As an international student from Pakistan, Samir Husain ’18 understands that people’s socio-economic standing heavily affects their ability to acquire education. Pakistan suffers from high levels of poverty as well as illiteracy, and in some cases, the only education available to the youth are the free Islamic schools or madrassas. However, following the events of 9/11, madrassas came under scrutiny for training and indoctrinating their students, giving rise to militant terrorism. How did schools -- educational institutions -- come to be known for violence? What is the root of this violence? These are the questions that drove him to explore the history of the madrassas, from their inception in British colonial India to the present day.
Samir’s project was a year-long effort as a part of the Oberlin College History department Honors program. It comprised of two main components: research and writing. He faced various challenges in his research, including finding accurate archival material and understanding the different biases in his sources. He pieced the information together to create a historical narrative, analyzing the reasons as to why madrassas were radicalized and exploring which international actors played a role in this. He also used his research to propose a solution which could both increase education in Pakistan and reduce militancy, tackling the question of how the country should move forward in terms of its education policy. His work was deeply meaningful to him as a Pakistani and a Muslim from South Asia, and he plans to expand his studies next year as he pursues a master’s degree at the University of Virginia.