Monday, January 22, 2007

Definition of Madrassa

From the OED (Subscription Required)

1. In Muslim countries: a school of Islamic theology and law; (also more generally) a school (esp. a secondary school) or institution of higher Islamic education.

1616 R. JOHNSON tr. G. Botero Relations most Famous Kingdoms (rev. ed.) 345 And to the trayning vp of these professors, there are certaine Houses (or Colledges) called Medressæ in Constantinople, Adrianople, Burssia, and other places. 1662 J. DAVIES tr. A. Olearius Voy. Ambassadors 214 We..found that it was a School or College, which they call Mandresa, of which kind there are very many all over Persia. 1662 J. DAVIES tr. A. Olearius Voy. Ambassadors 333 They [sc. the Persians] have their Colleges, or Universities, which they call Medressa. 1687 A. LOVELL tr. J. de Thevenot Trav. II. 80 Lodging Rooms for the Scholars of the Medrese. 1819 T. HOPE Anastasius (1820) III. xi. 271 His fortune was spent in placing me in a Medressé. 1834 J. MORIER Ayesha I. xii. 269 The medresseh, or school, which adjoined the principal mosque. 1841 Penny Cycl. XX. 375/2 (Samarcand) The mesids (lower schools) and medresses (high schools or colleges). 1876 A. ARNOLD in Contemp. Rev. June 47 The Madrassee or mosque school of Ispahan. 1882 E. O'DONOVAN Merv Oasis xvi. I. 276 Within sight are three medressés, or collegiate institutions, for the instruction of Turcoman students for the priesthood. 1920 Blackwood's Mag. Dec. 750/1 The ‘universities’{em}‘Medarsas’{em}of Fez and Marrakesh..are now open once more to the Christian visitor. 1923 G. CASSERLY Algeria To-day iii. 58 There is a finely-built Medersa or theological college for Mahommedans. 1968 Vogue 15 Apr. 124/2 Fès, the ancient university city of Morocco..this crowded ancient place of mosques and medersas. 1992 Gourmet Sept. 156/1 Above us rose centuries-old buildings, now decrepit and black with soot, including the mosque and madrasa (theological school) of Sultan Barquq, built in 1386.

2. In other Muslim communities (esp. South Africa, in form madressa S. Afr. /m{schwa}{sm}dres{schwa}/): a Muslim school, operating after normal school hours and teaching children subjects such as Islamic history, Islamic belief, and the reading, memorizing, and reciting of the Qur'an.
1881 HUNTER in Encycl. Brit. XII. 774/2 The Calcutta madrasa for Mahometan teaching. 1949 E. HELLMANN Handbk. Race Relations in S. Afr. 582 The Muslims have their mosques and madressas where religion is formally taught to the young and old. 1979 S. Afr. Panorama Dec. 25 Muslim educational institutions such as the madressas attached to the mosques. 1998 Sunday Times (Johannesburg) (Electronic ed.) 28 June, Not only is she an accomplished horsewoman, but she has also mastered Arabic and taught at a madressa.

It's quite clear that some aren't going to accept that the definition of madrassa precludes the Besuki Primary School that Barack Obama attended from being a madrassa, but so goes it with the postmodern concept of truth being relative.

Madrassas are age old institutions that train Muslims in Islam. Since the late 1970s, the Saudis have exported a type of madrassa that espouses a radical form of Islam based on Wahhabism, but the level of ignorance about the basic idea of what a madrassa is quite high with Moonie owned and operated Insight magazine trying to claim that Obama may have attended a radical madrassa funded by the Saudis in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Unfortunately for Insight and others pushing this story, the Indonesian press already found out what school Obama attended that was predominantly Muslim and it was Besuki Primary School in the Mentung District--apparently a public school. David Axelrod responded to Eric Zorn with information about the religious instruction. Even more amusing is what Axelrod added which is that Besuki taught comparative religion. How un-Islamist like.

That this story ever got enough traction to make it on to even Fox is bizarre given it appears no one spreading the claim even tried to talk to someone from Obama's office. Zorn also tracked down a variety of places trying to sell the rumor and it appears that we'll be hearing this one for the next two years--primarily from people who don't know what a madrassa even is.


Anonymous,  10:49 AM  

It won't be a couple of years. Because his campiagn for President will be over before it starts.

So-Called Austin Mayor 11:09 AM  


Nice to see you allowing comments here -- unlike others who have posted on this topic.


