Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

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Madrasa - An Islamic School to Learn 'Ignorance'


Out of all the heinous crimes modern societies have ever witnessed, the worst one obviously is crime against children. The barbaric violent acts of brutality against children often leave scars in their soft minds, which probably never heal in the future.

Islam is such a wonderful religion that legalizes many crimes. In fact this is the main reason, many hopeless criminals today are attracted towards this wonderful religion, which otherwise is considered a burden on any civilized society. Crime against children is one of such many legalized crimes. There are many incidents where the keepers of Islam have shown their merciless and cruel treatment towards children - suicide bombers of Palestine, camel jockeys in Middle East and Islamic schools all over the world.

Madrasas are the Islamic schools for study of pure Islamic religion. The culprits are the religious teachers and the victims include helpless innocent underage students. The sacred teacher-student relationship is given a new definition in these Islamic schools.

Following is the bitter experience of a 12 years old madrasa student from Kenya who was rescued during January 2003.

"It was a terrible place, they chain both legs and both arms, sometimes hands and feet together, They beat us at lunch time, dinner time and grab both legs and hands and give us lashes on the buttocks. We sleep in chains, eat in chains, and go to the toilets in chains. Sometimes we are hooked on the roof in chains and left hanging. We have to memorize the Koran and get punished if we cannot recite the Koran in the classroom".

This is the 'legal punishment' for a student who cannot memorize Koran in Arabic language. It is legal because the great founder of Islam has legalized it.

Let's see, what illiterate, child rapist prophet of Islam advised on child-upbringing and education.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As:

The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Command your children to pray when they become seven years old, and beat them for it (prayer) when they become ten years old; and arrange their beds (to sleep) separately. (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 2, Number 0495)

This is what Prophet Muhammad had prescribed for children. He was very concerned about their religious upbringing. Ayatollah Khomeini was even one step ahead of Prophet Muhammad. Khomeini said "A man can have sexual pleasure from a child as young as a baby" ( Paz-2006). Like prophet, like follower. Anyway that is a different story. 

Chaining incidents are rare in Bangladeshi madrasas. One incident, which I can recall, had happened in Chittagong, a busy seaport-city of Bangladesh. More than 20 students were chained and subjected to inhuman torture. All of them were under the age of 14 years; some were as young as 11. One such child was forced to carry a section of a steel railroad tie for at least one-month continuation.

Child torture incidents in madrasas are reported mostly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan. The first two countries are safe heaven for Islamic radicals, on top of their low economy. Bangladesh is in a much better position than those countries.

In many madrasas of Pakistan, the only subjects taught are Koran, and that also in Arabic, which is a foreign language and unknown to the students. Today in Pakistan, there are about thirty-nine thousands registered madrasas, whereas during 1978, this number was three thousands only (O'Rourke-2005). The number of students are estimated somewhere between eight hundred thousands to one million (Dalrymple - 2005). They are often run by religious organizations and lure young children mainly from poor families by providing free food and lodging. Some of the schools even provide intensive political and armed training. Recent estimates suggest that between 10 and 15 percent of Pakistan's 45,000 madrassas (includes both registered and unregistered) promote violence (Davis, 2002). In Taliban schools of Afghanistan, often the first word children learn to spell is "jihad", which means "God's path to paradise" (Al Qaeda Training Manual - 2001).

During 1994, human rights commission of Pakistan investigated the child abuse incidents and results of the investigation shows that in many madrasas the children are often locked in iron chains to a heavy wooden block in group of four or five. Several children were found to have been continuously chained for up to one year. This prevents them from escaping from the school to avoid the burden of memorizing the Koran in Arabic.

During March 1996, police raided a madrasa near Multan and rescued 64 such victims (Anon - 2004). They were held in strong ropes and chains. The religious head teacher of the madrasa said that the students had fallen into bad habits of watching satellite television. In orthodox Islamic society watching television is a big religious taboo. The head teacher also said that, sometimes even the parents of the children instructed the teachers to chain their children. These incidents not only leave scars in their hands and feet but also in their soft minds.

