India Uncut

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

On root causes

Tavleen Singh lashes out:
The young men and women who are blowing themselves up are trained not by terrorist groups but by mullahs and Islamic seminaries and until we acknowledge this we cannot win the war against terrorism. That the madrasas in Pakistan have the support of the Pakistani government is understandable since Pakistan is an Islamic republic. Much less understandable is our own government’s inability to admit that religious schools have no business to exist in secular Bharat that is India. And, please, let us not have any trash about how these madrasas are the only chance for indigent Muslim boys to get an education.
Singh also writes later that "most [madrasas] have come up in the past 15 years and that the money comes from the same Middle Eastern countries that funded last week’s bombings in London and 9/11."

Now, I agree with Singh that madrasas are a problem, but I'm not in favour of banning them, unless they're explicitly encouraging their students to take up terrorism, which is mostly not the case. On the contrary, we should enable competition to these madrasas to spring up in the form of private schools. Currently, the goverment stands a barrier to free enterprise in the education sector, as I'd mentioned here. If the government is allowing madrasas to spring up, it should get out of the way of all entrepreneurs who want to start schools. Schools will then spring up, and the ones that will thrive will be the ones that most enhance the professional prospects of the students, and which provide the best value for money. It is also likely that once bribery and corruption are disabled, by removing government discretion in this matter, many of the schools will be eminently affordable.

Given a choice between a chance to be prosperous and to get religious education, most poor families will opt for prosperity. Right now, however, that choice does not exist for them, with the municipal schools that most poor people can afford being no good. Enable that choice, and madrasas will fade away due to market pressures. The best way to handle extremism.

Update: Vikram Arumilli writes in to point to a Business Week article that gives a counterpoint to Singh's: "Korans, Not Kalashnikovs at Madrassas".
amit varma, 12:42 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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