Want unity? Tolerate diversity!

Published: March 24, 2012
The writer is Director South Asian Media School, Lahore 

The writer is Director South Asian Media School, Lahore [email protected]

Why do we seek unity but end up with uniformity? If you want unity, teach yourself to tolerate diversity. Today, we are returning to a failed cure for our criticism of diversity in education. It should be interesting to examine this passion. A quick diagnosis says: we are leaning on intense isolationism to preserve the righteousness of a cause that doesn’t appeal to the world. English-medium education — called Boko Haram in xenophobic Nigeria — is our opening to a world we want to say goodbye to.

Imran Khan says there should be a uniform system of education in Pakistan. Instead, there are three: state sector, private sector and madrassa. Someone has applied a gloss to his thinking: we are producing three types of educated individuals who tend not to agree in their attitudes. Somehow, uniformity of thinking is the criterion and Pakistan will be better off if everybody thought the same and did not differ.

For some, it is wrong that the private sector stream is where only the privileged are educated. It offends their egalitarian view to see the poor remain outside the ambit of good-quality education. But the private stream of education is not only for the rich; some low-grade English-medium schools cater to the middle and lower middle classes as well. That’s the way it has always been in Islam’s historic madrassas too.

Those who point to ‘three nations’ being nurtured by the trifurcated system remain too scared of the non-state actors to criticise the madrassa system. Given that Pakistan’s ideology continues to converge to stringency of faith, the madrassa may be the utopian locus to aspire to. Currently, the mind is focused on how to reduce the salience of the ‘unbridled’ private sector education which makes its pupils take ‘foreign exams’. Boko Haram?

The private sector is often said to be ‘out of control’. But it is the madrassa in a kind of administrative wilderness that is often subjecting poor resident children to sexual violence. The madrassa might dominate in the coming days also because of the powerful nexus of the madrassa network with the nonstate actors and their financial hinterland in the dollar-heavy Gulf. Islamabad is quickly legalising hundreds of illegal madrassas and mosques it knows are aligned with the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The state-run system is either dead or dying because of the declining outreach capacity of the provinces and a derelict teaching community. Research shows that the private sector English-medium institutions — where all subjects are taught in English — have better teachers. Circumstances have pushed the parents to lean on this system to make their children more suitable for the job market which, in turn, interfaces more than ever before with the global job market.

One critic of the ‘three streams’ could not hide his offence at English-medium schools ‘aspiring to multinationals instead of state employment’. (It is true that universities such as LUMS have lowered the quality of civil service by attracting the good graduates to the private sector; but this has happened in India too.) Normally, anyone would think of up-grading the state sector instead of punishing the private sector.

Pakistan has often been called a ‘state without a nation’, meaning that it is a geographic unit without much cohesion among the people who live in it. Pakistan first became conscious of it after 1947, and soon found its cure in One Unit, which wiped out the provinces and their regional identities. After that, ideology was roped in to create the unity the state lacked. Today, Pakistan remains nation-less. We tried unity. Let us give diversity a chance.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (42)

  • Babloo
    Mar 24, 2012 - 11:23PM

    Most of the diversity has been killed. The religious minoritis of Indic religions has been more than decimated and replaced by a extrimist ideology where diversity of opinion and faith is blasphemous.


  • Sajid
    Mar 25, 2012 - 12:27AM

    Excellent piece. This criticism of multiple education systems is out of place, there are plenty of places in the world where multiple education systems exist fruitfully. This narrative against multiple education systems is support by Mr. Hasan Nisar although this has to be one of few stands that I do not agree with Hasan Nisar on.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Mar 25, 2012 - 1:00AM

    In many countries of the world there are only one education system exist and they are best
    examples to see its only former failed colonies of west who didnot bothers to change them self after master ran away for some reasons i think pakistan need one school book sys.


  • Salman Arshad
    Mar 25, 2012 - 1:07AM

    We can only “counter-pray” to Allah for Imran to fail in his dangerous madrassa-oriented visions.
    But the problem with private education is that it also produces conformists, only of good and a different quality. Which instead of being attracted to the establishment or the madrassas, get attracted to the corporate world.
    Private education doesn’t produce nationally aware “citizens” either.


  • BlackJack
    Mar 25, 2012 - 1:10AM

    I do not see how you can avoid these 3 (or more) systems – these are a result of economic inequality and lack of resources to bring the lowest denominator to an acceptable level (same goes for most developing countries). While public school vs prep school difference is likely to continue (as it has in the West), the first priority should be to ensure that the syllabus is vetted and standardized, and teachers (whether madrassa or govt school) need to be certified by accreditation institutions.


