Global jihad, sectarianism and the madrassahs in Pakistan
Date of Issue2005
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
In the wake of terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, discussions on ties between Islamic religious educational institutions, namely Madrassahs, and radical militant groups have featured prominently in the western media. However, in the frenzied coverage of events, a vital question has been overlooked: why have Islamic educational institutions whose traditions date back thousands of years been transformed so drastically? This paper attempts to seek an answer to this question through an examination of Madrassahs in Pakistan, the second most populous Muslim country of the world. Pakistan has seen a phenomenal increase in Islamic religious schools since its independence. The paper argues that while encouragments from successive regimes, an unremitting flow of foreign funds (especially from Saudi Arabia), and the absence of governmental oversight are the principal factors in the dramatic rise in numbers, the transformation of Madrassahs into schools of militancy and the recruiting ground of 'global Jihadists' is intrinsically linked to the sectarianism prevalent in Pakistan. Sectarianism has been encouraged by various regimes over the last three decades and received substantial support from outside since 1979. The menace of sectarianism has not only made the country ungvernable but also increasingly turned it into a breeding ground for transnational terrorists.
RSIS Working Papers ; 085/05
Nanyang Technological University