Madrassas and Muslim Militancy in Bangladesh

Professor Dr. Golam Hossain Department of Government and Politics Jahangirnagar University Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh E-mail:

The most important issue that has governed the political discourse of Bangladesh in the recent years is the Madrassa education and its alleged connection with the militant activities. Madrassas (1) occupy a dominant position in socio-religious and political life of Bangladesh as well as in the Islamic world. Indeed, Madrassas have been central to Islamic education and religious imagination of the Ulemas (2) and Islamic political activism in the region of South Asia. The origin of Madrassas go back as early as to the emergence of Islam and continued to grow for centuries to teach and spread Islam in the Arab and non-Arab lands, and throughout middle ages offered enormous contribution to the preservation of ancient thoughts as well as to the promotion of philosophy and sciences. Madrassas were, therefore, not just centers of religious teachings, but also a happy blending of different branches of knowledge. In the history of Islamic education, Madrassa based traveling scholars have played a vital role in preserving Ancient thoughts, training generation of Islamic scholars, reawakening the consciousness of Islamic solidarity during the colonial and post colonial period as well . Madrassas, therefore, have emerged as the most powerful instrument for teaching Islam as well as influencing the political direction of Bangladesh, neighboring Pakistan, and Afghanistan and in the Muslim world. In this order, Bangladesh is a case in point to be researched. Indeed, Bangladesh is the third largest Muslim country after Indonesia and Pakistan and ninety percent of her Muslim population is religious, God fearing, peace loving and begin early schooling in the Masque based Maktabs or Madrassas. It is, therefore, remarkable to see a Madrassa attached to a Mosque (3) everywhere although the country has a long record of secular social trait. In the recent years, the powerful democratic wave that swept almost every corner of the globe also accompanied an Islamic resurgent movement, the Iranian revolution being considered as the first case of success. While the Iranian revolution gave a new impetus to the resurgent Islam, it was an `image-loss for the United States. However, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan opened the opportunity for the United States to find a new front of political Inter-play in the region. Meantime in Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haque`s military regime also needed the full support of the United States for power consolidation, internal legitimacy and a respectable image at home and abroad. Therefore, a marriage of connivance between the US and Pakistan encouraged and supported the growth of Taliban resistance movement against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Since Islam was convincingly found as the most effective instrument against the non-Muslim Soviets, the US-Pakistan backed Taliban choose the Madrassas as the main ground for support base, recruitment, training and orientation. The US support to the Taliban Mujahedin could be


nicely understood in the words of the then US President Ronald Reagan that he praised Mujahedins Madrassa students as “the moral equivalent of the founding fathers of America.”(4) The Islamicists also took the full advantage of the political play of the “super powers” and that for all practical purposes encouraged the unlimited growth of Madrassas in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan too. This US support opened all avenues for the birth of Madrassa based militant. Hundreds and thousands of Muslim youths from different parts of the world including Bangladesh participated in what they called the “holy war against the infidels”. (5) The Soviet defeat led the Taliban’s to take control of the state power in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s relied on the Madrassas for their political strength and support base. Taliban governance was, however, disliked by the US for fear of the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the region. Madrassa education since then became the center of political focus, and a serious concern to the US foreign policy makers toward the Islamic world. Uzma Anzar, an eminent scholar on Islam, wrote: “---as most of the operatives of the Taliban government in Afghanistan were educated in the religious school system, the education in Madrassas in Muslim countries has gained special attention---.”(6) The rise of militant Islam in Afganistan and the simultaneous collapse of the Soviet Union that led to the end of coldwar, added new dimensions in global political discourse. ‘Socialism‘, the ideological base of cold-war was replaced by a new ideology – “Islam”. The involvement of Islamic militants from different countries in the Afghanistan resistance movement and the rise of Madrassa based Talibanism was considered by the US as threat to its interests in the Islamic world. The US policy makers also found the Madrassas as the potential breeding ground for “soldiers in the global Jihad”. Moreover, the terrorist attacks here and there, loss of lives, assets and properties, and further threat of attacks created serious problem for free mobility of human resources, goods and commodities, transfer of knowledge, democratic governance and an overall insecurity that the global society can not ignore. Indeed, the increased involvement of human societies in debates on this problem deserve special academic attention and an in depth survey. Much efforts have been paid to the study of Madrassas in Pakistan and Afghanistan although the silent birth of militant Islam in the Madrassas in Bangladesh remained unnoticed until attack started in the recent years. What is a Madrassa? What is its origin? What do they teach? What is the role of state in the growth of Madrassas? How do they connect to the rise of Islamic militancy? These are some of the questions and many more need to be studied from academic as well as political point of view. There are, however, studies on Islam, but scant effort has been made to undertake research on Madrassas and their connection to militancy. This, therefore, entails and engenders a number of academic and political questions of practical importance. The present study aims at focusing on the entire Madrassa system : its meaning, origin and historical growth, curricula, degrees, role of the state, funding, tuition fees, salaries of teachers, social background of teachers and students, political activism, militancy and terrorism , international connection and so on.

Meaning of the Madrassa
Generally the Arabic word Madrassa (7) means the centers/institutes or schools for learning Islam or any other subject. It could be compared as parallel to the Hebrew ‘Midrasha’ which also have similar meaning i.e. a school or place for learning. The word Madrassa has been transliterated in different spelling-Madrasah, Madrash, Medresa, Medreseh, Medrusha


or Madressa – to mean a school at primary and secondary, or even at advanced levels for both male and female students mainly to learn Islam. It could be secular or religious, for Muslims or non-Muslims, private or public. It may be noted here that the Arabic meaning of a university, however, is ‘Jami´ah’, and not madrassa/s. Nonetheless, the traditional Madrassas used to offer two major courses of learning: firstly, a ‘Hifz’ course to memorize the Qur‘an and the person who memorizes the Qur`an and recites it is known as a ‘Hafiz’; secondly an ‘Alim’ means an Islamic scholar accepted in the community. Since origin, the most important aspect of a Madrassa is its free education, food and lodging. Therefore, the Madrassa system received a multifarious student enrollment including orphans and poor, and supported them with education and training for betterment of life. This is one of the main reasons as to why the Madrassas became popular from the very beginning and spread throughout the Magreb and in the non- Arab Muslim lands.

