As I read this report by Sabrina Tavernies in The New York Times this weekend, I found myself wondering how Douglas Johnston might read this. What am I missing? What is the reporter not telling me about madrasas that leads to a greater understanding on my, the reader’s, part? What are the routines and teaching taking place in the madrasas. How do those teachings differ from Islamic school to Islamic school? If the Qur’an is the sole text, how is it used: purely for theological training? as a foundational text for reading and writing? as a tool for propaganda? as a source of philosophical discourse?

I ask because I fear I’m not literate enough about understanding the complexity of these issues and Pakistani society in general. So when I read sentences like this, “Suicide bombings were neither encouraged nor condemned,” my internal alarm bells start ringing, which makes me slightly suspicious of other interesting points made in the report.

To me, the article touches on a significant point — Pakistan’s inability to create a quality public school system. I’d like to read more than a few sentences about this. Perhaps another time.

Am I being overly analytical and parsing too much?

Share Your Reflection



You are certainly not being overly critical or suspicious in questioning the background of some of the generalized statements contained in this report. Though, from many other sources concerning militant Islamic teaching methods, we can surmise that militancy is being fostered, to generalize simply fuels a culturally ignorant reaction rather than true understanding of the situation. My preference would be a greater depth of specifics and substantiation in the reporting. We have reason to be greatly alarmed at the spread of militant Islam within nations considered to be key allies in the East and Middle-East. But broadcast alarm fo alarm's sake does not do proper just to gaining a true understanding.
Jimmy Root, Jr
Author: "Distant Thunder" (To be released August 8, 2009)

I'm also wondering what the take-away for the reader is in a case like this. "OMG, al-Qaeda's training babies" or whatever.

Krista mentioned a desire to interview renowned scholar Akbar Ahmed about Pakistan. I'm also looking at a couple of other voices. I'm intrigued by Mohsin Hamid, the author of the Booker Prize-nominated The Reluctant Fundamentalist. He's very mellow, but he reminds me of Binyavanga Wainaina from our Ethics of Aid show, one of these post-colonial literary intellectuals with stakes in several countries.

And really, a lot of that Ethics of Aid show echoes in my ears in the context of this article: a foreign-educated middle class, a government that did (or didn't) emphasize education and a track to employment, and even an obliviousness to violence: "What's really ironical about it is that as you sit here watching it on CNN, in Nairobi you're watching yourself on CNN too."