Source : Google photo of a religious school called madrasa in India
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Synopsis : The spread of radicalism in some religions has brought upon the humanity the curse of hatred, intolerance of others and outright violence that the whole world suffers from. Now people are demanding reforms that will eliminate radical thinking and promote peace and harmony among all people. This can only be achieved through a holistic approach to education of a child that opens his mind to the world of knowledge that prepares him better to cope with the challenges of the modern world.
We are conditioned to think and act in a certain way that starts to define who we are at a certain age. This conditioning starts at an early stage of our life when a child comes under pressure to conform to the strict rules and regulations as spelled out for him by his elders. While it may be necessary for a child to learn what he can do or cannot do so that he can easily conform, often the methods used by his elders to make him conform can and should be questioned.
We should ask if a child must be subjected to harsh training to conform at an age when he needs the freedom of expression and to choose what he or she wants to do that should be his or her fundamental right. The elders who are his parents , school teachers or relatives may feel that it is their duty to teach the kids what is right and what is wrong so that he acts accordingly later in his life. The methods used to imprint their ideas of right or wrong on the child varies from country to country, from one religion to other and from one set of parents to another within a given community. ( read my blog here called Imprinting )
Some families teach tolerance of other faiths and set of beliefs to the child while others take a more radical approach where a child is taught to believe and practice a belief system that borders on fundamentalism that later may have a very negative impact on the development of a child making him unfit to live in harmony with others who are not like him. This is called negative programming that is the subject of this blog today.
A child is born innocent and is free from any belief or guidelines at first but it does not last long because the negative programing of his brain starts early meaning as soon as he or she learns to understand words and their impact on him or her. If the parents, his teachers and his elders try to teach him good moral values, good habits and manners then it may have a positive impact on his development. The teachers play a crucial role in the development of a child when they teach him how to read and write and provide books to read to gain knowledge.
Later the child develops the habit of reading books on various subjects because he is naturally curious to learn about zillion things so a good teacher provides him with the opportunity to do so. The parents may provide him with books other than what is prescribed in his school so that he may gain wider knowledge of history, geography, social science or technical matters depending on his interest so that he can develop a healthy personality with keen interest in reading and learning about subjects that are not covered in his school.
But some people think that it is their duty to imprint on their kids their belief system early so that they become their clones in order to perpetuate their religious beliefs generation after generation. This action on their part is motivated by their belief system that they learned from their parents who often use harsh methods like physical punishment for a recalcitrant kid who shows signs of rebellion against strict learning regimes.
We have heard of young girls or boys raised by their parents with strict rules running away from their suffocating conditions so that they can breathe the free air of liberty of choice but we also know that such kids often run into trouble by running away and joining a group that leads them into more trouble.
The hippie movement of the 1960 that grew out of the protest against war and persecution of others in the United States spread to many countries that made millions of young people join. It led to street protest, jail terms for many and an exodus of young people to other countries to avoid mandatory draft into the army.
But this sort of protest nationwide and even worldwide had a positive impact on their governments to end the war in Vietnam and other wars. The massive protest in France against the colonial rule in Algeria and the torture of a teen age girl Djamila Boupacha led to the independence of Algeria. This protest was based on moral grounds because they fought for justice.
But when the negative programming starts in a child’s life, it has a far sinister consequence for him that at first he fails to understand but later begins to realize that he has painted himself into a corner that he finds difficult to come out of. The rise of worldwide terrorism in every continent is one such outcome due to this harsh negative programming they were subjected to in their religious schools where they were taught intolerance of other faiths and hatred for people who are not like them.
The question to ask here is why some people feel that it is their duty to teach their kids intolerance and dislike for others who are not like them. There was a child who sought me out every Sunday in our college cafeteria where I worked to ask me why I was not following Jesus. She always said “my mom says…’ I could not make her understand that people have a right to be different and have a choice to believe or not to believe in something but she always said that “her mom said… etc.
Obviously she was an innocent child who was curious and wanted to know more on the subject of belief system but was being negatively programmed by her mother who was an avid church goer and a Bible thumper to boot. So I consider the children to be the innocent victims of those who try to make them clones like them who in their own childhood were made clones of their parents.
It is logical to think that the parents who were harshly raised by their parents when young would consider for their children the freedom of choice and be more supportive of them in their all-round development but the opposite happens.
The solution as being introduced in India for the first time is to give children of certain communities access to modern education that can wean them away from the fundamentalist schools that only teach intolerance and hatred for other faiths. The modern education provides them with the knowledge of numerous subjects, the use of computers and access to the worldwide pool of knowledge on any subject. Such modern schools are opening up in numerous states in India where the government provides the funding, qualified teachers and the computers for the children. It is wildly popular with the children who were previously taught by their religious teachers the fundamentalism of their religion and nothing else.
Source : Google photo of a modern school for children in India
Children who attend madrassas in both India and Pakistan are from backward, poor, underprivileged and financially impoverished families. These families however are also unfortunately large. In essence poverty and ignorance at work simultaneously results in the inability of parents to fully provide for their children resulting in madrassa enrollments. So children are sent to madrassas as a result of this poverty. There, children are taught not just religious education, but are clothed, fed and raised — something these families simply cannot manage.
There is a dire need to revisit madrassa curriculum. There are loud voices in Pakistan demanding this reform; to include sciences, mathematics and general sciences along with religion to be imparted to these students, to eliminate the threat of nefarious forces using these innocent children for their nefarious designs.
Madrasas teach kids to become radical Islamist but such teachings have no real life value in modern times. That’s the same reason why the Father of the nation of Turkey Kemal Ataturk banned Madrasa education from Turkey to make it a modern country. Hence, Turkish culture is the most forward and modern culture in the Islamic world.
On the other hand we have countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan etc where Madrasa culture has deteriorated the social fabric of those countries and has made them epicenter of radical Islam. Madrasas work by depriving a person of his critical thinking regimen. Once a person is deprived of critical thinking by age 16, it’s safe to assume he can easily be radicalized.
So while most madrasas directly don’t encourage radicalism, they indirectly end up contributing to radicalism by making their students more vulnerable to it by depriving them of critical thinking.
In a typical madrasa, the most glaring difference with a public school is how the teacher handles a cross questioning student. In a public school, the cross question will either be entertained or at worst ignored. In a madrasa asking a cross question to the teacher results in severe thrashing. So the student just becomes an instruction taking tool like a hard disc. He can only digest info, not process it.
The hard core fundamentalism is not unique to Islam. It exists in many religions but with the spread of education, people have started to realize the value of education that prepares the young people to meet the challenges in their life better than their parents. The study of numerous subjects including religion makes them more knowledgeable and tolerant of people of other faiths, ethnicity, race and beliefs. This leads to better social harmony in any country.
In Europe, people have started to move away from the fundamentalist practices of the previous generation by rejecting it and not attending churches and not joining convents or religious schools that train the future priests and nuns. As a result the church attendance has drastically fallen in many countries. Many countries face a shortage of priests and nuns so one priest is required to service many churches by turn. In other countries the churches employ foreign priests and nuns.
The only way to discourage the spread of radicalism is to give the young people the tools that they can use to meet all their challenges in life .It means giving them all the opportunities to get the kind of education and skills that prepares them better in the modern world. This is how each individual becomes a better person who contributes to the development of his country. Such a person becomes an asset and not a liability to any community and country because he is an educated person who is tolerant and respectful of others who are not like him.
Shouldn’t your child be one of them?
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