Taliban minister equates madrassas with universities

Khalil Rahman Haqqani, the Taliban’s refugee minister, has stated there is no difference between “madrassas or religious schools” and “universities.” He emphasized the importance of building madrassas, claiming they promote the country and strengthen the Islamic system.

In the past two years, the Taliban have focused on constructing religious schools, particularly “jihadi madrassas.” According to the Ministry of Education, the number of madrassas in Afghanistan has quintupled, now totaling over 6,600.

“Madrassas and universities are the same. Both are vital for the country’s progress and the Islamic system’s reinforcement,” Haqqani said at a gathering in Khost last weekend.

However, this stance raises questions about the feasibility of equating schools and universities in the era of scientific and technological advancement. Basir Ahmad Danishyar, a university lecturer, argued that prioritizing madrassas could distance the country from modern information and technology. “We respect madrassas in our Muslim country, but they can’t replace schools and universities,” Danishyar said.

The Taliban have established a General Directorate of Jihadi Madrassas within the Ministry of Education and initiated madrassa construction in various provinces, including Faryab, Panjshir, Nuristan, and Kabul.

While the Taliban restrict girls’ access to schools and universities, the Ministry of Education encourages girls to attend school at any age. This policy has faced criticism from female students who argue that madrassas cannot substitute for universities.

“I, as a university student barred from education in my fifth year, find it unacceptable that a madrassa could replace a university,” said Parisa, a student.

The Ministry of Education claims that in the 5,000 rural madrassas, religious and modern sciences are taught. Yet, university professors and students express concerns about schools and universities potentially transforming into religious schools, warning that neglecting formal education could hinder societal progress.