Bill Baar 11:30 AM  

When you consider the number of Mosques blown up by terrorists in Iraq, and the recent attacks on schools, isn't the real question for Obama whether he believes we should help those defending their Mosques, Islamic faith, and schools; or should we just let them sort out their own Civil War? Not baby sit it as the Senator said.

A pox on everyone's house is a valid position, but to cry Islamphobia while calling for redoployment away from Muslim allies a bit too clever.

NW Burbs,  11:45 AM  

We've already redeployed from Afghanistan, Bill. Or did you forget?

Bill Baar 11:58 AM  

No, I subscribe to CENTCOM and check the site. I follow the war there, in the Horn of Africa, the Phillipines... all the spots Sen Obama is silent on.

ArchPundit 12:28 PM  

Obama is silent on the Horn of Africa?

Bill, get a dose of reality--he's been a leading voice on Sudan, recently visited African including Kenya and Ethiopia

Bill Baar 12:37 PM  

Yes Arch, but would he call our support of Ethiopea and the Somalian Gov in overthrowing the Islamic Courts baby sitting Somalia's civil war?

Bernard Lewis wrote a column last Sept and he talks about the prevailing views of the Arab world in the US.

What is the possibility of freedom in the Islamic world, in the Western sense of the word? If you look at the current literature, you will find two views common in the United States and Europe. One of them holds that Islamic peoples are incapable of decent, civilized government. Whatever the West does, Muslims will be ruled by corrupt tyrants. Therefore the aim of our foreign policy should be to insure that they are our tyrants rather than someone else's--friendly rather than hostile tyrants. This point of view is very much favored in departments of state and foreign offices and is generally known, rather surprisingly, as the "pro-Arab" view. It is, of course, in no sense pro-Arab. It shows ignorance of the Arab past, contempt for the Arab present, and unconcern for the Arab future. The second common view is that Arab ways are different from our ways. They must be allowed to develop in accordance with their cultural principles, but it is possible for them--as for anyone else, anywhere in the world, with discreet help from outside and most specifically from the United States--to develop democratic institutions of a kind. This view is known as the "imperialist" view and has been vigorously denounced and condemned as such.

If Obama attended a Madrassa, he came out of it no friend of Arabs or the Islamic world as far as I can tell.

ArchPundit 12:56 PM  


You make the mistake often that not supporting your pet cause means someone is anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. That is not the case. Often, people like Obama disagree with a policy because they think it's the worst way to get to a stable and democratic Iraq. That you throw around this crap that someone thinks this who supports position A means everyone who supports position A agrees with that one persons or mythical person in this case reasoning.

Obama, and most who want to pull out of Iraq don't believe that keeping US troops helps develop stable democracy, it only sticks us in the middle of a civil war. You can argue they are wrong, but trying to claim they are against democracy in the Arab and Muslim nations is a non-sequitur not supported by anything other than imagination.

Bill Baar 3:03 PM  

What is Obama for then when he says he doesn't want the United States to baby sit their civil war?

Is Obama for Maliki's plan for the US to withdraw and let the Iraqi forces deal with Bhagdad? That may not be such a bad idea.

But Obama is not exactly clear. The only Democrat who's offered a plan has been Biden who's called for the partition.

Bill Baar 3:14 PM  

You can argue they are wrong, but trying to claim they are against democracy in the Arab and Muslim nations is a non-sequitur not supported by anything other than imagination.

The they here may be for Democracy in Arab and Muslim nations but they are unwilling to commit American lives and money for it: either because they think America is incapable of a constructive roll i.e we're liars: it's war for oil; or because it's just not worth it....

...when Obama tells Iraqi's we won't baby sit their civil war, I think he's making a statement about what he thinks Iraqi's are worth compared to Americans. (Read Sam Powers on Rwanda were she quoted somebody in Clinton's State Dept saying 80k Rwandans not enough to commit one American GI there to stop Genocide).

History may prove him right... and we'll lose; but I sure won't go carping about Islamphobia either.

His words show where he stands.

ArchPundit 4:03 PM  

How about carping about lies? Seriously Bill--it's notjust Islamaphobia, it's an orchestrated lie about the man. Is that not a problem?

Your criticism is the same criticism one could lodge at Edmund Burke who thought a just society came about from gradual change and is the father of modern conservatism.

What is arrogant and just stupid is to show up in a country after letting chaos run its course and go "Hey, we're the Americans. We know you've been fighting in one form or another for thousands of years and the such, but we are here and going to show you how to do it.