Historical Growth of the Madrassas
As a center of learning, the Madrassa is century old, and its origin goes back as early as to the emergence of Islam. The early spread of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula was followed by innumerable growth of Mosques and Madrassas. Even in the later history of Islam, Madrassas have continued to grow to teach and spread Islam, and at times offered enormous contribution not only in theology, but also in the development of thoughts and sciences. Islamic scholars claim that Prophet Mohammad himself established the first Madrassa, Dar-ul-Akram at the Safa mountain near the City of Mecca where he taught the revealed messages to his close associates, and sent Masaab Ibn Umayir to teach Qur‘an and Hadith in Medina . Many Muslims from different places visited these Madrassas for knowledge on the new faith and at returning home, taught about Islam to their tribes-men and community people. Some others argue that those schools or Madrassas were really not Madrassas in literary sense, but Mosque based discussions on religious issues. During the early Islam, people also sought knowledge to socially accepted `Alim` or knowledgeable person’s on Islam as teachers. These teachers later became known as the Shaykhs who used to hold regular session on religious education called ‘Majalis’. Majalis were indeed the predecessor of Madrassas. Based on the informal Majalis, the Madrassas started to grow during the second and third centuries of Islam. Some of the most famous of those Madrassas were the Baitul Hikma established in Baghdad in 830 by Khaliph AlMamun; Jami’at al Qarawiyyin established in 859 in the City of Fas or Fez in Morocco; the Mosque based Madrassa established in 972 in Cairo by Commander in Chief Zaohar of the Fatimayed Caliph Al-Moizer that finally developed itself to present day’s famous al-Azhar University. It was, however, the Abbasid Khaliph , the Seljuk vizier called Nizam-al-Mulk Hasan Bin Al Tusi founded in 1067 al-Jamia-al-Nizamyia, the first major official academic institution known in the history as the Madrassa Nizamiyyah. The unique personality and statesmanship of Nizam-al-Mulk encouraged the introduction of the system of ‘State Madrassa’ in different cities during his reign in the eleventh century and flourished later on. The Madrassas established by Nizam-al-Mulk provided education both on scholastic theology to produce spiritual leaders as a result of which the Sufi movement spread as well as earthly knowledge focusing on sciences, philosophy and public administration that produced government servants to run the empire. Many of the Fatimid and Mamluk rulers and their successors in the medieval Arab world created Madrassas through a religious endowment known as the `Waq`f`. Through the Waq’f, Madrassas became the potent


symbol of status as well as effective means of transmitting wealth and status to the descendents, a process that continued in the Muslim societies even today. These Madrassas taught wide range of courses dividing in three major braches of knowledge: al-Arabia, al-Sharia and al-Hikma (philosophy). These courses included Arabic literature and grammar, the Quran and hadith, jurisprudence and philosophy that contained all-branches of socio-political aspects such as logic, mathematics, geometry, medicine, anatomy and physical sciences, chemistry, geography, botany, zoology, engineering and architecture, ethics, history and politics. Madrassas, therefore, were not just centers of Islamic religious teachings, but also a happy blending of thoughts, arts and sciences. In Bangladesh and in the south Asian region, Madrassas and Mosques began to emerge as independent institutions by the Muslim rulers in Delhi since twelfth century. The Muslim rule, however, began in the region by Mohammed bin Kashim through his occupation of Sind and Multan in 712. The Muslim rulers built three types of Madrassas or Islamic schools: Maktab for learning the Arabic Language and Qur’an; Madrassas for learning Persian, Urdu and Arabic Languages, Grammar, Literature and Islamic History. The Mughal empirors patronized Madrassa education for memorization of the Qur’an and recitation of religious scripts and texts. Mughal Madrassas had, however, no definite terminal period of education. The most famous Madrassas established during the Mughal and later in the British period, were the Delhi Madrassa by a religio-political leader Shah Waliullah in the 1760s, followed by the establishment of Calcutta Madrassa in 1781 by Lord Cornwallis and subsequently Madrassas in Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi in 1873, which in course of time became the forerunner of the government approved Àliya` Madrassas and to a large extent, centers of religio- political activism. Notwithstanding that the establishment of Dar-ul-Ulm Madrassa at Deoband in India in 1867 by Maulana Nanotavi on the spiritual Sufi thought was a turning point. Nanotavi was a close associate of Syeed Ahamed Shaheed of Berelvi – the leader of the Wahhabi movement in India. Berelvis death at the battle of Ballakot against the British and the Shiks frustrated Nanotavi to continue with the Wahhabi movement. He then left the Wahhabi movement and devoted to build up his Dar-ul-Ulm at Deoband, a small town 150 kilometer north of Delhi, and made it the most famous school for Islamic learning in the subcontinent and a model later on became known as the Qwami Madrassa. The first such Qwami Madrassa in today’s Bangladesh was established at Hathhazari in Chittagong in 1901. However, during his Deoband pursuation, Nanotavi emphasized on religio-political leadership. Later at the death of Nanotavi, a section of his successors led by Maulana Obaidulla Sindi followed the militant aspect and joined the Khilaphet movement which, however, ended with the abolition of the Khilaphet by the Turk Grand Assembly led by Kemal Ata Turk. Most of these leaders later went to reconcile religio-political symbolism with the Indian nationalist movement either by joining the Congress, the Muslim League or Islamic political organizations.(8) During the British colonial rule, despite some official patronage, the growth of Madrasas remained stagnant because of the introduction of English education system. The rise of Muslim nationalism and the independence of Pakistan in 1947, encouraged re-growth of Madrasas in order to promote Islamic education as a foundation for the nation building of the new - state. After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the policy of secularism followed by the then government during 1972-75, took the Madrassas a slow-process


growth. The successive military and civilian governments, however, encouraged the growth of Madrassas primarily to use the Islamic sentiment for political mobilization as well as to offer the state an Islamic identity to the support of the petro–dollar rich Arab Muslim states, particularly Saudi Arabia. It may be noted here that Saudi Arabia has emotional religio-political influence on the poverty stricken Islamic Bangladesh.

