Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Politics of the Day

The fundamental question of the War on Terra should be, I think, how does fundamentalist Islam spread? Because if we understand that, it's fairly straightforward to attack the virus, not the host.

Now, the answer's clear to anyone who's ever lived in the Muslim world. Religious schools (madrassas) are set up in places where there's an institutional vacuum. The madrassas are the virus, which quickly infects entire villages - by 'educating' children, and influencing their parents (primarily by offering them some hope). In this way, the social structure and beliefs of entire populations are altered relatively quickly - one village at a time.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of privately funded madrassas are backed by Saudi Arabia - who isn't even on the radar of Bush and co, and whose religious stance is brushed under the carpet.

Finally, the mass media starts to understand this:

"...Two men, a Pakistani and a South African, claimed they had been sent to Bangladesh by Osama bin Laden with more than $300,000, which they distributed among 421 madrassas, or private religious schools. According to Gowher Rizvi, director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard and a lecturer in public policy, bin Laden's reputed donation is ''a pittance'' compared with the millions that Saudi charities have contributed to many of Bangladesh's estimated 64,000 madrassas, most of which serve only a single village or two. Money of this kind is especially important because Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. Out of 177 countries on the United Nations' Human Development Index, Bangladesh is ranked 138, just above Sudan. The recent tsunami that devastated its neighbors hardly touched it -- a rare bit of good luck for the country, as most catastrophes seem somehow to claim their victims in Bangladesh.

In Bangla Bhai's patch of northwestern Bangladesh, poverty is so pervasive that, for many children in the region, privately subsidized madrassas are the only educational option. For the past several years especially, money from Persian Gulf states has strengthened them even more. Most follow a form of the Deobandi Islam taught in the 1950's by the intellectual and activist Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, who was born in India in 1903 and defined Muslim politics in opposition to Indian nationalism. While Maududi's original agenda was reformist, the Deobandi model is now better known from the madrassas of Pakistan, where it gave rise to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Whether Maududi intended it or not, his teachings have become synonymous with radical Islam. "

-- umair // 1:29 PM // 0 comments


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