Thursday, January 03, 2008

Closing Pakistan’s madrassas

A day or two before Christmas, a TV news snippet of Benazir Bhutto speech-making caught my eye. Visibly yelling to the microphone and audience, the gist of Ms Bhutto’s speech was, to me, surprisingly blunt. She railed against Pakistan’s madrassas, as follows:

“Bhutto said President Pervez Musharraf had spoken of the need to reform religious schools, or madrassas, but had done nothing. She said she respected genuine religious schools.

‘Then there are the political madrassas, the political madrassas that teach their pupils how to make bombs, how to use rifles and how to kill women, children and the elderly. Who they are who tell children to carry out bombing on Eid al-Adha,’ she said, referring to the attack on Friday in the northwestern town of Charsadda”.

How brave of her, I thought at the time. Now I’m not nearly so sure. If you Google Bhutto and “political madrassas”, you’ll see it was a well-worn, albeit sparsely reported, theme of Ms Bhutto’s for at least the past year. But the real problem for Ms Bhutto’s clarion call was not its diluting repetition, but its hypocrisy.

Clearly, closing Pakistan’s “political” madrassas would be a good thing for everybody, bar a few adult males with vested interests in Islamic terrorism. Oh, and to Pakistan’s corrupt ruling classes – men, women (including the late Ms Bhutto, of course), and children – with vested interests in the status quo.

Residential institutions where early-teen boys are brainwashed into becoming foot-soldiers for a shadow, el cheapo army require a large and entrenched (hereditary) underclass for the supply of their raw material. It does not appear that Ms Bhutto had any intent of addressing this supply and demand aspect of the madrassa problem, however.

Then again, Ms Bhutto did not have a penis, and according to op-ed columnist Pamela “Assassinated because she was a woman” Bone, this is the key to her political legacy.

As far as Ms Bhutto’s membership of Pakistan’s overclass goes, all Bone admits is that “she was at least a beneficiary of the billions stolen by her husband from the people of Pakistan”. Is Bone seriously advocating the anecdotal theory that it is invariably the spouse of the President/PM who really wears the pants? So ex-PM John Howard was a passive “beneficiary” of Janette’s cynical scheming, etc?

Pamela Bone’s gender agenda reaches maximum stretch when she invokes the will of Mohammad Atta, the September 11 lead hijacker. This mass-murdering psychopath – drum roll, please – apparently left a written will that cast at least one arguably misogynist aspersion, against pregnant women. And here was I thinking the guy’s actions on September 11 spoke somewhat louder than whatever words he may have earlier scribbled. Thank you, Pamela Bone, for introducing a new gold-standard of the “if you mention Hitler, you’re losing the argument” aphorism – the triumph of Mohammad Atta’s will.

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