Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The Nepali government has decided to revoke the license of all religious schools that are not run by an official religious organisation. The decision has attracted a lot of criticism in the southern districts of the country, where numerous madrasas (Islamic schools) will be forced to close because of the measure.
In motivating their move, Nepali authorities cited "economic sustainability" and "suspicious fundamentalist activity". However, the decision seems aimed at Islamic religious schools because most Madrasas are not operated by proper Islamic organisations.
Conversely, the decision does not appear to have had any major impact on schools run by Hindus, Christians and Buddhists, which are operated by solidly self-financed institutions.
"The Council of Ministers decided on 18 December to revoke the licence granted to religious schools that do not operate under the auspices of a religious organisation and with their financial support," said government spokesman Minendra Rijal.
"The decision," the official said, "was taken because many of these institutions have become unsustainable from the economic point of view. In addition, some individuals were found to be misusing the schools." However, he declined to explain what the alleged "misuse" was.
For Mohammad Shahjahan, secretary of the Madarsha Coordination Committee (Saptari District), "the decision is regrettable because it will only lead to the closure of thousands of schools where students can learn in their mother tongue."
According to Mohammad Ali Anbar, chairman of the Muslim Youth Rights Forum, "instead of helping the schools, the government has nipped them in the bud."
Interreligious Council Secretary General Nazrul Hussein is convinced that the government "should regulate and check if there are cases of corruption or wrong-doings; however, it should not close the schools. With this move, it seems that the administration wants to suppress the Muslim minority of Nepal".