Schools run by Islamic charities in the Arab world mostly are viewed as simply extensions of local Islamist organizations, their main purpose being to mobilize for the organization and to spread its political doctrines. However, in the case of Hamas and the Islamic schools in the occupied Palestinian Territories, a formal affiliation exists only to a limited degree. Even more important, the political concepts that are important in Hamas are largely irrelevant in the Islamic schools. Instead, teachers and parents alike focus on educational and cultural issues: educational quality, discipline, conservative morals and knowledge of Islamic culture. Consequently, instead of being linked to political organizations, the Islamic schools may be interpreted as putting Islam to work for social and developmental purposes. A comparison with Islamic school movements in Turkey and Mali strengthens the hypothesis that Islamic schooling is a significant movement in its own right, and largely independent of political Islamic organizations. Its function is to contribute to local development using a religious idiom that is socially conservative and appeals to large parts of the population in a number of Muslim-majority countries.
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