Muslim Hate of Teachers

Teachers flee, schools close in Kenya with al-Shabab attacks


Posted May 3, 2018

NAIROBI, Kenya – Every school day, Abdirizack Hussein Bashir rises at dawn for an eight-kilometre (five-mile) trek through a dangerous forest where he sometimes faces harassment by Kenyan army patrols hunting down extremists.

Now the 12-year-old’s dream to become a doctor is threatened. Attacks by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab against non-Muslims have forced the transfer of hundreds of teachers from the border area with Somalia, where the extremist group is based. Schools have closed and thousands of children are affected.

At least 224 primary schools and 42 secondary schools in Wajir County can no longer function after non-local teachers fled. The exodus was caused by the Feb. 16 al-Shabab attack on a primary school in which two non-Muslim teachers were killed. Kenya’s Teachers Service Commission transferred 329 teachers elsewhere for their safety. Many others left on their own. In all, 917 non-Muslim primary school teachers have left the region.

It is the largest-ever mass exodus of teachers from the region, observers say.

Analysts say the extremist group threatens gains in education in a region that until recently was the most marginalized in Kenya and has been described as a hotbed for recruitment for extremist groups, which oppose Western education. Children out of school become easy targets.

For al-Shabab the closure of schools will be seen as “a success,” said Abdullahi Boru Halakhe, an expert in countering violent extremism.

“Schools and education is one of the antidotes against the narratives of the (extremist) group. Thus, if you close the school, how else can you build a counter-narrative?” he asked.

Al-Shabab has carried out a wave of attacks in Kenya since 2011, calling it retribution for Kenya sending troops to Somalia to fight the extremists. Attacks include the April 2015 raid on Garissa University that left 147 people dead. Teachers near the Somali border have been targeted, including in a November 2014 attack on a bus in neighbouring Mandera County.

Some 120 non-Muslim teachers have left their posts in Mandera County due to the latest insecurity. The teachers have been sleeping in the Kenya National Union of Teachers boardroom for nearly two months and spend their days camped out at the offices of their employer, the Teachers Service Commission. Police routinely use tear gas on them as they protest and demand better protection from the extremist threat.

“We have asked the government to transfer teachers where they feel safe,” said the union’s secretary-general, Wilson Sossion.

The threat of attack is not the only problem non-Muslim teachers face in the predominantly ethnic Somali region, said Peter Amunga, an education activist. Discrimination by the local community and radicalized students are other challenges. Non-Muslims make up 90 per cent of the teachers in the border areas as marginalization and nomadic culture have limited the number of local ones, he said.

Wangechi Nderitu, one of the teachers camping out at the Teachers Service Commission offices, said one student at a neighbouring school who was punished by teachers went to train with al-Shabab in Somalia for two years then returned in late 2015, took his father’s gun and went after the teachers. Luckily they had been transferred, he said.

Despite teachers’ concerns the government has forced them to stay in the region without providing additional security, Nderitu said. He said his bank accounts had been frozen and that the Teachers Service Commission says they won’t be released until he and his colleague go back to work.

“This is blackmail,” Nderitu said. “That’s why we are stranded here. The Teacher Service Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

The government’s response has been sub-optimal, said Halakhe, the expert in countering extremism.

“While there is an acknowledgement that there are no easy answers to what is obviously a complex and complicated problem, the government has failed even to do even the basic like, for instance, stationing security officers at some of the schools,” he said.

Al-Shabab has exploited the region’s history of marginalization for recruiting and propaganda, he added. The region’s attempt to secede and join Somalia in the 1960s was quashed with military force and successive governments neglected the area until Kenya’s new constitution in 2010 ensured that all regions received resources for development.

“In this latest situation, al-Shabab could say to the potential recruits: ‘Look, your government cannot even provide you with a modicum of security, come and join us,'” Halakhe said.

Kenya’s Parliament has approved a government plan to hire 88,000 teachers to address a nationwide shortfall of more than 104,000. For Wajir County, Education Secretary Amina Mohamed has said 1,200 teaching assistants will be recruited to step in until replacements are found.

If those replacements are not from the region, however, they soon will seek transfers as well, said Sossion with the teachers’ union. A “permanent solution” would be to train more locals who are ethnic Somali and Muslim, he said.

For Bashir, the 12-year-old student, the politics surrounding the school closures doesn’t matter.

“Now that there is no more class, what will I do with all this time?” he asked The Associated Press.

School Principal Killed in Pakistan Attack

The Wall Street Journal
March 30, 2013

KARACHI, Pakistan—Suspected Pakistani Taliban killed a school principal and injured several students in the country's biggest city, Karachi, in an attack that highlighted the militants' spreading reach.

