Emadi (2005) observed that outside fields of knowledge like geography or mathematics are not considered vital to the madrassah curriculum which instead prioritizes piety and knowledge of the Quran through correct recitation of Quranic verse. Teachers were not valued for their educational background or intellectual acuity but rather for being faithful servants of the religion and devoted to the perpetuation of religious commitment and discipline. Emadi (2005) stated that madrassahs today “bear little resemblance to their predecessors” and do little to encourage “innovative thinking and critical discourse” (p. 210), focusing instead on recitation of the Quran or the practice of Muslim rituals.
Madrassahs hold a special and not favorable place in the Western imagination with many Americans and their allies linking Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist Islamic terrorists to the radical madrassah schools many of them attended. However, Evans (2006) urged Westerners that madrassah education should not be perceived skeptically or fearfully but rather embraced as an “opportunity” to provide literacy to thousands of children, especially rural-based ones. Evans (2006) also noted that madrassahs often serve as havens for orphaned and poor children, providing them lodging, health care and education whereas the alternative would be child sex trafficking or forced labor. Evans (2006) observed that madrassahs are “naturally narrow-minded institutions” focusing, as they do, on inculcation in the Muslim religion, its mores and values. But Evans pointed to examples of job training and skill preparation in madrassahs around the world that provided education and career opportunities to underserved or disenfranchised students who might not otherwise have a chance at improving their conditions.
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