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“Carte Blanche” for Madrassahs of Extremism

ICC Note:

Bangladesh opens the door wide to Muslim extremists by granting official recognition to extremist Islamic boarding schools. This is the exact opposite of what they should do, especially after a wave of bomb blasts that went off last year across the country.

AsiaNews (08/29/06) – The government of Bangladesh continues to cede to pressure exerted by Islamic extremism that is becoming increasingly heavy in the lead-up to elections next year. The political alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of the controversial the Minister Khaleda Zia, has now decided to give official recognition to the Qawami Madrassah (Koranic school) certificate.

It was the prime minister herself who made the announcement at a meeting with leaders of different Islamist organisations. “After an overall review, the government has decided to offer equivalent status of MA degree (Islamic Studies/Arabic Literature) to the ‘Dawra’ degree of Qawami Madrassahs.”

Zia said she hoped students of these madrassahs would soon obtain deserved recognition of their studies with the cooperation of all and make the desired contribution to building the country. The premier said the final step would be recognition of the “Fazil” diploma as a graduate course and the “Kamil” courses of the Alia Madrassah as a Masters degree.

Islamic radicals have long been demanding official recognition of age-old religious schools known as Qawami, but intelligence agencies claim they have been used to recruit and train new conscripts for terrorism and extremism.

The government decision follows agitation by several Islamic parties like the Islami Oikya Jote, a member of the government coalition. In all likelihood, the aim is to garner consensus in view of the general elections slated for next year.

Fundamentalists are cranking up pressure exerted on the central power base – a trend already noted by AsiaNews last year – in several civil sectors, chief among them that of education. The trend hides dangerous implications. Local analysts say the Qawami need legal recognition but “they refuse all administrative checks and monitoring of the curricula taught to students. Dhaka is thus giving these schools carte blanche to teach whatever they like how they like, and then they confer degrees exactly like those of state schools or private universities, which are subject to government controls!”

The provision goes in the opposite direction to that suggested by security experts, who called for more control over the activities and funds of the Qawami madrassahs after a wave of coordinated bomb blasts went off across Bangladesh on 17 August 2005. The most radical Koranic schools are funded by Saudi Arabia and conservative Islamic governments that want to lead Bengalese Islam back to orthodoxy.

Although analysts cannot give precise time frames, they say when the fruit of this education surfaces, the world could be faced with around 20 million youth formed in the fundamentalism of Koranic schools.