Militancy and Religious Education in Pakistan
USIP Press Books
March 2008
180 pp., 6" x 9"
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"This is a true benchmark study—it establishes the standard for future work on Pakistan’s vast educational/religious establishment. Fair bases her important recommendations on unprecedented fieldwork and a judicious use of the existing literature. This will be an invaluable guide for policymakers, both in Pakistan and in the community of states that wish to help that state develop a truly modern and effective educational system."

—Steven Cohen, Brookings Institution
An ever-expanding body of literature continues to concentrate on the supposed role the madrassah, or religious school, plays in threatening international security. Even though none of the 9/11 attackers studied in such schools, they are alleged to be incubators of militants in Pakistan and the region. In The Madrassah Challenge, C. Christine Fair explores the true significance of the madrassah and its role in Pakistan’s educational system.

In her rigorous analysis, Fair examines the number of these schools in Pakistan, their share of the educational market, the curriculum, socioeconomic background of the students, and the connections between the madrassah schools and militancy. Fair chronicles the Pakistan government’s efforts to reform the madrassah system and the support in Pakistan for such reform. She offers important policy implications and suggestions for policy initiatives that might address some of the main concerns emanating from ostensible ties between education and security inside and outside Pakistan.

Drawing upon extensive interviews with madrassah officials, teachers, and students in Pakistan; discussions with international government and nongovernmental analysts; and numerous survey data and opinion polls, Fair provides a comprehensive, rich, and timely contribution that helps separate fact from fiction.

A former senior research associate at USIP, C. Christine Fair is a senior political analyst with the RAND Corporation.


  • Foreword - Husain Haqanni
  • Introduction
  • Contextualizing Islamic Education in Pakistan
  • A Deeper Look at Pakistan's Islamic Schools
  • Madaris and Militancy
  • Government Reforms
  • Conclusions and Implications
  • Appendices
  • Index

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