Contribution of Madrassas
The growth and rise of Madrassa based Talibanism in Afghanistan in the recent years took to the notice of the global society that the Madrassas are the breeding ground for militant political Islam. As the Islamic militancy spread rapidly across national boundaries, Madrassas increasingly became the issue of debate and discussions for producing traditional fanatics, orthodox, militants and terrorists. But the historical fact tells us the Madrassas, throughout much of Islamic history, were the major sources of religious and scientific learning, just as Church schools were in Europe. Between seventh and sixteenth centuries, Madrassas produced free-thinking luminaries who contributed not only in religious education but also in earthly or secular knowledge. Madrassas did not limit themselves to Islamic educations, but to all branches of knowledge. Ijtihad – independent reasoning was a special feature of the education of these Madrassas. This is especially true for Madrassas in Spain under Muslims rule for almost 800 years and the period often referred to as the Golden Age of both Islamic and Jewish advancement of science, technology and philosophy. Notwithstanding that it was in Andalusia Spain that Islam had given birth to a number of scholars who combined spiritual knowledge with the earthly knowledge and contributed to the preservation of Greek and European knowledge, which was at the verge of extinct. The works of Ibn Massara of Cordoba (883-931) on “man was responsible for his own history”, Ibn Hazm of Cordoba’s (994.1064) on “comparative history of religions”; and Ibn Gabirol of Malaga (1020-1070) on “synthesis of the Jewish faith and the modern philosophy” were of fundamental contribution. Even more remarkable is that the Muslim scholars, along with their Jewish counterparts, pioneered the knowledge of rational sciences, mathematics and medicine. Several other Muslim scholars who became famous in deferent disciplines have been listed below. One of them was Al-Kindi (----873) who made significant contribution to preserve and promote Greek thoughts, and became famous for his scholarly works on Greek and Persian knowledge. He translated Aristotle’s ‘Metaphysics’, Ptolemy’s ‘Geography’ and edited several other pieces of scholarly writings. Mohammad-al-Farabi (870-950), influence by Greek thoughts, translated Plato’s ‘Laws’, Aristotle’s ‘ Nokomekian Ethics’, and Tolemy’s ‘ Al- Majesta’, and wrote more than one hundred books on politics, psychology, music and logic etc. Abu Ali Hasan Ibn Sina (980-1036) was also influenced by Greek philosophers – Plato and Aristotle. He wrote a famous book ‘Kanon’ on medical science, and eighteen chapters on different subjects in his famous compilation - ‘As Sifa’. Abu Hamid Mohammad Ibn Mohammad- Al Gazzali’s (1058-1111) original works on ‘Tahafut - alFalasifa’ and “Faisal-al-Tafrika” focused on state and governance. Abu Bakar Ibn Baja was one of the early Spanish Muslim thinkers. Influenced by Greek thoughts he wrote fundamental books on Medicine, Geometry, Astronomy, Natural Sciences and Philosophy. He was also a strong believer of pluralism. Abi Bakar (Baqr) Ibn Tufayel (1110-1185), a Spanish Muslim thinker, earned reputation for his contravention to different branches of sciences – Medicine and Mathematics. His figurative expression in his poetic book “Hy Ibne Yakjan” was an important Philosophical work in the middle ages, and was translated in different languages. Abul Walid Mohammad Ibn Rusd (Averroes) (1126-1198) was also a


Spanish Muslim. He was influenced by Greek Philosophers and preserved Aristotle’s original works. His original works include Theology, Mathematics and Medicine, and Religion and Politics. “Tahafatul Tahfa” is his famous work. He was a personal physician of Khaliph Abu Yakub Yusuf – al – Mansoor during 1184-1186. Abu Zayid Abd – al – Rahman Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) became famous for his original work on “History of the World”. He also explained the Methods of History in his famous book “Mokaddimah”. He became well-known as the father of history and social sciences. In the heartland of Islam in Baghdad, Nizam-al-Mulk also wrote the famous book on Public Administration –“Syasat Nama”– the way to govern, a pioneering book in the discipline. (9) Many of these scholars and their writings became familiar to the students of the West and offered encouraging support to the growth and rise of education institutions in Europe. Madrassas also produced a great number of Sufi Mystics namely Abu Muhammad muhiuddin Hazrat Abdul Qadir Gillani (1077-1166), Khawaja Moinuddin Chisty ( 11411230), Shah Jalal ( 1271- 1347) to name a few. One of the most renowned Sufi mystic and poet of love and longing in the thirteenth century (1207-1273) was, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, who like his father learnt and taught Muslim Jurisprudence and Sharia Law at a Madrassa in Konya, a city near Lake Tuz in Turkey. (10) Rumi’s poetic contributions, so wrote George Makdisi, won America’s best selling throughout the 1990’s, He reminded the contribution of ‘al-Azhar’ in Cairo, the greatest and one of the oldest Madrassas as the most sophisticated school in the entire Mediterranean world during the early middle ages. The high quality education of the Madrassas in the City of Faz in Morocco contributed to the development of the city as a world famous learning center. Indeed the very idea of a ‘university’ in the modern sense - a place where students congregate to study a variety of subject under a number of teacher - is generally regarded as an innovation first developed at al-Azhar. Even the most sophisticated academic titles, “Professors”, and rewards and honor –“fellows” holding a “chair” or “students” “reading” a subject and obtaining “degrees” as well as practices such as inaugural lecturers, convocation the oral defense, even mortar boards, tassels, and academic robes, tuition fees, salaries of professors and tuition fees of the students, curricula liberates can all be traced back to the practices of Madrassas. The thoughts and ideas of the Islamic luminaries encouraged the cities not far from Islamic Spain and Sicily - Salerno, Naples, Bologna, and Montpellier - to grow and flourish the Universities in Christendom .(11) Even the very first college in Europe was founded in Paris by Jocius de Londoniis, a pilgrim after his return from the Middle East. Throughout the middle ages, Adelard of Bath and several other Christian scholars traveled to the Islamic world to study the advanced learning available in the Madrassas. Alvaro of Cordoba wrote in the fourteenth century: my fellow Christians delight in the poems and romances of the Arabs; they study the work of Muslim theologians and philosophers, not in order to refute them, but to acquire a correct and elegant Arabic style. Where today can a layman is found who reads Latin commentaries on Holy Scripture? At the mention of Christian books they disdainfully protest that such works are unworthy of their notice.(12) The contribution of Muslim rulers and that of the Madrassas in the progress of mediaeval Indian Civilization is noteworthy. Despite the Muslim invasion of India begun since Ninth century, Muslim rule in the subcontinent was established by Sultan Mohammad Ghori during 1174-1206. Mohammad Ghori and his appointees, Kutubuddin and Bakhtiar Khilzi destroyed Hindu and Buddhist holy sites in Ajmer (1191) and in Bikramshala respectively, but established Madrassas for Islamic learning. The successive Muslim rulers in the


