Madrasas - Order Code RS21654 Updated January 23, 2007...

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1 This report was originally written by Febe Armanios. It has been updated by Christopher Blanchard to include information relevant to the first session of the 110 th Congress. Order Code RS21654 Updated January 23, 2007 Islamic Religious Schools, Madrasas : Background Christopher M. Blanchard Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division Summary Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Islamic religious schools known as madrasa s (or madrassah s) in the Middle East, Central, and Southeast Asia have been of increasing interest to U.S. policy makers. Some allege ties between madrasas and terrorist organizations, such as Al Qaeda, and assert that these religious schools promote Islamic extremism and militancy. Others maintain that most madrasas have been blamed unfairly for fostering anti-Americanism and for producing terrorists. This report 1 provides an overview of madrasas, their role in the Muslim world, and issues related to their alleged links to terrorism. The report also addresses the findings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the “9/11 Commission”) and issues relevant to the first session of the 110th Congress. Related products include CRS Report RS22009, CRS Report RL33533, CRS Report RL32499, CRS Report RS21695, CRS Report RS21457, CRS Report RL32259, and CRS Report RS21432. This report will be updated periodically. Overview Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Islamic schools known as madrasa s have been of increasing interest to analysts and to officials involved in formulating U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. Madrasas drew added attention when it became known that several Taliban leaders and Al Qaeda members had developed radical political views at madrasas in Pakistan, some of which allegedly were built and partially financed by donors in the Persian Gulf states. These revelations have led to accusations that madrasas promote Islamic extremism and militancy, and are a recruiting ground for terrorism. Others maintain that most of these religious schools have been blamed unfairly for fostering anti-U.S. sentiments and argue
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CRS-2 2 See “Madrasa” in the Encyclopedia of Islam , new ed (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1965-); “Madrasah,” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1995). 3 Mary Ann Weaver, “Children of the Jihad,” New Yorker , June 12, 1995. 4 The term mujahedin refers to Islamic guerrillas, literally “one who fights in the cause of Islam.” 5 See CRS Report RS21695, The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyyah . that madrasas play an important role in countries where millions of Muslims live in poverty and state educational infrastructure is in decay. Background
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Madrasas - Order Code RS21654 Updated January 23, 2007...

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