Pakistani Education Affects American Security

Pakistan is a Muslim nation in Asia, sandwiched between India and Afghanistan.  China, Iran and the Arabian Sea touch Pakistan’s outer edges.  More than 199 million people live in Pakistan.  Islam is the country’s official religion—96.4 percent are Muslims; Hindus and Christians are about 3.6 percent. (CIA)

Pakistan’s schools are run by the government, but they are not free.  These schools only exist in city areas.  Many remote villages have “ghost” schools, which are empty buildings with no teacher.  Teachers are paid, but there is no accountability, and therefore, no teacher attendance.

Pakistan spends little on its educational system, only 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product (CIA, 2013), leaving more than 24 million children unschooled. (AFP) This is the second highest rate in the world after Nigeria.  In contrast, the United States spent 5.2 percent of its gross domestic product on education in 2011. (CIA)

Only 57.9 percent of Pakistan’s people can read. (CIA)

Why should this matter to America?

What happens in Pakistan affects American security.

Robin and Mike Gordon

Robin and Mike Gordon

Mike Gordon of Shining Light International developed an entire school system in the Gilgit area of northern Pakistan.  He states, “One of the necessary components of securing our borders and combating terrorism is to educate the poorest, most oppressed people.  This prevents radical Islam.”

Mike Gordon and his wife, Robin, a school principal, set out in 2001 to help the oppressed, migrant Christian population living in Gilgit and surrounding areas.  This group is under threat of persecution and has been completely illiterate, until now.  Today, these children are grown, in college, and are the first generation of migrant Pakistani Christians to read their Bible.  Some intend to return to Shining Light schools as teachers themselves.  Others will go on to enter government, the military, or another area of employment. 

More Shining Light schools have opened, enabling other poor minority groups to attend.  One such group is the Gujjars, an Islamic semi-nomadic people close to the border of Afghanistan. They live on the fringes of society—without running water, health-care or education.  A very high percentage of the Gujjars in Gilgit-Baltistan are illiterate.  

They could easily be radicalized by radical Islam. Shining Light now educates 600 Gujjar children from three villages and expects to enter two more villages by the end of the year. 

Shining Light employs 60 people, 50 of which are teachers, some (8) who live and work in remote areas. The organization, a non-profit 501c3, provides scholarships to the needy, even for those who go on to university.

Shining Light education is taught in English and is conceptual.  Robin Gordon’s expertise has provided necessary materials, making the school highly-valued.  In contrast, education in Pakistani government schools is taught by rote (repetition).  Western education encourages students to think, write, and understand concepts.  Rote education is simply memorization and regurgitation.

Islam, by law, is taught in Pakistani schools, whether government or private.  Christian students may opt-out with an ethics class or other appropriate elective.

Poor students without access to government schools or a program like Shining Light, attend the madrassas.  These are Islamic religious schools which teach the Koran using rote memorization.  The Koran is written and spoken in its original Arabic language, but the primary languages of Pakistan are Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki and Urdu (official).  Students rely on Islamic teaching for understanding of the Koran, but there is also no regulation of the madrassas and what is being taught.

A madrassa education is free and is the primary form of education in Pakistan.  They are in every Sunni Islam village and the cities in Pakistan. 3.5 million children attend more than 20,000 madrassas.

Mike Gordon adds, “This kind of teaching, rote memorization, has infiltrated the government education system.”

Tashfeen Malik, the female shooter in the San Bernardino massacre, attended the Al-Huda Institute, a madrassa in Pakistan. 

There is growing evidence that these Pakistani madrassas are recruitment centers for Islamic radicalization from the poorer and middle classes.  There is also evidence that many of the madrassas are funded by Saudi Arabia.

Madrassas in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan created the jihadists in the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Today the jihadists are joining the Islamic Caliphate, also known as ISIS.

Madrassas are associated with local mosques, an Islamic place of worship.  There are 3186 mosques in the United States (Saltomatic) and there are several Islamic schools or madrassas, as well. “80 percent of the 1,200 mosques operating in the US were constructed after 2001, more often than not with Saudi financing." (World Affairs)

Pakistanis and other Islamic nationals are attempting to cross United States’ borders illegally, as in the case of Javaid Muhammad (May 17, 2016) and legally as did Tashfeen Malik on a fiancée visa.