In another incident in Pakistan, during September 1997, a 14 year old student, Muhammad Azam Dogar, somehow managed to escape from the madrasa-prison with iron fetters still in his legs. It was not easy for him to remove the heavy iron fetters. In a desperate effort to remove them, he decided to put them on a rail track. Though he was successful to escape from the Islamic religious jail, he lost his life and was crushed to death by the on-coming train (Children in the Community and family - 2005)

Pakistani government is aware of this kind of heinous crimes against children. But there is hardly any effort on their part to stop this barbarism in the name of education. There are laws, which prohibit violence against children in the society. But when such crimes are committed in the name of religion the law remains within the book only. The political parties do not want to spoil their relationship with religious organizations that run such schools. Sometimes the influential religious parties even threaten retaliation if there is official probing and if they are closely controlled. The political force of this madrasa system cannot be underestimated. Hence there are many cases of beating, chaining and other types of torture, which remain unknown to the outside civilized world. Even when the abuses become widely known, the authorities still appear unwilling to take significant action to protect the innocent children. The situation is that worse.

The children in Sudan are in even worse situation. There, the students are forced to drink the water, which is left from washing the dirty chalkboards (Anon- 2005). Students are convinced that, the holy wash-water will help them to memorize Koran!

A great way of memorizing Koran, indeed! Can anybody imagine, all these things are happening in this 21st century?

The deep-rooted superstitious minds of Islamic teachers will take another thousand years to change. The only requirement of a student for the purpose of passing out from the school successfully is to be able to memorize the entire Koran. Many students take as long as nine years, whereas many students cannot complete the course and never pass out even after chaining and drinking wash-water.

Child abuse cases in pure Islamic schools are nothing new. It is traditional, but hardly few of these incidents come into limelight. Madrasa is a place for brainwashing young minds just to destroy all the future possibilities of the child to do something creative and to make him a Koranic zombie. All the humanities are nipped in the bud. Countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and some Muslim majority parts of India, these schools are just mushrooming. They target children of poor Muslim families. Sometimes the families of the children are paid handsomely for sending their children to these schools.

Then, there are cases of sexual abuses against children in madrasa. One horrible incident was reported on 11th December, 04 in The Daily Times of Lahore. A 14-year-old madrasa student, Abid Tanoli, reported to have had acid thrown on him by his madrasa teacher. This poor fellow had lost both his eyes with more than 50 % burn on his face. Left side of his face was horribly disfigured. This incident took place on 1st July 2002 in Karachi (Petit-2004). His fault ? He rejected sexual demand from his madrasa teacher. The Daily Times also reported that, during the year 2004, there are total 500 complaints of child sex abuse in Pakistani madrasas, but there was no successful prosecution (Khawaja-2004).

Presently, the teacher (who cannot be named for legal reasons), and two of his accomplice are in prison awaiting trial for attempted murder and rape. All three deny the charges. The fourth culprit is still absconding.

Haroon Tanoli, Abid's father, was threatened with harsh consequences when he tried to take up his son's case with officials at the school. The school authority initially tried to hush up the matter by offering him a cash payment of one million Pakistani rupees (11,500), but Haroon refused to back down and took up the matter with police (Ansari - 2004).

Haroon said, "I despise hypocrites who sport huge beards in the name of religion and hinder the passage of justice in the name of Islam - I had a beard, and all my four sons were studying in a madrasa. However, following this incident, the first thing I did was to pull my children out of the madrasa - and shave off my beard." (Ansari - 2004).

Even when Abid was receiving medical treatment, the religious authorities pressed the hospital authority to discharge him. Haroon managed to get him admitted to a different hospital for safety reasons. The family is too poor and cannot afford an operation to save his sight. The poor boy lost his sight forever.

As per BBC report on 10th December 04, Aamer Liaquat Hussian, a Minister in the nation's religious affair department is facing death threats and denunciations from Islamic clerics for his insistence that Pakistani government must confront the sex abuse at its madrasas (Anderson-2004). Hussain sticks by his point and reportedly to have said that he himself experienced attempted abuse at a religious school when he was eight (Khawaja-2004).

Zia Ahmed Awan, the president of Madadgaar, a joint project of LHRLA (Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid) and UNICEF, the United Nations children's fund, said, "They( the sex scandal) are either hushed up and sorted out within the confines of school, or parents are pressurised not to report the incident to the media as it would give religion a bad name," (Khawaja-2004).

