PESHAWAR - Scores of students moved into their modern madrassah in Peshawar, in the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) province, ignoring the new title designated to it as a terrorist training center by the United States Treasury.
I do not care what Americans think or say about us or about our Madrassah, Mohammad Hussein Mohmind, a teenaged student who has been memorizing (Hifz) noble Quran for last 4 months after completing Nazrah (open-book reading) told OnIslam.net.
Look at me, do I look like a terrorist, Hussein, who belongs to Mohmind agency that borders northeastern Afghanistan, asked in lighter vein with a big smile on his face.
My parents have sent me here for education, and not to become a terrorist".
Hussein in one of hundreds of students attending Jamia Taleemul Quran Wal Hadith, better known as Ganj Madrassah.
Donning a traditional Kurta Shalwar (loose trouser and shirt without collar), and wearing round white caps, students remain busy in their routine affairs.
As some students were busy in talking and splashing water on each other during ablution, others sat in queues to recite the Noble Qur'an, while half a dozen were preparing lunch in the kitchen.
Last week, the US Treasury has imposed economic sanctions on Ganj madrassah as "terrorist training centre" which provides support to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In a statement it said that the madrassah, located in Peshawar, was being used as a training and recruiting base for Fazeelatul Shaikh Abu Mohammed Ameen al-Peshawari, known as Shaikh Aminullah.
In 2009, both the US and the United Nations accused him of providing material support to al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The sanctions include a ban on US citizens having any dealings with individuals or assets linked to the school.
Haji Alam Sher, who founded the school as a mosque some 22 years ago, has ridiculed the US claims.
This is a pure worship and educational place. It has nothing to do with any kind of terrorist activity or training, an aging Alam Sher, who has recently turned 83, told OnIslam.net.
This has never been a closed or reserved place. Students' parents and their family members often visit them and they do not inform us in advance that they are coming to see their children. They can come anytime without any prior intimation, Alam Sher maintained.
The madrassah students rejected US accusations that the school was radicalizing them to conduct terrorist and insurgent activities and producing suicide bombers.
I have never witnessed any kind of training related activity here, Hussein who has been studying at the Madrassah for last two years said.
If there had been even a minor terrorism related activity, I would have been the first to inform my parents. I am very beloved to them (parents). They would never send me to a place where their son might turn out to be a terrorist, he maintained.
Jehanzeb Khan, another student of Hifz department of the Madrassah agreed.
"Look at the locality. Do u think a terrorist training facility can be run here, Jehanzeb, 17, told OnIslam.net pointing at residential units surrounding the Madrassah.
I think those who had passed on information to Americans about this so-called training facility, should have informed them about the location (of Madrassah) as well, he said in a ridiculing tone.
You think these hundreds of residents living around us, would remain silent if such activities were going on here, he remarked.
Jehanzeb says he does not know much about Shaikh Aminullah.
He never dealt with us because he was a prayer leader, and I used to offer prayers behind him. but I never had much interaction with him, he said.
Sher Alam, the founder of the madrassah, also denied accusations that Shaikh Aminullah might have used the Madrassah as training or recruitment facility while keeping him in dark.
I am in charge of the affairs here, he said in a strong tone.
Nothing can happen here without my knowledge or permission. if something wrong has happened here in past, or it is still going on, then I am responsible for that
Qari (Shaikh) Aminullah had been simply a regular prayer leader here for a few years and left eight months ago. I have never heard of him again, he said.
If you (Americans) have any proofs , then share with us. I will be waiting for them.
There are nearly 22,000 madrassahs in Pakistan, of which the majority offers conventional religious education.
Around 13000 madrassahs out of 22,000 are operating in Punjab, the province of 90 million people.
Nearly 12,000 madrassahs are administered by Wifaq-ul-Madaris Pakistan, which represents the Dubendi school of thought.
The remaining 10,000 madrassahs are administered by Tanzeem-ul-Madaris Pakistan (Brelvi school of thought), Tanzeem-ul-Madaris (Shiite), Wifaq-ul-Madaris Al-Salafia (Ahl-e-Hadit), and Rabita-tul-Madaris Pakistan (Jammat-e-Islami).
An estimated 2.2 million students are enrolled by the five madrassah boards across Pakistan.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net