Deputy Chairman Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said action against seminaries would harm education and that those who were talking about taking action against madrassas did not understand the fallout such an action on the educational structure of the country. This may well be true, that there will be many more children to enrol into schools, but what the nation truly fears is a violent fallout, involving bearded men shooting at children and teachers, rather than an added burden to the already stressed education system.

The case of 36 girls found by the Police in a house, handed over to a family by a seminary over non-payment of a debt November last year is instructive. Firstly, these girls could have gone to school in own their locality, but parents and clerics encourage madrassah education as government education is “western” and “unislamic”. There was an alternative, the parents just didn’t take it. Secondly, the case shows the lack of professionalism and formal procedures in seminaries, where children can be shuttled around and parents have no idea where their children are eating or sleeping. Madrassas are hardly an alternative, and we are not even questioning the curriculum yet, only the infrastructure and security of the child.

The Deputy Chairman has rejected propaganda against seminaries. He said madrassas were providing not only religious education but also modern education. However, this cannot be verified, as the seminaries are not open to curriculum being standardised by any external body, or do they want to submit themselves to investigation or auditing. He said conspiracies against seminaries would be resisted with full force. Sadly, another threatening statement aimed at silencing debate.

The government has the powers, under the constitution to nationalize the madrassahs and bring the syllabus in line with the national curriculum. It is a matter of will, and does not mean that religious education will be outlawed. However, any politician even suggesting such a move will be in the black books of the religious right (which is quite a large group).

Sure, not all madrassas are bad, but not all “modern” secular schooling is either… and this is something these men are unwilling to acknowledge. Religious leaders and parties have to start moderating themselves, so that discussion is encouraged rather than violence. Since the APS Peshawar tragedy, the right has been one PR disaster after another but now some 200 religious scholars have issued a decree against suicide attacks and termed them unlawful under Islamic law at a conference condemning the TTP, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram. This is a good thing, but why do we even need religious sanctions to know that suicide bombing is bad? Maybe they will continue in this vein, banning violence and militant religious parties. They want peace too, right?