Report: U.S. military funds building of Islamic schools

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 1, 2008

Stars and Stripes, The U.S. military is funding the construction of Islamic schools, or madrassas, in the east of Afghanistan in an attempt to stem the tide of young people going to radical religious schools in Pakistan, London’s Financial Times reported Wednesday.

U.S. reconstruction cash has helped establish two state-run madrassas in the province of Khost, and a third is on its way, the Times reported.

Navy Cmdr. David Adams, head of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team in Khost, the province on the border with Pakistan, said more were planned.

“We would like to see small religious schools in every district so that parents don’t have to send their children over the border [to Pakistan],” he told the Times.

In parts of eastern Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers distribute copies of the Quran and “mosque refurbishment kits” that include sound systems powered by solar panels and prayer rugs, the Times reported.

Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan’s minister of education, is pushing for madrassas to fall within the state system to ensure that the curriculum includes secular disciplines such as science and languages as well as traditional religious education, according to the paper.

Col. Martin Schweitzer, brigade commander of Task Force Fury, which is responsible for security and reconstruction in parts of eastern Afghanistan, told the Times he had been reassured by Atmar’s approach.

“We’re talking separate schools for boys and girls to develop the curriculum that’s within their governmental parameters of how they want [to develop] their people and their country, their vision and their way of life,” he is quoted as saying.