The gun and grenade assault on Saturday targeted the Nation, a small private school that taught children as young as 5 in Ittehad Town, an area of western Karachi that recently came under Taliban control.

Although Karachi, Pakistan's only major port, is hundreds of miles away from the militants' heartland along the Afghan border, the presence and activities of the militants in the city have mushroomed over the last year. Some areas of the city now are effectively run by the Taliban.

The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, are close to al Qaeda. They operate independently of the Afghan Taliban, who are battling U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan and enjoy a degree of support from the Pakistani security establishment.

Abdul Rasheed, the principal of the Nation school, was targeted for being a local activist for the Awami National Party, a secular group mainly representing ethnic Pashtuns, according to other party workers and police. ANP is the Taliban's main rival in Karachi's Pashtun neighborhoods.

Zaman Khan Chagharzai, a local ANP activist who knew Mr Rasheed, said that the school principal had been receiving threats on the phone for months, from people identifying themselves as Taliban.

"They would ring him and tell him either to leave the ANP or prepare to leave this world," said Mr Chagharzai.

At least three adults and six children were injured, witnesses said. The attack happened Saturday morning just as prizes were being distributed to children who had done well in their exams.

Alongside Mr. Rasheed on a makeshift stage was the event's special guest, a local dignitary named Mian Syed Abdul Wahid. At the time, a magician, Gul Wali Khan, was performing to entertain the children. These men and another adult present, Atta-ur-Rehman, were shot but survived.

Mr Wahid's son, Omar, said that a man with a pistol suddenly appeared."The first bullets hit Abdul Rasheed. He fell down. He died there," said Omar, speaking at Civil Hospital in central Karachi, where the injured were taken.

Bullets sprayed around, hitting some children too. As the attacker fled, he detonated improvised grenades, which caused further injuries, mostly to panicked children who were trying to escape from the school, according to witnesses.

Among the wounded children was a girl named Attiya, aged 10. Her father, Arshad, who only gave one name, said that his daughter was shot in the stomach. He has four other children at the school.

At the hospital, Arshad, eyes swollen by crying, said: "It is a good school. If it doesn't close, I'll continue to send my other children there. And if Attiya recovers, she'll go back there too."

In Pakistan, where government schools barely function in many areas, it is common for private schools, charging very low fees, to cater even to poor residents.

Asif Ijaz Sheikh, a senior local police officer, said that Saturday's assault targeted Mr. Rasheed, not the school.

Five teachers shot dead in classroom

By Sabrina Tavernise in Baghdad
September 28, 2005

Armed men dressed as police officers burst into a primary school south of Baghdad, rounded up five Shiite teachers and their driver, marched them to an empty classroom and killed them.

Classes had just finished on Monday at the Jazeera primary school in Muwelha, a Sunni Arab suburb of Iskandariya, when gunmen entered the building forced the six men into the room and shot them dead, a police spokesman, Captain Abu al-Hars, said, adding that some children were still at the school.

Teachers have rarely been singled out in the past and this attack raises fears that Iraqi schools could become targets. But Captain Hars said sectarian hatred was the most likely motivation for the killings.

Meanwhile, the French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, told French television that about a dozen French youths are in Iraq preparing to become suicide bombers.

According to French intelligence services, seven French nationals have died in Iraq, in combat or in suicide attacks, while three are prisoners of the coalition forces.

A string of attacks in and around Baghdad on Monday left at least 16 people dead, including the six men at the school and three US soldiers.

On Monday night attackers struck again in Iskandariya, detonating a suicide bomb that only partly exploded, wounding six people.

The violence continued yesterday when a suicide bomber exploded in a crowd of hundreds of police recruits in Baquba, about 65 kilometres north of Baghdad. Initial reports put the death toll at at least 10.

US military officials have said they expect violence between the Shiites and Sunnis to increase before next month's referendum on the new constitution largely opposed by Sunni Arabs.

Sunni radicals have carried out most the the recent attacks. Some of the worst have taken place around Muwelha, an area south of Baghdad known as the Triangle of Death, where many Sunni Arabs had received favours from Saddam Hussein.

The area has been relentlessly attacked. In July a suicide bombing killed 71 people.

Three of the dead teachers lived in Muhawil, a Shiite town in the triangle, an Interior Ministry official said. They had apparently tried to take precautions, travelling to work together in a mini-van that ferried them to and from jobs in the Sunni district.

In a strike against the insurgency, US special forces killed a key lieutenant to the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the top al-Qaeda operative in Iraq, US officials said yesterday.

