26 October, 2021

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Ministerial Fear & Ignorance About Madrasas

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

Killer Zahran, a backyard autodidact Islamist extremist, who was not a product of any reputed madrasa as maliciously propagated by ill-informed politicians and anti-Muslim phobists, but a reject from more than one madrasa, has by accident may have become a catalyst for reformation in Muslim religious education. Long before the Easter Sunday Massacre of 2019, several Muslim intellectuals and educationists from different parts of the world had been calling for modernizing madrasa education and its curricula, with a view to turn that institution into a useful partner in the battle for knowledge production and distribution, which is increasingly becoming scientific and technology oriented founded on critical thinking. Historically also, it was the type of critical knowledge produced by medieval madrasas that set ablaze the European Dark Age and triggered the birth of European Enlightenment and European modernity – a fact today’s European supremacists are trying hard to obliterate from human memory.

Be that as it may, the anti-Muslim phobia that burst out into the open after 2009 and in the wake of the war victory received an unexpected boost from the Easter Sunday mayhem, and since then madrasas have become a thorn on the side of the phobists. When they violently agitated for the closure of all madrasas in the country, yahapalana government of that time panicked, decided to register all madrasas and deported all foreign teachers employed in those institutions. This was an action taken in haste and more to calm down the agitators than out of any studied understanding about the role of madrasas in Muslim societies. 

There is no denying the fact however, that by the turn of the century a few affluent madrasas, because of financial aid from wealthy Muslim nations, had become hotbeds of Wahhabi teachings and ultra-religious conservatism, a development not confined to Sri Lanka alone. In fact, Wahhabi indoctrination was part of an American imperialist strategy intended to subdue the Iranian inspired Islamic awakening, which threatened to topple the West built Middle East Order. But madrasas were not the only conduit for the infiltration of Wahhabism in Sri Lanka.  Several Muslim men and women who went to Arab countries for employment came back as Wahhabi agents of change. This author in a number of publications had traced the history of Islamic orthodoxy and conservatism in Sri Lanka, and had been unreservedly critical of local Muslim leadership that failed to take cognizance of that development and take measures to stem its alienating impact. Zahran was certainly a Wahhabi agent of change and an embodiment of ultra-conservatism and extreme Islamism, but he did not become so through madrasa education but from outside of it. Those who link him with madrasas are deliberately indulging in malicious propaganda. 

Likewise, a few days ago, the Minister of Education, a legalist and not an educationist, made a statement that he was monitoring the madrasas. What was he monitoring? Does he have any clue about what consists of traditional madrasa teaching? Has he ever stepped into a madrasa and observed the teaching and mode of education imparted by the teachers or discussed with the authorities on issues confronting madrasas?

Following the minister, another cabinet colleague of him, who in his student days was expelled from school for not attending GCE A/L classes, was also mongering fear about madrasas. They seem to be totally clueless about what they were talking about. As always, fear springs from ignorance, and there is a grand ignorance about madrasa education and its role in Muslim society along the nation’s corridors of power. 

Yet, there is no running away from the need to reform madrasa education. Its history in this country is more than a century old. To start with, it was the madrasas that kept the flame of Islam burning in the nook and crannies of this blessed island, and more importantly, like Buddhist privinas, they too performed yeoman service to tens of thousands of poor families, who otherwise would have found it difficult to keep their children away from social evils and crime. In an era when modernity has made juvenile delinquency a chronic evil, spiritual values and self-discipline inculcated by teachers in institutions like privinas and madrasas are a welcoming solution that need encouragement and not discouragement. But the problem with these institutions is that they have not kept pace with developments with modernity.    

Unfortunately, because of their chartable character and dependence on voluntary contributions majority of madrasas in Sri Lanka do not have the wherewithal to improve their facilities and modernise their curriculum and pedagogy. This is their crying need now, and if the government is serious in providing an all-round education for all children at low cost, madrasas could be turned into a useful partner in that venture. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resolve to bring about a disciplined and virtuous society can be built though madrasas if he intends to include the Muslim community also in his vision. Instead of that, just monitoring to catch foreign teachers, which could be done at the airport, is no solution to madrasa problems.           

