unnamedBy Mumtaz Ahmad Published: February 15, 2015

The tragedy of Peshawar that resulted in the death of students of the Army Public School has once again brought the issue of madrassa reforms into sharp focus. The National Action Plan, announced by the prime minister to combat extremism and terrorism in the country, makes two points about madrassas: to register and regulate them and to introduce curriculum reform. While very few people will disagree with the first point — the imperative need for the registration of madrassas and transparency of their funding sources — we are not quite sure about the causal relationships between madrassa curriculum on the one hand and extremism and terrorism, on the other.

The debate on madrassa curriculum before the 9/11 attacks focused mainly on issues of pedagogy — its intellectual orientation; the structure of its content; methodology of teaching; and the relevance of the madrassa curriculum to the educational needs of a modern Muslim society. Most critics of madrassa education contended that madrassa curriculum was outdated, narrowly focused on issues of fiqh and its most literalist interpretations, and based on religio-intellectual formulations and controversies that are no longer relevant.
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