By: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
In recent years, there is a growing phenomenon of mushroom growth of kindergarten madrassas (Islamic religious kindergartens) in almost all the Muslim nations, preaching Wahhabism, which greatly encourages people towards jihad and killing of Jews and Christians. In present days, only in Bangladesh there are 64,000 madrassas, while the number of kindergarten madrassas, mostly financed by dubious Afro-Arab sources has already crossed 900 throughout the country. And, of course, most interestingly, madrassas and kindergarten madrassas are the most notorious places to breed religious extremists and terrorists. Children are given orientations to accept Ossama Bin Laden as a hero, while endorsing the notoriety of Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah or Hamas as ‘holy task’.
Bangladesh is known as a 'moderate Muslim country' and its people have the reputation of 'moderate Muslims,' free of rancor against other faiths. However, our society, like many others, is being subverted by the efforts of Muslim extremists. We must admit that most of the people of Bangladesh still lack the opportunity for modern, scientific education and are therefore open to persuasion by religious extremists. In recent years there has been a strong upsurge in activities of religious extremist groups in a number of countries, including Bangladesh. Recently, law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have captured members of quite a number of such groups in various parts of the country. These were operating under the umbrella of "Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas" or madrassas financed by Afro-Arab organizations. Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas are supposed to be innocent institutions where young boys learn the elements of Islamic faith, but these madrassas have a different program.
In the capital city of Dhaka, even now such organizations are quite in evidence and have large memberships. Promoters of these organizations hire huge buildings in posh areas and target boys from the semi-affluent middle class. Previously, madrassa education was mostly confined to lower income and less affluent groups. However, following the emergence of these so-called Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas in Bangladesh, the students are drawn from richer segments, and even include boys of the richest class.One of the accused arrested from one such institution confessed to Bangladesh police that they were planning to have an Islamic revolution in the country, and that they were anxiously looking for boys from the affluent class since politics is mostly controlled by them. The accused admitted that they were heavily funded by a number of African and Arab countries.The arrest and statement of the accused have been widely carried by local press. According to these reports, these belligerent people under the covering of various 'Deen' (true path) training organizations intend to coach a section of ill-educated and prejudiced people to be their followers. . Through their clandestine campaigns they are plotting to wage a 'Holy War'. As instruments to induce rage and delude people, they are using different recorded tapes with extremist provocative speeches and songs. They also include messages from Osama Bin Laden.
A few months ago a Syrian teacher was arrested. He had belonged to a similar organization named the 'Al-Haramine Institution'. According to records of police intelligence in Bangladesh, members of this organization use the kindergarten madrassa as camouflage. They regularly communicate with various underground armed groups in the country and even recruit locals and send them to Palestine as guerilla fighters. Each recruit gets US$ 1500-2000 as an up front payment for their 'new job'. Later family members or legal representatives or spouses of these guerilla fighters will receive US$ 150-200 per month as salary. If any of them are killed during the war, their family would get US$ 5,000 as compensation. According to the police report, Al-Haramine Institution maintains a secret training camp inside the compound of its kindergarten madrassa. The recruits are given theoretical and practical training for seven weeks before they proceed to their destination. During training, they are given an elementary idea of their responsibilities and a practical knowledge about some of the weapons used by Palestinian fighters and other extremist groups.Al-Haramine Institute is gradually spreading its wings in other parts of Bangladesh too. Recently they have established their offices in eastern and southern Bangladesh. One of the main objectives of this organization is to sell the idea of jihad (in the sense of violent holy war) to the masses. The organization maintains very good relations with some extremist news dailies. Owners of these dailies are regularly compensated by this organization and in exchange, these newspapers give quite open support to its activities.
Al-Koran Academy is another such organization run by one Hafez Munirul Islam. He was a teacher in a local madrassa with the monthly salary of US$ 75 only. Just recently an office of Al-Koran Society has been established in Bangladesh with Hafez Munirul as its Executive Director in Bangladesh. Office of the organization is located at city's top most posh area costing US$ 2000 per month. Hafez Munirul also receives US$ 1000 as a monthly salary. This organization claims that its main activity is printing and distributing the Koran. However, in fact, Al-Koran Academy is mostly engaged in providing political coordinators for various mosques in Bangladesh. The local tax department raised questions about the sudden change in fortunes of this poor madrassa teacher, and investigated the sources of the funding. They found that most funding for this organization comes from the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia funds terrorism?