The ulema, Imams and Maulanas and other religious teachers of Islam may not have advanced the cause of human knowledge by a single inch since the birth of Islam, but they should get some credit; they have done enough research, developed many ideas and have 'doctorates' in the fields of torture and human exploitation in the name of religion.

Now these types of nasty incidents are being reported in United Kingdom also. In UK, there are about 700 such Islamic schools. As many as 40% of teachers in these UK schools hit or scold children, and between 15 and 20 cases of sexual abuse occur each year (Siddiqui-2006, Anon -2006). Because of the fear of child abuse, many UK parents prefer home tuition instead of sending their children to madrasas.

One enlightened ex-Muslim lady had written in FFI,

"My experience of madrasa was like any other glorifying Muhammad, chanting things we didn't understand all day long and showing absolute disrespect to Christians and the other animists it was the thing to do".( Rasheeda - 2004 )

Often the madrasa pass out students are found to be less tolerant towards other religions, less logical power, less aware of modern scientific developments, opposed to the social rights of women and violent repression, hateful towards non-Muslims, absolute theocracy, superstitious, prefer aggressive way for resolving disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims and supporting jihad in conjunction with terrorist groups. Moreover, their proper thinking power is skilfully paralysed during the course of their studies.

And what is the market value of these students, and where do they stand in today's tough professional competition? 

After so much torture, chaining, beating and wash-water drinking the result is utter disgusting. With a total lack of modern education and knowledge of latest technology, these madrasa students are not at all useful to any modern day employer. They remain fit for manual labourers' class jobs, where no education is necessary. Sometimes they are employed in the religious sector as prayer leaders and so-called Islamic scholars or madrasa teachers. In fact I am not exaggerating if I say that they are even unfit for conducting sophisticated terrorist operations - they are so useless. The only jobs they are fit for in a terrorist organization is a suicide mission, killing and torturing non-Muslims and blindly follow the instructions of their leaders.

The irony of the situation is that many students outside Arab even do not know what is written in Koran. They just recite the Koran in Arabic, but they do not understand the contents. They don't know even what they have studied. Is not it bizarre?

So all the effort to pass out from schools remain useless for all practical purposes in today's world. They cannot blend into an advanced western nation. They are total failure in sophisticated operations, where even basic minimum technical expertise is required. Some of them even lack basic mathematical skills (Fair & Haqqani - 2005). They are blissfully ignorant of the various developments and wallowed in a state of nostalgia about the glorious feudal past of militant Islam. History, if it taught at all, would be Islamic history and not modern history or world history. Some students may acquire good proficiency in Urdu and Arabic languages at the best, but without other knowledge they find themselves quite ill-equipped to transact business in present day society (Shourie - 2004).

What stuns the educated people is that they do not blame themselves or their educational-background for their misery; they just put the blame on western world. "Afghans suffer poverty because of America's disproportionate wealth" - this is what madrasa teachers say in Afghanistan.

This is the bottom line of madrasa education. The basic essentials of a successful education system are never fulfilled. Education involves transference of knowledge and values accumulated by mankind from one person to another. Humanity is inseparable from education. The best process of education encourages the students to ask questions, which propel them on the path of further learning. Without this, education becomes a burden. Scientific enquiry also enriches mankind with knowledge. Education improves the reasoning power of a person. Neither memorization of a book nor physical punishment helps the students. Students can learn not only through reading, but also by experience, by watching others and also by observing the world in general. Unfortunately, madrasa education lacks all of the above. Education is an important area to advance the civilization further. If it is left in the hands of Allah, this is bound to happen.


The author is greatly indebted to Abul Kasem and Syed K. Mirza for their kind supervision while preparing this document.


Lindsey A. O'Rourke, - A Sociobiological View of Palestinian Suicide Bombers (Undergraduate Philosophy Thesis) The Ohio State University; March 07, 2005

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Paz ,18 February, 2006, Khomeini's Teachings on sex with infants and animals

 Sunan Abu Dawud Book 2, Number 0495:

ANON - Breaking the Chains Of Islam, Children in Chains...

Petit Juan Migual - RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, 5th January 2004

 Khawaja Irfan, Sex and the Madrasa, 17th December 2004

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ANON. - Muslim group calls for madrasa regulation, 23 Mar 2006

 ANON. - Chapter 2 (Children in the Community and Family) Children in South Asia: Securing Their Rights, 2004

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