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Insider Take on the Karachi Kids Fiasco

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A few months ago a trailer for a “documentary” called ‘Karachi Kids’ surfaced on YouTube.

[youtube L1V3bB_BxQ4]

The documentary was single-handedly made by Imran Raza – a young, opportunistic, and inexperienced film-maker trying desperately to make a name for himself. His thoughts on Islam are pretty clear, his graduation project from USC was a film about a young Muslim who is in a rock band and lives with his model girlfriend. When the tragedy of September 11 occurs he is conflicted about his religion and just wants things to go back to normal. His bio also states that he is a singer in some sufi super rock group.”

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The “documentary” is about 2 brothers from Atlanta who went to study at Jamia Binoria. Jamia Binoria is a madrasah, an Islamic Seminary in Karachi, Pakistan. I studied and graduated from Jamia Binoria. It is the main destination for foreign students wanting to study Islam in Pakistan.

Imran Raza visited the Jamia under the guise of being an unbiased film maker and then concocted a slanderous story and depiction of the Institution.

The documentary makes many erroneous claims, the craziest is that Osama bin Laden visited and spoke at the Jamia before 9-11. I was there studying at the time Mr. Raza claims OBL was there, and believe me I would’ve heard if he dropped by. I’ll point out a few more lies and inaccuracies from the trailer itself.

Students have cell phones and some talk to their parents on a daily basis. Students are provided internet connections to their rooms and can bring laptop computers. The dorms are air-conditioned, carpeted, and have refrigerators. Students are free to walk out the door during free-time, so the whole captivity thing was a farce. In fact, my personal opinion is that the students have too much freedom to come and go as they please, when you consider the volatile state of Karachi and Pakistan overall. When I mentioned this to the principal he said he can not turn his school into a prison. The restroom shown in the trailer is nowhere to be found on campus. My friends and I struggled to remember a restroom in the whole campus that looked like that and could not. The meat being cut was taken at some random ‘qasai ki dukan’ (butcher’s shop). The food being served is also a complete lie. The Jamia serves very good food to the students. In fact there is a very, very nice restaurant on campus (anyone who’s been there will tell you).

Now I had intended to write about this earlier, but in Ramadan I was visited by one of my teachers and the principal of Jamia Binoria, Mufti Muhammed Naeem (he’s shown in the trailer above). He was able to give me the full inside story.

When the documentary was made they were disturbed, but not too concerned. The situation became serious once FOX News ran the story. Texas Congressman Mike McCaul jumped on the opportunity for some face-time and proposed a bill requiring Americans in overseas religious schools to return home. Mufti Naeem said calls started pouring in from everywhere; parents, colleagues, local and national government, and the US Consulate. Now let me explain the relationship the Jamia has with the US Consulate. American students have been studying at the Jamia since 1988, with about 60 American students there currently. Mufti Naeem established formal relations with the Consulate and State Department early on to avoid any misunderstandings. The Consul General has visited the Jamia every year from then on. They tour the campus, interview the students, and have lunch at the madrasah. This has continued after 9-11 as well. As I was saying, the US Consulate called, acknowledged the falsity of the documentary, and scheduled a visit. During the visit they did the regular bit, gave letters from the Consulate to all the American students clearing them in case of travel, and offered some interesting advice to Mufti Naeem. Call CNN. He said he was skeptical at first, but called CNN upon their insistence. The CNN team of 6 people stayed at the Jamia for a whole week. They spoke to all the students, interviewed staff, observed classes, and looked in every crack in the walls. In the end, they didn’t find any terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, or OBL. CNN then sat down with Raza and discussed their findings with him. How did he respond? Why don’t you see for yourself:

[youtube gJPfFsGwEIo]

A couple of final thoughts: CNN’s statement that the Binori Town madrasah was visited by OBL has not been proven and it is also not located across the street but on the other side of town. I will admit that maybe this whole mess could have been avoided by screening and checking Imran Raza before granting him access to the Jamia and its students, and I discussed this with the principal. He said due to the intense scrutiny they deal with, he has to run a very open and transparent operation and allow access to anyone requesting it. Madaris and Darul-Ulooms in Pakistan have dealt with a lot of difficulty. Admittedly, some Madaris have an element of militancy, but that is not the case with the vast majority. Most of the Madaris are traditional institutions of learning where Islam is studied from the classical sources. The government of Pakistan has always treated Madarais as orphan children (ironic, considering that the Madaris many times serve as orphanages due to the government not doing its job.) So foreign countries have now also found the Madaris to be good scapegoats and boogeymen. When the government of Pakistan was calling for the “reform” of Madaris, they didn’t bother to inform anyone of all the contributions and government funding they provide: zero, zilch, nada. In fact, many Madaris have incorporated secular education, and provide secular studies and computer literacy classes to graduates.

