Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Feedback of the letters published in the press of Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association

World religions course” published in the Daily Dawn on September 01, 2008


I ENDORSE most of the curriculum recommendations made by Prof Anjum James Paul (Aug 28).
I would suggest one change though. Instead of developing different courses for minorities and Muslims, the subject of Islamic Studies should be replaced by a ‘World Religions’ course so that all students, Muslims and non-Muslims, will learn about all major religions in the same classroom. The students must also study the subject of Ethics which could be part of World Religions course.
Erroneous statements that put down contributions of minorities or their beliefs must be removed from our textbooks on Pakistan Studies/Islamic Studies and honest, truthful statements should replace them, if needed.
I have taught Physics at a university in America for nearly 17 years. Their World Religions class was the most exciting class that students looked forward to. The professor had the insight and vision to invite professors from each faith and request them to talk to his class about their faith and answer students’ questions. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism were generally discussed by the followers of these faiths.
Every year, I was invited to speak about Islam. The students had to first study the English translation of the complete Holy Quran by an Egyptian scholar and prepare any questions. I told the students I would try to answer their questions to the best of my ability and understanding of Islam being a follower of this great religion, though I was not a religious scholar by training. They were appreciative, listened carefully and enjoyed the beauty of Islam and the logic of its injunctions.
At times, my husband was also invited so that students could understand the Muslim family life. After the first time I spoke, the next day I received in the mail 40 ‘Thank you’ letters from students. Each letter stated what the student did not know before but learnt from my talk. This was a great surprise for me and also a feedback to do even better next time. From then on, such letters followed every talk.
I am now on a contract to teach at a university in Pakistan. How I wish my country would adopt and encourage such an open attitude to other religions and let our students learn about the beauties of all major religions and not restrict them to just Islam.
Our students will learn that all religions have a common theme: they all inspire their followers to do well and be good. We will be helping our students to remove some of the hatred that our biased books and extremist mullahs have taught them. I invite all educated people to join me in the demand for a “World Religions” course to be taught to our students, at least at the university level.

“Curriculum recommendations” letter published in the Daily Dawn on September 07, 2008


THIS is apropos of the letter, ‘Curriculum recommendation’, by Prof Anjum James Paul (Aug 28) and the rejoinder by Dr Tahira Arshad of Sept 1.
Among the many recommendations proposed by Prof Paul, who is also the chairman of Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association, two are being discussed here. First he says “there is a discrimination of 20 marks as regards the students of other faiths in ‘Nazra’ (learning the Quran by heart). This discrimination goes against students of other faiths in Pakistan and it becomes very difficult for them to get admission in higher education, so these…should… be abolished.”
It must be pointed out that this is a misleading claim because it in no way constitutes discrimination against non-Muslim students. This is so because less than five per cent of the Muslim pupils would be availing themselves of this option, whereas the remaining 95 or so per cent do not. But these other Muslims do not cry foul, since they know that these are 20 marks out of the aggregate, not 20 per cent of that.
Besides, it takes perhaps many hundreds of hours of very hard work to memorise the entire Holy Quran. On the contrary, if the other students, Muslim or non-Muslim, do not avail themselves of this option, by putting in just a fraction of that extra work they can earn an even higher score than those learning the Quran. Thus, those taking the ‘Nazra’ are only doing so for religion’s sake and are actually losing time for other subjects, which is their choice.
Second, Mr Paul says that the religious minorities should be referred to only as such, but not as ‘non-Muslims’. He states further: “If it is necessary, then use the words ‘Masih’, ‘Masihi’ and ‘Masihiyat’ instead of ‘Esa’, ‘Easi’ and ‘Esayiat’ (Jesus, Christian/s and Christianity) in the textbooks.
This is strange. The Holy Quran refers to Jesus (peace be upon him) as ‘Esa’ or ‘Esa ibne Mariam,’ just as it does to Moses (peace be upon him) as ‘Musa’ or the other prophets as Ibrahim (Abraham), Yousuf (Joseph) and so on, peace be upon them all, in Allah’s own words.
It is unreasonable of the gentleman to try to dictate to us about the terminology used, since it emanates from our scripture, which is the last revealed one and updates all the earlier ones.
Would he be willing to change the reference to Jesus, who most (but not all) Christians call ‘Son of God’ to suit our nomenclature, that is ‘Esa, son of Mariam’, because Allah says that He has no offspring?
The minorities are advised not to exceed what is their democratic right by trying to force their views upon the 95 per cent majority; otherwise they will only spoil the communal harmony. But, I wholeheartedly agree with the two correspondents that a World Religions Course and / or an Ethics be taught at appropriate levels.
Z.A. Jalali, (Karachi)

“Inter-faith harmony in curriculum” letter published in the Daily Mail on January 02, 2009

The respect for the religion in the textbooks of Pakistan has prompted Professor Anjum James Paul, Chairman Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association (PMTA) to write 'inter-faith Harmony in Curriculum' (Dawn, Dec 24), in which has raised concerns about the writing of the textbooks and is of the view that these textbooks are being written in violation of the articles of Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, UDHR, United Nations Convention of Civil and Political Rights, International Convention on the Child Rights and the criteria of UNESCO. He maintains that the textbooks in Pakistan are being written according to the recommended education policy that they must be prepared according to the ideology of pioneer of Pakistan that he presented on August 11, 1947 and in November 1947 to the participants of educational conference. According to him PMTA published a White Paper on education of Pakistan in 2007. This is a document which debates religious bias, general standard of the textbooks and educational policies in Pakistan, Religious bias against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroasters and Jews in 52 textbooks has been identified in the subjects of civics, ethics, English, Islamic Studies, Social Studies and Urdu along with recommendations. He has also criticized Punjab and Sindh Textbooks Boards for publishing textbooks in violation of fundamental rights of the students of minorities of Pakistan and claims that voice of religious minorities is not being heard. Professor Anjum has done a blunder by taking up case for the minorities who are not part of Pakistani population in referred 'White Paper on Education in Pakistan', as there are no Jews and Zoroasters in Pakistan Professors Anjum should not forget that Islamic Republic of Pakistan was created on the basis of Pakistan Resolution of March 23, 1940, which emphasized that a country is to be created, in which the Muslims could lead their lives in accordance with the tenants of Islam. Since curriculum is an important tool through which social structure of masses can be framed in accordance to an ideology, our education policy has to be framed within the parameters of Ideology of Pakistan. Objections framed by Professor Anjum can be sustained if information in the text books is concocted or false. But what all is written regarding the other religious groups, whether Hindus, Christians, Jews or Sikhs has direct relation with the history of Muslim evolution. Presently, the Constitution of Pakistan has taken good care of the rights of the minorities and they are not only encouraged to establish their own educational institutions but are being given over and above their share.
Alina Javed

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