Friday, March 07, 2008

The Madrasa We DO Know


Andy Valvur forwards a story from the Financial Times on how a U.S. provincial reconstruction team is building madrasas in Afghanistan's Khost province.

So much for separation of church and state, you might think--is this where U.S. taxpayers' dollars are going?

But wait: The PRT is making a rational calculation that it's better to build a madrasa in Afghanistan, where the government at least has some say in the curriculum, than have Afghan parents send their kids to madrasas over the hill into Pakistan and spend all their time memorizing the Qur'an. And State is on board as well:

John Kael Weston, the State Department's political representative in the Khost reconstruction team, holds weekly meetings with madrassa students.

"Just look at it from their perspective - if we just talk about girls' education, for example, it just plays into the propaganda about the US. They think that the Americans will be opening up strip joints and restaurants selling alcohol on every corner."

Building madrasas dovetails nicely with something I wrote awhile ago about how U.S. policymakers must address the primacy of religion in many other cultures. Chalk one up for this PRT's pragmatism.

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