A controversial Pakistani cleric who runs an Islamic seminary for girls in the capital of Islamabad has named the school’s newly built library in honour of Osama bin Laden, his spokesman and a school administrator said on Friday.
The tribute is an unusual first, though there have been cases in recent years of Pakistanis naming their sons or even their stores and places of business after the terror network’s slain leader.
Bin Laden was killed in a May 2011 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in his hiding place in Abbottabad, a garrison town about 125 kilometres north of Islamabad. The unilateral raid at the time angered the Pakistani government, which said the United States had violated the country’s sovereignty.
In the immediate aftermath of bin Laden’s death, Islamists held small rallies across Pakistan to denounce the killing. The slain al-Qaeda chief is still regarded as a hero by most students at Islamic schools, or madrassas.
For cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, bin Laden was also a hero and a “martyr” for Islam and he wanted to pay a proper tribute by naming the school’s library after the al-Qaeda chief, the cleric’s spokesman Tehsin Ullah told The Associated Press.
Mr. Aziz has long been considered a hardline and controversial cleric. He is also a prayer leader at the Pakistani capital’s Red Mosque a former militant hideout that the army raided in 2007. The raid killed dozens of extremists and others and unleashed a wave of retaliatory militant attacks across Pakistan.
The mosque runs two schools, one for boys and one for girls. The girls’ school, called Jamia Hafsa, has an all-female staff and about 1,500 students. As a madrassa, it is moderate in size and considered somewhat prestigious.
The newly constructed, one-room library is located inside the school compound, next to a computer room and Mr. Aziz’s office. A paper sign posted on the library’s wooden door reads, in Arabic, Maktaba Osama bin Laden Shaheed or, Library Osama bin Laden, the Martyr.
“Aziz thinks that Osama bin Laden is a hero and he is a martyr and that is why he selected Osama bin Laden’s name for the library,” said Mr. Ullah, the spokesman.
Abdul Rehman, the school administrator, said the library was built two months ago and was named after bin Laden over a month ago something that raised little attention until media picked it up.
There were no visible books or portraits of bin Laden inside the library, and Mr. Rehman stressed it can only carry books about the teachings of Islam. He refused to discuss bin Laden or the U.S. commando raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief.
AP reporters visiting the girls’ madrassa on Friday were not allowed to talk to any of the students or the staff. Mr. Rehman said Islam doesn’t allow men who are not family members to interact with female students or teachers.