Saturday, January 03, 2004

Pakistani madarsas

Those who support the radical Pakistani madarsas seeth at their "growing reputation" as "militant breeding ground(s)" but take the oppurtunity to praise Hitler and damn the Jews.

Walk across the marble courtyard of the Abu Bakar Islamic University in the teeming port city of Karachi and you will see as many foreign students as Pakistanis.

The looks from young skull-capped, bearded Muslims from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa when a Western reporter enters the now infamous madarsas are suspicious and unfriendly, but perhaps that is hardly surprising. Since 11 students from Malaysia and Indonesia were arrested in September for suspected terror links, the large foreign contingent is feeling under siege and the university is fuming at its growing reputation as a militant breeding ground.

One of those deported by Pakistani authorities was the brother of a man known as Hambali, a top Southeast Asian Al Qaeda suspect from Indonesia. Gun Gun Rusman Gunawan is one of the four Indonesian students now being held by Indonesian police for suspected links to several bombings. The elderly cleric said Gunawan was guilty by association only.

Leaders at the madarsas, located in Karachi’s middle-class Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighbourhood, say the government is making it hard for foreign students to attend, and some chose to stay home this term.

‘‘Since the 1980s, all students at this institution have been here to study and were never involved in anything. There is no case against them,’’ said Vice Chancellor Maulana Ash Mohammad. Foreign students said they studied the Koran and Islam, not militancy. The arrests and deportations had caused concern among the 201 foreign students, nearly half the total of 482.

But some of the views expressed by the teaching staff could only be described as extreme, even to the point of voicing sympathy with Hitler. ‘‘The problem is not the Muslims, the problem is the Jews,’’ said one, adding that he believed 9/11 attacks were coordinated by Jews.


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