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Global Islamism Monitor - No. 51

Edited by Ilan Berman
May 23, 2018


PAKISTAN'S "UNIVERSITY OF JIHAD"
s Islamabad serious about fighting terrorism? Publicly, the government of Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi has paid lip service to a more robust role for the country in countering extremist elements, both at home and abroad. Practically, however, the Pakistani state continues to perpetuate the problem. One example is the notorious educational facility dubbed the "university of jihad" - the Darul Uloom Haqqania religious seminary (madrassa) near Peshawar - which continues to receive millions of dollars in state funds for its operations. The seminary, which houses around 3,000 students, is infamous for its role as a finishing school for fighters who have gone on to join the Afghan Taliban and its Pakistani counterpart, the TTP. Darul Uloom's head, Sami-ul Haq, is an 80-year-old cleric who has been called the "father of the Taliban," and who recently pursued an unsuccessful bid for a seat in Pakistan's Senate.

Rather than marginalizing Darul Uloom, Pakistani authorities have continued to provide the institution with significant funding. Earlier this year, the provincial government of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region gave the madrassa $2.5 million in an effort to "mainstream" the institution. These official funds have been matched by donations from sympathizers in Pakistani politics, including the "Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf" (PTI) party, which gave Darul Uloom an analogous amount last year in a very public show of support. (
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 12, 2018)

EGYPT ATTEMPTS A NEW STRATEGY IN THE SINAI

For the past half-decade, security in the Sinai Peninsula - where the Islamic State's regional franchise (previously known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis) has taken up residence - has served as one of Egypt's most vexing challenges. The government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has repeatedly attempted to suppress the group by force, but with only limited success. Now, it appears, Cairo is trying a new tack. The Egyptian government has mapped out a new development strategy aimed at bringing resources - and stability - to the troubled region, a top regional official has confirmed. According to North Sinai governor Abdel Fattah Harhour, some LE175 million ($10 million) has been allocated this year alone for development of the unruly territory. The initiative is said to include "projects in the electricity sector, roads, improving the environment, strengthening local units, and strengthening security, traffic, and fire departments' services, beside other projects implemented through ministries in various sectors," as a way of strengthening the local government's grip on the region. (Cairo
Egypt Independent, March 22, 2018)

SAUDI ARABIA SEIZES THE MOMENT AGAINST THE MB...

As part of its ongoing domestic reform efforts, Saudi Arabia's government is moving against one of its chief ideological competitors. The Kingdom has formally announced that it will remove any school curricula found to be influenced by the teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood, and will fire any government employees who sympathize with the movement. The teachings of the Brotherhood, which has been formally banned in the Kingdom since 2014, are seen as a challenge to the country's official Wahhabi creed. Saudi officials are styling the step as part of the Kingdom's newfound commitment to "fight extremist ideologies" - part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's pledge to return the country to "moderate Islam" as part of his recent, ambitious agenda of political and economic change. (
The New Arab, March 22, 2018)

...AND MAKES A MOVE TOWARD RELIGIOUS PLURALISM

As part of its ongoing reform efforts, the Saudi government appears to be taking a more relaxed attitude toward the public practice of other faiths. Under a new deal reportedly signed between Saudi authorities and Vatican officials, the Holy See will be permitted to build churches in Saudi Arabia for the country's Christian citizens. The deal was concluded during the April visit to Riyadh of Jean-Louis Tauran of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (Doha
Al-Jazeera
, May 4, 2018)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The step is likely to have only limited practical effect, because of the minuscule number of Christians (estimated at around one million) among the Kingdom's total population of 28.5 million. Nevertheless, it represents an important symbolic gesture on the part of the House of Saud, which previously outlawed all other religions within the country, and subjected practitioners of other faiths to harsh punishment, including death.]