Abu Azzam was believed responsible for financing and arranging the movement of foreign fighters into western Iraq from Syria.

The officials said US-led forces were tipped off about Azzam's whereabouts, raided a house near Baghdad and killed him after he opened fire.

In a goodwill gesture to Sunni Arabs, the American military announced on Monday it had released 500 prisoners from Abu Ghraib, and would release another 500 this week.

The military said it had processed the prisoners speedily at the request of the Iraqi Government before the start next week of the holy month of Ramadan.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, Knight Ridder


Scared teachers seek to leave Thai Muslim south

25 Jan 2006

Source: Reuters

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

LAHAN, Thailand, Jan 25 (Reuters) - A month after the siege at Lahan school in Thailand's restive Muslim south, Buddhist teachers say they are scared and want transfers out of the region where 1,100 people have died in separatist violence.

The government school re-opened on Monday a month after nine teachers were held by 50 students and parents in protest against the police detention of two men from the village in the province of Narathiwat.

"We just couldn't believe those people were the same pupils whom we taught and cooked lunch for every day," said a Buddhist teacher who thought he would be killed by the angry crowd.

Pupils, aged 6-14, and parents had blocked the school's main gate after the local mosque announced on its loudspeakers that two Muslim men had been arrested by the police.

"When I looked into their eyes, they just looked so indifferent to what they were doing," said the teacher, who declined to be identified.

Teachers and state-run schools have been frequent targets as symbols of the government of overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand in faraway Bangkok.

After the siege, the Baan Lahan School was closed for a month because teachers said they were too afraid to teach their students turned hostage-takers.

"We were too demoralised to come to teach those pupils on the following day. The provincial education ministry office told us to rest to restore our morale," said the teacher.

Lahan is one of several villages in the area believed by security officials to be a hot spot in the violence-plagued region, where deadly attacks have killed security personnel and civilians, Buddhists and Muslims alike, including teachers.

After classes were suspended, the school became a security post with 50 soldiers and police camped in the classrooms and parking their patrol vehicles in the compound.

The villagers eventually asked the teachers to resume classes, promising that they would not be harmed.

The teachers now travel to and from the school in a motorcade of heavily-armed troops and police on motorcycles and in a Humvee military truck.

The 5-kilometre (3 miles) route to the school passes by lush rubber plantations where two policemen and one Buddhist civilian have been killed in bomb and gun attacks that have marred the Malay-speaking region in the past two years.

Although no teacher from the Lahan School has been killed in the violence, half of its original 20 teachers have left the area and others are seeking to get out.

"We are all stressed out here," said another Buddhist teacher. "I have requested to be transferred out of the school for a year after 11 years of teaching in this region. The pupils just don't feel connected to their teachers here."


Southern villagers beat Buddhist teachers

Two women teachers held hostage because they were Buddhist by about 100 villagers demanding the release of two local residents, were badly beat before they were freed after a tense stand-off with security forces in Narathiwat province, reports said.

Meanwhile, senior Thai and Malaysian officers conferred in Bangkok on security issues on their shared border. Supreme Commander Gen Ruengroj Mahasaranond said Thai and Malaysian forces have cooperated well in tackling problems along the common border, including the unrest in Thailand's deep South.

He said the Thai military had given its counterpart information about blacklisted persons suspected of involvement in the insurgency in Thailand's southern border provinces adjoining Malaysia.

Acting Prime Minister and Justice Minister Chidchai Wannasathit said the government was still lagging behind insurgents in the area of intelligence, but insisted the situation was improving in general. "Government intelligence is always one step behind militants. I have instructed intelligence officials to improve their work," said Pol Gen Chidchai, also deputy prime minister, who visited the South on Thursday.

Narathiwat Province Education Director Pairat Saengthong told Malaysia's Bernama news agency that teacher Sirinart Thavornsuk and Julin Pongkanmul were beaten with sticks and seriously injured in the head and chest respectively in the incident, and now are at Narathiwat Hospital.

They sustained severe head injuries and were in critical condition, police said.

He said the violence started at about 1 p.m. when about 100 villagers including women entered the Kuching Lepas School in Ragae District, and demanded to know who were the Buddhists among the eight teachers.

"They (the villagers) took them into a room and locked them inside. Later a group of men assaulted the teachers. The village head brought them out at about 3 p.m. after negotiation with the villagers," Mr Pairat said.

The villagers demanded the government release two suspected militants who were arrested earlier in the day in connection with a shooting at Thai marines at a railway station on April 12. The village lies in a Narathiwat Red Zone.