Five years back, on September 11, 2001, most well-informed observers of the Middle East were shocked to hear that 15 out of the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were Saudi citizens. It was equally surprising that the mastermind of the worst terrorist attack on the United States in its history, Osama bin Laden, was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. This curiosity and wonder about the Saudi role in the attack came up once more with the release of the September 11 Joint Intelligence Report by the U.S. Congress and its disclosure of what the U.S. press called “incontrovertible evidence” linking Saudis to the financing of al-Qaeda operatives in the United States.For decades, terrorism had been associated with states like Libya, Syria, or Iran. Saudi Arabia had been a pro-Western force during the Cold War and had hosted large coalition armies during the 1991 Gulf War. Saudi Arabia had not been colonized during its history, like other Middle Eastern states that had endured a legacy of European imperialism. This background only sharpened the questions of many after the attacks: What was the precise source of the hatred that drove these men to take their own lives in an act of mass murder? The Saudis were initially in a state of denial about their connection to September 11; Interior Minister Prince Naif even tried to pin the blame for the attacks on Israel, saying it was impossible that Saudi youth could have been involved.Yet over time it became clearer how Saudi Arabia could have provided the ideological backdrop that spawned al-Qaeda's attack on the United States. In a series of articles appearing in the Egyptian weekly, Ruz al-Yousef (the Newsweek of Egypt), this past May, Wael al-Abrashi, the magazine’s deputy editor, attempted to grapple with this issue. He drew a direct link between the rise of much of contemporary terrorism and Saudi Arabia’s main Islamic creed, Wahhabism, and the financial involvement of Saudi Arabia’s large charitable organizations:
Wahhabism leads, as we have seen, to the birth of extremist, closed, and fanatical streams, that accuse others of heresy, abolish them, and destroy them. The extremist religious groups have moved from the stage of Takfir [condemning other Muslims as unbelievers] to the stage of “annihilation and destruction,” in accordance with the strategy of Al-Qa’ida – which Saudi authorities must admit is a local Saudi organization that drew other organizations into it, and not the other way around. All the organizations emerged from under the robe of Wahhabism. I can state with certainly that after a very careful reading of all the documents and texts of the official investigations linked to all acts of terror that have taken place in Egypt, from the assassination of the late president Anwar Sadat in October 1981, up to the Luxor massacre in 1997, Saudi Arabia was the main station through which most of the Egyptian extremists passed, and emerged bearing with them terrorist thought regarding Takfir – thought that they drew from the sheikhs of Wahhabism. They also bore with them funds they received from the Saudi charities.
Thus, while some Western commentators have sought to explain the roots of al-Qaeda’s fury at the U.S. by focusing on the history of American policy in the Middle East or other external factors, a growing number of Middle Eastern analysts have concentrated instead on internal Saudi factors, including recent militant trends among Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi clerics and the role of large Saudi global charities in terrorist financing. This requires a careful look at how Saudi Arabia contributed to the ideological roots of some of the new wave of international terrorism as well as how the kingdom emerged as a critical factor in providing the resources needed by many terrorist groups.
