Religious bias of textbooks

Published: November 10, 2011

Dislike of Christians is found in religious textbooks where Islam is described in opposition to Judaism and Christianity as creeds that rejected the pure message of Islam. PHOTOS: CREATIVE COMMONS

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has researched Pakistani school textbooks to discover that there is religious bias in them denigrating the minority communities of the country. After poring through more than 100 textbooks from grades 1 to 10 across all four provinces; visiting 37 public schools and interviewing 277 students and teachers; visiting 19 madrassas and interviewing 226 students and teachers, the commission members have come to the conclusion that “teaching discrimination increases the likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow”.

It is admitted by all Pakistanis that their society is steeped in extremist passions, some of them excited by unjust legislations like the blasphemy laws. Entire communities, such as the lawyers at the lower and high courts, have begun to take direct action on the streets to implement their extremist agenda, to say nothing of the Taliban who burn schools in fulfilment of their own vision of the perfect Islamic state. As a shocking demonstration of this trend, most people in Pakistan think that Pakistan is not following sharia, agreeing with the madrassa network that the constitutional amendment that set up the Federal Shariat Court is not sharia at all.

Textbooks have always been biased. Dislike of Christians is found in religious textbooks where Islam is described in opposition to Judaism and Christianity as creeds that rejected the pure message of Islam. The Hindus of Pakistan get the double whammy. History in our textbooks, which begins with the advent of the Arab warriors in Sindh against local Hindu rulers, and ends with the Pakistan Movement as a refusal of the Muslims of India to live together with “an unjust and hostile” Hindu community, always shows them in a bad light.

According to the commission’s report, “Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and eternal enemies of Islam whose culture and society is based on injustice and cruelty, while Islam delivers a message of peace and brotherhood, concepts portrayed as alien to the Hindu”. This kind of bias should be excised, but the evil is constantly confirmed by inexpert analyses of contemporary India as a Hindu-majority neighbour that is against the very existence of Pakistan. Any dramatisation of events in Indian-administered Kashmir on TV will also attempt an ideological definition of Hinduism as an evil religion. More ominously, every time the home-grown Taliban kill innocent Pakistanis, police chiefs appear on TV to say that India — in tandem with Israel and the US — has done the deed. After the Babri Mosque incident in India, Hindu temples were burnt in Pakistan.

These facts go beyond the textbook to target communities against whom the school is not supposed to teach. Hindus in Sindh are becoming victims of inhuman treatment as religiously intense organisations become strong in the rural areas of the province. The Christians of Punjab are also being collectively punished on trumped up charges of blasphemy and desecration of the Holy Quran. The textbooks reflect this mindset. The report by the US commission quotes from a Grade 4 book in Punjab: “Anti-Islamic forces are always trying to finish the Islamic domination of the world. This can cause danger for the very existence of Islam. Today, the defence of Pakistan and Islam is very much in need’. A biased teacher may report Christian pupils for blasphemy, as has happened in the past, knowing full well that it takes up to nine years to get off the hook for a blasphemy accusation, given the virulently prejudiced lawyers’ community.

Pakistan will reject the US commission’s report as per a routine that has given our officials a lot of practice in hiding the truth. Things are actually much worse in a country where TV programmes show youths voting in favour of extremist passions under the rubric of ‘ghairat’ and politicians hope to garner votes by favouring the Taliban and their worldview while rejecting any action against religious terrorism by saying ‘it is not Pakistan’s war’. Some years ago, a professor in Islamabad revealed the bias of prescribed textbooks. Today, society has far surpassed the textbook and lives a life of extremism and hatred of minority communities.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th,  2011.

Reader Comments (14)

  • sharif Lone
    Nov 10, 2011 - 10:17PM

    Well written editorial. Only yesterday I wrote a comment about the text book hate mongering in your editorial on Hindu killings. I would like to add few points. It all amounts to tolerance and accepting that everybody has the right to believe whatever they want, even when it differs from your own. Is toleration simply a matter of ‘not interfering with someone’s right to speak and behave’ but do we tolerate proselytizing of such beliefs if very erroneous to the common good? For example climate change denial. If we judge a view dangerous or bad, doesn’t the ideal of tolerance need to give way, trumped by the common good. Of course I recognize this is a slippery slope, authoritarian powers have been judging the common good and repressing dissident opinion for centuries. But tolerance can’t require us simply to sit and wash our hands
    We must eradicate intolerant texts in our schools and give right to those who to counter our arguments when they do not agree with Tabluugh of our faith. As I see it is, it is like a boxing match where ‘others’ have their hands tied, as they listen to weaknesses in their faith, but cannot retaliate with equal vigor. UNless that changes, things will get worse before returning to normality, if at all.