I also thought this was a good example of how sometimes we jump at the opportunity for Dawah or good PR due to the constant beating we take in the media, but sometimes it back-fires. Recently a brother from my community scheduled a visit to the masjid for a radio station, not knowing that they were evangelicals who wanted to “save us”. When an opportunity presents itself, its better to slow down for a second and do some research. Allah knows best.

Mr. Raza’s not selling his “documentary” anymore. May Allah guide him to the truth.

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Abdul Nasir Jangda is the founder and director of Qalam Institute. He is a hafiz and specialist in Sīrah & Hanafi Fiqh with a Bachelor's from Jamia Binoria, a Master’s in Arabic from Karachi University, and a Master’s in Islamic Studies from the University of Sindh.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Pingback: Insider Take on the Karachi Kids Fiasco | Schools online

  2. Asim

    October 24, 2008 at 2:25 AM

    Dang thats messed up. I don’t understand how such ‘mistakes’ can be the cornerstone of your movie. Epic Fail. That Congressman got OWNED but he didn’t admit it.

  3. Brent

    October 24, 2008 at 8:20 AM

    Jazaakumullaahu khayran. The boys were cute (maa shaa Allaah)

  4. SaqibSaab

    October 24, 2008 at 9:12 AM

    @ Imam Nasir: JazakAllah khair for an excellent read and recap. When you mentioned things back firing on us, it’s sad that in some scenarios now, that back firing is even coming from Muslims. May Allah guide and protect us.

    I don’t understand how such ‘mistakes’ can be the cornerstone of your movie. Epic Fail. That Congressman got OWNED but he didn’t admit it.

    @Asim: Epic fail, indeed. When you have a clearly malicious intent and agenda behind a motive, anything can fly.

  5. J

    October 24, 2008 at 9:17 AM

    Can’t he be sued for slander or libel?

  6. MR

    October 24, 2008 at 9:18 AM

    Imran Raza just wanted some publicity. And right now if you want publicity, attack Islam or something Islamic.

  7. Abeer

    October 24, 2008 at 10:34 AM

    Being a resident of Karachi, I feel even more sad that Karachi is being depicted in such a manner. Ofcourse, it has it problems but I believe they are being created and fuelled by external enemies that don’t wish to see Pakistan flourish. All the same, it is frustrating to see madrassahs being defamed and shown as factories churning out terrorists.

  8. Ibn Masood

    October 24, 2008 at 12:14 PM

    I think brother Asim put it in the best words:

    Epic Fail

  9. Muneeb

    October 24, 2008 at 1:04 PM

    I was just checking the film’s website and guess what I found? Apart from filming those kids’ lives without their parents’ permission, they even have a picture of the passport of one of those kids on the website:
    (link removed – yes its public but no need to add it here)

    A minor’s passport? With complete name, birthdate, passport number??

    Can’t the guy be sued for this breach of privacy??

  10. Abu Noor Mansoor

    October 24, 2008 at 5:51 PM

    Wow, I know that uncle in the video!

  11. Amad

    October 24, 2008 at 10:57 PM

    More than Imran Raza, I blame Rep. Mike McCaul, who in his desire to become a hero, did not even have his staff check basic facts! Where is the media, other than CNN, jumping on Raza for fabricating the story? Why isn’t he being questioned for the psychological impact that he has caused the parents of the children at the school? He absolutely should be sued for slander, and the parents of the kids in the movie have a great case for it, and the impact that it has had on them. If we let this “Muslim” Hannity get away with these lies (I bet he never thought that someone would check up on his story, so big KUDOS to CNN), then there will be more jihadi-hunters out to make a quick buck in exposing the next big “front” in jihad.

    Imran Raza: shame on you. Don’t you have an iota of fairness before thinking of adding to the islamophobia already rampant in this country?? People like you, Zuhdi Jasser, Irshad Manji and other Muslim Uncle Toms need to be REMOVED from the Muslim media scene, because of the massive disinformation and distortions that you are busy spreading. You aid the terrorists by trying to weaken the mainstream Muslims. May Allah reward you with what you all deserve.

  12. Michael

    October 25, 2008 at 9:14 AM

    What were the errors he acknowledged? From what I saw, there was one mistake in the film — the claim that Bin Laden spoke at the Binoria. Other than that, the film and the kids speak for themselves. Who would send their kid to such an institution?