The particular creed of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, which is known in the West as Wahhabism, emerged in the mid-eighteenth century in Central Arabia from the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. This Arabian religious reformer sought to rid Islam of foreign innovations that compromised its monotheistic foundations, and to restore what he believed were the religious practices of the seventh century at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors. He established a political covenant in 1744 with Muhammad bin Saud, the ruler of Diriyah near modern-day Riyadh, according to which he received bin Saud’s protection and in exchange legitimized the spread of Saudi rule over a widening circle of Arabian tribes. This covenant between the Saudi royal family and Wahhabism is at the root of modern Saudi Arabia.In retrospect, Wahhabism was significant for two reasons. First, it rejuvinated the idea of the militant jihad, or holy war, which had declined as a central Islamic value to be applied universally. Under the influence of Sufism, for example, jihad had also evolved into a more spiritual concept. Second, Wahhabism became associated with a brutal history of political expansion that led to the massacre of Muslims who did not adhere to its tenets, the most famous of which occurred against the Shi’ite Muslims of Kerbala in the early nineteenth century and against Sunni Muslims in Arabian cities, like Taif, during the early twentieth century. These Muslims were labeled as polytheists and thus did not deserve any protection. The highest spiritual authority of Islam during this period, the Sultan-Caliph of the Ottoman Empire, regarded the Wahhabis as heretics and waged wars against them in defense of Islam.Yet it would be a mistake to focus on Wahhabism alone as the ideological fountainhead of the new global terrorism. Modern Saudi Arabia in the 1950s and 1960s hosted other militant movements that had an important impact, as well. For reasons of regional geopolitics, King Saud, King Faisal, and their successors provided sanctuary to elements of the radical Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Syria. Some were provided Saudi stipends. Others were given positions in the Saudi educational system, including the universities, or in the large Saudi charities, like the Muslim World League that was created in 1962. For example, while Egyptian President Abdul Nasser had the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sayyed Qutb, executed in 1966, his brother, Muhammad Qutb, fled to Saudi Arabia and taught at King Abdul Aziz University in Jiddah. He was joined in the 1970s by one of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood from Jordan, Abdullah Azzam. In 1979, both taught Osama bin Laden, a student at the university.Saudi Arabia’s global charities, like the Muslim World League, permitted the spread of the new militancy that was forged from the cooperation between the Wahhabi clerics and the Muslim Brotherhood refugees. After 1973, these charities benefited from the huge petrodollar resources dispensed by the Saudi government, which undoubtedly helped them achieve a global reach. Abdullah Azzam headed the offices of the Muslim World League in Peshawar, Pakistan, when it served as the rear base for the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He was joined by his student, bin Laden, who with Saudi funding also set up the Mujahidin Services Center (Maktab Khadmat al-Mujahidin) for Muslim volunteers who came to fight the Red Army. After Moscow’s defeat in Afghanistan, this office became al-Qaeda. Thus, the Saudi charities became the chosen instrument for Riyadh’s support of the continuing global jihad. Bin Laden’s brother-in-law, Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, ran the offices of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a Muslim World League offshoot, in the Philippines. Local intelligence agencies suspected that it served as a financial conduit to the Abu Sayyaf organization. Muhammad al-Zawahiri, brother of bin Laden’s Egyptian partner, Ayman al-Zawahiri, would eventually work for IIRO in Albania. An IIRO employee from Bangladesh, Sayed Abu Nasir, led a cell broken up by Indian police that intended to strike at the U.S. consulates in Madras and Calcutta; Abu Nasir explained that his superiors told him of 40 to 50 percent of IIRO charitable funds being diverted to finance terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Summarizing this history, former CIA operative Robert Baer wrote: “When Saudi Arabia decided to fund the Afghan mujahidin in the early 1980s, the IIRO proved a perfect fit, a money conduit and plausible denial rolled into one.”
