Date: 10/07/2020
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The School that Says Osama Bin Laden Was a Hero

The Red Mosque makes a comeback in Pakistan. BBC:

A hardline cleric in Pakistan is teaching the ideas of Osama Bin Laden in religious schools for about 5,000 children. Even while the Pakistani government fights the Taliban in the north-west of the country, it has no plans to close schools educating what could be the next generation of pro-Taliban jihadis.

"We share the same objectives as the Taliban but we don't offer military training. We work on minds. The Taliban are more hands-on," says Abdul Aziz Ghazi, imam of Islamabad's controversial Red Mosque.

"We teach about the principles of jihad. It's up to students if they want to get military training after they leave here. We don't discourage them."

Ghazi runs eight seminaries - madrassas as they are known - the first of which was founded after his father went on a journey to meet Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

"Osama Bin Laden is a hero for us all. He stood up to America and he won. He inspired the mission of the school," says Ghazi.

In one of the seminaries, the library is named in honour of Bin Laden, who was killed by US Navy Seals in Pakistan in 2011.

Ghazi, his mosque and his seminaries, have come a long way since 2007, when the Pakistani army was sent to lay siege to the radical mosque, and later stormed it. The events left 100 dead, including many militants, and Ghazi's younger brother, mother and son.

Ghazi himself became known as the "Burka Mullah" after he was caught trying to escape wearing a woman's face veil and robe as a disguise.

Now 3,000 girls and 2,000 boys are studying at his institutions.

The syllabus is a heavy mix of Koranic recitation, Arabic and theology. Science, maths and arts are seen as "worldly" and barely feature. Many of the schools core texts have been written by Ghazi and printed within the seminaries' own printing room. The shortest courses are 12 months long but students can also enrol in an eight-year programme that delivers imam status upon graduation.

"The Taliban ran Afghanistan very well. They created a just society that was the envy of the world," says 24-year-old Abdullah who will graduate from the imam school next year.

He too cites Osama Bin Laden as his inspiration. His interpretation of Islam recommends stoning, public executions and limited access to education for women.

"We all have the same aim - to create a society in which there is no corruption. We want justice for everyone. The only way to achieve that is through Sharia law and an Islamic state," he says.

Abdullah is one of 18 imams who will graduate from the school in 2015, in order to carry these ideas into communities across Pakistan.