Democracies are by the people--not by foreign governments imposing them on a people. Many of us think the US is incapable in this situation specifically because we created the situation on the ground. We aren't considered a neutral arbiter and we cannot force a people to accept peace if they don't want it. What is clear is that the Iraqis other than the Kurds really don't want us there anymore. At that point, we aren't serving any purpose other than being targets.

We cannot run a peacekeeping mission in a country in which we are the ones who allowed chaos to take root. We have zero credibility in Iraq below the Kurdish zone at this point. Being unwilling has nothing to do with it--it's simply impossible.

On the other hand, we do still have leverage in Afghanistan if we don't continue to waste it and we could make a difference in Darfur. You know, the Horn of Africa.

Skeeter,  4:09 PM  

Baar wrote:

"when Obama tells Iraqi's we won't baby sit their civil war, I think he's making a statement about what he thinks Iraqi's are worth compared to Americans"

In response:

As an American, I don't have a problem with that.

Sure I value Americans more than others.

I want Americans fighting and dying for the safety of Americans, and not for the safety of Iraqis. Let Iraqis fight for that.

Bill Baar 4:15 PM  

ISNA lists six Madrassas in Illinois by the way.

Illinois has six madrassas, or schools that teach the Koran. Founded 15 years ago, the Elgin madrassa is the only one in the state with a boarding facility, said Ubaidulla Saleem, dean of the Institute for Islamic Education.

Here is their site They offer Sacred and Secular classes. I was at the Elgin City Planning meeting where they got approval for the Dorm.

I've signed up three times for Arabic at Elgin Community College and the class has been cancelled each time for lack of students. I'm going to try these folks if this semester is cancelled.

Bill Baar 4:16 PM  

Skeet, I know many who agree with you. If that's Obama's position, he should say so. I think it would win him votes... maybe many votes.

Bill Baar 4:23 PM  

Arch, When the leader of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (didn't they get the most votes?) visits the White House last month and tells Bush,

Thank you very much, Mr. President, for allowing me this opportunity to meet with you. I would like to take this opportunity also to thank the American people and their sympathy toward Iraq, those who helped Iraq to get rid of a brutal dictatorship and to enjoy freedom and liberties.

I'd say we have something more than zero credibility with Iraqi's who voted and elected al-Hakim's party. To face al-Hakim who lost six brothers to Saddam and tell him we're not baby sitting his civil war takes some...audaciousness.

NW burbs,  5:21 PM  

I notice Bill Baar chose to completely ignore the crux of the matter, which Arch put so eloquently: "How about carping about lies? Seriously Bill--it's notjust Islamaphobia, it's an orchestrated lie about the man. Is that not a problem?"

Care to reply, Bill?

This is clearly an international* attempt at a misinformation campaign. Yet instead of putting an end to the baloney conservatives choose either to be straight-up partisans and just sort of ignore it OR they choose to outright perpetuate the misinformation and lies. (And Bill, and every other conservative, I and many like me will hold you accountable for the actions of your political allies. It's the only way to put a stop to this sort of BS.)

* - I say international because Canadian conservatives are picking up the madrassa-lie and running with it. And conservatives as a whole are outright ignoring the facts which detail Sen. Obama's youth at a public school in that nation (not a "madrassa", which clearly has a different connotation in 2007 than it did 30 and 40 years ago).

Milton 6:21 PM  

I find this very funny when we have a current crack pot in the WH:

Sun Myung Moon is succeeding where Jesus failed. Moon claims to be the Savior, Messiah and King of Kings of all of humanity"
Moon takes credit for Star Wars and he takes credit for getting George Bush elected president. That's a hell of a lot of foreign influence over America, especially when you consider what a loser Bush turned out to be and what a waste Star Wars was. It was Reagan and Bush with bad ideas like Star Wars that quadrupled the national debt and now 1/4 of every tax dollar we pay is to service interest on this debt. If Moon is going to take the credit then he should take the blame as well.

Anonymous,  8:55 PM  

How relevant is it that Obama's middle name is Hussein, or that he may have attended a madrasa for 2 years as a boy? About as relevant as the Washington Times/Insight Mag connection with the Moonies.... but hey, who's keeping score on these things?

Rich Miller 9:29 PM  

This entire argument is mooted by CNN's story today. It was just a school. Nothing to see here. Move on. Those who believed and passed along the goofy rumor-mongoring (even in the guise of a "concern troll") should be ashamed of themselves and should immediately apologize.

By the way, in Arabic, madrassa means "school." Not religious school, or crazy islamofascist Saudi-funded Wahabbi school, but simply "school."

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