain, Lahore, Pakistan
On the one hand, Musharraf says that madrassas are not breeding grounds for terrorism and on the other hand he cracks down on them and arrests "suspected militants" and tells the foreign students to get out! Does Musharraf seem confused? Most definitely! By taking these actions, he contradicts himself and gives the impression to the world that may be there is something wrong after all with these madrassas which is why he is arresting "suspected militants" from there. The fact is most of these madrassas are simply giving good Islamic education and taking kids off the streets. I went there as a child and experienced no hate speech or extremist learning.
F Hussain, Lahore, Pakistan

It's good that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is helping in fighting against terrorism. I suggest, rather than asking the foreign student to leave the madrassas, if he thinks that these are the breeding ground, why doesn't he have more control on possible terrorist connection over these madrassas, in order to save the innocent student to follow their path, rather then depriving them of free Islamic education.
Ashutosh, Weston, FL, USA

Musharraf is doing no good for the war on terror by expelling these students out of the country. It can never help. It will only fill more hate in the hearts of people against Musharraf and the West as they all think he is doing it because of West.
John Brown, London, UK

This scheme of Gen Musharraf would meet the same fate as the numerous 'crackdowns' ordered by him in the last couple of years. Initial bluster, few arrests, deportations and then business as usual.
MK, London, UK

I studied in a madrassa and now run a primary level madrassa. No teacher taught me extremism and I do not teach this. In madrassas, even to show a link with any political party or propagate it is not allowed. Most madrassas have no proper funds to pay their utility bills regularly. Instead of expelling foreign students, the government of Pakistan should make it possible to monitor them or that madrassa which is suspected of being involved in extremism.
Muhammad N Farooqi, Lahore, Pakistan

I was born and lived in Pakistan for 17 years and I can honestly say that 90% of the teachers at these Islamic institutions are very biased against the Western world. I totally agree with Mr Musharraf's decision, as my personal experience suggests that such measures are needed to counter the hatred and extremism amongst Muslim kids and teenagers.
Romario, Wyoming, USA

Why not open madrassas in whatever country you call home?
Matt Meeks, Chicago, USA
Musharraf can do whatever he likes as long as it does not violate the laws of the land or human rights. Why not open madrassas in whatever country you call home? I don't see what the big deal is with travelling all the way to Pakistan.
Matt Meeks, Chicago, USA

I feel this is a very counter-productive move. Instead of enlightening people about Islam, by changing ignorances such as the fact that 'madrassa' does not mean Islamic school, but simply 'school,' President Musharraf is setting himself up for rightful criticism by even moderate Muslims. And instead of expelling foreigners who are studying, he should monitor the curriculum at these schools more closely and punish the clerics who spread hatred and preach violence.
A Z Khan, Washington, DC, USA

Desperate times require desperate measures - if this will stop people from becoming brainwashed in even one of these schools, then it is a great move. There are all kind of schools all over the world that these students can attend without learning to become bombers and terrorists.
Blake, Toronto, Canada

I am overwhelmed by the positive and proactive approach Pakistan have taken. This shows the world that this nation is a responsible and trusted ally of those that wish to fight to remove terrorism.
Ian, London

The nationality of the student cannot possibly be relevant
Nilla, Stockholm, Sweden
Can't see any reason why. If the teaching is so very wrong, I sincerely hope they deal with that immediately. The nationality of the student cannot possibly be relevant.
Nilla, Stockholm, Sweden

It's not fair for most students who are there for learning and spiritual reasons, but it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the bunch. What other choices do governments have but to get tough?
MH, Long Island, USA

This does strike me as an excessive reaction that could possibly be considered as letting the terrorists win. It also makes the allegation that foreigners are more likely to be extremists than locals; this is as bad as those who propose sanctions against all Muslims because of the criminal behaviour of a small minority.
Neil Williams, Milton Keynes

Does this mean that every other country should not allow Pakistani students coming for education to their country? This action will only fuel anger to Muslims and close the doors of education among Muslim countries.
Haseeb Malik, Chicago, USA

Not every foreigner comes here to project hatred and terrorism
Qaisar Hayat, Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Not every foreigner comes here to project hatred and terrorism. This will not be significant in the protection against international terrorism, as there are religious schools all around the world.
Qaisar Hayat, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