  • kaalchakra
    Mar 25, 2012 - 2:07AM

    This is wrong. Unity comes from oneness alone.

    The most beautiful contribution of Islam to mankind’s progress has been its master idea of Tauheed – the Ultimate Oneness, by accepting which all of mankind shall be united. One Prophet, One God, One Religion, One Book, One Way of praying, One Place of pilgrimage, One people. See how beautifully One people rise and fall in prayer together as if they were one human being – all differences erased, submerged in total brotherhood. Problems arise only when One people forget all this and begin to be seduced by ‘diverse’ falsehoods – losing themselves into diverse identities, languages, provinces, races, nations. All that is false and unreal unless it flows from the Oneness in the first place.

    Tauheed is the greatest good, and shirk – deviance and diversity – unless it flows from and reaffirms Tauheed – is the most unacceptable sin.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Mar 25, 2012 - 2:57AM

    @Black Jack
    Sir Mr Obama did not goes to high fees and upper class Education system but he is president
    of the country now i think pakistan need one language education system for all whether poor
    middle or rich cleases or Madrassa peoples the system we see in Turkey or Sadia where national languages are more importent than forgien lang which we indo pakis most preferd. Recommend

  • gp65
    Mar 25, 2012 - 4:41AM

    @Ali Tanoli: “In many countries of the world there are only one education system exist and they are best”

    Can you please list these countries? Not India, not US, Not Canada. Wee you thinking of Saudi Arabia? Also can you define ‘best’? ‘Best for whom?


  • Always Learning
    Mar 25, 2012 - 5:57AM

    Would PTI’s well intentioned, but ambitious, single education system provide education to Mr Imran Khan’s children? Or will they continue to study in England?


  • unbeliever
    Mar 25, 2012 - 7:38AM

    @Salman Arshad:
    well, sir, i beg to differ that going into corporate world is like not aware of problems facing nation…this is a very naive approach. because those who make money for themselves honestly generate sources of money for others as well.
    to clarify, suppose someone who earns rs 100,000 a month in private sector spends a great deal of it on articles of daily use, thus supporting small vegetable, meat sellers, domestic help, the nearest general store, and saves the rest money in bank thereby providing the money to banks to carry out there investment actavities. this maynot be directly visible but it helps nation indirectly. because patriotism is not all about going to border to fight war for the country but how you can help your nation daily.


  • pmbm
    Mar 25, 2012 - 8:12AM

    All private schools and madaris should be closed. The funds now used for them should be diverted to public schools, which should be run by locally elected boards in each community with nationally approved standardized curriculum,must include teaching Quran with understanding ,to all muslim students. And religious studies to non-muslims of their choosing.
    Parents should be involved in their children’s education , contributing financially as well as labour and guidance according to their ability.


  • Anon.
    Mar 25, 2012 - 8:40AM

    Pakistan should first tolerate its linguistsic diversity and stop the discrimiantion against regional langauge by forcing Urdu down our throat.


  • Insaniyat
    Mar 25, 2012 - 10:03AM


    We need to understand that ‘Uniformity’ is the polar opposite of ‘Unity’.

    Unity implies coming together of diverse elements.

    Uniformity can at best be a mass of undifferentiated units.

    A human body is an example of unity where different types of Cells, Bones, Tissues etc together produce a composite whole.

    Uniformity is a colony of amoebas. All alike, All dividing all the time to produce mirror images of each other.


  • Ali-Wali
    Mar 25, 2012 - 11:42AM

    Well the author pointed to broad three systems, in madrassa sector alone we have atleast five subdivisions, Brailvi, Deobandi, Shia, Ahle Hadees and Sepa Sahaba which is a subset of Deobandis. In all these five Shia madrassas are the best, not only they attract students from socially well off in the community but their syllabus is very broad where they learn Eastern and Western philosophies with Shia as well as Sunni views, modern languages and communication systems like computer. I will say that it does not matter what we study, it is our attitude to real life problems which needs changing. Sepa Sahaba madrassas came up with the solution to centuries old Shia-Sunni schism by killing all Shias in Pakistan, not that it will happen or put it this way that Shia will allow that to happen. Although there is no shortage of good people in Pakistan, still we have worst of worst people amongst us as well, our national apathy towards books and learning is not a secret. In short today’s Pakistan is a confused mess, Chinese Indian and Iranian education systems can teach us a thing or two. Not only we have to learn through English education system, we need all education systems in the World to make us better people.Recommend

