In Afghanistan, Religious Schools Are A Breeding Ground For Islamic State Influence
Countless madrassas are said to be funded by Gulf sources associated with the spread of extremist Salafist views.
By Stefanie Glinski
KUNAR, Afghanistan—A small group of boys sits cross-legged on the floor, reciting the Quran under their breath, their bodies moving rhythmically to the Arabic words, in the light-flooded rooms of the religious school connected to the mosque in the village of Lamatak.
“At first I’d read the Arabic text without understanding, but our teachers are always here to answer our questions,” Fazil Haq, a green-eyed 14-year-old student, said excitedly. “God will be happy when I study the Quran.”
All of the children here in the madrassa in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province are getting their education free of charge. But Afghan security officials are increasingly concerned that too much of the money going to newly mushrooming madrassas such as this one could be encouraging extremism in the region. With the Kabul administration only able to financially support a minority of mosques and religious schools, money from Islamic State sympathizers might fund a growing majority of these institutions. Afghanistan’s Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs says there are likely tens of thousands of mosques in the country, but only about 7,000 are registered with the ministry.