09 March, 2021

Binary Fission

Computers are but a false illusion of the modernity Musharraf wants in Pakistan's madrassas

Sanjoy Ghosh
Binary Fission
Between a long ceremonial cap and a flowing beard, the severe eyes of the school principal shift and rest on several people in his crowded cabin. Being an Islamic scholar, Sarfraz Naeemi has to bear the additional burden of meeting anxious men who need urgent guidance on sudden inheritance, divorce and other crossings. Then two black goats come in. "They are donations from a well-wisher," he says.

A young student obediently drags the food away. A fat woman who has covered half her face is standing by Naeemi's side and asking for alms. "We ourselves have nothing," the principal says, very irritated, asking her to go away. But she stands there begging. Outside his cabin, all around a courtyard, young boys are memorising the Quran, swaying forward and backward in a steady motion as though that will help the words settle somewhere in the mind. In a few years, they will recite from memory 6,600 verses from the holy book. There are older boys, between 15 and 25 years of age, who are passing through a hard eight-year course called Dars-i-Nizami which will teach them the Quran in...

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