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  • R S JOHAR
    Nov 10, 2011 - 10:34PM

    Religious intolerance leads to violence.

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  • Cold Hard Fact
    Nov 10, 2011 - 10:42PM

    Get rid of all these books! They are poison! Religion is a VERY PERSONAL thing. It should be only taught in your home-NOT IN SCHOOL! Pakistan is full of extremists its unbelievable. 50% of the comments on this website scare the sh!t out of me…they sound like talibans. The only way this country can move forward is if religious education and laws are completely finished. I feel so bad for the minorities living in Pakistan- I escaped this country & I thank my lucky stars.

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  • goggi
    Nov 11, 2011 - 3:04AM

    @R S JOHAR:
    Bhayia, intolerance and violence are the inherent elements of all religions because they believe in irrational belief systems!

    Rational-oriented societies, which have distanced themselves from such irrational beliefs, have reached a very high grade of tolerance and a peaceful living together. Nobody is at all interested, whether one believes in no-god, one-god or multiple-gods.

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  • Devils Advice
    Nov 11, 2011 - 4:14AM

    The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has researched Pakistani school textbooks to discover that there is religious bias in them denigrating the minority communities
    Simple question i have for Scholar of Pakistani Society “Why do you need third party like US Commission to tell you that you have Religious Bias in your Text book”
    Where are your schoalrs studying from ? Different school in Pakistan or Abroad?
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  • vasan
    Nov 11, 2011 - 6:07AM

    From a Grade 4 book in Punjab: “Anti-Islamic forces are always trying to finish the Islamic domination of the world. This can cause danger for the very existence of Islam.

    Isnt there a better joke than this. Islamic domination of the world?? And Grade 4 children are fed with such lies , blatant and violent. Get a life. Pity poor pakistani children and their parents. Poisoning of the mind has led Pakistan to the current pass. It wasnt said for nothing ” Reap what you sow”

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  • JP
    Nov 11, 2011 - 11:01AM

    Pakistan Govt could not even safe guard the Honourable Judge who passed death sentence to the murderer Qadri leave alone changing the biased text books

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  • bibyawari
    Nov 11, 2011 - 12:11PM

    @all,

    Agreed, there is extremism in Pakistan, but its not because of these books, rather this is because of few people own misinterpretation and their own agenda. The level of tolerance that Islam teaches, no religion in the world has it. If Islam or muslims are so intolerant, then why everyday so many people convert to Islam, e.g. Mariam Ridley, and many other important personlities across the world, therefore, west in fear of this increasing trend of conversion to Islam is maligning Islam and our schoars associated with it.

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  • Tony Singh
    Nov 11, 2011 - 4:21PM

    @bibyawari:
    Religion is how you practise it. By that definition as of today Islam is anything but religion of peace.

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  • Jay
    Nov 11, 2011 - 4:46PM

    bibyawari:

    If Islam is so tolerant, how come there are no temples, gurudwaras or churches in Saudi Arabia? And why cant non-muslims enter Mecca or Medina? It just doesnt compute.

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  • anil
    Nov 11, 2011 - 8:13PM

    someone in my childhood told me speaking untruth is a sin . But here textbooks are not just teaching untruth , but force others to commit sin. Pakistan would have developed some moral ground ,if these books had taught nationalism , in stead of biased white lie . In world history ,always religions collided ,but the religion who tried to show the right path by shunning violence to their people , prospered . Christians are that’s why more developed intellectually .Recommend

  • Abbas from the US
    Nov 11, 2011 - 9:02PM

    @bibyawari:

    Are you aware as people turn to Islam for their spiritual needs, people also turn away from Islam without the need to proclaim it publicly.

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  • bibyawari
    Nov 14, 2011 - 12:49PM

    @Abbas from the US:
    people turning away from Islam is not because of what Islam preaches to do or what muslims do, rather because of their weak faith in Islam, moreover, the ratio of people going away from islam is so meager as compared to those who are accepting it.

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  • bibyawari
    Nov 14, 2011 - 12:59PM

    @Jay:
    Non muslim saudies are very very little in number, almost equal to as not existing. therefore, their temples or other worship places are not there, eventhough if saudies does not let non-muslims build their worship places over there, it does not mean that Islam does preach so. how many temples and churches are here in Pakistan…and in many other islamic countries…where these people are worshiping their lords.

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