The parents of a student at a religious madrassa in Pakistan alleged to have links with Osama bin Laden and the Taliban say they are not worried about teachings imparted to their son.Jamrul Nisha of Labasa said her youngest son Nazim Ahmed Dean was sent to attend the Jamia Binuria madrassa in Karachi to be trained as a priest.
“It was his wish to go and study in Pakistan because he wants to become a high priest,” she said.
“Since my son has joined the madrassa he hasn’t had any problems at all with what they teach them. They have to read through the Koran until they know it by heart. This is all part of their studies.”
She said they were not aware that the madrassa had alleged links with the Taleban. All she knew was that it an institute where their son could receive the best in Islamic studies like other high priests and religious teachers in the country.
Her son began his studies at the Sabeto madrassa in Nadi when he was 16. He left for Pakistan for further studies and hopes to complete them in two and half years time.
The word madrassa has always been given a negative slant by the western world to mean a religious school for militants or Islam rebels.
Some anti-terror groups claimed that notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden addressed students at the religious school before the September 11 attacks on the US.
There are 13 Fiji citizens attending the madrassa, one of them is a female. She is training to become a maulani (female high priest) and is expected to study there for four years. At the school females study separately from the males and no interaction whatsoever is allowed.
Of the 13 students, two are from Labasa, one each from Tavua and Ba, two from Rakiraki, three from Nadi and the female student and othersfrom the central division/
Former students of the madrassa are now high priests or religious teachers of their faith. But they remain tightlipped about the kind of studies they underwent at these institutes.
Some are high priests in mosques around the capital. Getting them to talk about their experience at these religious schools was a hard task. Most of them referred the query to other Muslim maulana (high priest) or mufti (religious school head) which they said spent more years at the madrassa than the last person.
But one maulana from the western division decided to speak on the condition of anonymity.
He studied there for eight years and said claims by westerners of these Binuria links with militants were very old as they have been made ever since he attended the institute nearly 10 years ago.
“When we were studying there these Americans have been saying that we have links with Taliban. There are about 14,000 madrassa in Pakistan and we attend them to train as priests,” he said.
“We get to learn the Koran and know it by heart and also are taught the Prophet’s (Mohammed) teachings.”
The madrassa came into the limelight a few days ago after reports of deportation by the Pakistani government of some Islamic students from Fiji surfaced.
Even though the students have denied this, there is still a strong indication that some foreign students of the madrassa would be sent to their homeland.
Those blacklisted included students from the US, namely the two brothers who feature in the Karachi Kids documentary and several from Thailand.
It is unclear as to the reason for the deportation order but it is believed that this may have to do with expired visas.
Ms Nisha said her son called her on Tuesday night to reassure her that he wasn’t facing any problems as his visa was still valid.
Elders at a mosque in the capital also revealed they were in constant contact with their students in Pakistan after reading about the deportation threats in the newspaper.
They reassured their elders that the reports were just rumours as no Fiji citizen studying there was going to be affected.
Efforts to obtain comments from the Fiji Muslim League were unsuccessful.