Sadly, because of their opportunistic and muddle-headed political leadership, Muslims of Sri Lanka have become an entrapped community in a supremacist autocracy. They are at the receiving end of an unyielding regime that is governed by a group of ideologues who have no room for tolerance for Muslim religious and cultural sentiments.  There is no better example of this intolerance than the current intransigence about cremating Corona-killed Muslims. Contrary to all scientific evidence the decision to cremate Muslim dead bodies was taken purely on the basis of a health official’s opinion that the virus would spread because of high water level below the ground, a flimsy argument to say the least.           

What is crucial here is not that argument, but a warning issued by Rev. Methagoda Abayatissa Thero, one of the prime movers behind GR’s presidential victory as well as that of SLPP at the General Election, who said that, allowing Muslim bodies to be buried in defiance of the so-called expert advice to cremate tantamount to burying the government itself.  Here lies the politics behind that issue. The same intolerance was also expressed by Gunadasa Amarasekera, one of the architects of jatika chintanaya and joined by a street larrikin, Rev. Gnanasara. Between the pseudo-scientists and supremacists Muslims are trapped and are paralysed in spite of a Muslim Minister of Justice in the cabinet. The same intolerance and mulishness is exhibited in relation to madrasas also.  

In conclusion, let there be some rationality, objectivity and flexibility when dealing with a community’s cultural issues. Madrasas should not be viewed as a medieval anachronism and training centres of Islamist extremism that need to be put under surveillance, as seems to be the prevailing official attitude. If the Easter massacre was the reason for this attitude it is a total mistake, because that condemnable infamy had nothing to do with madrasas. Instead, with appropriate reforms they could be turned into a vital organ of a modern society, encouraged to fill in with a type of knowledge and training that is mostly absent in modern education. It will be advisable if the Minister of Education takes the initiative to call Muslim intellectuals and Muslim educationists in the country to submit suitable recommendations to modernize this historic institution. 

It is true that the country is facing insurmountable financial difficulties in the midst of an unprecedented economic recession. There are too many demands competing for government funding. Therefore, modernization of madrasas will obviously entail additional financial burden. However, it was President GR who said that guts bring glory. If he has the guts to take a positive step towards madrasa education, despite opposition from his idealogues and advisors, the Muslim world will come to his aidk. Will the Muslim minister and Muslim parliamentarians push for this change rather than remaining silent? Nothing ventured nothing gained.  

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Latest comments

  • 9
    14

    Why does a Buddhist country need so many Muslim schools? Successive Governments have allowed this menace to spread all over the country. Official statistics showed that there are 1669 Quranic madrasas, 317 Arabic Colleges and 277 Ahmadiya Muslim Education Schools linked to mosques.
    .
    The writer says nothing about these numbers and is an apologist for Muslim expansion. This country is busy building its own funeral pyre. No wonder people like Gnanasara succeed. https://www.pressreader.com/sri-lanka/sunday-times-sri-lanka/20190505/281775630587074

    • 8
      9

      Typical uninformed statement from someone who doesn’t care about anyone but their own community. There are over a million Muslims in sri lanka, do you expect to cram the offspring of these people into a few thousand madrasas?
      .
      Let’s move on to the bigger issues; why are there over two million buddhist monks in a country with only 14 million buddhists? What are these thug monks doing other than being fed like a bunch of cattle from public monies ? Why are public taxpayer money collected from minorities used to sustain extremist buddhist ideologies ? Why are there so many temples in Colombo ? An increasing number of people are waking up to the realisation of the futility in raising their hands up in supplication to a man (buddha) who wasn’t omnipotent or omniscient; if buddha couldn’t help himself then what is the point in raising your hands in supplication to such a weak creation. Such enlightened singhala people don’t go to temples, let alone answer calls to worship men. A decreasing number of practising buddhist should mean that an immediate reduction in the number of temples. The value of the land these unnecessary temples occupy is economically unjustifiable, it makes more sense to allow a business demolish those temples and put up building that will contribute to the economy.

