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REIs: Perceptions about Contemporary Issues and Developments PDF Print E-mail
Written by Khalid Rahman   

In recent times, various international and regional developments have put the religious educational institutions (REIs) of Pakistan in the limelight. Think-tanks, scholars, the media, NGOs and above all the policy makers have started focusing their attention on them. What sort of people are coming out from these institutions? What are their perceptions about the rest of the world? How do they see Pakistan and its future in the context of international politics? How different are they in their thinking on the contemporary political developments around them? These are some of the common question arising in policy circles both internationally and at local levels. However, the responses to these questions mostly lack the support of any serious research based on objective information and rarely backed by any research findings.

 

Finding objective answers to such questions, a highly interesting picture emerges from the research that is revealing in many ways. The research, while confirming some of the prevailing perceptions about REIs, also challenges many. What comes to light is that although their appearance might set them apart from others, in their thinking on many issues, the people running REIs are not that different from their counterparts in FEIs (Formal Educational Institutions) and by implication, in mainstream society. This is a fact that needs to be properly understood by those who are in any way involved in or with the madrassa sector.

On a broad range of concerns based on a carefully conducted quantitative analysis related to the future of Pakistan, including optimism about Pakistan; impact of the US on Pakistan’s policies; religious leaders and politics; role of madaris; reforms in madaris; modern education; sectarianism; women’s education and rights; NGOs; non-Muslims; oppressed people; and terrorism it has been found that, contrary to their stereotypical image, REIs show moderation in their views as well as similarity with respondents from other educational systems on many issues.

 

The overall statistics show that REIs are not as conservative and orthodox in their thinking as they are generally perceived to be. They are in favor of reforming their present structure by introducing mainstream disciplines and introducing new steps to improve their role and effectiveness; a majority of them believe that if religious leaders are exposed to mainstream knowledge, they can play their role more effectively. They agree that, regardless of the differences in their schools of thought, they should cooperate and work together. They think female education is as important as male education, and do not endorse the prevailing traditions about women in Pakistan as Islamic; they overwhelmingly (88%) agree that the rights given to women by Islam are generally not practiced in our society.

 

Three out of four of REI respondents (77%) think Pakistan has a bright future, despite the fact that there is a near consensus (93%) among them that most of Pakistan’s policies are formulated under US influence. FEIs think similarly on these issues.

 

There is significant difference between the two groups in views about NGOs. While 43% of respondents from FEIs believe that NGOs try to misguide the new generation in the name of education and take them away from Islamic values, this view is held by 91% of respondents from various religious institutions. Other issues on which there is significant difference include participation of religious leaders in politics and the current trends of education in mainstream institutions. The majority of REIs justify suicide attacks as against FEIs, which disapprove strongly. However, it is noteworthy that the difference in most cases ranges only between 20 and 40 percent.

 

On the following issues, there is similarity in the views of REIs and FEIs (i.e., only a negligible difference, defined as within the range of 9%):

 

  • Optimism about Pakistan,
  • Impact of the US on Pakistan’s policies,
  • Introduction of mainstream disciplines in madaris,
  • Reforms in madaris,
  • Role of madaris,
  • Oppressed people,
  • Women’s education and rights,
  • Cooperation among different sects, and
  • Terrorism.

 

The issues on which there are major differences between REIs and FEIs include:

  • Participation of religious leaders in politics,
  • Impossibility of cooperation among different sects,
  • Image of NGOs,
  • Social relations with non-Muslims,
  • Tendency of current trends at universities and colleges to lead students towards

 

The following table summarizes the views of REIs on different issues and also presents a brief comparison with the views of FEIs.


 

REIs’ Views and Perceptions: Comparative Frequency Results[N1]

 

Serial No.

Statement No.

Statements

Absolutely or Somewhat Correct (%)

Difference (%)

Significant Difference? (Above 9%)

 

REIs (541)

FEIs (80)

(REI-FEI)

 

1

1

The future of Pakistan is bright; there is no reason to lose hope.

77

84

-7

 

2

2

The state of affairs in Pakistan cannot be improved; everything is messed up.

33

55

-22

Yes

3

3

Most of Pakistan’s national policies are formulated under US influence.

93

86

7

 

4

4

Religious leaders’ participation in politics has contributed significantly in preserving religious values.

85

51

34

Yes

5

5

Participation in politics dented the dignity of religious leaders.

39

58

-19

Yes

6

9

Steps should be taken to improve the role and effectiveness of madaris.

94

93

1

 

7

10

Madaris are playing the desired role effectively; they do not require any change whatsoever.

38

29

9

 

8

6

The current trends in universities and colleges are leading students towards immorality.

90

61

29

Yes

9

7

Mainstream disciplines should be introduced in Religious Educational Institutions.

96

99

-3

 

10

17

If religious leaders could be exposed to mainstream knowledge, they can play their role more effectively.

97

94

3

 

11

8

The school of thought or sect deserves no role in the educational system.

83

93

-10

Yes

12

18

Regardless of the magnitude of differences among different schools of thought, they should cooperate and work collectively.

94

93

1

 

13

19

The differences among schools of thought are so intense that it is impossible for them to work together.

34

45

-11

Yes

14

13

It is incumbent on both men/boys and women/girls to seek education.

99

99

0

 

15

14

The women’s rights given by Islam are, generally, not practiced in our society.

88

84

4

 

16

15

Most NGOs try to misguide the new generation in the name of education and take it away from the Islamic values.

91

43

48

Yes

17

16

It is undesirable for Muslims to establish social relations with non-Muslims.

52

29

23

Yes

18

11

It is obligatory to help oppressed Muslims all over the world.

98

96

2

 

19

12

It is obligatory to help the oppressed, even if they are non-Muslims.

92

98

-6

 

20

20

Killing innocents is terrorism, whether done by Muslims or non-Muslims.

92

88

4

 

 

 



  • · Mr. Khalid Rahman is Director General, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS)-Islamabad while Mr. Nadim Salim heads the Karachi based Insights Research Consultants. Muttaqin ur Rahman is Manager MIS at IPS. The authors thankfully acknowledge the assistance of IPS/Insights team members Mr. Sher Afsar Khan, Mr. Abdullah Khan Saifi and Ms. Insiya Zahid.

[N1]Why are the statement nos. mixed up?

 
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