following centuries patronized the establishment of Madrassas and education institutions for higher learning. In the process, great centers of Islamic learning established in Gujrat, Ucch (Sind), Multan, Delhi, Pandua, and Gaur (Bengal), Bider, Gulbarga, and Aurangabad (Deccan) were among the most famous in the entire Muslim world. One of those most famous institutions was established by Princes Rizia, daughter of Altams, ruler of Delhi during 1210-1236. During the Tuglog rule from 1325-1413, Mohammad Bin Tuglog and Ferooj Shah Tuglog established mosque adjacent education centers, particularly residential colleges where students and teachers would stay, and granted money from the treasury. Feroj Shah Tuglog collected 1200 books (puthi) from Nagarkot written in Sanskrit and translated them in Persian language which he named “Dalil-e- Feroojshahi”. He established several Madrassas and most famous of those was the “Feroojshahi Madrassa”. Most of these Madrassas were for the Muslim students; But Sekander Lodi opened the door of Madrassas for the Hindus as well. The Hindus were given the opportunity to learn Arabic and Persian in order to get into the official job of the state as well as in the palace. So the Muslims devoted to learn Hindu religious scriptures and translated them in Persian language. In course of such cultural linguistic reciprocity, a new language - Urdu- was born as a bridge between Hindu - Muslim cultures. The Hindus also came forward to establish schools; the most important one was the “Academy of New Logic” by Basudev (14501525) at Nadia in Bengal that earned reputation in the middle ages. (13) When Babar established Mughal rule in India during 1326-1330, he found a dismayed picture on the rules of the regional Sultans regarding education. Babar himself was a scholar and followed a reform in the education, particularly the Madrassas. Under the successive Mughal rulers, Mosque attached Maktabs, Madrassas and education institutions of higher learning continued to grow and flourish. Meantime when the Mongols invaded and destroyed the Madrassas and institutions of learning in Baghdad and in other cities in the Islamic heartlands, many learned scholars fled to Delhi, and turned Northern India into a major center of scholarship. Moreover, when Akbar took the reins during 1556-1605, “the curriculum of Indian Madrassas blended the learning of Islamic Middle East with that of the teaching of Hindu India, so that the Hindu and Muslim students would together study the Qur’an (in Arabic), the Sufi poetry of Sa’adi ( 1207-1291, in Persian) , and the philosophy of Vedanta (in Sanskrit) as well as ethics, mathematics , astronomy, medicine, logic, history ,literature , grammar, and the natural sciences. Abul Fazal’s poetic and scholarly writings gave new light to Emperor Akbar’s rule during 1556-1605. Many of the extraordinarily brilliant Hindu thinkers, including, for example, the great reformer Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) was a student of Madrassa and his book – “Tufatul Moyuddin” means Gift of the Believers was a great contribution to understanding religion. Madrassas have also produced great number of luminaries – scholars, politicians and reformers – in the South Asian region. Nawab Abdul Latif who is well-known as the founding father of Kolkata University in 1858, Sir Syed Amer Ali, Maulana Ali brothers, Maulana Abul - ala – Maudidi, India’s first education minister Maulana Abul Klam Azad, Maulana Akram Khan, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani were all students of Madrassas Even modern India’s greatest scholars such as the Mughal historian Muzaffar Alam of the University of Chicago is a brilliant example of a few of the hundreds of great scholars produced from the Madrassas”. (14) In a recent study conducted on Madrassas in India by Yoginder Sikand demonstrates how forward - looking and dynamic some Madrassas could be. He highlighted in particular the contribution of Madrassas in promoting female education in India’s` south-western state of Kerala. He quoted Zohra Bi, the principal of a college who said: “Islam is wrongly thought of as a religion of women oppression” and added “Through our work in the college we want to show that Islam actually empowers women”. (15) And


because of cheaper education, the Madrassas in the Indian state of Bengal continued to increasingly attract Hindu students. Some of the modern Madrassas in Bangladesh in recent years have also produced a number of brilliant students to get admission in the universities and find job in the administration, banking sectors and private companies.

Types of Madrassas
Broadly there are two types of Madrassas: the Qwami and the Aliya . Historically Bangladeshi Madrassas are originated from the Deoband model of non-government Qwami Madrassas. The government supported Aliya Madrassas were introduced by the British Raj. The Qwamis are ran by the private management and depend for their monetary support on the local private donation including the international Islamic charities. To start a Qwami Madrassa, do not require government permission and therefore, government also do not grant them any money. At the national level, a non-government Qwami Madrassa Board set rules for the governance of the Qwami Madrassas. The Qwami Madrassa’s curriculum mainly focuses on the study of the Quran and Hadith, Persian and Urdu Languages, and Islamic history and jurisprudence. The duration of the Qwami Madrassa years are not approved by the government. Lack of trained teachers and exclusion in the curricula of the subjects such as the mother tongue – Bangla and other science based subjects such as Mathematics - left the Qwami students with low quality education. Since the Qwami Madrassas offer free education; students enrolled are mostly from poor segments. Qwami Madrassas do not permit co-education. There are separate Qwami Madrassas for the female students. Since the degree of the Qwami Madrassas is not approved by the government, job market is also very limited only to Mosques and Madrassas. There are by now 25000 Qawmi Madrassas in Bangladesh, many of whom exist as moribund or only in papers. Therefore, the actual number of students in the Qawmi’s was not found available. The Aliya Madrassas, on the other hand, are approved by the government and ran by a government approved Aliya Madrassa Board. Their structure, curricula which comprises 50% theology and 50% modern science subjects, school years, tuition fees of the students and salaries of the teachers, and degrees are approved by the Government. Indeed the Aliyas combine curricula of Islamic religion and modern science based subjects. Aliyas receive money from the government as well as from other sources including the Islamic NGOs and Arab Muslim countries. Co-education is permitted, but boys and girls take separate seats in the same class room. As recorded in 2005, the strength of the Aliya Madrassas stood as follows: Ibtedaie (Primary – 5 years schooling) – 17357 Dakhil (Secondary – 5 years schooling) – 7395 Alim (Higher Secondary – 2 years schooling) – 1157 Fazil (Bachelor – 2 years schooling) – 985 Kamil (Masters – 2 years schooling) – 115 Number of teachers : about 200,000 Number of students : about 2.5 million. A survey conducted on the strength of Madrassas in researchers own administrative subdistrict, Kapasia at Gazipur District, show that there are 149 Aliya Madrassas added by several Qwami Madrassas against 251 general schools and colleges. Therefore, together with the Qwamis, number and strength of Madrassas at Kapasia are near equal to general


schools and colleges. Out of 68 mid level and senior Madrassas, 20 goes to female leaving the rest 48 to male, thus confirming a gender disparity. The third category is known as the Orphan Homes or Boarding Madrassas. Only the orphans or homeless are entitled to get education free of costs and these Orphan Homes and Boarding Madarassas receive money from international Islamic Charities and private donations, local and abroad. They are ran by the private management, however, follow a curricula of Qwami type.The Mosque based Furkanya Madrassa teaches Quran and rituals for Islamic prayer, and they are organized and run by the Mosque committees The Furkanyas are not approved by the government nor they receive any grant from the government. Apart from the Sunni Madrassas – Qwamis, Aliyas and Boarding - there are also mosque based Maktab and Madrassas for the minority Shiite Muslims, however, only in certain localities of the country. And mostly they teach Islam with a special focus on their own sectarian principles that Ali Bin Taleb, cousin brother and son in law of Prophet Mohammad, would be the rightful political inheritor of the Islamic Ummah. The small group of Ahammadiya population has also their own mosques and Madrassas, the well known one is at Tejgaon in the capital city Dhaka. They preach and teach ‘Islam’ (?) according to their own faith and interpretation. Since the Ahammadyas believe that ‘Mohammad’ is not in the end of prophet-hood, they have been declared ‘Kafir’ (non believer) by the Sunni Muslims.

