Pakistan has sought the help of an Indian state to revamp its system of madrasas after accusations some of the Islamic schools teach religious hatred and are breeding grounds for militancy.
The Pakistani mission in New Delhi has written to the government of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, ruled by communists for nearly three decades, seeking to study the state’s success at reforming its Islamic schools.
Madrasas in the state teach religious tolerance and include Christian and Hindu students in the classrooms as well as teaching subjects such as science and information technology.
“We have read about the madrasas of West Bengal and hopefully we can replicate them in our reforms program,” Mohammed Khalid Jamali, a first secretary at the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.
“We have written to the West Bengal government to gather knowledge about religious tolerance practiced in the madrasas, the curriculum and the successful reforms program,” he said.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has vowed to clean up the religious schools.
After the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings of London’s Underground trains, he ordered all foreigners be expelled from madrasas in Pakistan because their presence was giving the country a reputation as a breeding ground for militancy.
At least one of the four suicide bombers was believed to have spent time at a madrasa.
Nearly a quarter of West Bengal’s 80 million people are Muslims but the state has seen very little religious violence compared to other parts of India.
Many put this down at least in part to reforming the madrasas.
Half of the state’s 1,000 madrasas — attended by about 400,000 students — are now government-run and officials plan to take control of the rest in coming years.
West Bengal’s madrasas teach Islam and Sufi literature as well as science, and also plan to introduce foreign languages such as French, in addition to the Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and English already taught.
There are 12,000 madrasas in Pakistan, mostly providing rudimentary schooling, free religious education, shelter and food to about one million boys from poor families.
Critics say many madrasas provide a hardline interpretation of Islam, adhered to by members of groups such as the Taliban, al Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups. They also accuse some schools of being a front for these organizations.
West Bengal’s government said it was eager to help Pakistan.
“I got the letter two days ago and we are happy to know that Pakistan is keen to learn about our system of education in madrasas. We will try and help them out,” Abdus Sattar, West Bengal’s education minister.
So we will be helped by Non-mulim state to know how to run madrassas. Shame of us