  13. Ahmad AlFarsi

    October 25, 2008 at 1:00 PM

    Michael, how about these errors. Imam Nasir (the author of this article) mentions some of the other errors in this film. Imam Nasir said:

    The restroom shown in the trailer is nowhere to be found on campus. My friends and I struggled to remember a restroom in the whole campus that looked like that and could not. The meat being cut was taken at some random ‘qasai ki dukan’ (butcher’s shop). The food being served is also a complete lie. The Jamia serves very good food to the students. In fact there is a very, very nice restaurant on campus (anyone who’s been there will tell you).

    So, now that it is clear that the institution is not the “dirty disgusting” that the film is dishonestly picturing it as… why would you say “who would send their kid to such an institution?”

  14. DrM

    October 25, 2008 at 1:01 PM

    Only one mistake, Michael? What about the fact that the film maker spent 3 years at the WRONG school, falsely accusing of militancy? The whole thing is a farce. Only paranoid anti-Muslim idiots buy into this sort of neocon inspired fictitious garbage.
    The aims of this fiasco goes beyond a Congressman or a third rate film maker, but to deny Muslims access to Islamic institutions overseas. That being said, you don’t have to go to a religious institution in the Islamic world to have negative views of the US, just watch the TV or read the newspaper.

  15. Musa Franco

    October 25, 2008 at 1:26 PM

    Jazak allahu Khair.

    An excellent contribution to muslimmatters. May Allah bless you Sheikh. Losers always want to make a name for themselves amongst the muslims and care not to distinguish themselves amongst the muslims. Because people like this do not care of what muslims think anyway.

    Salaam Alaykum

    Akhukum

    Musa Al Colombee

  16. aarij

    October 25, 2008 at 2:46 PM

    Br. Ahmad and others, you can’t make the blind see nor can you make the deaf hear.

    Imam Nasir, this was an amazing post, may Allah reward you immensely for it. This type of slander needs to be ruthlessly exposed and the guilty parties put to shame without any mercy.

    I really look forward to going to Jamia Binoria whenever I go to Karachi next time, in sha Allah ta’ala.

  17. AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 25, 2008 at 4:30 PM

    bismillah. everyone who thinks this was a great post — i agree with you. so, are you going to stay quiet and let the truth stay buried? or will you digg this article so that the truth can reach the light of day?

    when you digg articles — you help make the story more visible. every digg helps, so spread the news to your friends.

    copy the link below and send it in an e-mail to your friends.

    that is, if you want the truth about the karachi kids to be known.

    http://digg.com/world_news/Insider_Take_on_the_Karachi_Kids_Fiasco

  18. Michael

    October 26, 2008 at 10:22 AM

    CNN did not accuse the film maker of taking a picture in a random butcher show and it was the kids themselves that called the place disgusting. You are doing exactly what you accuse the filmmaker of doing.

    There are plenty of mosques and places in the United States to learn and practice Islam. I don’t see how many family would deposit their children in a foreign place and immerse them in a language they cannot speak. In addition, most scholars will tell you that sexual abuse is rampant in madrassas.

  19. Taha

    October 26, 2008 at 2:54 PM

    Being an american with pakistani ancestory, I am appalled by the accusations that so many westerners make against these schools. Now no dout it is true that there may be some schools that are spreading hate but the reality is that most of these places are good institutions that teach good values. I have visited some of these schools during jumah salat in karachi and i find the teachers actually to be kind, honorable individuals. I cannot believe that so many are attacking these insitutions for teaching people to become scholars and protectors of the book of allah and We dont defend it. Be careful what the media says becuase as we have all learned, 95 percent is a lie

  20. DrM

    October 26, 2008 at 11:56 PM

    “CNN did not accuse the film maker of taking a picture in a random butcher show and it was the kids themselves that called the place disgusting. You are doing exactly what you accuse the filmmaker of doing.”

    The kids said it was “disgusting” when they first went there unused to the surroundings. Why did they say nothing bad after they left the place. Why is that? You obviously are being very selective about the video clip, and yes the film makers sought to deceive viewers with this propaganda.

    “There are plenty of mosques and places in the United States to learn and practice Islam. I don’t see how many family would deposit their children in a foreign place and immerse them in a language they cannot speak. In addition, most scholars will tell you that sexual abuse is rampant in madrassas.”

    Sexual abuse? Don’t confuse your churches with madrassas, idiot. The standard of madrassas in the US lags behind that of Pakistan and other countries in the Islamic world. Name me a single madrassa in the US which teaches Muslim children to become Hafiz? Pakistan is not a foreign country for Pakistani=American kids who speak both English and Urdu. But more importantly, you have no right dictating to us where and how to teach our own children.
    Take your orientalist stereotypes and shove ’em.