Trends in the Growth of Madrassas
Despite the word Madrassa refers to mean a school, in the Bangladesh context, it is generally used as a Sunni Islamic Religious School. There are by now more than 30,000 Madrassas in Bangladesh for about 125 million Muslims against 12,000 Madrassas in Pakistan for 180 million Muslims and 30,000 Madrassas in India with 130 million Muslims. An increasing trend in the growth of Madrassas in the recent years under the governments of BNP and Awami League (16) compared to the growth of general schools is shown below :

Trends in the growth of Madrassas against general schools during 1990-2005 is shown in table 1. Table :1 Perio d 19962000 20012005 Govt s AL BNP % of Students Enrollment Gener Madrassa al s 33 58 09 10 % of Teachers Appointment Gener Madrassas al 16 13 12 17 New Establishment Gener Madras al sas 28 17 10 22


Strength of Madrassas during 1948-49 is shown in Table:2 . Table : 2 Levels of Madrassa 1. High Madrassa (new) Government Private with Government Grants Private Total 2.Junior Madrassa (new) Government Private with Government Grants Private Total 3.Senior Madrassa (old) Government Private with Government Grants Private Total 4. Junior Madrassa (old) Government Private with Government Grants Private Total Grand Total No.of Madrassa 03 59 02 64 01 837 58 896 02 190 41 233 00 119 49 168 1,361 No. of Students 796 11,068 331 12,195 260 79,031 4,013 83,304 359 22,921 5,706 28,986 00 6,501 3,886 10,387 134,872

Increase in Students enrollment in the Madrassas during 1993-1999 is shown in table 3.

Table : 3
Types of No. of Madrassas Madrassa No. of Students % of % of increase of Annual Students Increase enrollment in 6 years







Dhakil Alim Fazil Kamil Total

3,825 807 831 100 5,563

4,865 1,090 1000 141 7,096

458,093 124,533 172,995 37,920 793,541

855,488 286,491 347,483 82,314 1,571,776

86.75 130 100.86 117.07 98.07

14.46 21.68 16.81 19.51 16.34

Increase in Number of Madrassas is shown in the table 4.

Table : 4
Types Madrassa Ebtedayi Dhakil Alim Fazil Kamil Total of No. of No. of Madrassas madrassa 1999 2003 18,268 10,000 9,206 4,865 1,180 1,090 1,180 1,000 180 141 30,014 17,069 No Madrassa 1974 765 302 300 45 1,412 of % of increase 20.67 38.05 10.03 10.12 10.35 annual

Gender Disparity in the Madrassas is shown in the Table 5.

Table :5
Madrassas Types Dhakil Alim Fazil Kamil Total No. 4865 1090 1000 141 7096 Students Total 1755434 501500 565824 112590 2935348 Female 811128 182924 155160 14301 1183513 Teachers Total 60113 17576 19509 3602 100800 Female 1925 436 375 37 2773 Employees Grade-3 Total Female 4183 187 1018 36 1791 42 401 03 7393 268 Employees Grade-4 Total Female 9207 461 2292 82 3986 63 861 22 16346 628

Data used in Table 1-5 have been taken from BANBEIES (17). According to the BANBEIS, the total number of Aliya Madrassa students at the Dhakil, Alim, Fazil, and Kamil level stand 2935348 out of which the female students are 1163513, about 40% of the total. The report also shows a high gender disparity that the female teachers at the dhakil and Alim levels are only 3%, at Fazil level 2% and at Kamil level only 1% and the 3rd and 4th class female employees comprise only 4%. The same source also disclosed that some 1,618 new government Madrassas with 18,167 new teachers as against 1,720 new general schools and colleges with recruitment of 25,882 teachers, which indicate the growth of Madrassas parallel to general education.

Reasons for Militancy and Terrorism
Islam spread in the South Asian region mostly by the Sufi approach, and not through the Sword. The Sufis adopted the teachings of Islam with local conditions. Islam, therefore, had faced less conflicts and promoted a new cultural trait in the region. Muslim militancy


have,however, started to grow in the region only during the colonial period, as reaction to colonization, a political protest by the Wahabi and Khilaphati movements. Muslim militancy found in the Madrassas is a recent phenomenon. However, the Madrassas , particularly the Deobandis that spread throughout the British Indian region during the past one hundred and fifty years or so, benefited from the official patronize of General Ziaul Haque in Pakistan and General Ziaur Rahman in Bangladesh and their Saudi allies in the 1980’s. Ironically, the US also played an important role in their harnessing of Madrassas for ‘holy war ` as part of the Afghan jihad, with the CIA/USAID financing the production of some notable bloodthirsty Madrassa textbooks ‘filled’ ``with violent images and militant Islamic teachings”, according to several reports. (18) Even the 9/11 Commission finds anger at Israel fueling Islamic terrorism wave. Scholarly studies have often identified poverty, unemployment, economic backwardness, exploitation and social imbalances as the main reasons for the growth of militancy and terrorism in many parts of the Islamic world. Besides these, social de-recognition and neglect often generate frustrations. Muslim youths can, therefore, easily be indoctrinated to take recourse to violence in the name of ‘holy Jihad’. Some other studies have, however, pointed out that poverty is not the only factor responsible for social violence or militancy, because poverty has always existed in the southern Asian Muslim states and militancy did not grow until very recently. Even the decline of poverty from about 70% in 1970s to about 20% in 2007 in Bangladesh escalated Muslim militancy. Indeed, different cases have shown that poverty has little correlation with militancy because most of the known terrorists are found to be well-placed in the society. The high poverty level in Bangladesh did not give rise of militancy in the 1970s thru 1990s. The fact, however, remains that a `poor could easily be manipulated for some money to join `Jihad`. Daniel Pipes argued for the other factors such as the history of religio-politics, the impact of recent resistance movements in the Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir or in Arakan, Bosnia and Kosovo, and treatment meted out to the Muslims – torture, rape and mass-killings created among many Muslims hatred to the policy of the US and UK. Indeed a perceived anti-Islam policy of the West has further stimulated the growth of Madrassa based Muslim militancy in the Islamic world. It has also been observed that the low standard of Madrassa education compared to general education forced large number of Madrassa educationists to remain unemployed. The increased unemployment is likely to aggravate social upheaval and provoke violence and militant activities. It has, however, carefully been observed that Islamic militancy had rather grew and spread in relatively richer Muslim states during the oil-boom in the 1970s, for example, in the West Bank and Gaza, and in the 1980s in Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. International political connection to domestic politics in certain countries, particularly the US foreign policy towards the Islamic world to counter Soviet communist aggression during the coldwar conflict, fomented the growth of Muslim armed militants. After the purpose is served, these militants were denied by the US administration. One such example is Osama bin Laden who became anti-US or anti-West, and organized al-Qadea terrorist net-works for ‘Jihad’ against what he calls ‘infidels’ of the West. (19) The anti-West ideological stand has nicely been presented by Lawrence Davidson. He explained that Islam spread when Europe was in dark. At the time Islamic empire started to decline, Europe began experiencing renaissance and advancement. “The emerging European forces confronted an Islamic civilization that had considered itself superior to the Christian West in every way for hundreds of years. The confrontation proved the greatest and most traumatic challenge ever faced by Islamic civilization. And it is that continues to this day”. The Us foreign


