A lot of people are shocked at the suspects captured for the murder of Sabeen Mahmud and the Ismaili community bus attack. Though there are many others who are not, whether any links are found with foreign intelligence agencies or not.
Many people are dumbfounded by the idea that graduates of the most prestigious secular educational institutes could be involved in such mindless, fanatic violence. A lot of apologists for religious seminaries are rather delighted that the fingers are being pointed toward students of schools and colleges. What they are completely ignoring is how comprehensively the effects of the teachings of their beloved seminaries and pulpits are engulfing the society. Actually, they should be proud of the results.
If these suspects did indeed commit these crimes, as at least one of them with a relatively “sinful”, affluent background has reportedly confessed, that alone is not evidence of the possibility of fundamentalist indoctrination of college students in our society. We know for a fact that there is a pattern. People living our educational institutions experience it firsthand every day.
The misconception that higher education completely turns you into a rational person that is peaceful in all respects is simply wishful thinking. This only goes to show how vulnerable our youth are to religious indoctrination. And if that is not a problem, they are certainly prone to fall for more stupid ideas at least. For example, killing people for “celebrating Valentine’s Day”, or because they happen to have a different religious sect or leader.
The biggest reason to that is that there is nothing about the technical scientific, though secular, education that shuts down the religious indoctrination on the side. As a matter of fact, technical education such as electrical and chemical engineering can only equip them with the necessary knowledge of executing their terrorist missions. Perhaps it would be realistic to expect college graduates to not to turn to religious fundamentalism, had critical reasoning been a mandatory course, just like Islamic Studies and Pakistan Studies are in the junior grades.
Even that is not a guarantee that people would not fall for religious fundamentalism because you always have the option of not applying what you are studying. An option which can be as effectively exercised as shrugging off evidence that disturbs your worldview.
So when people are making assumptions such as these, they are making two critical errors. They are overestimating the structure of the secular education, which does not necessarily promise strict indoctrination, if any at all, of a system of morality. They are also underestimating the effects of religious indoctrination dedicated to the very goal, and the fears and desires of the human nature that it addresses.
We make such mistakes not only in commenting on certain tragedies and acts of terrorism, but even when we vote. And it is probably the same mistake when we apologize for the acts and beliefs of the more radical of the religious fundamentalists across the globe.
Of course, what is the harm in voting for a religious party? It is not like they are going to bring about a Khomeniesque revolution overnight, are they?
However, reducing the problem of religious fundamentalism among college students to the lack of rational application only undermines the problem. Approaching religious fundamentalism at college should also be seen as a political movement, not too different to any other college union, just like the leftists or right nationalists.
You can adhere to the idea that Sharia, or say Marxism, should be enforced in the country without giving a second thought to what the doctrine actually is. You don’t need to know what the ramifications would be anyway. If you do and still want it, even better. Makes you a better foot soldier for the cause.
Besides, it must be harmless if it is a divinely sanctioned code of governance and lifestyle. We’ll change.
A version of this post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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