“Bias in textbooks is the root cause of religious intolerance” in Pakistan
By Sheraz Khurram Khan
Special Correspondent for ASSIST News Service in Pakistan
FAISALABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Stating that presence of bias in the curriculum as the root cause of religious intolerance in Pakistan, the Chairman of Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association (PMTA) has called for elimination of alleged pejorative material from the text books.
Professor Anjum James Paul
The PMTA Chairman, Professor Anjum James Paul, made this statement while talking to ANS by phone on Thursday, April 27.
Paul told ANS that the PMTA was established last year. When asked what made him launch struggle for the rights of minority students and teachers, he said that the experiencing of problems on religious grounds during his student, as well as professional life, prompted him to take this initiative.
Elaborating on the problems, he said he faced a real tough time in 1996 when he taught at the Gojra Government College. He said that the then Principal of the college would discriminate against him on religious grounds.
He revealed that he needed a bodyguard for his own safety. “I had to request a gunman from home department,” he said. In the wake of US invasion of Afghanistan he said the students of Government College in Faisalabad boycotted his classes.
“The line on the dais [from which he spoke] read, ‘Non-Muslim teachers should not teach,” Professor Anjum Paul confided in ANS.
Disclosing yet another difficult phase in his teaching career a couple of years ago, he said he translated a column from English to Urdu written by Professor Rafiullah Shah in which he quoted Imam Abu Hanifa as saying that the practice of renting out houses in Muslim holy city of Makkah Mukarama in Saudi Arabia as well as the concept of Monarchism were un-Islamic. He said the professor also quoted Imam Abu Hanifa as saying that Family Planning was not forbidden in Islam.
“When I made mention of Professor Rafiullah’s article in one of my lectures to Bachelor of Arts Students they protested and refused to attend my class. This kept me from going to college for a week,” he said.
Pointing to the “New Scheme of Studies” by the Curriculum Wing of the Pakistan Ministry of Education, Paul said the subject of Arabic was now offered as an optional subject which, he said, was compulsory for all the students earlier.
He said the PMTA had conveyed its reservations on Education Policy/Curriculum reform by writing a letter to Arif Majeed, the Joint Educational Advisor Government of Pakistan on Feb 26, 2007. ANS obtained the copy of the letter that criticized government for giving the option of additional 20 marks on memorizing the Quran, the Muslim holy book. In the letter PMTA also called for appointment of teachers from religious minorities to teach the subject of Ethics, which under the new Scheme of Studies has been termed as a compulsory subject for non-Muslim students whereas Islamiyat (Islamic Studies) is a compulsory subject for Muslim students.
“A non-Muslim cannot teach Islamiyat (Islamic Studies) in the education sector but them why has government launched a policy to recruit teachers from the minorities at the school, college and university level before the implementation of this policy,” the letter questioned.
“Minority students have to appear in Islamiyat due to the unavailability of books and teachers. Secondly they fear that if they appear in the subject of Ethics then there will be discrimination with them by the examiners,” it said.
The PMTA Chief told this correspondent that he wanted Pakistan to emerge as a progressive and moderate country in line with the vision of founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Referring to the speech of Jinnah in the first constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, Professor Anjum called for teaching of values including equality, love, tolerance, acceptance and harmony in the educational institutions.
He said they believed in “Religion for all or none.” Anjum said every Pakistani student should have the option of studying his respective religion in the academic grooves. He maintained the absence of the same is the contravention of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child signed by Pakistan in 1990.
Religious education according to one’s respective faith is a Right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child signed by Pakistan (1990), he pointed out. The PMTA brought this grave matter to the notice of Ministry of Education but it did not turn its hair to make provision for offering religious education to students belonging to religious minorities, he informed.
“The students from religious minorities communities are forced to study Islam; values of Islam and Islamic heroes. There is disgracing and degradation of the teachings and values of other religions through propagation mainly in the subjects of social sciences and especially in Urdu and Social/Pakistan Studies,” he said.
“PMTA was expecting a ray of hope but is disappointed to learn that Ministry of education has done nothing but to disappoint religious minorities through this New Scheme of Studies. It is as biased as the previous Education Policies against religious minorities of Pakistan,” he maintained.
Pakistan will violate UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 by implementing such a discriminatory policy, he warned.
