Saturday, February 28, 2009

Taliban origins

Edwards (page 292) gives some background on the rise of the Taliban (madrasa student) movement:
... religious education once again [in the 1980s and 90s] became an important avenue of social mobility, especially for young male Afghan refugees. On the frontier, at the turn of thelast century, becoming a taleb was one of the few ways an individual could improve his life fortunes, gain social respect, and escape the -- for some -- claustrophobic world of the tribe and the village. In Afghanistan prior to the war, the government sponsored tribal boarding schools, and many of the brightest and most ambitious young men from the border areas attended the schools with the hope of landing a government job after graduation. However, this possibility ended for most Afghans when the war began. Between three and four million people fled to Pakistan, the vast majority ended up in refugee camps scattered up and down the frontier. most of the camps had primary schools, and a few secondary schools were set up especially for Afghan refugees. But the schools had more to do with social control than with education, and few who attended them had their life chances expanded as a result. The same was not the case, however, for those who attended the madrasas. As in the 19th century, religious education once again became the surest avenue to social advancement. In the years before the war, madrasa graduates generally ended up in menial positions teaching children and taking care of village mosques, but in Pakistan, with the resistance parties in the hands of religious leaders, madrasa graduates had more numerous and lucrative options than ever before. The madrasas were also more vibrant and lively than secular schools and more connected to the world outside because of the war, which defined people's lives, was seen as a religious struggle and those who graduated from the madrasas were considered more likely to play significant roles in that struggle.

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