While I truly believe that all people have the right to education, whether that be based in faith or not, there need to be regulations. Musharraf is correct in not allowing foreigners to study at these schools. It does not implicate that these schools are breeding grounds for terrorists nor does it exclude Pakistanis who have the right to an education. There are Islamic schools around the world that Muslim students can study at, why not choose one close to home? It is not as if he is trying to shut these places down.
KS, Peoria, IL

It would be better keeping a check on the madrassa and ensuring students are not misled by extremists, than to stop their education.
Faiz Riza, Lucknow, India

Foreign students are an asset to Pakistan. They are always proud of the institute and the country they studied in. Pakistan should get a police clearance from the country of the student before issuing a visa. Deporting foreign students will not solve your problem.
Mile, London

The issue of registration of madrassahs is one that really does need addressing
Chris Cork, Gilgit, Pakistan
As a UK citizen living and working in Pakistan for much of the last decade, I feel somewhat ambivalent about the decision. Madrassahs, many of them, give cheap or free basic education to poor families. The country would be poorer without them. On the other hand, a few madrassahs are clearly aligned to a more radical position. As to whether the 'foreigners' are a factor in that alignment I feel that the answer is 'perhaps' rather than 'certainly'. But the issue of registration of madrassahs is one that really does need addressing - fast!
Chris Cork, Gilgit, Pakistan

This does not sound right to me, it is an extreme solution. Students, who had nothing to do with the situation and are simply trying to learn more about their religion are being punished for the actions of a few misguided people.
MP, New York, New York

Although I have never been to a madrassa myself, I have known people who study there. The stories of these young boys and men show their hearts full of desire to become good human beings and these are the voices of the majority. But I feel most of the teachers in these places don't welcome any suggestions from outsiders and are narrow minded. The taliban (students) in these madrassas can be turned into useful citizens if the religious teachings are blended with some technical education so that they can have a useful role in society once they finish and in this way nobody can exploit them.
Shahzad Faisal, Bradford, UK

This move is justifiable by President Musharraf. Why should children from here go to Pakistan to study, there are Islamic schools in England? But at the same time I do feel Musharraf is doing all this to please the West. He needs to look deeply into how Pakistan can get rid of these extremists and listen to the people of his nation rather then western governments.
Haroon Rashid, Rotherham UK

This is a wrong move for Musharraf
Aamir Ali, Pakistan
This is a terrible decision and completely undermines Pakistan's position that the London attacks are domestic terrorism and have no links to madrassas in Pakistan. It also punishes innocent people for nothing. The government maintains that these madrassas are benign places and then treats its graduates as terrorists. This is a wrong move for Musharraf.
Aamir Ali, Pakistan

I myself have been studying the Koran in different madrassas and I was never taught anything related to terrorism. Relating terrorism to these madrassas is a humiliation of the innocent and peace loving students studying there.
Hasan Shahid, Pakistan

This is the correct decision. Though 99.9% of the students studying in these schools are there out of innocence, closing the schools to foreigners and preventing the 0.1% from learning extremism, could potentially save hundreds of innocent lives in the long run.
Michael Greene, Birmingham, Alabama USA

Madrassas are the cheapest source of education for very poor people. In Pakistan the rich children attend private English medium schools, children from middle-class backgrounds go to semi-govt schools and from working-class background study in govt schools and those who cannot afford any go to madrassas where they get free boarding and education. As it turns out the private schools are producing assets for the country and madrassas liabilities for the whole world. It is best if UN, with the help of Pakistan government, allocate funding to transform the madrassas into schools.
Rizwan Wasti, Lahore, Pakistan

The real target should be those Pakistani citizens who are spreading the message of terror
Allen, San Francisco, CA, USA
It is the message that should be curbed, not the students. This is a political move that targets those in Pakistan with little political power. The real target should be those Pakistani citizens who are spreading the message of terror.
Allen, San Francisco, CA, USA

This move will anger and disappoint those who wish to attend for noble reasons. Those who would be violent extremists will merely peddle their evil elsewhere.
Stephanie, Edinburgh, Scotland

Banning foreign religious students is a step too far. The madrassas should be more scrutinised and their syllabus and administration be put in government hands. Banning foreign students is denying people the right to learn, plus many madrassas are giving the true teaching of Islam which opposes terrorism.
Syed Munib Hadi, Glasgow

I usually agree with President Musharraf's policies, but in this instance I do not. Madrassas are valuable institutions that offer a very important source of education. I feel that maybe Musharraf is feeling pressure from outside sources.
Ghazanfer, New York City, USA

