Teens to return from immersion in radical Islam
Father sent boys to Pakistan to learn to recite 600-page Quran
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/11/08 Fazal Khan wanted his American-born sons to recite the Quran from memory. So he sent them to a religious school in his native Pakistan in 2004.
Noor, now 17, and Mahboob, 16, didn’t like it at Jamia Binoria, a prominent madrassah in Karachi, describing it as a world of black and white compared to the color of Atlanta.
Photo courtesy of “Karachi Kids”
|Noor Elahi Khan (left) and brother Mahboob Elahi Khan of Atlanta are the subject of the documentary film ‘Karachi Kids.’|
“I want to go home badly,” Noor said in a 2005 interview that appears in a new documentary film about the school. “I think about what I could be doing and what I am doing.”
After four years and publicity that focused on the boys’ desire to go home and the madrassah’s alleged connections to
radical Islamic groups, the two boys returned to Atlanta late Thursday.
Their release from the madrassah was won with the help of documentary filmmaker Imran Raza, a Pakistani-American who discovered the boys in 2005, saw them again in 2007 and sent a camera crew earlier this year.
“Karachi Kids,” co-produced by Atlanta public affairs professional Ericka Pertierra, shows the boys change from naive schoolchildren to solemn teenagers who assert that no Muslims were involved in 9/11.
The Khan family recently tried to get the boys out of Pakistan but were unable to obtain exit visas. “I sent a ticket. But I couldn’t get the paperwork,” Fazal Khan said Wednesday.
In broken English mixed with Urdu, he said he would be happy to have his boys back. “I am responsible for my children.”
The filmmaker, Raza, said the Khan family may not have known that teachers at the Binoria madrassah aim to ingrain young minds with radical ideology. Co-producer Pertierra founded South Asia Foundation for Education Reform, a nonprofit that secured help from American and Pakistani officials to get the Khan brothers out.
Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) announced that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf assured the release of the Khan brothers.
McCaul cited a Pakistani law that prohibits foreigners from enrolling in madrassahs. However, the principal of the school, Mufti Mohammed Naeem, is shown on film saying that 29 nations, including the United States, Britain and France, are represented at his school. He also said his madrassah does not promote hatred or militant activity.
In Atlanta, the Khan brothers loved to watch “The Simpsons” and skateboard. They said in the film that their father grew angry with their habits and once threw the television out of the house. They said their father decided to send them to Pakistan after he discovered dust on their Quran, a sign they had failed to pick it up in a while.
The brothers arrived in Pakistan in 2004, unable to speak Urdu and communicate with others. They faced the daunting task of memorizing a 600-page Quran. Noor estimated it would take him eight years.
“My dad told me, ‘I am not bringing you back until you memorize the Quran,’ ” he said on camera.
Fazal Khan did not want to answer in-depth questions about his sons, but said this week that he wanted them to have more exposure to Islam.
Raza said he believes Khan had good intentions. The Los Angeles-based filmmaker said Khan drove him by the al-Farooq Masjid on 14th Street, which runs a reputable Islamic school, and told Raza that he did not enroll his sons there because the school is filled with the children of lawyers, engineers and doctors. He said he was not well-educated or wealthy, that he is a taxi driver.
Raza said the Khan family, which has lived in Atlanta since 1992, is conservative and deeply religious. The Khan brothers have four other siblings.
Raza said Khan was probably unaware that Jamia Binoria’s name was linked to radical groups. In the film, Raza states that many Taliban militants graduated from the school and that Osama bin Laden once spoke there.
In the last on-camera interview in March, Noor said he is glad his father sent him to the madrassah. “I’m a better person,” he said.
He goes on to say that he believes no Muslims were behind the attacks of 9/11. “Not one Jew died that day. That is what they say,” he said.
Christine Fair, a senior political scientist with the nonprofit research organization RAND Corp., said children in Pakistan’s Islamic schools are not subjected to math, English, social studies or other secular topics emphasized in public schools in Georgia.
“When you are out of school for that long, and you are not doing course material your peers are, it’s difficult,” said Fair, who met the Khan brothers in Karachi. “I don’t think their father had ill intentions but what are the consequences?”AtA