07/29/2016, 15.12
PAKISTAN
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For Justice and Peace, textbooks are full of intolerance and hatred towards non-Muslims

by Kamran Chaudhry

The Episcopal Commission presents a comprehensive study on violent content in curriculum. Many references to hatred and intolerance fuel an atmosphere of violence, religious fanaticism and extremism. Over the years, textbooks have been cleansed of references to non-Muslim heroes, whilst “weapon-wielding warriors” have been chosen as heroes.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – State-approved textbooks and curricula are full of references that incite hatred and intolerance against non-Muslims, this according to a study released yesterday in Lahore by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of Pakistan.

“This is not only about religious minorities but a national issue,” said NCJP executive director Cecil Shane Chaudhry. “It is a red flag for the government, which must ask the Church to promote the role of minorities in creating and defending the country."

According to the 40-page study, government-approved curricula used in the country’s four provinces are responsible for the rise in mass violence, religious fanaticism and extremism.

It examines the effects of Islamic texts on society, looks at its effects on Muslim students, and reviews educational reforms.

At the same time, it points out human rights violations in education policy and in the school system, showing how historical facts are twisted, ending with some recommendations from the Commission.

“When I was in Grade 6, I felt proud when reading about my fighter pilot dad in the school book,” said Cecil Shane Chaudry. “However his name along with other non Muslim heroes disappeared by the time I reached in college. For me, this deliberate change set off an alarm bell”.   

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two South Asian countries with compulsory Islamic education. Both nations exclude other religions from the curriculum.

Catholic educators have been demanding reforms in the education sector and curriculum policy since 2006, when the government began a dialogue on major educational issues. This year, a chapter on the “role of minorities” was included. However, 74 per cent of textbooks still encourage militancy and hate speech.

For instance, on page 85 of a history book used in Peshawar, a centre of Taliban extremism, one can read that “The English took power from Muslims, so they considered Muslims as their true enemies. They closed all doors of development to Muslims. So Muslims had no choice but to fight the English . . . Christian pastors were forcefully converting locals to Christianity”.

“Beards are getting longer,” said Asma Bukhari, a Muslim lawmaker. “Humanity is disappearing. Both women and Islam are being manipulated.”

“Our textbooks are full of personal opinions, which have nothing to do with Islam. It is embarrassing that extremists shout 'Allah is great' (God is greatest) when they blow themselves up."

Mohammad Tahseen, founding director of the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (a consortium of Canadian and South Asian NGOs), praised the NCJP for its courageous step and urged participants to share it in schools, media and news articles.

“This is more than an academic effort. The cited references from the syllabus are normal for many parliamentarians. We produce Muslim fighters because we have chosen weapon wielding warriors as our heroes instead of poets or Sufi saints”, he said.

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