  21. Michael

    October 27, 2008 at 7:03 AM

    No sexual abuse?

    “Muslim leaders fear thousands of children are abused at madrassas” The Independent

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/muslim-leaders-fear-thousands-of-children-are-abused-at-madrassas-470922.html

    Madrassa Children “at risk of abuse”
    UP TO 100,000 Muslim children studying in Britain’s madrassas are at “significant risk” of physical or sexual abuse, according to the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain.

    http://www.muslimparliament.org.uk/Childprotect_Times.html

  22. abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 27, 2008 at 7:37 AM

    innalhamdolillah. people who go to extremes in argument often make their own worst enemies.

    DrM — mashaAllah, Houston is just one example of a city in the US with schools for the full-time teaching of hifdh of Qur’an. not one, but two full-time schools with graduates known as far away as Australia, mashaAllah. the schools have been so successful that the head of one of them is now planning a third school that will be only for female students, inshaAllah.

    likewise i have met teachers from a full-time hifdh school just outside of Chicago, mashaAllah.

    and when i lived in California, one had recently opened and was flourishing mashaAllah in So.Cal.

    and these are just schools i know about — without making any effort to survey all available locations.

    though such schools are here, and i pray they will increase in success and students inshaAllah. i do not discourage any parent from sending children abroad for hifdh-training. i believe in the good accomplished in the vast majority of such schools — here and abroad. clearly even the US state department has good relations with this particular school. and given that finding otherwise would only have been of benefit to US govt foreign policy, that is a particularly clarion endorsement.

  23. Amad

    October 27, 2008 at 10:28 AM

    Michael, while you point to two speculative reports about sexual abuse (not to say that isolated cases of such abuse don’t happen), it is common knowledge and proven fact that child molestation by priests is extremely pervasive. That doesn’t mean all or most priests are pedophiles of course, but there has been enough cases, such that for you to bring this up as a Muslim problem, is like pot calling kettle black.

  24. Michael

    October 27, 2008 at 12:57 PM

    Amad:

    The Catholic Church has accepted (for the most part) responsibility for abuse but most of the Muslim community continues to deny the existence of a problem.

    A Google search will show hundreds of examples of such abuse.

  25. AbdulNasir Jangda

    October 27, 2008 at 3:44 PM

    Michael:

    I am telling you from first hand experience, that any American kid will think a third world country is disgusting. Plus, the kids have said multiple times that they were coaxed into what they said in the documentary. The kids were 13 and 14 years old. Imran Raza took advantage of them being young and impressionable.

    Saying that sexual abuse is rampant in Madaris due to isolated cases is akin to saying sexual abuse is rampant is American public schools because of Mary Kay LeTourneau, Debra Lafave, Jennifer Gwynn Tarkenton, Jenna Ashley Herrmann, Kelsey Peterson, and the list goes on and on.

    Lastly, there are schools for classical Islamic learning being established in the US. In fact, Mufti Naeem’s advice to foreign students graduating from Jamia Binoria is to establish schools in their countries, so that students do not have to travel overseas to study Islam.

  26. Shawn

    October 27, 2008 at 6:21 PM

    I came across this article and I wanted to comment and say that my cousin and his sister also studied at this school.
    after their first year there I remember them telling me that Pakistan was not all that great, but they liked the school because it gave them all the amenities they needed and were used to.

    Like having their laundry done for them, drivers from the school provided if they need to go somewhere. Also from what I hear their lunch came from a restaurant that the school has built for the foreign students that serves everything from chinese food to hamburgers? since the author is an alum of this place I was wondering if this is true? because I was confused when the child in the video said the food was gross, because this was not what I had heard.

    I have a 3 year old son, and I would love to one day be able to give him the opportunity to study Islam from experienced teachers in a place that does everything they can to make my child as comfortable as possible.

  27. fais

    October 27, 2008 at 6:35 PM

    Michael, what do british madrasas have to do with binoria? Do you even know what country jamia binoria is located in?

  28. AbdulNasir Jangda

    October 27, 2008 at 9:02 PM

    Shawn:

    What your cousins have told you is the truth. I referenced the restaurant in the article, and as I said, its very nice. Transportation with a driver is provided for the foreign students. There is a dry cleaning and laundry service on the premises. They have cooks and janitors at the school. There is an internet cafe on site, and now they provide connections to the rooms. I have a friend who even had an elaborate aquarium with exotic fish in it! Now does that sound anything like the school the documentary depicts?