      • 1
        0

        This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

        For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

      • 1
        0

        Quite a barrage of invective from an obviously very well informed person.

      • 3
        2

        sitrep24 in your complete ignorance you insult Buddhism and Buddhists. Try and learn something about it before typing nonsense.
        .
        It’s quite believable isn’t it that Allah sent angels to bring seven handfuls of coloured earth. Or that a talking snake tricked a woman into eating the fruit of a magical tree! That is how Islam starts. Give me a break! What are sane people to do with such stories? Either you believe them with blind faith, or you reject them as rubbish.
        .
        The Buddha’s teaching starts with something that we can all test for ourselves – Suffering. There is no blind faith.
        .
        This is where you and other readers can find out how ridiculous both you and Islam are https://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/

    • 11
      3

      Stanley
      Nobody imposed Muslim schools on Buddhists.
      They are funded by Muslims; and you shut them down, there will be informal indoctrination with harmful content.
      *
      Would you also object to Church schools and Daham pasal?

      • 2
        2

        SJ the point at issue was not the funding, but that so many should exist in the first place.

        • 1
          1

          https://economynext.com/unhrc-registers-complaint-made-by-sri-lankan-child-76317/

          I quote from this article
          “When the Ministry of Education had been informed of the situation, the complainant had been informed that the Ministry had no jurisdiction over International Schools, as they are incorporated as private companies….””

          “A new Education Act, she says is sorely needed, which will ensure that all schools and educational institutions conform to the guidelines and standards set out by the Ministry of Education (MoE). Currently, International schools continue to be registered as BOI entities. Though there is some form of oversight by the MoE, it is not a sound basis, she points out, adding that a legislative process is necessary to iron out the issues.””

          Madrassas’, Muslim International, Batticola Campus and schools have mushroomed in Colombo and all over – and there are only muslim students in them – further making the kids not associate others, be covered, no sports, no dance.. etc – like Afghan Taliban !! going down that road..!!

    • 2
      1

      Stanley

      “Why does a Buddhist country need so many Muslim schools?”

      Where is this Buddhist country?

      How many Sinhala/Buddhist Madarasas do you think we have in this island?

      By the way why do we need CHAPTER II in the constitution of Sri Lanka? I understand if Chapter II is used to hide/protect murderers, crooks, war criminals, rapists, criminals, ………..
      Recent Arabisation actually started in the mid 1980s according my Elders. There is nothing new.

      • 1
        1

        I’d have no complaint if those madrassas were Hindu schools or kovils. I’d welcome them.

        • 2
          1

          Stanley

          Do the Hindu’s run their own Madrasas?
          How many Hindu/Buddhist temples would satisfy you?
          Last year 130 Vihara’s were closed down due to lack of human resources.
          A Tamil man told me that in a few years Hindus will find it difficult to keep temples open as the Hindu population is dwindling although entrance tower and space inside the temple are being enlarged.

          I do not understand the purpose of building new temples, Churches, Mosques, Vihares, ……….. whereas there are numerous old places of worships are mostly left idling.

  • 10
    1

    Steps should be taken to modernize and regulate madrasa education. There is no question. But instead, Gota’s government – beholden to supremacists, anti-Muslim phobists, Jatika Chintana ideologues, and “street larrikins” – is only allowing them to turn the whole country into a madrasa of their own vulgar form of Buddhism.