If you are really dedicated, you can study the Koran anywhere
Ann-Marie, Sherborne
If you are really dedicated, you can study the Koran anywhere. In this current climate unfortunately innocent people will get affected. There are religious schools everywhere, so where will the extremists go next?
Ann-Marie, Sherborne

I don't think the students should be asked to leave. They will only go to another country's madrassas. I think that there needs to be more standardization in the curriculums. Namely, to eliminate any teachings that could harbor hatred.
Axel Tosikyan, Montreal, Canada

It is about time this happened. Judging by Musharraf's history, it remains to be seen if his action matches his words.
Mayank Munshi, Greenville, USA

Not all madrassas are training their students to be terrorists, so it is unfair to ask them all to leave. Finding the leaders who are using their madrassas as terrorist teaching schools would be the best option. What is to stop the terrorists continuing their activities outside of Pakistan?
Jo, Derby

If people in the Muslim community want to get into touch with their Islamic faith by studying abroad in a Muslim country they should be allowed to. I think it's totally unfair as to label them as terrorist breeding grounds. They are simply studying to get closer to Islam, to become more pious and peaceful.
Mohammad, Toronto

These attempts to clamp down on the teaching of Islam will only alienate Muslims further
C Kubazdro, UK
A knee jerk reaction if there ever was one. All because one of the bombing suspects might have gone to one school in Pakistan. Outrageous. These attempts to clamp down on the teaching of Islam will only alienate Muslims further.
C Kubazdro, UK

In desperation to show that Pakistan is not harbouring terrorists, Musharraf is harassing ordinary people in Pakistan. He is shying away from taking real attempts to dismantle the terror camps and throw out Taliban remnants.
Madhusudan, New Delhi, India

As I understand it, madrassas are recognised on the whole as good charitable educational establishments providing education to a huge poor part of society that would otherwise be illiterate and unskilled. We continue to alienate the Islamic world.
Tom, London

Imagine if Tony Blair gave the orders for all foreigners to be booted out of Britain. A more measured and fair response is needed by banning only those who are involved in terrorism.
Jacob Watson, London

Students of any discipline have the right to seek tuition in another country if they feel the quality of teaching is worth the extra effort. To deprive the masses as a result of the actions and motivation of the few is a gross breach of human rights.
Jamie, Glasgow

This could well fuel resentment
MN, London
This is a very impulsive, counter productive measure. This will do nothing to help the Islamic grievances that their religion is possibly under threat. Indeed, it could well fuel resentment. Education is a much valued resource and people should be able to choose what education they want.
MN, London

This is an incorrect decision in my opinion. How can you classify a wide variety of people by a single, isolated person's actions? If they aim to eliminate extremism with this move, I fear they may serve only to feed the anger which is obviously already so apparent.
Mark Brier, Manchester

The only reasons people go to study in Pakistan from the UK are language and cost. These are innocent reasons, for innocent people.
Miss Khan, Birmingham

How pathetic! Due to one individual being involved in attacks, every student is being expelled. Law abiding citizens who are genuine in their studies will have their dreams shattered. Mr Musharraf has gone too far.
Khawaja, Luton UK

This gives the false impression that madrassas are breeding grounds for terrorism
YD, London
I know many students from the UK who have studied in Pakistani madrassas. They are against all forms of terrorism and are extremely good citizens. This move by Musharraf gives the false impression that madrassas are breeding grounds for terrorism, when in fact students go there to study their faith and develop their spirituality.
YD, London

That almost sounds like the US or UK asking all the Pakistanis to leave their country. One must keep in mind it's not the foreign students causing the problem but the institutions themselves. Fix them and everything else will fall into place.
Ahsan Naqvi, Buffalo, NY

President Musharraf is right in not allowing foreign students to study there. We have religious schools in the UK if someone needs to learn about Islam.
Ajmal Nasir, Manchester

These measures will do nothing but incite extremist elements that do exist. I have cousins who have studied in Pakistan and have come back as pious young Muslims who have a good command of the English language. It will be such individuals who bridge the gap between the older generation and the young Muslims in countries such as the UK.
Zain, London

Although I've studied in Private English Medium Schools all my life, I feel that the madrassas are as important to Pakistan as any other educational institution. Instead of shutting down a possible venue of free education for our own people, it's better that foreigners are simply not allowed to abuse the facilities.
Natasha Jehangir, Islamabad, Pakistan

Views from inside Islam's schools
27 Jul 05 |  Have Your Say


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