At first, he just grinned and said: ‘That’s a very good question!’ Then he told me most of it comes from ‘zakat’ – the charitable donations all Muslims are meant to pay if their income is above a certain level – a minimum of 2.5per cent.
I raised that with two senior security officials in Karachi. They were perfectly happy to talk to me at their headquarters, but they asked me not to identify them: men like Imam Naeem wield a great deal of influence in this society.
Did they believe zakat paid for the madrassa? They did not. Did they believe the madrassa gave no succour to extremists? They did not. Could they prove it? They could not.
I asked why they did not simply raid madrassas in the way they would raid any other premises they suspected of harbouring terrorists. They merely smiled.
The question of where the money comes from is a crucial one. When I first reported from Pakistan in the early Seventies the number of madrassas could be counted in the dozens. Today, there are about 20,000.
And many – probably the majority – are funded by the most extreme Muslim denomination, the Wahhabis. There are relatively few Wahhabis compared to the Sunnis and Shias but their influence is out of all proportion to their size.
Wahhabis arose in Saudi Arabia in the 18th century and when the oil started flowing from beneath the Saudi deserts they became vastly rich. They have used billions of pounds of that wealth to fund madrassas around the world.
What makes their more extreme followers so frightening is that they believe God gives them the right to kill people they deem to be ‘infidels’. “