  • 6
    9

    In Sri Lanka, Sinhala Buddhists have given few privileges to Muslims that others do not have. Muslims have special marriage and divorce rights, Muslim men can marry several ladies but others can’t, they also have special banking and food laws – all new cultural trends. Muslim ladies who work in Universities enjoy special leave that others are not entitled to. Muslims have no issues about constructing their places of worship anywhere they like. But when it comes to a health issue that might affect all the people, Muslims do not want to show some flexibility. For some bad luck if the virus spread from Corona infected Muslim dead bodies that are buried, the virus will not select only Muslims to infect.

  • 4
    12

    Muslim phobia is created by Muslims by you, Ameer Ali. You should see to develop the Muslim community to be a modern society, not go back to middle-ages. First that needs to be done is to control the fertility rate to bring down the huge growth rate of the Muslims. When the Muslims were 5-6% of the population, the problems we have today didn’t exist. Now with the Muslim population almost exceeding the SL-Tamil population (next census soon due might show that Muslims have infact the second largest group here), there is bound to be problems, not only with what you call the Sinhalese supremacists, but also with the Tamils. This is not a criticism or an attack on the Muslims. But an appeal in order to prevent ethnic conflicts and to protect our island, so that future generations can also live here and be self sufficient from what they can get from our island. Muslims have been a positive addition to this island, whatever the problems that have come in recent years could be reversed with the right attitude and approach from all parties. P.S. Cremation of the Coronavirus dead is the safest. Nothing to do with being anti-Muslim.

    • 0
      2

      Punchi Point ,

      I understand your efforts of trying to be as much moderate as
      possible in your estimates of events unfolding in the name of
      religion , especially against Muslim way of life ! But your
      recommendations here sound quite impractical and undemocratic
      and also cut and paste like ! Muslim population growth has been
      a common concern of its enemy in order to amplify any issue
      that concerns the community ! It is a huge issue that is being
      trivialised as control of birth rate of Muslims ! Birth control
      worldwide is practised mainly with management of economy in
      mind. Every Tom Dick and Harry these days try to harass Muslims
      with this easy cheap crap ! I would only try to convince you of my
      point with one of your own lines ! ” Muslims have been a positive
      addition to this Island.” If you are honest with this point of yours
      then, the best way is to leave them alone where they are ! That is
      the way forward .

      • 1
        0

        Muslim’s are told to propagate as it helps spread religion and increase believers vs Non-believers.
        (i) How many Muslim families have more than 3 children
        (ii) Karthankudi is the most densely populated area in SL.
        (iii) child brides – don’t allow women to become educated and have jobs which reduce the thinking to have more and more children – example Zaharan’s bride was married at 16 years.
        (iv) Family Planning Association can’t work in the east.. even advertisements of women are torn down. – try putting a condom vending machine in Ampara town or Karthankudi..

        This is the global problem. Islamification and intolerance of other believes.! Conformity to heard mentality…!! No logical reasoning or analysis. No coming to 21st Century !!

  • 1
    4

    Stanley ,

    ” Why does a Buddhist country need so many Muslim schools ? ” Rocket science !
    Simple truth ! Buddhists are interested in knowing what Islam is all about ! So ,
    more and more Madrasas ! Buddhists are well aware that Buddhism is a great
    philosophy but that won’t help them going heaven ! And they want a religion that
    does just that ! So , Madrasas ! British gave Stanleys that option , so no worries !

  • 5
    5

    Do you see the irony in uneducated ignorant individuals (politicians, clergy and other islamopjobes) arguing in matters relating to education ! XD
    .
    buddhism in sri lanka is to buddhism what isis is to Islam. We must stop the spread of extremist buddhist ideologies that people teach jealousy animosity and hatred towards fellow human beings.
    .
    Leave the worship of idols; idols in mythology (buddha) and physical idols people make with their own hands (statues). Such idols cannot help themselves, how will they help you.
    .
    Worship God alone without associating partners with Him. The All Mighty, The All Wise.

