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Friday, February 13, 2009

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal: The 'religious' extremists

Yet another example is the forced prohibition of female education by Taliban and destruction of schools for them. This defies the norms established by the Prophet of Islam, upon whom be peace. This is also against the teachings of the Qur'an and the well-known Islamic tradition of learning, fully documented in historical sources. In fact, Dr. Muhammad Akram, a contemporary scholar teaching at the Oxford Center for Islam, has just completed a forty-volume biographical work dealing with women scholars of Islam from the beginning of Islam to our own times. If Islam did not allow women to acquire education, how could thousands of women obtain such scholarly eminence in Islamic tradition?

The cure for such corruption is, however, not bombing of the populace. Even if there are certain individuals and groups attempting to impose their corrupt ideas on general public, the cure for such corruption is replacement of ignorance with knowledge. Knowledge cannot be imparted by army generals; they themselves need knowledge. Knowledge of this kind disseminates through a scholarly tradition based on true sources. This scholarly tradition is almost absent from many Muslim lands and certainly from Pakistan. In order to revivify this tradition of learning, the entire education system needs to be changed. If the state is unwilling to do so, and in most cases it is unwilling to do so, a large-scale effort needs to be made in the private sector.

The private sector in Pakistan has, in fact, used the failure of the state to provide quality education as an opportunity to mint money. During the last twenty years, it has established one of the largest money-making enterprises in the country. What this new system has produced, however, is a generation of Pakistanis totally uprooted from the soil of this land in all aspects. This religious, linguistic, and cultural uprooting has produced extremists of another kind: the secular extremists.


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