While these developments may seem far beyond the horizon of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a careful examination of some of the worst suicide bombings by the Hamas organization against the State of Israel also leads to Saudi Arabia. As of September 2003, Saudi clerics were featured prominently on Hamas websites as providing the religious justification for suicide bombings. Of 16 religious leaders cited by Hamas, Saudis are the largest national group backing these attacks. The formal Saudi position on suicide bombings, in fact, has been mixed. To his credit, the current Saudi Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, has condemned these acts. Yet at the same time, Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Saleh Al al-Sheikh, has condoned them: “The suicide bombings are permitted...the victims are considered to have died a martyr’s death.”The Hamas-Saudi connection should not come as a surprise. Hamas emerged in 1987 from the Gaza branch of Muslim Brotherhood which, as noted earlier, had become a key Saudi ally in previous decades. When Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin was let out of an Israeli prison in 1998, he went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment and Crown Prince Abdullah made a high-profile visit to his hospital bedside. As late as early 2002, Abdullah was hosting Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Bin Laden had made the fate of Sheikh Yasin an issue for his al-Qaeda followers as well. In his 1996 “Declaration of War,” he listed Sheikh Yasin’s release from prison as one of his demands or grievances. Saudi support for suicide bombings has wider repercussions. Other militant Islamic movements cite Saudi Wahhabi clerics to justify their activities – from the Chechen groups battling the Russians to Iraqi mujahidin fighting the U.S. in western Iraq.8 Coincidentally; the ubiquitous IIRO was lauded by the Saudi press for its support activities in the Sunni districts of post-Saddam Iraq, as well. Its presence was usually indicative in other regions of Saudi identification with local militant causes. In order to evaluate the significance of these religious rulings, it is necessary to focus on the stature of these various Saudi clerical figures that jihadi movements worldwide were citing.For example, just after the September 11 attacks, it is true that many Saudi government officials condemned them. But there were other voices as well. Shortly thereafter a Saudi book appeared on the Internet justifying the murder of thousands of Americans, entitled The Foundations of the Legality of the Destruction That Befell America. The Introduction to the book was written by a prominent Saudi religious leader, Sheikh Hamud bin Uqla al-Shuaibi. He wrote on November 16, 2001, that he hoped Allah would bring further destruction upon the United States. Al-Shuaibi’s name appears in a book entitled the Great Book of Fatwas, found in a Taliban office in Kabul. Sheikh al-Shuaibi appears on the Hamas website, noted earlier, as a religious source for suicide attacks. Attacks on U.S. soldiers in western Iraq by a Wahhabi group called al-Jama’a al-Salafiya were dedicated to his name and to the names of other Saudi clerics. Al-Shuaibi’s ideas, in short, had global reach.The question that must be asked is whether a religious leader of this sort is a peripheral figure on the fringes of society or whether he reflects more mainstream thinking. In fact, al-Shuaibi had very strong credentials. Born in 1925 in the Wahhabi stronghold of Buraida, he was a student of King Faisal’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al al-Sheikh. Al-Shuaibi’s roster of students read like a “Who’s Who” of Saudi Arabia, including the current Grand Mufti and the former Minister of Islamic Affairs and Muslim World League secretary-general, Abdullah al-Turki. When al-Shuaibi died in 2002, many central Saudi figures attended his funeral. In short, he was in mainstream. His militant ideas about justifying the September 11 attacks were echoed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman Jibrin, who actually was a member of the Directorate of Religious Research, Islamic Legal Rulings, and Islamic Propagation and Guidance – an official branch of the Saudi government.
In 2003, the religious opinions of Saudi militant clerics were turning up in Hamas educational institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For example, the Hamas-oriented “Koran and Sunna Society–Palestine,” that had been established in 1996 in Kalkilya, had branches in Bethlehem, Salfit, Abu Dis, Jenin, and the Tulkarm area.10 It distributed Saudi texts praising suicide attacks against “the infidels” and condemning those who dodge their obligations to join “the jihad.” The pro-Hamas “Dar al-Arqam Model School” in Gaza, that was established with Saudi aid, used texts that cited Sheikh Sulaiman bin Nasser al-Ulwan, a pro-al-Qaeda Saudi cleric, whose name is mentioned in a bin Laden video clip from December 2001. Both the “Koran and Sunna Society–Palestine” and the “Dar al-Arqam Model School” were supported by the Saudi-based World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) (see below), and were part of the “civilian” infrastructure of Hamas. Militant Saudi texts extolling martyrdom were infiltrated into schools throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, creating a whole generation of students that absorbed their extremist messages. The export of this jihadist ideology to the Palestinians was reminiscent of the Saudi support for madrasses in western Pakistan during the 1980s, that gave birth to the Taliban and other pro-bin Laden groups.
As already demonstrated, Saudi Arabia erected a number of large global charities in the 1960s and 1970s whose original purpose may have been to spread Wahhabi Islam, but which became penetrated by prominent individuals from al-Qaeda’s global jihadi network. The three most prominent of these charities were the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO; an offshoot of the Muslim World League), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, and the Charitable Foundations of al-Haramain. All three are suspected by various global intelligence organizations of terrorist funding. From the CIA’s interrogation of an al-Qaeda operative, it was learned that al-Haramain, for example, was used as a conduit for funding al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, Russia’s Federal Security Service charged that al-Haramain was wiring funds to Chechen militants in 1999.