    • 7
      1

      s-24
      If what I see around me is all God’s handiwork, can God be that wise or mighty?
      *
      The issue is God or no God.
      If there can be a God,why cannot there be several like in many great civilizations before this one-God virus destroyed it all using state power?
      *
      The Buddha I understand, wisely said “God is irrelevant to what I have to say.”

      • 3
        0

        SJ, here I agree with you completely.

        • 2
          1

          Stanley

          “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

          ― Friedrich Nietzsche

          • 1
            0

            Thank you Friedrich Nietzsche, Pol Pot and Native Vedda.

            • 2
              0

              Stanley

              “Thank you Friedrich Nietzsche, Pol Pot and Native Vedda.”

              Do you find any connection among these three?

    • 3
      1

      It’s obvious Saharan and thousands of others have been radicalised by muslim hate preachers at various mosques in Sri Lanka and in Tamil Nadu. Sometimes mosques function as “underground secret madrasas”. Allegedly, hundreds of Muslim families have gone to Syria to become Jihadists as well.

      The Muslim who carried out terrorist attack on innocent people in Streatham-UK has extended family in Sri Lanka.

      In Arabic, madrasa means school. But nowadays madrasas are used for DETACHING Muslim children from normal world and turning them into brain washed extremists. The children who attend madrasas struggle to fit in with other communities. Its teaching content is very evil as ex-Muslim has revealed at the Presidential Commission.

      No argument that the government must monitor every Muslim move thoroughly, but monitoring madrasas are not easy. So ban the whole thing!

    • 3
      1

      sitrep24 this is what happens when an ignoramus is allowed loose on CT. You bow to a black stone, the kaaba five times a day don’t you? The Almighty is a myth made by frightened fools.

      • 0
        2

        Stanley ,
        Let me quote some lines from Steel Olcott : ” Let it suffice to recall the
        interesting fact to your notice ,and invite you to compare the
        respective biographies of the Brahmanical Krishna , the Persian
        Zoroaster , the Egyptian Hermes , the Indian Gautama , and the
        canonical , especially the apocryphal , Jesus .Taking Krishna or
        Zoroaster , as you please , as the most ancient , and coming down the
        chronological line of descent , you will find them all made after the
        same pattern .” Can I now feel content that I did justice to your “Myth”
        busting ?

    • 1
      1

      All over the world Muslims are creating trouble for others. Almost every Muslim country is racked with warring factions. The millions of Muslims refugees don’t flee to other spacious or wealthy Muslim countries, they all head for the Christian West where their human right to live in peace is recognised.
      .
      All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.

      • 1
        1

        In Srilanka , first batch of Terrorists were identified and named
        by the Sirimavo led government in 1971 and they were Sinhala
        Buddhists . With Durai Appa assassination emerged the next
        group who were identified as Hindus and Christians in the North .
        Nothing more to add !

  • 3
    0

    Amir Ali’s arguments – Singhala Buddhist did this, that and what not. but we Muslims have a very small issue in madrassas. Ali accepts there is a issue, but keep harping on other SL Sinhala and Buddhist aspects without taking the dirt out of his own eyes.. (Dr my ass!)..

    In January 2002, Musharraf gave a televised speech promising to combat extremism. One aim was to bring all of Pakistan’s madrasas, or Islamic schools, into the mainstream. Many now cultivate radical thinking and act as recruiting and indoctrination centers for jihadi terrorists.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/26/opinion/pakistans-unkept-promise-the-untamed-madrasas.html?auth=login-google

    According to the Times, 200 Kosovars were granted scholarships after the war with Serbia to study Islam on the Arabic peninsula. Many of them returned radicalized. Hundreds of mosques were built with money from Riyadh, via Moslem charitable organizations or private persons. Carlotta Gall explains that in these new mosques, imams “promote a very rigorist view of Islam and develop radical rhetoric in support of jihad.”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/world/europe/how-the-saudis-turned-kosovo-into-fertile-ground-for-isis.html

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