Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Modern" Madrassahs

In its ongoing effort to make sharia seem innocuous and huggably multicultural, the Toronto Star sent one of its crack reporters to Pakistan to see how some of that country's madrassahs are attempting to "modernize". Here's Star scribbler Rick Westhead desribing the daily routine of indoctrination into the Qur'anic worldview at one such "modern" institution:
Jamia Naeemia, a three-storey white-marble madrassa steps from the main train station in the chaotic centre of the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, is home to students as young as 8 and as old as 26.

Students sleep on mats, four to a room, on the second and third floors of the school. The cement walls are bare save for the odd mouldy patch.

Each morning at 4, students wake to recite the Fajr, the first of the five daily prayers for practising Muslims. (In the winter, students are allowed to sleep in until 6.) They then practise reciting the Qur'an in Arabic, and bathe and brush their teeth before a breakfast of tea, bread and fruits is served at 7. An hour later, classes start and stretch to noon.

After a daily lunch of spicy lentils and bread – spicy mutton is sometimes served at dinner – and a nap, students spend every afternoon from 2:30 to 6 p.m. studying English, science and social studies. One recent afternoon, a class of 15-year-old boys read together a chapter from their tattered English textbook titled "Women Unite!"

On another afternoon, a group of students between 15 and 17 ditched Asr, as the afternoon prayer is known, to play cricket at a nearby railway yard while a group of 22-year-olds sweated over essays on English composition and climate change.

Jamia Naeemia publishes a monthly magazine called Arfad and encourages students to contribute. The January issue featured a discussion on the Qur'an, poems about the madrassa's recently murdered headmaster, and a feature story about etiquette in mosques. There were also columns about converting Christians to Islam and how contested property inheritances should be decided.

"We cover it all," a teacher who edits Arfad said proudly...
Aside from tattered English text book and the stuff on "climate change" all very cutting edge--for, say, the 17th Century.

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