Education is the fundamental factor in the process of human development. Madrasah is the Arabic word of Semitic origin (viz Hebrew Midrash) for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious (in fact, of any religion). The word is also present as a loanword with the same innocuous meaning in many languages influenced by Arabic, such as Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Indonesian, Malay and Bosnian. For centuries through the various Muslim civilizations, madrasahs have taught every kind of subjects like medicine, physics, chemistry, astronomy, law, philosophy, history and many more. Many of the most renowned Muslims physicians, philosophers and scholars such as Al-Biruni, Al-Farabi, Bu Ali Sina, Jabar Ibn-E-Haiyan and many more others renowned for their discoveries, inventions and innovations (that basically laid the foundation of modern sciences in the western world) were also the outcome of these madrasahs. From the middle ages through the 16th century, Madrasahs were considered the bastion of Islamic higher education, making breakthroughs in math, science and the humanities. Today, the madrasahs have been labeled as the incubators of violent extremism and are considered institutions that breed future terrorists. More than ever before, attendance at madrasahs is increasing, as many Muslims see religious schools as a better and free educational alternative to the inadequate public schools. Although the US government and aid groups have been working to improve these schools, some say not enough is being done to assist these important religious institutions. At the same time, negative western perceptions of the madrasah system have created a schism in US-Muslim relations. I think all madrasahs should not be considered incubators of terrorism. Many madrasahs are actually imparting modern education through use of modern educational equipment like computers. But since the madrasahs are, basically, the option taken up by mostly poor people who do not have any other alternative, not all madrasahs are equipped to impart the best of education. While we still have a great number of madrasahs where students go with the aim of becoming scholars and turn out as ones, they are fewer in number and getting fewer still because of lack of resources. Most of the madrasahs do not advocate suicide bombing or train militants, but I do accept the fact that some of them are unfortunately promoting militancy and extremism. There are madrasahs doing good work and there are also those who are not. Both sides i.e. westerners and Muslims should avoid giving blanket statements that strengthen prejudice. -SYED ZAKI AHMED, Riyadh, February 13