policy towards the Islamic Middle east is also largely responsible for the rise of anti-west or anti- US anger among many Muslims.(20) Militancy or terrorism, therefore, have been found in different expressions in different situation. German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn explained the rise of militancy not only from religious or ideological or political point of view, he rather emphasized on demography as central cause. Citing European examples during the 16th thru 19th centuries, he points out that in states who exhibit so-called “youth bulge” – countries in which fathers have over generations on the average more than two sons -, the probability of mass criminality, terrorism, wars higher than in nations, which exhibit stable population. By a surplus of sons, the entrance to the job market is closed due to a lack of free positions. Coincidentally their social appreciation remains refused, too. He argued that the young qualified men are those who could be radicalized most easily. For today‘s situation, he explains : all the son-rich areas of the Islamic world represent an immense reservoir of potential violent warrior. Their population increased in the last 100 years to be eightfold from 150 to 200 millions, however, the economical situation only supplies for a part of them an acceptable perspective. Religion and ideology only represent an additional explosive power, he added.(21) In the case of Bangladesh, both domestic and international factors might have been combined. Evidence shows that about 3000 Bangladeshis went to Afghanistan to join the Jihad and 24 of them died in the war. Confirmed sources also say that a few hundred Bangladeshi Muslim youths participated in the Palestine war against Israel and in Kashmiri war against India. The safe collection of small arms during trafficking from Chittagong coastal belt to the hills and mountainous roads, and the patrons’ use of arms against political oponents further paved the way for the rise of armed Muslim militants in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the region.

Terrorist Attacks (1999-2005)
In the recent past years, so-called Islamic terrorist organizations about 50 in number have continuously engaged in assassinations, bomb attacks, extortion and weapon smuggling on a grand scale in the name of Jihad and allegedly in the protective shadow of the Jamat-iIslami’s government position during 2001-2006. Following are some of the information of the militant activities in the recent years: As late as in March 2007, Jamiyat-ul-Mujahedin Bangladesh; (JMB) terrorists threatened to kill a district judge in Chittagong; attempted grenade attack on police at Sharishabari in the district of Mymensingh and police arrested two of the attackers with the help of local people, and two other leading JMB cadre were also arrested from Bagmara in the north west district of Rajshahi, and three others from Naogaon and Bogra.(22) During the period of 2003 - 2005 there were as many as 700 bomb blasts in about 450 spots out of which 11 attacks were suicidal that together killed more than 200 persons and injured thousands. And only on August 17, 2005, 500 bomb blasts took place in 365 places covering 63 of the 64 districts in Bangladesh. In five months time from August 2005 to December 2005, 33 persons were killed and about 400 persons injured by the mobile suicide squads of the JMB and Harkatul Jihad. On March 06,1999, bomb attacks at Udichi cultural function in Jessore killed 10 and injured 100; on October 08,1999, bomb attacks at Ahammdya Mosque in Khulna killed 08 and injured 30,and at Alal Pak Darbarsharif in Faridpur killed 04; on July 16, 2000, Police detected Two 76 kg bombs from Kotalipara in Gopalgonj; on January 20,


2001 bomb attacks at the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) wounded 50 persons; on April 14, 2001 bomb attacks on the celebration of Bangla new year (Pohela Baishak) at Ramna in the capital city Dhaka killed 10 and injured 30; on June 15,2001 bomb attacks at the Awami League office in Narayangonj killed 22 and wounded dozen; on September 23 and 26, 2001 bomb killed 12 and injured more than 100 at Awami League`s rally in Bagerhat and Sunamgonj. In 2002-3, 60 terrorist activities took place killing 30 and injuring more than hundred. In 2004 alone, more than 249 terrorist attack took place that killed 125 persons including two journalists and injured hundreds.(23) The following account show how desperate were the terrorists even to attack on the national political leaders and important personalities. On November 14, 2005, terrorists attack in the southern district of Jalakathi killed two district Judges; terrorists assassinated SAMS Kibria in January 2005 and Ahsanullah Master in May 2004 - both of them were Members of Parliament belonging to the opposition Awami League ; on May 21, 2004 terrorists attacked the British High Commissioner in Bangladesh , Anwar Chowdhury, when he was visiting the holy Shrine of Hazrat Shah Jalal in Sylhet. In August, 2004, terrorists lunched series of bomb attacks on Sheikh Hasina’s mass rally in Dhaka that killed 23 persons including a veteran leader Ivy Rahman and injured more than hundred. On November 29, 2005 terrorist attacks in Gazipur and Chittagong killed 8 including 2 lawyers and injured hundreds. In June 2004 , several mosques in the southern district of Barguna were used under cover by the Islamic militants of the Jagrata Muslin Janata Bangladesh before 32 of them were arrested by the police. They were carrying Jihad inspiring books , leaflets containing pictures of Osama bin Laden and messages on Jihad and a map of high profile location for ‘Surprise Action’ and said : come to Jihad and Jihad is not terrorism, but blessings. Of those arrested some were students of Barguna Aliya Madrassa and Borguna Government College.(24)

Who are the Attackers
Government investigation and arrests identified several attackers as Madrassa students and teachers, both from Aliyas and Qawmis, and some others are their political recruits. Many of those attackers were the students of Aliyas at Alim level between the ages of 18 and 22. However, the most prominent and active organization engaged in the recruitment and training of young Madrassa students is the HUJI ( Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islam). HUJI is widely regarded as the al-Qaeda’s operating arm in South Asia. Reportedly HUJI has consolidated its position in Bangladesh with 15,000 activists, of whom 2000 are ‘hardcore’.(25) About 3500 Bangladeshis, of whom 500 are the cadre of HUJI and other militant organizations such as JMB, had gone to Afghanistan and kasmir to take part in Jihad; 34 of them died in the battle field and most others retuned home. Some of the top leaders or members of the Majlis-e-Sura of the JMB are returnees from the battle fields of Afghanistan and Kashmir. Some others were activists of Jamat-i-Islami or members of its student wing, Islami Chhatra Sibir. Some militants were also recruits from the Rohingya solidarity organization. Rohingya’s are a Muslim Community driven out by Myanmar’s military junta from its Arakan region and based themselves since 1980’s in the refugee camps in South Eastern Cox Bazaar district of Bangladesh. The Rohingya’s allegedly engaged in drug and arms trafficking, and established connections with other militant groups in the region.

Where do they get Training


The militants of HUJI, JMB and other organizations have received training under the leadership of Shawkat Osman Alias Sheikh Farid in at least in six organized camps in the Madrassas in Chittagong, Rajshahi, Tangail, Shatkhira, Kustia, Jamalpur and elsewhere in the country. HUJI- JMB have also camps for recruitment and training in the inaccessible hilly terrains of Cox’s bazaar and Banderban, and along the NO Man’s land in the Bangladesh – Myanmar border and enjoy support and patronize from about 30 Madrassas in the Chittagong region. Investigative reports disclosed the involvement of several Madrassas in the border areas of Naikhangchhari and Ukhia in providing weapons , training and motivating the Muslim youths to launch an Islamic revolution in Bangladesh. The HUJI and JMB also used certain mosques such as in Barguna and coaching centers in Dhaka city for recruitment, orientation and bases of operation.(26)

Purpose and promise of the Militants
Over 500 guerilla units and about 100.000 trained cadres spreading in all over Bangladesh have been actively engaged in establishing what they call an “Islamic state of Bangladesh”. According to their leaflets, Bangladeshi laws are un-Islamic and at the hands of Infidels. A promise of the HUJI-JMB and other organizations is, therefore, to free the nation from the grip of the infidels and establish an Islamic state on the ideals of the Qur’an and Sunnah. For the purpose, the Islamic militants take oath in the name of Allah to fight the enemies as follows: “To die in the battlefield of Jihad is to get Jannat” then and then, and a ‘Shaheed never dies’. This is the promise in the Quran, they believe and act.