The school, which just reopened after spring break, would be closed indefinitely. Other schools may also be closed.

Security officials warned insurgents would target schools, teachers and students as soon as schools reopened. They were right. They said they had a plan to prevent the violence. They were wrong.

The incident was the second involving teachers this year and highlighted the growing risk being taken by educators serving in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat since extremists began the current round of violence in January, 2004.

Since then, 49 teachers have died while 55 others were injured, mostly due to gunshots or victims of bomb blasts carried out by self-proclaimed separatists.

Last week, two female teachers, one of them pregnant, died in a bomb blast along with a soldier at a Pattani market tea shop, just 200 metres from a private school. Last February, teachers at 250 primary schools in Yala refused to go to work for one week because of fears for their safety after five colleagues were shot dead in a single day.

Early this year, about 300 villagers held 32 teachers hostage in a school until the authorities released the local imam who was detained for questioning over a bucket of petrol and some trekking equipment found in his residence during a military sweep of his village in Narathiwat's Joh I Rong district, another designated red zone.

According to official figures, there are 11,267 teachers leading more than 291,300 students in 861 schools in the three provinces.

Although teachers were escorted to and from schools by security forces in many parts of the border provinces, they had been targeted by Muslim separatists, and many had been gunned down while travelling alone as dozens of Buddhist teachers became the main target.

(Bernama, agencies)


When teachers become the target of insurgents

Like other teachers in the southernmost provinces of Thailand, Somsak Tongsuwan always checks that he has his textbooks, Buddha amulet and government-issued pistol before he leaves home for the classroom.

Then he rides his motorcycle from his home to the Salani school, where he is headmaster, praying that rebels do not ambush him during the journey and shoot him in the back.

So many teachers have died in the insurgency-hit region that only the bravest remain in schools. There are no longer enough of them.

After training teachers in the use of firearms, posting armed guards at schools and pleading with them not to abandon their posts, the Government in Bangkok has had to come up with a desperate new plan — beam in lessons by satellite television.

Five hundred satellite dishes and thousands of television sets will be made available in schools for a distant-learning programme throughout the Muslim-dominated provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat.

The scheme will minimise the exposure of educators to killers, although it may not do much for the education, which has suffered as pitiless violence has engulfed communities.

Like civil servants, policemen and others, teachers have been targeted because they are employees of a hated Government. Forty-six teachers have been among the more than 1,500 deaths since 2004 in a murder campaign carried out by shadowy gangs that are increasingly targeting civilians.

Even Buddhist monks have been beheaded by the Muslim killers, who do not enjoy much support among the predominantly Islamic population of the southern provinces that border Malaysia but have proved impossible for the security forces to control.

The kidnapping of teachers has become their latest tactic, often in retaliation after suspected insurgents are detained. If they survive, abducted teachers are often beaten. Last month a female art teacher suffered a fractured skull.

Long-standing separatist grievances exploded into violence after heavy-handed action by Thai security forces in 2004. In one incident more than 100 youths suffocated after they were arrested and crammed into trucks. Since then the Government has proved unable to bring the violence under control, turning into a virtual war zone a substantial part of southern Thailand that is not far from popular tourist resorts.

Many teachers, Buddhist and Muslim alike, have transferred to safer areas. Mr Tongsuwan agonised over leaving but decided that his pupils needed him, although he acknowledged that he has had to put up with levels of stress he never expected.

His hands never stop trembling and he constantly scratches the eczema covering his arms while he describes the terrors of running his school, a few miles from Narathiwat Town.

None of the teachers there have been killed, but many have quit, leaving an understaffed contingent to do its best. He keeps his pistol with him in the classroom, usually out of sight.

Smart, well-behaved pupils in the playground look like their counterparts in any other Thai school, but many have witnessed violence and suffer behavioural problems.

“It is hard,” he said, “and I never thought that teaching would be dangerous like this. But we must do our duty.”


French critic of Islam in hiding

France's anti-terrorism authorities have launched an enquiry into death threats against a philosophy teacher who wrote an article criticising Islam.

BBC News

September 29, 2006

Robert Redeker has been forced into hiding after making controversial remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.

Writing in France's Le Figaro, Mr Redeker described the religion's founder as "a merciless war leader".

Since publishing the article, he has been under police protection and forced to move between safe houses.

On Friday, the Paris prosecutor's office said it had opened a preliminary investigation into the threats to see if they were linked to terrorist activity.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin described the threats as "intolerable".

"We are in a democracy, everyone has the right to express his views freely - of course while respecting others," he said.

Mr Redeker says that his personal details and home address are now available on Islamist websites.