  • sidjeen
    Mar 25, 2012 - 11:42AM

    the problem is that those who have a problem with education sector’s diversity and english medium schools present the argument that the poor cannot afford it and therefore only the rich benefit from it but then rather than asking for Government schools to be upgraded to the quality of english medium schools they strangely ask for english medium schools to be brought back to the low standards to Government schools, rather than asking for urdu medium and madrassas to adopt the high quality english medium syllabus they ask to impose the low quality urdu medium syllabus on all schools. that is what they mean by uniform system of education.


  • BlackJack
    Mar 25, 2012 - 12:53PM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    Now I find myself responding to you more often than I prefer. You chose a really bad example – Obama is a graduate of Columbia U and later Harvard Law School, arguably two of the best educational institutions in the world. And this has nothing to do with my earlier comment which you have not understood.


  • Cynical
    Mar 25, 2012 - 2:17PM


    The beauty of ‘ONE’ and/or ‘ONENESS’ beautifully explained as never before.


  • R.Khan
    Mar 25, 2012 - 3:06PM

    CIA+MOSSAD+RAW+MI-6 Conspiracy against Ummah & Madaris!


  • Mar 25, 2012 - 4:22PM

    People are not grasping thw main point of the article. Which is tolerate diversity.
    Good article and food for thought but how many of us have the intellect to have serious discussion based on the points put forward by the article.


  • Ali-Wali
    Mar 25, 2012 - 5:09PM

    @kaalchakra: your argument is simplistic, you are trying to be rational when explaining Oneness, when you can speculate ‘qias’ and can not use logic ‘aqal’ is many Islamic schools of thought.


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Mar 25, 2012 - 5:43PM

    Please teach about other religions in positive light and attitude. Superiority complex about Islam should be removed and respect for other religions must be taught at school. The false portrayal of Hindus, Jews, christainity, Sikhs etc being enemies of Islam should be removed and only then after a gap of 10 or more years, the society will become more tolerant and less extremists in their view and the cities will become peaceful. Ignorance leads to chaos. Sat Sri akal, salam, cheerios, take care everyone


  • elementary
    Mar 25, 2012 - 8:01PM

    There is difference between education and indoctrination.three different forms of indoctrination as is the case now in pakistan will lead to three different kinds of fanatacism.
    Spirit of free enquiry lies at th heart of education,Young minds should be taught “How to think” and not moulded into this or that set of beliefs.Primary function of a teacher is to nurture the impulse of curiosity in children allowing their young brains to grow naturally.
    Indoctrination aims to implant a given set of values and beliefs, which not only leads to intolerance of all other idealogies, it also kills the natural inquisitiveness of mind leading to stagnation and decay of any goodness of mind and heart.
    Uniformity by discouraging diversity indoctrinates that your creed is superior and every one else is inferior, wrong and gone astray: this is a natural breeding ground for war.


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Mar 25, 2012 - 8:07PM

    My point is giving education which is biased and lead to indoctrination is useless and dangerous as it leads to a army of brainless zombies. What is the point of education which divides a nation ? Sat Sri akal. Thank you


  • elementary
    Mar 25, 2012 - 8:38PM

    @Prabhjyot Singh Madan:And I agree fully with your point.sat sri akal.


  • observer
    Mar 25, 2012 - 9:24PM


    Ultimate Oneness, by accepting which all of mankind shall be united.One Prophet, One God, One Religion, One Book, One Way of praying, One Place of pilgrimage, One people.

    If everything must be reduced to this oneness, then statements like

    ‘To you your religion and to me mine’


    ‘There is no compulsion in religion’

    are actually false.


  • Politicaly incorrect
    Mar 26, 2012 - 1:36AM


    I am a kaalchakra fan, but on this one you had better off him.
    My salute, till he comes with a better response.


  • Arijit Sharma
    Mar 26, 2012 - 1:42AM

    @kaalchakra: ” … Ultimate Oneness, by accepting which all of mankind shall be united.One Prophet, One God, One Religion, One Book, One Way of praying, One Place of pilgrimage, One people. … ”

    Communism tried something similar and failed. Recommend

  • Mar 26, 2012 - 3:52AM

    Satire does not work,see how many will agree with your statement,You guys never learn,black jack ,Vassan,you can not teach old,really old dog ,new trick,but you keep doing this, thus unwittingly encouraging this,some people are not even good trolls,horrible English,and not to speak bad spelling.


