Quran Madrasas and Arabic Colleges have mushroomed in their thousands around Sri Lanka during the past decade, promoting a “pure” form of Islam imported from West Asia that is at odds with South Asian traditions.
The trend mirrors developments in other parts of this region, including Bangladesh, where strong Gulf influence has seen a proliferation of largely Saudi-funded, Arab-style mosques and educational institutions.
In the Maldives, Saudi Arabia has just pledged US$ 95mn towards a six-storey building complete with mosque, teaching centre and conference hall.
Analysis of available statistics show exponential growth of Madrasas and Arabic Colleges, facilitated by the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs which also registers Ahadiya or daham schools. These have fostered greater religiosity.
Madrasas and Arabic Colleges impart teaching — often employing foreign clerics who are granted resident visas at the Department’s behest — without independent supervision or regulation.
Those that enrol older students churn out adults unsuited to the job market and whose preferred career path is also that of religious instruction. Alienation with other local populations has well taken root.