Pakistan sees boom in female madrassas

Pakistan has seen a boom over the past decade in all-female madrassas, which breed radicalism through their hardline teaching of Islam, according to a report by Reuters.

More than a quarter million Pakistani young women, most coming from middle and upper class backgrounds, attend these Islamic seminaries, it states.

The rise in madrassas comes as Pakistan’s education system fails its students.

The Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11 found that more than half of all Pakistani rural children are at least three grade levels behind in English and Urdu, reports Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. Close to half of public primary schools do not have safe drinking water, and more than half do not have proper toilet facilities, it states.

The madrassas also thrive as more and more families embrace conservative thinking.

Masooda Bano, a research fellow at the British-based Economic and Social Research Council, told Reuters many families send their daughters to madrassas because they are excluded from the often male-only — and dismal — job market. Others choose the madrassas because they want to prevent their daughters from forming romantic relationships before marriage.

Just as Pakistan’s male madrassas have been known to turn boys into militant fighters, it states, the female ones are “just as dangerous.”

They target women “because they know that is the place to plant the seed, because it will go far,” Kamran Bokhari, Middle East and South Asia director for global intelligence firm Stratfor, told Reuters.

“Women will get married, women will raise children. It will create a norm within society over time.”

The families sending their daughters to madrassas are not necessarily poor. Lower middle class families are doing this due to an increase in conservative, traditional values, reports the Daily News.

The rise in radicalism in Pakistan comes as its relationship with the United States worsens dramatically.

See this interview by GlobalPost’s David Case with Stanford’s Scott Sagan. A leading expert on South Asian nuclear security, Sagan discusses the risks of terrorists seizing materials from Pakistan’s arsenal.

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