“Meri Kitab (My Book) is taught in grade 1. Its first 6 chapters out of 18 are totally based on the teachings of Islam. Kindly keep in mind that this is not the book on Islamic Studies. What impression these Text Book Boards are leaving in the innocent minds and souls of these students of minorities? Four other books are of Civics and Pakistan Studies Grade 11 and 12 .These books have also been updated in general along with recommendations to remove prejudicial matter.
“PMTA is sorry to say that Pakistani Text Book Boards are playing role of cleric in preaching Islam without caring or respecting other religions. Shall someone allow one’s son or daughter to go to educational institution just to learn hatred, prejudice and discrimination for being minority? There are not lessons on harmony, peace, tolerance, human rights and humanity in the curriculum in general. The ultimate result is before us as we see intolerance in the over all society. We harvest what we grow. It is the curriculum that lay the foundation of a nation .Ministry of education is responsible for the construction or destruction of the minds of the people. A new world is possible if possible steps are taken by the curriculum wing to change the fate of the nation. Serial Name of book Grade Edition Updated Pages Total pages of book 1. Meri Kitab (My Book 1 Jan.2005 21 02 40 2. Civics 12 Jun.2005 521 39 293 3. Civics 11 Jan.2006 202 14 279 4. Pakistan Studies 12 Feb.2006 276 31 257 5. Civics 12 Experimental 2006 301 24 118, said the letter the PMTA wrote to Ministry of Education.
Professor Anjum cited various excerpts from the Islamic Studies textbooks to substantiate the element of religious bias in them.
He told ANS that in class 7 Islamic Studies text book line 12 of page number 29 said: “Write a letter to your non-Muslim friend and convey him message of Islam.” He went on to say that the question no 5 of the Exercise says: “Name the unfortunate rulers who remained deprived of blessings of Islam?”
Citing chapter 2 of Islamic Studies book for class 5. entitled as Imaniyat aur Abadat (Faith and Prayers), he said in the section entitled “Eidain” (religious festivals) of the same chapter page 18 line number 4 says: “Generally the other nations remain engaged in rubbish business during their festivals. (In their religions) there is no expression of relationship with God or His worship. Contrary to these two religious festivals of Islam on the one hand provides opportunity to Muslims for recreation and happiness while on the other hand they provide an occasion for fellowship, help and care of the needy.
“Non-Muslim students should have the facility to study their religion. Subjects like Ethics and Civics should not be slapped on them,” the PTMA chief remarked.
Professor Anjum said the Muslim students get a cutting edge over minority students by getting additional 20 marks by memorizing Quran, Muslim holy book. Asked if his association sought the award of the 20 marks for non-Muslim students by passing some religion based test the PMTA chief said he was opposed to this practice in principle.
Professor Anjum Paul said he was going to send recommendations to the Ministry of Education as well as to President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
The PMTA Chief told ANS he wrote a letter to Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf wherein several demands were made. ANS obtained the copy of the letter, which called for representation of educationists from the Minorities in the Curriculum Revising Committee 2006 that has recently been constituted. Role of educationists and educational institutions of the Minorities is before all.
“We humbly request you to find a soft corner for the educationists in the Committee so that there may be better recommendations for the success of your revolutionary reforms in the education sector,” it said
The letter called for the substitute subjects for the students belonging to Minorities instead of Nazra, Arabic and Islamic Studies which are compulsory for all the students up to grade viii belonging to any religion.
It also made the demand for recruitment of teachers belonging to Minorities to teach the subject of Ethics.
“PMTA also requests to introduce the subject of Ethics in a pure sense where there are the teachings of the religions that exist in Pakistan so that the students may also know their religions from grade 1 as Islamic Studies and Arabic are compulsory subjects from grade 1,” said the letter.
It said that religion should be taught only in the subject of ‘Religion’ otherwise there is discrimination of students belonging to Minorities on the basis of religion.
“Students are innocents and sometimes they are misled from their religion. It is therefore requested to pay special attention in the subjects of Urdu and Social Sciences where there is too much preaching of Islam”, it said.
“PMTA requests to write correct information in the text books instead of disinformation and misinformation .If it is necessary to write about the teachings and cultures of the Minorities in the text books, then educationists from the Minorities must be consulted.