It would be incorrect to view these charities as purely non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private charities, as they are mistakenly called. At the apex of each organization’s board is a top Saudi official. The Saudi Grand Mufti, who is also a Saudi cabinet member, chairs the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League. The Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs chairs the secretariat of WAMY and the administrative council of al-Haramain. All three organizations have received large charitable contributions from the Saudi royal family that have been detailed in Saudi periodicals. Indeed, according to legal documents submitted on behalf of the Saudis by their legal team in the firm Baker Botts, in the 9/11 lawsuit, Prince Sultan provided $266,000 a year to the IIRO for sixteen years. He also provided a much smaller sum to WAMY. In short, these Saudi charities were full-fledged GOs – governmental organizations.
The earliest documented links between one of these charities and terrorists was found in Bosnia. It is a handwritten account on IIRO stationery from the late 1980s of a meeting attended by the secretary-general of the Muslim World League and bin Laden representatives, indicating the IIRO’s readiness to have its offices used in support of militant actions. As already noted, IIRO has been suspected of terrorist funding in the Philippines, Russia, East Africa, Bosnia, and India. Al-Qaeda operatives became accustomed to Saudi Arabia being their source of support, in general. In an intercepted telephone conversation, a senior al-Qaeda operative told a subordinate: “Don’t ever worry about money, because Saudi Arabia’s money is your money.” As in mid-August 2003, the former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage admitted in Australia that “some money from Saudi private charities had gone toward funding militants in Iraq.”
But the strongest documented cases that demonstrate the ties between Saudi Arabia’s global charities and international terrorism are related to Hamas. These ties were allegedly already in place in the mid-1990s when a Hamas funding group received instructions to write letters of thanks to executives of IIRO and WAMY for funds it had received. In 1994, former US President Clinton made a brief stop-over in Saudi Arabia during which he complained about Saudi funding of Hamas. These charges about Saudi Arabia bankrolling Hamas have become even more vociferous in recent years.
Teaching the children to kill non-Muslims:
In the Palestine’s public schools, whose textbooks were financed by the European Union, incitement against Israel and the glorification of martyrdom are prominent themes, embedded in nationalistic aspirations. Needless to say, interest in reconciliation with Israel is notably absent. Elementary school teachers and principals commend their young students for wanting to "tear their [Zionists’] bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they will ever know." Posters in university classrooms proudly remind the world that the Palestinian cause is armed with ‘human bombs’. Sheik Hassan Yosef, a leading Hamas member, summarized this process of incitement in his own words: "We like to grow them from kindergarten through college." Palestinian Brigadier General, Mahmoud Abu Marzoug, reminded a group of tenth grade girls in Gaza City, "as a Shahid (martyr), you will be alive in Heaven." After the address, a group of these girls lined up to assure a Washington Post reporter that they would be happy to carry out suicide bombings or other actions ending in their deaths.
When the PA assumed responsibility for education in the West Bank and Gaza in 1994, it adopted textbooks from Jordan and Egypt. These schoolbooks contained egregious anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, including overt calls for Israel’s destruction. After much international criticism, a curriculum review project was initiated by the PA, which resulted in the publishing of new textbooks for grades one and six, for the school year 2000–2001. While much of the explicit incitement against Israel and Jews that existed in the old schoolbooks is gone, there is still considerable de-legitimization of Israel and denial of any Jewish historical connection to the land. Israel is omitted on all maps of the area, and all cities and natural and historic landmarks in Israel are taught as being ‘Palestinian.’
In the new sixth grade textbook entitled "Reading the Koran", Palestinian children read about Allah’s warning to the Jews that Allah will kill them because of their evil. Elsewhere, they are taught that Jews are like donkeys and that they will be expelled from their homes by Allah. In the assessment of the Palestinian Media Watch, this religion-based anti-Semitism is the most dangerous, as children are taught that hating Jews is God’s choice and command. Moreover, although Islam also has positive traditions regarding Jews, the PA educators chose to incorporate only hateful religious traditions. Israel is portrayed as foreign to the Middle East and is described as a colonialist conqueror. There is a strongly implied message that all such conquered Arab land must be "liberated." This message is pervasive in all subjects, sometimes subtly, almost subliminally, as in the first grade science book in a chapter on ‘sight’. The young student is instructed to look at little things using a magnifying glass. An illustration demonstrates what would be seen when looking through a magnifying glass at a piece of paper with writing that is barely visible without the magnifier. The part under the magnifying glass can be read clearly: "Palestine is Arab." In all contexts of the education system, "Palestine" includes all of Israel.
