WikiLeaks cables: UK hopes to influence Islamic education in Bangladesh
British officials working with US to change madrasa curriculum as a 'common counter-terrorism goal', cables reveal
A leaked diplomatic cable, released on WikiLeaks, has revealed how the Department for International Development (DFID) has been working with the US to change the curriculum of thousands of madrasas as a "common counter-terrorism goal".
In one cable discussing British and American counter-terrorism tactics for Bangladesh, the US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, notes how their plans involved asking the country's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, to develop and implement a standardised curriculum for unregulated Islamic madrassah schools.
The moves followed a proposal for a madrasa "curriculum development programme" to the Bangladeshi government by the US government development agency, USAid.
There are around 64,000 Islamic schools in Bangladesh. They are seen as an important part of Bangladesh's education system, often providing free schooling to children whose parents are unable to send them to conventional schools.
However, the 15,000 or so unregulated madrasas have been a constant cause for concern for the current government, which claims the standard of education received is poorer than average.
Some have also blamed madrasas for radicalising children, with claims emerging that they could be used to set up jihadist training camps.
Last week, the Bangladeshi government ordered an investigation into funding for madrasas after claims that banned Islamic militant group Hizb-ut-Tahrir had been establishing bases there.
Dr Ghaysuddin Siddiqui, of the Muslim Institute in London, agreed that DFID's intervention was an attempt to prevent radicalisation of Muslim youths in South Asia. "This is a very old problem," he said. "There has been a need to look at the curriculum in unregulated madrasas for a very long time."
DFID declined to comment.
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