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)