Note that these are the ‘new and improved’ textbooks.
Other grades are still using the Jordanian and Egyptian imports, which glorify hatred of Israel and Jews, and glorify death in jihad. For example, in an eighth grade book for "Islamic Education" we find, "The Muslim sacrifices himself for his belief, and wages jihad for Allah. He is not swayed, for he knows that the date of his death as a Shahid on the field of battle is preferable to death in his bed." A tenth grade reading text claims, "Martyred jihad fighters are the most honored people, after the Prophet."
Violent death is sanctified throughout the Palestinian areas. The streets are plastered with posters glorifying the exploits of individual suicide bombers. Children trade ‘martyr cards’, purchased at their local shops, instead of cricket cards. Necklaces with pictures of martyrs are also very popular. One favorite wall slogan reads: "beware of death by natural causes." Suicide bombing is considered a source of neighborhood pride, as streets are named after the perpetrators of these atrocities. There is even a musical group named ‘The Martyrs’, whose lyrics espouse the virtues of "sacrificing yourself for Allah." Under these cultural influences, many children readily admit that they want to become suicide bombers. Some draw pictures and fantasize about the day when they will achieve their goal. Boys are taught that, as suicide bombers, they will ascend to a paradise of luxury staffed by 72 virgins waiting to gratify the martyrs as they arrive. An American psychiatrist with 22 years of experience studying and treating suicidal patients stresses that suicide bombers – both children and adults – are "tools used by terrorist leaders" with "a whole culture encouraging [them] to die."
Pakistani Government-controlled schools and private schools teaching the Government-prescribed curriculum may teach conventional disciplines, but hardly provide a more rational education than provided at Madrassas and training camps. The educational agenda of these schools is to instill the "ideology of Pakistan" into the minds of students, and/or the belief that Islam is superior to all other religions and that Pakistan is the Muslim homeland. Dr. Yvette Clair Rosser’s study for the Observer Research Foundation revealed the prejudices found in Pakistani textbooks. In one seventh grade textbook, the section explaining different political systems on democracy, theocracy, and military rule was replaced with chapters titled "What it Means to be a Good Pakistani" and "Standing in Queue." As stated by one student: "we have covered the same material year after year… we don’t have to study for the tests, because the ideology of Pakistan has been instilled into us."
On an ethnic level, textbooks embody supremacist phrases condemning outside religions. In Pakistani textbooks, Hindus are referred to as "diabolical and conspiring against Pakistan." Further, Hindus are described as "backward, superstitious, wife burners, and that they are inherently cruel and if given the chance would assert their power over the weak, especially Muslims, by depriving them of education and pouring molten lead into their ears." This supremacist rhetoric continues on a global level and other countries are vilified in a similarly negative light. Textbooks portray Pakistan’s existence as being threatened by a "Machiavellian conspiracy." As stated in Mohammed Sarwers’ Pakistan Studies book, "at present particular segments in the guise of modernization and progressive activities have taken the unholy task of damaging our cultures heritage and thereby damaging our nation’s integration."
Pakistani state-run education is not substantially different from what is preached by Islamist fundamentalists at Madrassas. The latter proclaim the need to perform jihad against India and on the West, which they believe is run by Jews. They also proclaim the goal of "planting Islamic flags in Delhi, Tel Aviv and Washington." One of the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Websites had a list of Jews that it claimed were working for the ‘Clinton Administration’. Included in this list were presidential officials Robert Nash (an African American from the United States) and CIA director George Tenet (a Greek American).