  • Mar 26, 2012 - 4:14AM

    @Prabhjyot Singh Madan: I Can I join,in the great school for Tolerance?,does it require high school diploma,minimum,or some college classes too,can you have school only in Pakistan/India/B’desh,can people of Indo/Pak ethinicity from Usa to can join?How about Norway,they certainly need lesson or two in tolerance?,France and U.K. will welcome this course in Tolerance and throw in few courses in Comparative Religion,just a humble suggestion,if you agree,I will offer donation in Dollars.


  • Mar 26, 2012 - 4:27AM

    @elementary: Pl let me on this new slogan,Sat Sri Akal,what is this?a new Sanskrit Mantra?,chanting it 108 times you get 27 Grapes in Paradise?,I’m In.,PL,Please, never heard it before.I’m so lucky to-day,second good thing happened to me today.How lucky one can get!T.E Thank you.You are gift from Haven .


  • Mar 26, 2012 - 4:31AM

    @Arijit Sharma: Do not spread falsehood,China and Cuba are proof,Communism is not failure.One ness is the Resota stone.The Key.


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Mar 26, 2012 - 11:16AM


    This is wrong. Unity comes from
    oneness alone.

    India which has exponentially greater diversity than Pakistan is still one and Pakistan has split into two.
    Now, what does that tell you?

    Unity starts with self-respect and sustains through respect to diverse opinions.
    Any attempt to enforce unity by unnatural means ends up with each individual having his/her own idea of the perfect method and that actually sows the seeds of intolerance and disunity.
    Besides, any society that is so ashamed of its own roots that it claims a foreigner who violated its motherland to be its ancestor is seriously lacking in self-respect.


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Mar 26, 2012 - 1:27PM


    Do not spread falsehood,China and Cuba
    are proof,Communism is not failure

    Sir, please add North Korea to that


  • G. Din
    Mar 26, 2012 - 3:17PM

    “@elementary: Pl let me on this new slogan,Sat Sri Akal,what is this?a new Sanskrit Mantra?,chanting it 108 times you get 27 Grapes in Paradise?,I’m In.,PL,Please, never heard it before.”
    It is not dignified to flaunt your ignorance, my friend!
    “@Arijit Sharma: Do not spread falsehood,China and Cuba are proof,Communism is not failure.”
    Please keep current with current affairs. They have dropped all false pretenses and are communist only in name just as practically all Islamic countries are so in name only! Those two will also join their defunct brother commies from Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in short order.


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Mar 26, 2012 - 3:41PM

    No point in be sarcastic. You know what I am talking about. Tolerance is about respecting others beliefs and accepting their right to follow their faith in an equal way. Just by joking about a issue and ignoring the larger issue I was talking about does not make you a great debater. I am an Indian and I am proud to be one. How can you put forward your case unless you respect their beliefs. Don’t be a hawk since animosity leads to nowhere. By the way, sat Sri akal is a Sikh greeting to everyone. It means truth is immortal in English. Have a good day.Recommend

  • Elementary
    Mar 26, 2012 - 8:05PM

    Your pointless sarcasm about a way of greeting was quite simply preposterous.


  • kaalchakra
    Mar 26, 2012 - 10:12PM

    Observer, PI, Sharma, and Yuri

    There are no contradictions there, if we take care to understand the theory, vision, and the message of the Quran as non-emotionally and objectively as possible, as we would for any other book on earth.

    ET is not the venue for going into the details here – we must respect the rights of ET moderators to moderate discussions as they consider useful for them – but IMHO, this is an important subject for both Muslims and non-Muslims. Best.