To begin to keep America safe, the gaps must be filled.  Those who support radicalization cut off, and organizations like Shining Light International, supported.

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The Next Ground Zero: "We Are Ready"

Tommy Neiman

Tommy Neiman

In 2001 Islamic radicals struck America in New York City and Washington D.C. 3,000 people died.

It’s difficult to understand why the terrorists flew airplanes filled with people into buildings. The meaning of the word “radical is “root.”  Those Islamic men had returned to their spiritual roots in both their minds and their bodies. They believed in their cause, their war,  and they were willing to die for it.

The foundation of the Twin Towers in New York City became known as “Ground Zero.”  This term was coined in 1946.  The dictionary states the meaning as, “the point on the earth’s surface directly above, below, or at which an explosion (especially a nuclear explosion) occurs.”

Americans were devastated.  Islam claimed a victory.

Though it has been 15 years since 9/11, Americans continue to call such acts “terrorism,” whereas Islamic radicals call them “jihad,” or acts of war.  This war is ongoing—even on American soil.

When a nation or a people go to war, all resources are put into play.  And plans that were successful before will be utilized again.

Is America ready?  Is your community prepared?

Tommy Neiman, Florida State Fire Fighter of the Year (2003) and St. Lucie County Fire Fighter of the Year (1993), has seen the unimaginable horror of Ground Zero shortly after 9/11.  As a chaplain, Neiman was part of a memorial service which distributed urns filled with concrete dust from the center shaft of both the North and South Twin Towers to families yet in shock—their loved ones suddenly gone.

Tommy Neiman has also witnessed the recent preparations of fire fighters.  No longer do these public servants just put out house fires—they are trained and continue to be trained in the latest rescue skills for a variety of attacks and even for another Ground Zero.

Fire fighters carry dosimeters (devices that measure exposure to ionizing radiation) and other radiological monitoring equipment to measure nuclear radiation.  Neiman states, “Each year fire fighters and emergency rescue receive a refresher course on the use of this special type of equipment, keeping them up-to-date.  Fire fighters and emergency rescue have also been prepared for a situation with mass casualties and evacuation procedures.

Communication has been bettered.  The government has upgraded fire fighter/emergency rescue radios with more frequencies; a specific frequency can now be used just for a single catastrophic event.

Hazardous material (HAZMAT) crews have been well trained. Smoke from chemical fires can be a major problem.  Hazardous chemicals and particles in the smoke can cause death. Chemical suits are ready and able to be worn.

Fire fighters are trained for special rescue situations—in confined spaces, for example, in underground piping. 

At the stations, there are now heavier bay doors in place and a tighter watch on vehicles at a rescue scene.  A fire truck or ambulance, if stolen, could be packed with explosives and normally would receive good access to many facilities.

In St. Lucie County, a newly formed SWAT team of paramedics has been cross-trained to work with law enforcement on special law enforcement missions.

Tommy Neiman adds, “There is an overall awareness, an acceptance of this new reality and heightened preparedness among fire fighters and emergency rescue to save lives and protect property.”

Neiman believes that the level of stress is now higher among fire fighters and emergency rescue.  Right after the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, he thought, ‘Will this happen here on my shift?’  He admits that it very well could, and continued “We will respond to it. We are 100% ready and have stayed on the cutting edge of what’s out there globally, for handling a terrorism incident.”

When asked, “How can the public be ready?” Neiman answers, “One citizen alone can make a difference.  If you see something, report it.  We must remain proactive and observant.  That one person who alerts authorities could possibly stop a terrorist attack from happening or lessen the blow.”

As a fire fighter chaplain, Tommy Neiman remembers that after 9/11 churches were full.  Americans were scared.  They had come to realize that death is real, and the next day is not promised.  He affirms, “It is important to be ready spiritually.”

Tommy Neiman is the author of Sirens of the Cross, and for 18 years has been the baseball chaplain for both the New York Mets (spring training) and the St. Lucie Mets.  A native of Fort Pierce, he travels the country speaking about his life as a fire fighter—offering hope and encouragement where needed.  Tommy Neiman currently serves in the Malabar and Okeechobee Fire/Emergency Rescue Departments and spent 30 years with the St. Lucie County Fire Department as a Lieutenant. Contact Tommy Neiman at or (772) 216-7426.

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