Reporters on the Job

LESSONS IN MUSLIM SCHOOLS: The Monitor's South Asia correspondent Scott Baldauf and photographer Robert Harbison went to two separate madrassahs, or Islamic schools in Pakistan for a look at Taliban theology (page 1).

Their first stop was a madrassah in an Afghan refugee camp just inside Pakistan. And their initial reception was not exactly warm. "Bob starting taking pictures, and the students outside of the school started throwing stones at him. We just decided it was time to leave," says Scott.

But their interpreter had other ideas. He told them to wait a few minutes. He went inside, spoke to the mullah in charge, and secured permission for them to enter the school grounds. "Maulvi Abdul Qudushad, the mullah of the madrassah, had never before given an interview to Western journalists. In fact, non-Muslims had never been allowed inside before," says Scott. The students glared at them as they went inside. Later, Scott asked his interpreter what had happened. "The mullah asked if we were Muslims. The interpreter replied sarcastically, 'Yeah, sure.' As they entered, the students questioned their presence. The aide to the mullah simply told them we were 'temporary Muslims,' " says Scott.

Access was easier at their second stop, the madrassah that's considered the spiritual home to many of the Taliban leadership. "It was Friday, the day of prayer, so we spoke to the head of the madrassah, Maulana Samiul Haq, at his home." There were several other journalists there. After Scott finished his interview, he waited, listening to their questions and the answers. His gaze wandered around the room. Over on a shelf, he saw a photo that caught his attention. He got up and took a closer look. "It was a picture of Samiul Haq and Osama bin Laden in an Afghan village. I walked back with a little smile, and his aides saw it. They quickly removed the picture."

Outside the madrassah, five Pakistani security agents were sitting in lawn chairs and questioning everyone. "Clearly, they had listening devices inside, because they asked us, 'What is the IRA?" The mullah had made a comment during Scott's interview about the Irish Republican Army. The agents hadn't understood it, so they asked Scott for a clarification.

- David Clark Scott

World Editor

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