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Transnational links of Afghan madrasas: Implications for the reform of religious education


Described as “terrorist factories”, the South Asian madrasas have become the subject of great controversy since September 11, 2001. In Afghanistan, people commonly blame Pakistani madrasas for recruiting Afghan youth into militant groups. In response, the Afghan government has initiated a comprehensive reform of the Islamic education sector. Yet, little analytical attention has been paid to Afghan madrasas and their transnational links. This article examines more closely the role of religious education in Afghanistan, transnational connections with madrasas in Pakistan, the alleged links to militancy, and the scope for reform of the religious education sector in Afghanistan.

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  1. 1.

    The word “madrasa” is rooted in the Arabic word “darasa”, which means “to study” (Noor, Sikand, and Van Bruinessen 2008, p. 9). In South Asia, “madrasa” is commonly understood as a school that imparts Islamic knowledge and is often a generic term for higher-level Islamic educational institutions including madrasa “dar ul uloom” (house of knowledge/high schools) and “jamia” (university). The madrasas differ from the “dar ul hifaz”—commonly called “Quran schools”—that teach children elementary Islam and memorization and recitation of the Quran (Bano 2007; Fair 2008).


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kaja Borchgrevink.

Additional information

Acknowledgements: The author thanks all those involved in this project. In particular, valuable cooperation, constructive comments, advice, and encouragement came from Mirwais Wardak, Kanishka Nawabi, and Idrees Zaman at the Cooperation for Peace and Unity (CPAU), Kristian Berg Harpviken, the external reviewers, and Professor Lene Buchert.

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Borchgrevink, K. Transnational links of Afghan madrasas: Implications for the reform of religious education. Prospects 43, 69–84 (2013).

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  • Religious education
  • Madrasas
  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan
  • Transnational links
  • Militancy
  • Radicalization
  • Religious education reform