Remote madrassas may be turning boys into drones but then there are thousands of madrassas spread all over Pakistan’s urban centres that are producing millions of neo-drones who may not become suicide bombers but are totally unfit to live in this world. These kids need to be rescued
Take a little boy and incarcerate him in a remote madrassa. Keep him far away from the rest of the world and bar any interaction with humanity. Indoctrinate him with a distorted version of a religion and tell him that he does not belong to this world. Teach him about the fanciful world that awaits him in the heaven, and that in order to attain that he has to destroy everything that stands in his way, including his own body.
By the time he is sixteen, the child would have become a drone: an un-manned man. Instead of a lively teenager, we would have a robot in living tissue ready to detonate on remote orders.
At full steam ahead in Pakistan, this is a monstrous experiment in brainwashing and it is on a par with, if not worse than, Nazi Germany’s eugenics. They did it in the name of science; here, it is being done in the name of God and religion. On a very large scale, this is a hugely successful experiment in which nurture triumphs and nature takes a beating.
Are we really prisoners of our genes? Or are we prisoners of our parents, teachers and societies? From what we are witnessing, genetic influences are secondary to environment.
Behavioural scientists have Nobel Prize-winning research material in Pakistan. Freud, Skinner or Pavlov would have worked nights to study this. Pavlov’s dogs salivated at the sound of a bell; this young man would blow himself up at the sound of a bell — his phone bell. “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man,” goes the old Jesuit saying.
It may be sinister, the Jesuit saying, but the fact remains that nobody understands the vulnerability of a child’s brain better than priests. On the one hand, witness the vigilance of parents when they let a maulvi sahib into their house to teach the Holy Quran to their children; and, on the other hand, there are parents in the same society who ‘give’ a child to madrassa-running priests not until he is seven, but until he is 14 or 15 or forever.
‘Give’ is a generalisation. Given our attitudes towards birth control, an overabundance of young children is a natural outcome. In population growth, we are not too far behind the 6 percent population growth rate of our role model country, Saudi Arabia. There is an endless supply of young boys for madrassas. There are abducted, orphaned or abandoned young boys. Then there are parents who are too poor to bring up a child. They simply sell or donate their boys for tabligh or jihad or for any other religious duty. The religious pretence converts their dastardly act into a noble deed.
Priestly abuse of children has been going on for as long as there have been priests and children. But never has this been done in such an organised manner as is the case here in Pakistan. This abuse (aside from the pervasive sexual abuse) spells disaster. Just step out of a large city and all you would see around you are hundreds and thousands of little children — from six to thirty-six months old. Until these kids are of an age to observe the ways of their elders, they live and behave like untrained dogs. That’s the real Pakistan and no military or political leader is having sleepless nights over this.
Mismanaging the national security state has kept our governments so busy that social uplift has been low on their priorities. For sixty years we gave all our money for security and today we don’t even have that. Even in a perfect world, our leaders couldn’t have done anything about it. The job at hand is beyond their capabilities. Just take a roll call of our leaders in the last thirty years. They have been such a simple and basic lot that protocol and property left them no time for anything else.
Will this ever change or improve. No, not for another thirty years. That’s thirty years after we do the needful: that is, a drastic reduction in the number of children we produce, modern education for all on war-footing basis and to do this, schools and First World-standard teachers. So start counting once all this is in place.
From Zia to Zardari, and all others in between, no one even acknowledged that we have an overpopulation problem. Such is the fear of backlash from religious conservatives.
Here’s the equation: a population that breeds likes rats equals poverty equals despair equals cannon fodder for religious organisations and terrorist networks. Were these children better off working at motor workshops or making carpets? Perhaps the ILO or an NGO can answer this question. They seem awfully quiet on something much worse than child labour.
There’s a reason for that: in matters of faith or religious beliefs, no one dare object. All kinds of evil, illegal or inhuman practices can be given sanction if a particular religion or sect proves that it is part of its belief. You could be dying in a hospital but no one would give you a hallucinogenic drug to save your life. But, hey, you can get official approval for the use of cannabis or other hallucinogenic drugs if you prove that use of these substances is part of your religious belief. In 2006, the US Supreme Court did just that.
Our children face a frightening future not because of the Taliban (they are just a handful) but because of the ultra-conservative wave of religion that has swept this country. Remote madrassas may be turning boys into drones but then there are thousands of madrassas spread all over Pakistan’s urban centres that are producing millions of neo-drones who may not become suicide bombers but are totally unfit to live in this world. These kids need to be rescued.
Alfred Hitchcock, the great movie director who specialised in frightening people, was once driving in Switzerland when he suddenly pointed out of the car window and said, “That is the most frightening sight I have ever seen.” It was a priest in conversation with a little boy, his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
Hitchcock leaned out of the car window and shouted, “Run, little boy! Run for your life!”
The writer is a freelance columnist