International Connection
From the very birth of Bangladesh, foreign powers have always been active in country’s domestic political affairs. Looking at the rise of Islamic militants, Sumit Ganguly wrote: “Outside forces also encourage the extremism: Bangladeshi radicals exploit every act of violence toward Muslims of India; Saudi religious Charities have established a network of Wahhabi Madrassas, promoting a confrontional version of Islam; and Pakistani intelligence infiltrated in the society stirring up hostility towards India.”(27) It has widely been reported in the local and international news media that the HUJI and JMB established an active link with the al-Qaeda and received over the years a generous amount of financial support from the Saudi Arabia based NGO, al- Haramain Islamic Foundation, Abu Dhabi based al-Fujayrah Welfare Association, Dubai based Dar-ul-Ansar and Muslim Welfare Association, Bahrain-based Daulatul Bahrain and Kuwait based Revival of Islamic Heritage and Doulatul Kuwait (28) Investigative results have found that none of these organizations have any offices in Bangladesh, however, reportedly operate through a net-work of preachers who not only distribute money but also motivate the youths to join Jihad. (29) The militants established bases and organized training centers in the 1990s at some Madrassas in 38 of country’s 64 districts. Several sources say that Maulana Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid is in charge of al-Qaeda network in Bangladesh. Maulana Farid and some other members of HUJI and JMB held meetings with Osama-bin-Laden on February 11, 1989 at Khost in Afghanistan and built political contacts with international militants/ terrorists groups. One of the main leaders of the HUJI, Abdur Rahman Farooqui died in Afghanistan while cleaning mines. More evidence of the HUJI-JMB connections with the Taliban and al-Qaeda came to open by a Fatwa issued by the Jihad movement in Bangladesh on February 23, 1998 under the directives signed by Osama Bin laden , his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, Rifa’s Ahmad Taha


of Egyptian Islamic group and Sheikh Mir Hamzah, secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema ePakistan.(30) The Rohinga Solidarity Organization has also developed links with other Islamic militant groups like Gulbuddin Hekmatyr’s Hizb-e-Islami in Afghanistan, Hizb-ulMujahideen in Jammu and kasmir, and Angkatan Belia Islam Sa Malaysia (the Islamic Youth Organization of Malaysia). Significantly on May 10, 2002 nine Islamic extremist groups, including HUJI, decided to form a Bangladeshi Islamic Manch (platform) to coordinate their activities and develop a collective infrastructure.(31)

There are reportedly 50 militant Islamic organizations in Bangladesh, most actives of them re listed below: HUJI: Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam; JMB: Jamiyat-ul-Mujahedin Bangladesh; Hizbul Tauhid; Tauhidi Janata; Allah’r Dal; Jagrata Muslim Janata; Islami Revolutionary Parishad; Al Jihad; Shahadat al Hikma, Al Markazul al Islami Bangladesh and so on. HUJI is formed in 1990 comprising the returnees from the battle fields of Afghanistan and Kashmir, and recruits from Arakanees Rohingya has about 15,000 members, many of whom are students of Madrassas and from poor social background. HUJI has reportedly changed name to “ Islami Ganoandolan Bangladesh” as part of its strategy to continue operations. And alongside the HUJI, Pakistan based Harkatul Mujahidin also continued its activities. In recent times, the JMB became the most active one. The JMB aims at establishing the rule of Islamic law in Bangladesh through an armed struggle. The outfit is opposed to the establishment of democracy and calls for the conduct of government under Islamic law. On august 17, 2005 while claiming responsibility for the series blast followed by distribution of leaflets both in Bangla and Arabic left out the sites of the explosions across the country. The JMB said: We are the soldiers of Allah. We have taken up arms for the implementation of Allah’s law in Allah’s land...It is time to implement Islamic law in Bangladesh.” (32) Other organizations namely Harkatul Jihad, Hizbul Tauhid, Shahadat al Hikma, Allah’r Dal, Al Markajul al Islami Bangladesh and so on are also more or less active in the country.

Government Measures
Six top militants including Jamiyat-ul- Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) supremo Shaykh Abdur Rahman and his deputy Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai were executed .


Recent terrorist attacks shocked the Bangladeshi’s and were an alarm and a wake up call for the government as well as the political leaders. The determination to take stern action against the terrorists by the Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s government (2001-2006), and the subsequent caretaker government with an active role of the armed forces arrested hundreds of militants including the King-pins : Shaykh Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai, and the JMB military commander, Ataur Rahman Sani. Most of them were punished to jail and the top six were sentenced to death which was executed by the military backed government in April, 2007. Security forces, police and RAB continued merciless crack down on the militants. Security forces continued information collection, search, investigation, arrests and recovery of arms, bomb making chemicals, explosives and powergel, and put hundreds to jail. The Bangladesh government recognized terrorism as a global problem and signed an agreement with the CIA and FBI to strengthen intelligence net-work and designed counter terrorism strategies to combat terrorism jointly. The government also introduced anti-money laundering law to curb terrorist financing from external sources; (33)

Concluding Remarks and Policy Recommendations
Since August 17, 2005 nationwide terrorist attacks in Bangladesh, Madrassas, particularly the Qwami’s have often been blamed as the breeding ground for the growth and rise of Islamic militancy. The anti-West and particularly the anti-US/UK ideological stand might have led the terrorist groups to exploit the Islamic sentiments and use the Madrassas as the potential ground for their operation. Most observer argue that the mashroom growth of the Madrassas have escalated the rise of militant Islam. However, in a poor economy where school drop-outs are noticeably high, Madrassas have served as an alternative to offering education to the poor, orphans and to those neglected among several children in the families of high population growth countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and so on. There is no denying the fact that the Madrassas and attached Mosques offer employments to the Madrassa educationists. Logically there is a chain of net-work of some Ulemas having international connection, mainly with Saudi Arabia and Gulf-States, and Islamic NGOs/Charities who use the Madrassas to collect money from those sources. These money mostly remain unaccounted and free from government control and audit, and managed by a self appointed administering committee. Madrassas, therefore, serve as instruments of economic gains for a net-work of some Ulemas spreading from grass-roots to the top ones at the national level who again have connections with the Islamic political parties. Therefore, more the number of Madrassas, more the money supplies and wider the net-works, stronger the political Islam. This net-work is the main source of political mobilization through mass-rallies or public meetings of the main Islamic parties. Madrassas


