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Friday, May 23, 2008

Interesting article about the spread of Turkish Islamic schools in Pakistan.

Touting an alternative to the "kill, fight, shoot" (to quote one of the Turks) approach of a lot of Pakistani madrassas.

The Turkish schools, which have expanded to seven cities in Pakistan since the first one opened a decade ago, cannot transform the country on their own. But they offer an alternative approach that could help reduce the influence of Islamic extremists.

They prescribe a strong Western curriculum, with courses, taught in English, from math and science to English literature and Shakespeare. They do not teach religion beyond the one class in Islamic studies that is required by the state. Unlike British-style private schools, however, they encourage Islam in their dormitories, where teachers set examples in lifestyle and prayer.

“Whatever the West has of science, let our kids have it,” said Erkam Aytav, a Turk who works in the new schools. “But let our kids have their religion as well.”

That approach appeals to parents in Pakistan, who want their children to be capable of competing with the West without losing their identities to it. Allahdad Niazi, a retired Urdu professor in Quetta, a frontier town near the Afghan border, took his son out of an elite military school, because it was too authoritarian and did not sufficiently encourage Islam, and put him in the Turkish school, called PakTurk.

It's the work of Turkish Sufi Muslim Fethullah Gülen, currently in exile in the U.S. after clashing with the then-Kemalist government. Not without controversy, Gülen has been a voice of reason for the most part (assuming the alleged quotes are true), and this looks like a welcome project.

Thanks to Terry for the heads-up.

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