Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Inter-faith harmony in curriculum” letter published in the Daily Dawn on December 24, 2008

I WOULD like to draw the attention of the authorities concerned to respect for religions in the textbooks of Pakistan. The textbooks are being written according to the recommended education policy that they must be prepared according to the ideology of the pioneer of Pakistan that he presented on Aug 11, 1947 and in November 1947 to the participants of the educational conference.
The Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association (PMTA) has grave concerns about the writing of the textbooks as recently observed in my meeting with Chiragh Din Arif, director of curriculum, Punjab Textbooks Board, Lahore. These textbooks are being written in violation of the articles of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, UDHR, United Nations Convention of Civil and Political Rights, International Convention on the Child Rights and the criteria of Unesco.
The PMTA published a white paper on education in Pakistan in 2007. This is a document to debate religious bias, general standard of 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, Pakistan Studies, Social Studies and Urdu, along with recommendations.
Textbooks must be based on values and there must be removal of all sorts of bias against the minority religions and their followers in the upcoming textbooks which are being written for Pakistani students but not for the followers of a particular religion.
The role of religious minorities must be presented like Muslims’ in the creation and construction of Pakistan so that the culture of peace and harmony is promoted through the textbooks of Pakistan.
In the textbooks of Ethics (compulsory) chapters on Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism must be written according to the teachings of their sacred books. These textbooks must be written without any comparison between or among religions as it is in the instructions of the curriculum of ethics.
These textbooks must be written by the scholars of the relevant religions so that any particular ideology of a religion may not influence the teachings of any other religion. The Sindh Textbook Board has already gone through the bitter experience of this unacceptability in the book of ethics for Class IX which was rejected by the Christians because the chapter on ‘Jesus Christ’ hurt their faith. If the situation remains the same in future textbooks, then there will again be violation of fundamental rights of the students of minorities of Pakistan.
During my meeting with the director of curriculum, he asked me to provide him a name of a scholar who is competent in the comparative study of religions. I was so surprised to know that it was an open violation of the instructions. It was evident that the ministry of education was not ready to bring changes to the curriculum and has some unknown fear from the patriot minorities.
The ministry of education only seems to be the voice of the majority but not of the minority. I presented a report of a seminar which was held in July in Lahore on the ‘Role of textbooks in promoting social and inter-religious harmony’. There were Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Zoroasters who participated in this seminar and unanimously passed the recommendations which were presented to the minister of human rights, the government of Punjab, but it seems that the voice of religious minorities is not being heard.

Chairman, PMTA

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