His article was entitled "In the face of Islamist intimidation, what is the world to do?" and was written in reaction to Muslim protests following remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Pope has since apologised several times and said the views quoted were not his own.

In the article, published on 19 September, the French teacher describes the Koran as a "book of extraordinary violence" and Islam as a religion which "exalts violence and hate".

Mr Redeker says that he fears he will not be able to come out of hiding for the immediate future.

"The Islamists have succeeded in punishing me on French territory as if I were guilty of a speech crime," he said.

Paris-based press watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said the choice not to publish Mr Redeker's article would have represented "a defeat for freedom of thought".

France has one of Europe's largest Muslim communities with an estimated total of six million people, or ten percent of the population.


Muslim violence closes hundreds of Thai schools

November 26, 2006

Hundreds of schools in Thailand's restive south will shut their doors in response to increasingly vicious attacks by suspected Muslim insurgents against teachers and schools, an official said on Saturday.

The closure, which begins Monday, affects all 336 primary and secondary schools in the province of Pattani, where two teachers were fatally shot by suspected insurgents in the past two days.

In one of the killings, attackers shot a school principal on Friday, then set his body on fire.

The principal became the 59th teacher or school official killed in three years of violence, said Bunsom Thongsriprai, president of the Teachers' Association in Pattani.

"Teachers can't bear what has happened," Bunsom said. "They are paranoid, worried and afraid." He said the province's schools, which teach about 100,000 students, will reopen when teachers feel safe.

More than 1800 people have died from violence in Thailand's three southernmost, Muslim-majority provinces - Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat - since an Islamic insurgency flared in January 2004.

Teachers have always been occasional targets, seen by insurgents as representatives of the government and easy targets. But recently, teachers and schools have been attacked on an almost daily basis.

Thailand's new military-installed government has pledged to make peace in the south a priority, and reverse the hardline policies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a September 19 coup.

Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtat said on Friday that insurgents had stepped up violence to keep residents from accepting new peace overtures from the authorities.


Nigerian State Orders Probe Into Teacher's Killing

23 March 2007

The governor of Nigeria's northeastern state of Gombe has ordered an investigation into the killing Wednesday of a teacher by Muslim students at a secondary school in the state. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports that the killing underlines long-standing Muslim-Christian tension in parts of northern Nigeria.

At least 15,000 people have died in religious and political violence in Nigeria since 1999, when Africa's most populous country returned to civil democracy, after three decades of military rule.

Police and witnesses say Oluwatoyin Olusase, a Christian, was supervising an Islamic Religious Knowledge exam at the school in Gombe, when she was killed.

An angry mob of Muslim students attacked her for allegedly desecrating the Koran. Her car and part of the school building were also reportedly set ablaze.

The police have arrested at least 12 people in connection with the killing.

A government spokesman, Mohammed Ahmed, says the authorities acted swiftly following the killing to avert further violence.

"The state governor directed the commissioner of education to close down all schools within Gombe metropolis," said Ahmed. "All secondary schools were closed down, at least to make sure the situation did not escalate. Security men were drafted to the school premises and the situation was contained within no time."

The five-man panel investigating the incident has been given up to two weeks to submit its findings. Ahmed is hopeful the report would assist the authorities in averting religion-inspired violence in the future.

"It is part of their terms of reference, to advise the government on the best way to avert future occurrence of crisis such as this," he said. "It is up to members of the committee to decide. The government has a lot of confidence in members of the committee."

Nigeria, a country split along Christian-Muslim lines, has a history of religious violence, and sectarian tensions are on the rise in the run-up to presidential elections next month.


Teacher in Bear Case May Be Freed


November 27, 2007

The Associated Press

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — A British teacher arrested for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad will probably be cleared and released soon, a spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London said Tuesday.

Gillian Gibbons was arrested Sunday and faced possible charges of insulting religion — a crime punishable by up to 40 lashes. She was questioned by Sudanese authorities on Tuesday.

"The police is bound to investigate," embassy spokesman Khalid al Mubarak told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I am pretty certain that this minute incident will be clarified very quickly and this teacher who has been helping us with the teaching of children will be safe and will be cleared."

Asked about the potential punishments — six months imprisonment or 40 lashes — he said: "My impression is that the whole thing could probably be settled amicably long before we reach stages like these ... Our relationship with Britain is so good that we wouldn't like such a minute event to be overblown."

Gibbons was arrested after one of her pupils' parents complained, accusing her of naming the bear after Islam's prophet and founder. Muhammad is a common name among Muslim men, but giving the prophet's name to an animal would be seen as insulting by many Muslims.