For many Palestinian children, incitement begins at home. The parents’ role in encouraging their own offspring to become martyrs is difficult to understand. They believe that the death of their child for the sake of holy jihad and Islam will guarantee him or her everlasting life and bliss in the hereafter. This type of sacrifice is held in such high esteem in certain segments of Palestinian society that it has become a badge of pride. Parents of toddlers proudly recount their little children saying they want to become martyrs. The father of a 13 year-old says, "I pray that God will choose him" to become a Shahid (Martyr). One mother of a 13 year-old who perished as a result of his participation in the Intifada, told a journalist from the Times (London): "I am happy that he has been martyred. I will sacrifice all my sons and daughters (12 in all) to Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem." Another mother boasted that she bore her son precisely for the purpose of participating in such a Jihad, while the child’s father proudly claimed to have provided his son with the training. After 15 year-old Ahmat Omar Abu Selmia was killed on his way to attack the Israeli community of Dugit, his father celebrated his ‘martyrdom’ at a street festival attended by about 200 men.
A photograph in the Jerusalem Post on February 26, 2002, showed Palestinian fathers teaching a group of toddlers and young children to properly hold assault rifles while trampling on American and Israeli flags. The most shocking evidence of the extent of such brainwashing was found in the family photo album of a wanted Hamas militant. This album contained a photograph of a baby dressed as a suicide bomber, complete with a harness of mock explosives and the traditional Shahid’s red headband.
Another reason that Palestinian parents allow and even encourage their children to get involved is the financial incentive offered to families of ‘martyrs’. Thus, the PA furnishes cash payment of $2,000 (USD) per child killed and $300 per child wounded. Saudi Arabia announced that it had pledged $250 million as its first contribution to a billion-dollar fund aimed at supporting the families of Palestinian martyrs. In addition, from the beginning to the current Intifada until the capture of Baghdad by allied forces in April 2003, the Arab Liberation Front, a Palestinian group loyal to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, paid generous bounties to the injured, and the families of the Palestinian dead, according to the following sliding scale: $500 for a wound; $1,000 for disability; $10,000 to the family of each martyr; and $25,000 to the family of every suicide bomber. These are lavish sums, particularly given the chronic unemployment and poverty of the Palestinians who reside in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It is important to note, however, that many Palestinian parents have attempted to restrain their children, and have resisted those who would place them in harm’s way.
One public opinion poll of Palestinians living in the West Bank revealed that 74.1 per cent oppose the participation of children under the age of eighteen in the Intifada. Unfortunately this still leaves a substantial percentage that supports the participation of children, corresponding to hundreds of thousands of parents. Could their reluctance to exercise routine parental authority, by discouraging their children from participating in the violence, be attributable to the threats by armed PA officials?
Some in the PA leadership are apparently uncomfortable with the international and local criticism their use of children has engendered and are beginning to acknowledge the inherent risks of mixing child protesters with Palestinian gunmen. However, their reactions to the use of children in the Intifada are far from uniform or consistent. Mixed signals still emanate from various factions of the PA leadership.
For example, in January, 2003, marches and rallies were being planned by Fatah, the largest faction of the PLO, to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the founding of the movement. The then PA Minister of Interior, Hani al-Hassan, warned the Fatah activists against any display of weapons or the wearing of masks (to hide their faces) during the demonstrations. Hassan’s directive was completely ignored, however, and witnesses said that the marchers "carried almost every kind of weapon, turning the celebration into a military parade." Shots were fired into the air from rifles and pistols. "The shooting continued all day," said one Palestinian. "It was like being in a battlefront. People were terrified, and it’s only a miracle that no one was killed or injured." Many Palestinian bystanders were especially disturbed by the participation of several hundred children brandishing Kalashnikov rifles during the demonstrations. Some of the children were dressed in white uniforms, and wrapped in explosive belts to emulate Palestinian suicide bombers. Pictures of the children appeared in both local and foreign newspapers, much to the annoyance of the Palestinian Journalists’ Association. The Association has banned journalists from taking pictures of armed children and threatened sanctions against any journalist, local or foreign, who disregards the ban. Association members are concerned that such pictures will further damage the image of the Palestinians in the eyes of the world.
The same ideology of martyrdom of their children is shared by many Pakistani parents. Stern found that "mothers claimed that they would donate sons, because it will help them in the next life – the real life." One father stated "whoever gives his life to Allah lives forever and earns a spot in heaven for 70 members of the family chosen by him." Whenever there is a martyr in the village it encourages more children to join Jihad.
