09/26/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN

All students in Pakistan’s schools required to study Islam

The Commission for Justice and Peace of the Church of Pakistan criticizes the new guidelines for public education. Concern for the civics books that offer only the Islamic point of view.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The new guidelines for school students in Pakistan requires non-Muslims to study Islam and ignore other religious traditions in the country.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Church of Pakistan is critical of the National Education Policy 2009, launched September 9 by the government in Islamabad. Mgr. John Saldanha, Archbishop of Lahore and chairman of the NCJP, and Peter Jacob, secretary of the Commission are concerned about the often implicit discriminatory and coercive aspects of the new guidelines content.

In a press release issued on 25 September, the two leaders of NCJP point the finger at Chapter 4 of the document, dedicated to Islamic Education. They claim that "If government thinks public education is not possible without a compulsory subject of Islamic Studies and Arabic, then we are forced to demand religious education for Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Parsi, etc. in their respective religions".

The program drawn up by the Government contemplates that Islamiyat (Islamic studies) become compulsory until the 12th class (15 and 16 years). For students that from then on will not want to follow the lessons of Islam attendance of alternative courses of public ethics is permitted, but the Commission notes also on this front the discrimination, though latent, is clear.

The NCJP states that for non-Muslim children who do not attend the Islamiyat class "there is a risk of isolation from the rest of the class”, but not only. The courses in civics and public ethics are based on texts that address issues from the Muslim perspective without considering the traditions of different faiths in the country. They also contain biases, errors and falsehoods about non-Muslim religions.

The Commission urges the government to review the National Education Policy 2009 because its current form violates Articles 20 and 22 of the Constitution of Pakistan which guarantees free and equal citizenship to all citizens regardless of their faith. The NCJP has also appealed to the Supreme Court that they take action on the matter.

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