04/27/2020, 16.44
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Universities all over the world study coronavirus, in Punjab they study the Qurʼān

by Shafique Khokhar

A Muslim educator criticises Punjab’s governor for a proposal that “reflects our traditional minuet that more religion is a sure panacea for all ills. Unfortunately, the results do not support this idea.”

Lahore (AsiaNews) – As universities around the world try to discover a cure for the coronavirus, Pakistani universities might offer students more religion, as a “panacea for ​​all ills.”

Muhammad Sarwar, the Governor of Punjab, is proposing to make studying fhe Qurʼān compulsory for Muslim university students in his province’s universities, a view criticised by Hamza Arshad, a secular Muslim educator after.

The Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association (PMTA) also has issues with the proposal and has written to the Governor to express the concern of religious minorities about further discrimination against non-Muslims.

In the letter, PMTA president Anjum James Paul, a Christian educator, writes that “Muslim and religious minorities’ students study in the same universities of Punjab.” Although “article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees ‘Freedom of Religion’ and article 25 (1) ‘Equality of Citizenship’ to all citizens, [. . .] religious minority students are [unfortunately] deprived of these civil rights.”

The “decision of obliging only the Muslim majority students is certainly discriminatory and biased. Muslim students are already privileged as they study recitation of Qurʼān Majeed from grades I-XII and the subject of Islamic Studies from grade III to higher education under article 31 of the constitution”.

By contrast, “unfortunate religious minority students are deliberately deprived of equal rights in the educational institutions.” For this reason, the letter calls on the Governor “kindly review your decision and make arrangements for the compulsory study of the Holy Books of the minority students as well on equality basis.”

Prof Hamza Arshad, a Muslim secular educator, told AsiaNews that the Punjab Governor “seems to be unaware of the fact that our students already read a good portion of the Holy Qurʼān with translation in different classes. They have Nazra (recitation of the Qurʼān) at primary level” and “a considerable portion of curriculum comprises of many Surahs and chapters of the Holy Qurʼān.”

“Most of the students go to mosques for recitation or learn by heart. Their parents also make them recite some portion of the Qurʼān on a daily basis. Pakistan has largest numbers of madrassas and mosques in the world. So, there is no lack of recitation.” Yet, “In spite of this massive religious intake, we are considered one of the most corrupt nations of the world.”

Now a “respected governor perhaps is thinking. And in his thrill of confusion, he proposes more religion to deal with the matter. Now students, as proposed, will recite the holy Book at university level.

“The question is if their previous fourteen year recitation couldn’t make them good persons, how will another four years do it when they are mature and thereby not flexible as they were in their childhood. It will only make classroom lose its real purpose.

“Another dangerous factor is that clerics will be able to influence students at the highest level, causing perilous strife. The Governor’s proposal reflects our traditional minuet that more religion is a sure panacea for all ills.

“Unfortunately, the results do not support this idea. Already we have a low standard of education. Our universities seldom produce any considerable research. Now, at time when the universities of the world are trying to discover a cure for the coronavirus, our universities are all at sea. What further good will more religion yield.”

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