Mortal threat: Reforming education to check extremism

Published: January 15, 2011

Afghan govt setting up Islamic seminaries to attract students going to Pakistan, K-P govt reforming syllabus. PHOTO: EPA/FILE

ISLAMABAD: A wide-ranging plan to put an end to propagation of religious extremism from educational institutions in Pakistan and Afghanistan is under way concurrently.

The Afghan government is setting up Islamic seminaries to attract students, who cross over to Pakistan for religious schooling, while on this side of the Durand Line the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government is engaged in reforming the syllabus in the province.

Last week, the Afghan government announced that large Islamic seminaries (madrassas) will be set up in each zone to attract students who now go to Pakistan for religious schooling.

After the invasion of Afghanistan by US-led forces, Pakistan came under pressure from Washington to expel Afghan students from madrassas located on Pakistan’s side of the Durand Line. In 2002, administrators of more than 1,750 madrassas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were told to stop admitting Afghan students or face closure.

Pakistan expelled thousands of Afghan students from its madrassas under US pressure after 9/11. However, still hundreds of students are studying illegally in madrassas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The Jamia Haqqania near Nowshera and Jamia Binoria in Karachi are two of the top madrassas in Pakistan that have admitted thousands of youngsters from Afghanistan for an eight to 12-year graduation programme. Jamia Haqqania is also known as a ‘nursery of Mujahidden’.

Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani – the head of the Haqqani network of militants also happens to be a student of Jamia Haqqania. The Afghan Taliban leaders who had studied in Jamia Haqqania and Jamia Binoria and other madrassas are still a source of inspiration for most students in these seminaries.

According to an official study, Pakistan with an estimated 16,000 to 18,000 madrassas is considered to have the largest number of such schools among Muslim countries.

Meanwhile in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Textbook Board is working on a project to delete all Jihadi subjects from educational syllabus.  The Board Chairman Fazalur Rahim Marwat told The Express Tribune that the school to college level syllabus is being revised to remove matter which preaches hatred, violence and extremism.

“Verses from the Quran which encourage jihad are being replaced with those verses that preach harmony, esteem and care for humanity,” he said, adding that “the matter that spread hatred, disgust and religious fanaticism has already been removed from the syllabus to a large extent.” Work is still in progress to remove all such matter that poisons the minds of youngsters and pushes them towards violence.

“Students should know the difference between holy jihad and the one being preached by religious extremists. Holy Jihad is one of the pillars of Islam and an important religious duty among Muslims. But the extremists have invoked their jihad as an excuse for violence, suicide attacks and bombings, to kill  those they consider to be the  enemies of Islam and Muslims,” he said.

Marwat said that in the past, school books played a key role in spreading hatred against non-Muslims, particularly against Hindus. “But we have removed all such material from our schools and college books,” he said.

“History has been distorted in school books, which portray Muhammad bin Qasim as a hero and Raja Dahir as a villain,” he said. “Raja Dahir was not a bad ruler as is portrayed by such authors,” he added.

“We want to help students become good citizens and good human beings, who can contribute to national as well as regional and global development,” he said.

The books published by the Board highlights the peace-loving ideology of Muslim leaders of Pakhtunkhwa, such as Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan, commonly known as Bacha Khan, Haji Sahib Turangzai and Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan and Rehman Baba, who preached non-violence and condemned extremism. The syllabus revision process was set in motion in 2008 when Marwat became chairman of the Textbook Board. The programme will continue for another 15 months.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th,  2011.

Reader Comments (7)

  • Amaar
    Jan 15, 2011 - 9:07AM

    We need a similar program for Punjab curriculum.Recommend

  • Sandy
    Jan 15, 2011 - 10:46AM

    Nice to see reforms at grass root level Now root cause of the problem is being adressed
    Also change teachers of extreem thinking with moderates Check alienation of muslim society especially women from education Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Jan 15, 2011 - 6:45PM

    Fantastic work KP! We need more people like Marwat.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 15, 2011 - 7:45PM

    Better late than never. I doubt if the situation has gone out of hand and its too late now.Recommend

  • Faiz
    Jan 16, 2011 - 10:10AM

    The issue of extremism and terrorism that Pakistan faces today is rooted in the text that is taught in the mainstream education system. Hate-based literature called Pakistan Studies has radicalized Pakistani society more than madrassa syllabi have done.
    The text being taught in mainstream educational institutions itself is a negation of education by promoting hatred, a distorted view of history and narrow-mindedness. The Pakhtunkhwa government is bringing a silent revolution by purging the syllabus from hate-based literature. After standing up toe-to-toe to terrorism and extremism, this is going to be another milestone of the ANP government.
    Since extremism and terrorism are global issues, world powers–especially the United States and the European Union–should help and support the Peshawar Textbook Board in coming up with a syllabus that teaches love for humanity without any religious or sectarian discrimination. After all, the purpose of any education is teach ‘love’, not hatred that the present syllabus promotes.
    But it is part of the solution, because the real rot lies in Punjab–home to innumerable madrassas and ‘headquarters’ of terror at Muridke and Bahawalpur. Unless these industries of terror are not closed, every effort at combating extremism is bound to fail. It needs a two-pronged strategy: to close the terror industry, and reform education.
    Well-done! Pakhtunkhwa government and Mr. Marwat.Recommend

  • Faiz
    Jan 16, 2011 - 10:26AM

    It was long overdue. But it is never too late to mend ways of education.
    Well-done Pakhtunkhwa government!Recommend

  • mohtamim ahmad
    Jan 17, 2011 - 12:36AM

    I am not sure of the intentions behind the story as Pakistan’s over-dominant right-wing media/reporters raise these issues not to show it as models but rather attract outcry of Mullahs and their patrons in intelligence agencies to stop its implementation. Having said this, KPK’s proposed steps for changing the syllabus is a more than 100 percent right move. The notorious agencies have used Pashtun youth on both sides of the Durand Line for its dirty and never-ending game, which if continued for, say three more years, will prelude another debacle of the country (read Stephen Cohen interview on CFR web). In such a scenario, Pakistanis will kill one another on religious and ethnic backgrounds and their military generals will live in exile on posh streets in US and EU. Time has come to have only one subject on theology and Pakistan Studies with a well-scrutinized syllabus in Pakistan’s educational institutes (clean from hatred), remove all Jehadi slogans from military barracks and cantt areas, disqualify all Pakistani leaders having ideological contacts with Iran, Saudi royal family and its Wahabi institutes, and strengthen international efforts for a peaceful Afghanistan. Do it and peace is just in our pocket.Recommend

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