Education in Pakistan...
One of the sources of THE problem...
Like many younger pupils at Karachi's Jamia Binoria madrassa, 12-year-old Imran Mohammed is a shy, quietly spoken child who is all but tongue-tied in front of his elders. One thing can get him talking though – for hours if need be.
"God is one and he is our creator," he intones, his faltering voice suddenly breaking into fluent Arabic. "He has not given birth of anyone, nor did anyone give birth of him."
It is a verse from the Koran, a tiny part of four entire chapters he has learnt by heart since arriving at the madrassa, or religious school, two years ago. Four chapters is roughly 60 pages, and to recite it fully – as he can do – takes up to two hours.
However, when it comes to non-religious learning, such as the alphabet or multiplication tables, Mohammed is somewhat behind for his age. Asked to add 10 and 11 together, he uses his fingers to reach the right answer, and the only words he can write are his own name and his father's.
For much of the past two decades, though, this has been what passes as education for hundreds of thousands of young Pakistanis. With secular, state schools all but non existent in much of the country – six million children never see a classroom – growing numbers of parents "opt out" their children for religious education instead.
That, though, is what makes Pakistan's estimated 20,000 madrassas the country's biggest threat. By teaching religion to the exclusion of almost everything else, they are blamed for training a generation of youngsters whose only job prospects lie in preaching and zealotry, fuelling the Islamic fundamentalism that many Pakistanis fear could turn their country into another Afghanistan. The more militant madrassas are also accused of recruiting volunteers for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, among them Britons such as Shehzad Tanweer and Mohammed Sidique Khan, who are thought to have attended them before going on to commit the July 7 London bombings in 2005.