Mahad’ad-Dawa Institute

Birmingham Meeting

Fund-raising and awareness-raising for Islamic Academy in Britain

The main theme of a meeting held by the Head of PACT Radio and Founder of the Islamic Vocational Academy, John Butt, in the Hubb Gallery in Birmingham, UK, on February 11th was a recollection of the great Pashtoon traditions that existed over four decades ago, when John Butt along with scores of other Europeans living in the Pashtoon lands, was first attracted to Islam. Inevitably, the deterioration of many of those traditions in the intervening period also came up for discussion, and how the Islamic Vocational Academy, in keeping with the motto of its parent organization PACT Radio – “Traditional Solutions for Modern Problems” – was seeking to revive those age-old traditions.

When asked about what first brought him to Islam, John Butt pointed out a few cases of generosity and big-heartedness among his Pashtoon hosts. “What clinched it was when I was traveling down the Swat Valley. It was the month of Ramadan. Our bus stopped in Charbagh for the breaking of the fast. Since I had not been fasting, I stayed in the bus while other travellers went into a chai-shop to break their fast. One of my fellow-travellers came into the bus and discreetly put some pakoras and dates into my hand, so that I also could join the others in breaking the fast. Just being treated as a Muslim like that did more than anything to make me into a Muslim,” John Butt told the assembled guests.

It is difficult to imagine a foreigner even traveling to the Swat Valley nowadays, let alone receiving such a warm welcome. If however one does manage to reach the grassroots of society, one is still likely to find the same hospitality and generosity. It is a question of making those values and traditions prominent and accessible, as they were 40 years ago.

The same was the case with Islamic learning and scholarship. At that time, the pursuit of Islamic learning had not been politicized. Hence a “Talib” was held in high respect. Talibs – religious students – were above reproach. John Butt told how once he was a Talib – a religious student – in the Afridi tribal territory and was traveling to Peshawar. For some reason the police were searching everyone else in the bus. “When they came to me, the policeman saluted me and said: ‘You are okay aren’t you Talib Jan – my dear Talib?’” It was inconceivable that a Talib could be involved in criminal activity, so the very thought of searching such a pure soul was out of the question.

How different things are now. “I was teaching our traditional media course in a madrassah in Peshawar a couple of years back,” John Butt recollected. “A couple of madrassah students who had joined our course from Swat did not turn up to the lessons one day. It turned out that they had been arrested. Their crime? Just being Talibs.” Because of the politicization of the pure act of seeking knowledge, and the use of the Talib community to serve all sorts of alien agendas, Talibs had gone from being the most trusted to being the most suspected and looked down on group of people.

“It is to reinstate the Talib community to the pure and respected position that they used to occupy in Pashtoon society, and to diversify their sources of livelihood, enabling them to serve in a host of walks of modern life that we have set up the Islamic Vocational Academy.” Mentioning the funding status of the Islamic Vocational Academy, John Butt pointed out that it was possible to get funding from some organizations working in Afghanistan, through them sponsoring one module or another 搬瓦工评测 – for example a module on Peace Studies, or Women’s Rights in Islam, or Humanitarian Law according to Islam. “While such sponsorship would not adversely affect the integrity of the Islamic Academy, it would be much better for the credibility of the Islamic Academy, and for its status among the Pashtoon people, for it to be sponsored by Pashtoons and other Afghans and Muslims, both inside Afghanistan and around the world. And there are Pashtoons who have the means to sponsor such a worthy venture.

The response was good, the question and answer-session after the talk lively and involved. The Islamic Vocational Academy looks forward to the Birmingham meeting being the first of many fund-raising and awareness-raising meetings for the Islamic Academy, both inside Afghanistan and among the Pashtoon diaspora.

You can view a video of the Question and Answer session from the event, under Quick links on this page.