  29. Michael

    October 28, 2008 at 12:18 AM

    British madrassa have nothing to do with the Binoria (located in Karachi, Pakistan, in case you thought I didn’t know) but there is more than enough evidence of similar treatment of children in madrassas in Pakistan and other places. They are easily discoverable, if you wanted to find them (but I suspect that you would rather ignore this crime against children).

  30. Taha

    October 28, 2008 at 8:05 PM

    This issue is pointless to bring up. Michael how many madrassas have you been to in pakistan and have seen first hand abuse. Please do not compare institutions abroad to those in western countries. They are far better and have centuries of experience compared to their western counterpart.

  31. LearningArabic

    October 29, 2008 at 7:59 PM

    Great Post Shaykh Abdul Nasir,

    I saw this video a long time ago as many of my teachers in California also studied at Jamia Binoria. They also told me about many of the misconceptions that were portrayed in Imran Raza’s video. If anything, Jamia Binoria can be a little too chill at times.

    BTW Shaykh, I think I know your friend with the elaborate fish tank, lol.

  32. Michael

    October 29, 2008 at 11:14 PM

    Dont turn a blind eye to injustice:

    “In this lane itself, there are at least six madrassas,” said Abdul Waheed Khan, founder and director of the Bright Educational Society, a non-profit educational institution in Qasba Colony, a Pashtun-dominated settlement in Karachi.

    In 1990, Khan enrolled in a madrassa for one year to get a taste of life on the inside.

    “I came out of it, and I thought, `What kind of life is this for little children?’ They could not play or enjoy their lives. I saw sexual abuse and rape, and the children were learning by rote from teachers who were themselves uneducated.”

    http://povertynewsblog.blogspot.com/2008/01/pakistans-madrassas-thriving-amid.html

  33. Michael

    October 29, 2008 at 11:15 PM

    A Pakistani minister has revealed hundreds of cases of alleged child sex abuse at Islamic schools, or madrassas.

    There were 500 complaints this year of abuse allegedly committed by clerics, Aamer Liaquat Hussain, a minister in the religious affairs department, said.

    That compares with 2,000 last year, but as yet there have been no successful prosecutions, Mr Hussain told the BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4084951.stm

  34. Michael

    October 29, 2008 at 11:28 PM

    One more for good measure.

    The accounts are disturbing: beatings, rape and imprisonment with shackles and leg irons. Abuse accusations from hundreds of children sent to study at Islamic schools are prompting growing calls from parents and rights groups for a full-scale investigation.

    But officials have moved slowly and cautiously in looking into the charges of mistreatment in Koranic schools, or madrasas – pointing to a paradox across much of the Muslim world: It’s often easier to tackle Islamic militants than to confront the cultural taboo on publicly airing alleged sex crimes and challenging influential clerics.

    Still, if Islamic institutions ever face a reckoning over sexual abuse – such as the Roman Catholic upheavals in recent years – it could begin in Pakistan, where institutions already face unprecedented scrutiny by anti-terrorism agents.

    “We are forcing people to look this problem in the eye,” said Zia Ahmed Awan, whose group Madadgaar, or Helper, compiles reports of sexual abuse of children in Pakistan. “It is not anti-Muslim. It is not anti-cleric. We are looking out for the most vulnerable in society.”

    http://articles.latimes.com/2005/oct/09/news/adfg-abuse9

  35. Shawn

    October 30, 2008 at 11:14 AM

    Hahaha Wth is wrong with u dude?

    Every religion, culture, race of people have sinners and evil people.

    Doesn’t mean you can stereotype the whole population….unless your completely ignorant…In which case go ahead.

  36. fais

    October 30, 2008 at 11:41 AM

    Michael strikes upon a very valuable point. Ignorance is very prevalent in our our deen… and it is spreading. None of us can deny our ummah as a whole is in a sad, desperate state of affair, as the uneducated and the illiterate comprise our teachers and rulers. We will never reach the pinnacle of greatness as we once did unless we combat this every growing problem. Take Michael’s point to heart my muslim brothers and sisters, send your kids to jamia binoria! It is a very practical solution which has proven time and again to be a very successful , (i mean… check out our imam yall!) Teach our kids deen the best way, so they can learn, implement and teach others!

  37. Ayman Fadel

    July 8, 2015 at 11:23 AM

    I had never heard of this documentary until a decision in an employment discrimination case in Tennessee. A Muslim Dept of Homeland Security employee objected to it during a training course, and that objection led to his dismissal.

    http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2159061-u-s-district-judge-tena-campbells-ruling-deossie.html

    See page 6 of the court decision.

    Note that the judge wrote “Karachi Boys” in the decision rather than “Karachi Kids.”

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