- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

After listening to rock star Bono's impassioned pleas, President Bush has reversed course and acknowledged that global poverty is also the incubator of transnational terrorism.

He is now requesting an additional $5 billion in aid for developing countries, or a 14 percent increase over current levels of $11 billion a year. But the most poisonous breeding grounds for jihadis, or holy Islamist warriors against the Judeo-Christian-Hindu civilizations, are receiving scant attention with a measly $34 million.

That is the amount the U.S. has agreed to give Pakistan in this fiscal year to support the long overdue reforms of the madrassa (Koranic school) network that has brainwashed some 4 million young men to hate America, Israel, and India during the past 10 years. Almost 1 million kids are now in some 7,500 madrassas where they receive free board and lodging and dawn-to-dusk recitations of the Koran to the exclusion of all other disciplines. The curriculum is heavily larded with messages about America being the fount of all evil, all subsidized by Saudi Arabia's generously funded Wahhabi clergy.

There are some 300 Koranic schools in the U.S., including the Islamic Saudi Academy. An 11th grade textbook says that one sign of the day of judgment will be that Muslims will fight back and kill Jews who will hide behind trees that say, "Oh Muslim, Oh Servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him." This is mild fare compared to what is taught in a Pakistani madrassa.

Pakistan has been told by the Bush administration it will get comparable allocations of $30 million a year over the next three or four years for teacher training, curriculum development, basic education in information technology, vocational training and exchange grants. It is less than a drop in the bucket for what is arguably as important as mopping up remaining pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda resistance in Afghanistan.

The war in Afghanistan and the U.S. military buildup in adjoining former Soviet republics is costing $1 billion a month. But the campaign to shut down the assembly lines that produce jihadis is now getting a little less than $3 million a month. Someone, somewhere deserves a dunce cap for failing to explain to President Bush that the madrassa front deserves at the very least $300 million a year.

Madrassas are a lifesaver for impoverished Pakistani parents in a country that does not have a public education system. The government is spending almost half not the 22 percent claimed by the finance minister its modest treasure on the military and its nuclear weapons program.

Belatedly, the Pakistani military government is looking into the funding of the madrassas. It has been in deep denial about Saudi funding for years. Belatedly, too, the House of Saud is trying to reassert control over the kingdom's all-powerful Wahhabi clergy that has been spreading anti-Western particularly anti-American vitriol in Saudi-funded mosques from Malaysia to Morocco and throughout Western democracies.

The cozy relationship between royal family and clergy has long been based on a tacit understanding that the strict Wahhabi interpretation of the Koran excluded any criticism of the extravagant excesses of the 30,000-strong ruling family (including both sexes). In return, the clerics did as they pleased with their cattle prod-wielding religious police at home and their proselytizers abroad. The ulema (religious scholars) also got the House of Saud to recognize them as more equal than the royals in deciding who does what to whom on the home front. They are, in effect, co-rulers of the kingdom.

After September 11, U.S. officials quietly began leaning on de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah, himself a graduate of a religious school, to rein in a clergy that was, in effect, funding global terrorism with the royal family's largess. At the same time, American diplomacy put the arm on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to reform the country's madrassa-based educational system. Taking on the Pakistani clergy and its obscurantist curriculum is a Herculean task that is nothing short of revolutionary in a country that is 70 percent illiterate and where ignorant mullahs dictate at Friday prayers how the masses should think about America and its allies. It is also an enormously costly endeavor. Thirty-four million dollars a year in U.S. educational assistance convinces the Pakistani government that Washington is yet to understand the magnitude of the undertaking.

A new system of education in Pakistan would involve bypassing the flat-Earth mullahs with technology e.g., distance on-line learning that would radiate from the four provincial capitals, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta, with a common national curriculum and a separate provincial identity. In order to compete with madrassas, these new schools would also have to provide free meals and dormitories. The niggardly U.S. approach is a recipe for failure.

Pakistan's madrassas have also "educated" tens of thousands of foreigners. They are a rite of passage to becoming a jihadi. John Walker, the American jihadi, went from Koranic teaching in the San Francisco Bay area to a madrassa in Yemen to a madrassa in Pakistan to al Qaeda's ranks in Afghanistan. Some 30 nationalities are represented among the 544 prisoners held by the U.S. Most of them are products of madrassas. These will churn out many more terrorists until the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan can drain the swamp where the amoebae grow.

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