“PMTA requests to use the word ‘Minorities’ instead of ‘Non-Muslim’ which is used mostly in the text books. This is discrimination of Religious Minorities of Pakistan. ‘Non-Muslim’ is not a religion in any sense. The term ‘Minorities’ has been used in the Objectives Resolution and in the Constitution of Pakistan 1973”
“PMTA requests to replace the biased material against the Minorities in the text books. And to add chapters on interfaith harmony to promote national integrity. PMTA requests to review some of the messages by the highest authorities in the text books and to encourage all the students in the messages instead of paying special attention to Muslim students only. Text book are to be read by all Pakistani students belonging to any religion, race or caste”, it maintained.
“PMTA requests to present the true picture of the Minorities and the national heroes who have been ignored intentionally especially in the era of General Muhammad Zia-ul-haq. Role of Minorities has been totally ignored in the text books that causes disharmony in the society .Thus it is very important to present the role of Minorities in the Pakistan Movement and their services in the different fields as the role of Muslims has been presented in the text books. Minorities have played vital role for Pakistan and it is on the record”
“PMTA requests to use the word ’Masihi’ instead of ‘Esai’ in the text books if it is necessary to write because Christian use the word ‘Masih’ after their name not ‘Esai,’” said the letter.
PMTA for Substitute Syllabus for Minorities’ Students
The PMTA Chief told ANS he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz and Federal Minister for Education, Ashraf Javed Qazi ,on June 14, 2006 in which he raised questions including 1. Why Islamic Studies, Arabic and Nazra are compulsory subjects for the minorities’ students from the Prep class instead of teaching their own religions? If it is so then why not Hebrew, Hindi, Persian and Punjabi for the students belonging to minorities? 2. Is this not discrimination and violation of human rights that a student from the majority religion studies ones’ own religion and minorities’ students have to study Islam to which one does not belong? 3. Why all students are taught Islam in Social Sciences such as in the subjects of Urdu and Social Studies in the text books. In which students belonging to minorities have to negate the teachings of their own religions? 4. What do you say about the first 6 chapters out of 18 of grade 1, subject Urdu, edition January 2005 which express all about Islam and Muslims but have to study by all the students? Copy attached herewith. 5. Why there are not substitute subjects for the minorities’ students against Islamic Studies, Arabic and Nazra and in this regard have the educationists from the minorities been ever consulted? 6. Why the subject of Ethics is optional in the grade 9th and 10th while Islamic Studies compulsory to the post graduate level for Muslim Students? 7. Why Ethics and not religious studies prepared by the educationists from the minorities? 8. Is national integrity and social harmony possible when that is not created in the minds of the students who are the future and pillars of the nation?
Call for Treatment of Civics as a compulsory Subject
The PMTA chief told ANS he wrote a letter to the Minister of Education Punjab, Mian Imran Masood, on September 29, 2006 in which he demanded that the subject of Civics be offered as a compulsory subject at the intermediate level.
ANS obtained the copy of the letter in which Anjum Paul wrote:
“… I have come to know by the authorities of the Board of Intermediate & Secondary Education Faisalabad that in the Scheme of Studies there is the subject of Civics as a compulsory subject for the minorities’ students. But I am sorry to say that the students are kept ignored deliberately about this subject and ultimately they have to appear in the subject of Islamic Studies which is a compulsory subject for Muslim students but is applied even to the Minorities’ students”.
“In this regard I want to draw your kind attention towards a case of Govt. College Samundri, Dist. Faisalabad where a Christian Student Mr. Haroon Masih wanted to replace Islamic Studies during the session of 2006.Now he is studying Civics instead of Islamic Studies. Pakistan Minorities’ Teachers Association (PMTA) requests you to issue an order to all the Boards of Intermediate & Secondary Education of Punjab to issue circulations to all the heads of the Colleges and Higher Secondary Schools to change the subject of all the Minorities students to Civics as a compulsory subject who are studying in those respective institutions until arrangements are formulated of Religious Studies of their religions.”
“Secondly, to write the subject of Civics in the compulsory subjects on the admission form so that Minorities’ students may choose the subject of Civics. Thirdly, to write the name of other religions in the column of the religion on the admission form and all the other documents, as there is written Muslim and Non-Muslim. Non-Muslim is not a religion in any sense as he/she may be a Christian/Hindu/Sikh/Buddhist/Parsi or belonging to any other religion. it has been observed that the Minorities students are mentally tortured with this word. Fourthly, to make possible arrangements for the availability of books of Civics so that students prepare this subject well in time. PMTA is hopeful that prompt action shall be taken in this regard so that the entire Minorities’ students who appear regular or private in the annual examination 2007 will appear in the subject of Civics as a compulsory subject”