College For centuries, Islamic schools have preserved and transmitted knowledge, not only knowledge of Islam, but also knowledge of languages, literatures, reasoning, rhetoric, and natural sciences.Madaris were established at about the same time – in the 6th century of the Muslim calendar/11th century of the Christian calendar – as the Christian seminaries that grew into modern Western universities.Madaris have long been vital to Muslim societies as places to transmit religious learning. Pakistani madaris were once known throughout the Muslim world for their well-preserved Hanafi teachings. Today, they are better known, among ordinary Pakistanis, as places where ones'children may get an ethical education, in a disciplined environment,with low-cost accommodations and meals, and improved employment prospects.Outside Pakistan, madaris are known today as breeding groundsfor violence. The image, is as misleading as it is simple, but is not without cause. In September 1996, Taliban [madaris students], mainly Afghan refugees from Jamiat-i-Ulema madaris in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, marched on Kabul, toppled the governmentof Afghanistan, and imposed their version of shariah [Islamic law] onthe people living under their control. The Taliban used violence toenforce a shariah that banned women's formal education, paid work,and appearance in public without a male relative companion, and mandated a schedule of daily prayer and specific (bearded) appearancefor men. The rules of public, and private, life that the Taliban apparently learned in their madaris were strict and unforgiving.The Pakistani madaris has been transformed from a place topreserve Islamic knowledge from Western influence and the colonial politics of the day to a place to mobilize for political influence.Colonial practices fostered suspicions between ulema and governmentas recently as two generations ago. Government mistreatment o freligious activists after independence – such as arbitrary arrest and detention and prohibitions on political parties and religious associations – has sustained the mutual suspicions between governments and religious boarding schools, but only since the 1980s2have madaris advocated and been involved in organized violence.