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Rejoicing in Kabul raises questions for Muslim scholars

Rejoicing in Kabul raises questions for Muslim scholars

Author: Philip Smucker
Publication: The Daily Telegraph, UK
Date: November 16, 2001

While the brainwashing of Muslim young men continued in earnest in Pakistan's hard-line Islamic schools yesterday, confused students began to cast doubt on the diatribes of their mentors.

"Well, yes, I disagree with the Taliban's policies, but if I tell them that, they will cut my throat," said Shahzed Yarkhan, 19, an Afghan religious student. Mr Yarkhan grudgingly admitted that the images he had seen on television in the past two days of joyful residents of Kabul cutting their beards and dancing to music were "very disturbing".

Hundreds of thousands of students graduate every year from Pakistan's Arouse, or religious schools. The schools are austere; devoid of almost every distraction that the modern world has to offer.

Teenage boys sit on the floor discussing the virtues of martyrdom.

Yet even as pro-Taliban zealots continued to preach in Pakistan yesterday bout the slaughter of Muslims by Allied bombers, cracks in the façade of Osama bin Laden's former support base began to show through.

The madrassahs have been rocked by the collapse of the Taliban. Only a week ago, students were listening in on short-wave radios to hear the latest edicts from their "hero" bin Laden. Now they are openly wondering if he will escape Afghanistan's chaos with his life and reputation as a "holy warrior" intact.

Yusuf Khan, an instructor at the White Mosque Madrassah, one of several hundred fundamentalist Islamic schools in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, tried to encourage his student Mr Yarkhan not to surrender to the notion that the Taliban regime was wrong to defend bin Laden.

"We Taliban follow the Holy Koran," he insisted. "If Kabul falls, we must still follow our rules. Mr bin Laden was a freedom fighter planted by the CIA and he knows all their tricks. He is like an old tree that can't now be torn up from its roots." The instructor pointed to a newspaper headline in a hardline Islamic newspaper stating that the Taliban's retreat had been only for tactical purposes.

While catching at least some of the al-Qa'eda leaders seems increasingly likely, eliminating the hate bred in Pakistan's madrassahs could be far more difficult.

A leader of Pakistan's most militant madrassah promised yesterday that his former students in Afghanistan would prevail in the "battle between Islam and Christianity".

Maulana Sami ul-Haq, whose religious school, Jammia.

Haqqania, produced many of the Taliban regime's senior ministers, said: "We never be defeated. The opposition can take cities but that only scatters them. They'll fight among themselves until they are too weak to continue."

Poor students such as Mr Yarkhan, however, are now daring to doubt their mentors. "I disagree with the Taliban's policies but what can I do?" he said. "In Kabul, they want freedom and democracy, but in my village we don't know anything about that."
 


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