As there is allegation of Palestinian jihad, organizations been set up in Pakistan to help the families of martyrs. These organizations help to pay debts, improve the families’ living conditions and help start businesses. One such organization, the Shuhda-e-Islam Foundation, founded in 1995 by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), claims to provide financial support to over 364 families and to have paid out over three million Pakistani rupees. When interviewed, one mother whose son lost his life to jihad claimed, "God is helping us a lot," pointing to the new additions to her house. She stated that she wanted to martyr her youngest son, who was ten years of age. When questioned what he wanted after he grew up, he claimed "respect and jihad."
The mysterious kindergarten madrassas:
An extensive study was conducted on the existing kindergarten madrassas in Bangladesh. All of them, having quite a handsome amount of expenditure each month for maintaining posh class rooms, air-conditioned transports and high standard accommodation for male and female students, could not show any acceptable source of income. For example, one of such madrassas in Dhaka’s Uttara area spends more than US$ 8000 per month while their income from student’s tuition fee is less than US$ 2000. When asked about their source of income, Moulana Abdus Sakur, the principal of the institution said, they receive donation from Muslims abroad on a regular basis, which helps them to sustain. It was even revealed that, such institutions do not enroll with the Bureau of Non-government Organization (NGO)s in Bangladesh to declare their source of money. Rather any citizen in the country is entitled to establish a kindergarten madrassa with a Trade License issued by the City Corporation just with an annual fee of US$ 10.
Talking to this correspondent, a senior official with NGO bureau said, country’s intelligence agencies have gathered substantial evidence of several kindergarten madrassas receiving donations from foggy Afro-Arab sources. In many cases, these madrassas invite ‘speakers’ from these countries for orientation course of certain period ranging between 2-6 weeks. Generally, those speakers are extremist Islamist scholars, preaching jihad and religious hatred to the innocent children. Such lectures are extremely hypnotizing, leaving great impact on the minds of children, who get allured towards suicide or jihad and killing Jews and Christians in exchange of heaven and 70 virgins during the next life.
Most alarming information on the madrassas and kindergarten madrassas is there is no monitoring by the government of Bangladesh on the activities of such religious institutions. Although the Education Ministry had been trying to bring them under enrollment for past several years, a large number of influential radical leaders are some how avoiding such enrolments for reason understandable.
A student in fifth grade with one of the kindergarten madrassas said, “Islam is the ultimate for the entire world. We have to fight every enemies of our religion so that one day, the whole world will come under the umbrella of Islam. Allah promises us heaven if we fight and even embrace death in this holy task”.
There is information on a hidden agenda of some of the kindergarten madrassa preparing their adult female students for a particular group for a specific agenda named ‘Operation Penetration’. Generally, girl students mostly from lower income group, having excellent looks are recruited for this purpose. They are given proper education to attain highest efficiency in speaking English, French, German or Spanish. Moreover, they get training in computer and various IT related works. These students are destined for various jobs in Western destinations with airline companies, IT companies, hotels, restaurants, large commercial enterprises and even in sensitive organizations. Once completed educational career, their back ground of having education in madrassa are generally kept secret. Even some are given Christian names. There are several ways of ‘penetrating’ these well-trained females to western countries. One is as spouse of any male immigrants, by meeting targeted Western partners through internet or by taking the job of any kind of job in companies and secondly as tourists or performers/artistes. Prior to their departure to West, these girls are injected HIV positive virus. But, for making such ‘sacrifice’ generally their families receive US$ 5,000-10,000 as compensation. Main objective of these females, once already entered to the Western countries are to make friendly relations with men and ultimately establish physical relations, thus passing the virus. While on domestic job, they will push infected needles in the body of children at home, when their parents are out for work. Some of such females establish day care centers in the West, and continue to get the children infected to HIV virus mainly through needles. The ‘operation penetration’ has a target of infecting at least half million Westerners by the end of 2010. According to internal sources in the madrassas, this is the latest technique of Islamist radicals in causing maximum degree of damage to the Western societies.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the Publisher & Editor of Weekly Blitz published from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Internet edition of this newspaper is available on www.weeklyblitz.net