also serve as main agents of teaching, spreading and preserving Islam in the society by organizing annual congregation known as Òwaj. Well-known Ulemas and Islamic thinkers would speak to those Òwaj and success of a “Owaj bring image‘ and reputation of a Madrassa. As for the Madrassa connection to militancy, investigation and evidences prove that not all of them have Madrassa education, and not from all Madrassas. Most of the militants are ideologically motivated political cadres recruited from poorer sections of the society. Social demands are, therefore, very high at the moment to reform the Madrassas : their structure, management, curricula could be made similar to those of the Church schools in Germany or in Europe, and even lessons could be taken from the neighbouring West Bengal of India, to make the Madrassas more compatible to education system in the general schools, colleges or universities. And only thorough reforms, the Madrassas could regain respectable image and bring back some glories of the past. The state should take immediate measure to monitor money supplies, assess quality of teaching and degrees, and ensure training of the Madrassa educationists to help them find job. . The aims and objectives of the Madrassa educationists should be redesigned to create human-resources, a productive force to contribute to national development, and not produce thousands of `Mullas` who would keep on debating and raising controversies on Muslim marriage, divorce and remarriage, misinterpreting Sharia law, issuing `Fatwa` and so on. This practicality should be realized by the leading Ùlemas` and Islamic Pandits, and a delay will be simply loss of time and invitation of frustration. In addition, without a strong logical voice of the civil society and corrective measures taken by the state, thousands of unemployed Madrassa educationists may cause social upheaval and foment/escalate political violence and militancy using their emotional religiosity to make Bangladesh a trouble spot. It may also be noted here that the decline of the quality of secular leadership as has been noticed in the recent months or at present, would in turn may give rise to leadership of religious extremism which is unlikely to be acceptable to the development partners. Taking into consideration of all these factors, it is likely that Bangladesh fall into the grip of a vicious cycle of periodic military intervention in alliance with the bureaucracy, occasional but elected coalition governments, democratic facade and a weak state. However, the good news is that despite the rise of Madrassa based militant political Islam and terrorist actives, Bangladesh is not yet a theological state. Indeed, the state operatives in the country are strongly secular and works in close cooperation with the development partners. Meantime, some Madrassas have already undergone certain reforms and the education they offer is very much alike the general education system.. As a result of reforms in the Aliyas, some of the Madrassa students in the recent years have produced appreciable results in the public examinations and admission tests in the general universities.(34) All concerns need to be reminded the contribution of Madrssa based traveling scholars in the middle ages to the promotion of philosophy and sciences, spread of education and preservation of ancient knowledge, and the Islamic renaissance. Such reminding may create awareness among the Madrassa academic administrators, civil society and government leaders as well to find ways to bring back the present Madrassas into their past glory. The government, on its part, should take necessary steps to reform the Madrassas, particularly the Qwamis as well as other education institutions, keep them free from partisan political activism and promote the youths as human resources.

Foot Notes and References



The literary meaning of Arabic Madrassa is school in English,and Madaris is its plural. For convenience, we shall use here Madrassa/s 2. Interpreters of Islam 3. Place of offering prayer. See, Nazmul Alam, (2006). Muslim Militancy in Bangladesh: Quo Vadis Dhaka: Taz Nazmul, Bangladesh. 4. William Dalrymple, The New York Review, “Inside the Madrassas” , November 02, 2005. 5. Alexander Evans, Understanding Madrassas, Foreign Affairs, January -February 2006. Also see, Newsweek, “Holy War 101”, September 05, 2005. Infidels to them is Qafir which means nonbelievers. 6. Uzma Anzar “Islamic education – A Brief History of Madrassas with Comments on Curricula and Current Pedagogical Practices”, March ,2003. Also see: 7. Adapted from And 8. Harisadhan Gossahami, History of Education in India, Kolkata: West Bengal State Book Council, 1981.pp.163-188. Yoginder Sikand , Bastions of the Believers: Madrassas and Islamic Education in India, New Delhi: Penguin India, 2005. Also see his , “Reforming the Indian Madrassas: Contemporary Muslim Voices”, in Satu Limaye, Robert Wirsing and Mohan Maliki et. el. Religious Radicalism and Security in South Asia, APCSS, 2004. and Uzma Anzar. op. cit. Also see the website of Jamat-i-Islami Bangladesh. Also see, Mohammad Ayesh Uddin, Introduction to political thoughts, Dhaka: Ideal Library, 1976. Aminul Islam, Ancient and Medieval Western Philosophy, Dhaka: Bangla Academy, 1978. 10. William Dalrymple,”Inside the Madrassas”, The New York Review, December 01, 2005. 11. For an excellent account of the contribution of Madrassas, see, George Makdisi, The Rise of Colleges – Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1981. 12. William Dalrymple, Op, Cit. 13. See for Detail, Harisadhan Gosshami, op.cit. 14. William Dalrymple,”Inside the Madrassas”,Op. Cit. 15. Yoginder Sikand, op. cit. quoted from William Dalrymple, ibid. 16. Syed Anwar Hussein, “Militancy in Bangladesh : Past, Present and Future”, The Samakal Weekly, October 19,2005, pp.5-7 . 17. BANBEIS: Bangladesh Bureau of Education Information and Statistics. The author understood that the percentage of female students shown here is questionable. 18. Washington Post, April 20, 2004; December 2006; August 2007. 19. Daniel Pipes, God and Mammon: Does Poverty Cause Militant Islam, National Interest, Winter, 2002. 20. Lawrence Davidson, Islamic Fundamentalism. London: Green Press, 2003. pp. 9, 76. 21. Gunnar Heinsohn, Sons And World Power, Orell Fussli Verlag, 2006. Translated for the researcher by Bernd Hubl at Oldenburg University in Germany in May 2007. 22. Prothom Alo, Dhaka Bengali Daily, March 20 , 23, 2007. 23. Alam, Nazmul.(2006): Op. Cit. 24. The Daily Star, Dhaka Daily, July 01 2004 25. Protham Alo, Dhaka Bengali Daily, August 14, 2004. 26. The Daily Star, Dhaka Daily, July 01, 2004 and Prothom Alo, Dhaka Bengali Daily, August 14, 2004. 27. Yale Global Online, March 30, 2006. 28. see, Saudi/US Designation Date , June 02, 2004. UN Designation Date June 06, 2004. 29. Dainik Janakantha,Dhaka Bengali Daily, July 21, 2002. 30. Prothom Alo, Dhaka Bengali Daily,August 14,2004. 31. Wilson John, “The Roots of Extremism in Bangladesh”, Terrorism Monitor, Vol 3, Issue 1, January 13, 2005.


32. Protham Alo, Dhaka Bengali Daily, February 08, 2007. Also see, Hironmay Karlekar, Bangladesh: the Next Afghanistan, New Delhi: SAGE, 2004. 33. The Daily Star, Dhaka Daily, December 26, 2006. 34. Based on personal knowledge.

* * ***************** * *********************************** **** This paper is written in association with Professor Dr. Michael Daxner at the University of Oldenburg in Germany during April – June 2007 under a generous research fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

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