  • Mar 26, 2012 - 10:31PM

    @G. Din: Rejoinder by elementary,,By P.S.Madan Singh,Yuri.K would and should have clarified what I was driving at.If you think I’m a bonfied card holding Communist,then ,then you have something else coming from me later.Nothing gets my goat more than pontificating and preaching.We can not fix things by this simple sermons,time has long past by.Sat,Sri,Akal,If I did not know that greeting by Sikh,than I surely need to go to school.Hindus/Muslims,liberal/conservative and religious guys are beyond the pale,but of late Sikh who are little bit away from this madness seem to have joined too.Communist and religious nuts are one and two punch,they pretty much have same ideology,replace godless deity with All Powerful God,and you can be one or the other.They have simplistic solution,’Russia did not follow Real Marxism,Pakistan is not following Real Islam”If they would only follow Right path then it will be “HONKY DORY’ and Paradise would be on Earth.How can any one talk sense with this kind of folks?.In sheer hopelessness,I sometime use ridicule,sarcasm or sometime reasoned logic,everything goes over the head,like some one translating SAT-SRI-Akal.Do you see what we are dealing with?.I can ignore,Kaalchkara or his twin Ali Tanoli,it is the other guys like Elementary and Singh,Vassan who to drive me to despair.If some one discuses the Acid death of that poor soul in Italy,some one talks utter non-sense,I think they negate great souls like Abdul Sattar Eddy and MOM lady,what will it take for goodness,compassion(Rehham) to take root in our unfortunate land?This what drives me,simple non-sense Aman ki asha,better school,secular or more religion will not bind nations wound,no Band Aid,radical surgery might help,even that I doubt it.Sorry if it to brutal for consumption.Good day.


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Mar 26, 2012 - 10:57PM

    Dear buddy, please do not get me wrong but you seem to enjoy despair and sorrow. Aman ki asha is a good step to build peace. I live in India and pay my taxes of all kind. It is my sincere effort to see peace in my part of the world. Please do not generalize and bring the term “Sikhs” in it. We are proud of India and live it everyday here. World has many miseries in it. But I am a optimistic soul who believe in humanity. Norway and Italy may have their problems but I care about the place I lived in. Let the Italians and the Greeks worry about their problems and defaults respectively. I cannot be more Norwegian or Italians than the people living there. What point in my comments did you find offensive. It’s plain fact that hatred literature and falsified history begets hatred. I don’t mind your comments and you can state them , its your right to say it even if I disagree with them. Jai hind…I hope you don’t find it as offensive or derogatory like sat Sri akal. Have a good day


  • Mar 26, 2012 - 11:46PM

    @Prabhjyot Singh Madan: Again you did not get what I was hinting,Sat Sri Akal Like Satya mev Jayate” are great concept,but mearly have it in our great Seal Of India,Does not do any good,if we flount truth in every step of our life and dailey life.To me I will vote Sardar Bhagat Singh as the gretest Indian and then Netaji Bose.Nations do not reach for the sky by slogan mongering,like Gareebi Hatao”,Satya mev Jayate etc,etc,fighting for fair play,level field and equal opportunity for all,no favors to any sect,religion or caste.Look around what was U.P. election about.?This is in 2012,Rahul was the biggest offender followed by Law minister,now see the Shenanigan of Dedi ,If Railway can not run safely or in red,what need to be done?It is not being opptimist or less,it is pragamitic behavior and policy.Do Any Indian news paper do their job other than “Chamchageri,? Every thing and every one can be bought,look what they are doing to one institution the Armed Forces,and its Commander,simply because he crossed some Babus,they will not rest untill they destroy him,and Anna Hazare,You done anything as a protest?Why so many Indians find ‘The Tribune Express’ such a out standing news out let?Can Hindustan Times or The Times of India, show a candle to this publication?I have been a Indian for too long,In sheer exesa -speration,I left India jobless,pennyless hopeless about 45 years ago,you are a better man than me for you carry the cross for me,but I just can not.be dishonest and a hypocrite.I speak and try to write without malice,and to the best of my ability,in the knowledge,what does a man gain the riches of the world but in the bargain loses his soul,my guide is my better Angeles of my nature.Good day.


  • G. Din
    Mar 27, 2012 - 1:17AM

    You are quite an intense man, sir, and I have no doubt you mean very well. I suggest you take life a little more easy. “Sat Sri Akal” (“Truth is Timeless”), “SatyamevaJayate” (“Truth is always victorious”) are what we are assured of. What is wrong with reinforcing such positive vibes?
    Reinforcement anchors us so that we are not tossed around in a sea of confusion. I recommend both to you! Sat Sri Akal to you!


  • elementary
    Mar 27, 2012 - 3:24AM

    I can understand your despair ,as your thoughts, to me, are all jumbled up. you can’t make your point across to your audience and I suspect to yourself.
    Any way the topic of the article was about tolerating diversity, with which I and P.S.madan agreed . I don’t see any compelling reason to plunge into sea of despair on that.
    I am a Pakistani muslim BTW.


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