Children crowd into a large, open room an hour drive from Peshawar, Pakistan, their young bodies packed together despite the lingering heat. A small boy with a serious face sits in the back, a copy of the Quran on the cement floor beside him.
Madrasas like this have come to dominate much of rural education in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the state has forgotten its children and the mullahs have room to step in.
But with the Taliban insurgency going strong and a rising Islamic militancy in Pakistan, experts worry that such schools — which often push a more fundamentalist brand of Islam than is traditional in these countries — have become fertile recruiting grounds for the Taliban.
With their own public education systems in shambles, however, Afghanistan and Pakistan are beginning to look to Turkey’s brand of Islamic education as a potential antidote to madrasas where there is often little offered beyond rote memorization of the Quran.