Study reflects school textbooks need to be free of religious discrimination

All-parties conference on education reform in K-P held in Peshawar.


Our Correspondent May 26, 2013
NCJP’s study also identified discrimination against the country’s religious minorities in the education policy itself. PHOTO: QAZI USMAN/ EXPRESS

PESHAWAR:


As many as 55 chapters in 22 course books used in Sindh and Punjab were found to contain discriminatory material against minorities, according to a study conducted by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP).The textbooks were used in grades one to 10 in the 2012-2013 school year.


In a meeting with political parties on the subject of ‘Human Rights Concepts and Religious Freedom’ held on Saturday at a local hotel, NCJP Executive Director Peter Jacob elaborated on the study titled ‘Taleem ya Nafrat ki Aabiyari’ (Education or spreading hate).

Jacob informed participants that 55 chapters of 22 course books contained discriminatory material towards minorities and other countries. He added the books also made insulting remarks against minority religions and distorted historical facts.

Apart from showing evidence of religious biases in school textbooks, NCJP’s study also identified discrimination against the country’s religious minorities in the education policy itself, Jacob said.

No alternatives for studying any faith other than the religion followed by the majority exist. Extra marks are even awarded for showing proficiency in the dominant religious scripture.

“The whole treatment and arrangement of textbooks is visibly discriminatory against non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan,” Jacob stated. “This violates Articles 18, 20, 22 and 25 of the Constitution.”

Comparing the study’s results to previous years, Jacob said an increase in hate-based material in books was recorded in the 2012-2013 academic year in Punjab.

In 2009, there were 45 instances of hate speech found in textbooks and this number increased to 122 in 2013. Most of this material is found in Urdu and Pakistan studies textbooks used in grades seven to 10, he informed.

In Sindh, during the academic years 2009-2011, a total of 11 lessons consisted of hate-based material. In the current year, the number has jumped to 22.

Following Jacob’s address, the political parties’ representatives expressed their parties’ points of view on human rights, religious freedom and reforms in education.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) chapter spokesperson Jalil Jan criticised the West for creating caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He said minorities enjoyed full freedom in Pakistan and his party would try to bring a change in the curriculum to accommodate all faiths.

Awami National Party (ANP) K-P chapter president Senator Afrasiab Khattak said the previous ANP-led government had framed laws to impart primary education in the mother tongue across the province. Extending his congratulations to the newly-elected government, he asked it should concentrate on education.

Underlining the need for reforms in the education sector in general, and curriculum policy in particular, the following recommendations were made by the participants.

Representatives of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Qaumi Watan Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians and Mazdoor Kissan Party were also present at the meeting.

Recommendations

•  Education and curriculum policies should be reviewed to incorporate a clear direction for removing lessons and subjects discriminatory towards minority faiths/religions.

•  A group of independent historians should be assigned to isolate distorted historical facts in textbooks.

•  Subjects other than religious studies should not have lessons and exercises about religion, or should be inclusive of other religions without discrimination and bias.

•  Students belonging to other religious groups, who study ethics as a substitute for Islamic studies, should be able to study their own religions.

•  No preference should be given in terms of religion and equal treatment of students belonging to all religions should be ensured.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2013.

COMMENTS (15)

Prabhjyot Singh Madan | 8 years ago | Reply

The creator sends us all with an innocent mind but we create a mess out of them in their formalative years. Reap what you sow. I am an Indian punjabi. Poor children of Pakistan are learning fairy tales in their history books. Change the curriculum in history and take help from oxford ...Cambridge...whatever even Wikipedia, they will get a shock when they access the net. Rab rakha

Prof. Shahid Mobeen | 8 years ago | Reply

First of all I thank Express Tribune to giving space to such articles which highlight the real problems of Pakistan and I must say that education is the origin of fanatism in the country and only education is the solution to it. No doubt there is hate instigating material in all the pakistani textbooks which started with the printing of Madrassah books in USA to be used in Pakistani madrassas because they were necessary to create Mujahedeen for war against Russia in Afghanistan. This very period created the misunderstanding about "secularism" and "communism", almost all the dictionaries from English into Urdu in Pakistan and Abroad translate these words as "ladiniat" and "kufar" because this is what was necessary to motivate simple muslim youngsters to war against the "big devil" which communism was. (we should keep in mind that the Repubblic of China is a Communist governed State and all our national leaders receive the Chinese authorities with "red ties"). "Secularism" as abscence of religion in the State matter and allowing the religion to be something personal with all its religious freedom and freedom of expression in a State is completely ignored. "Communism" as a struggle of the working-class against the aristocrats, feudals and bringing equal-good to commons is completely put apart. We should remember that the religious minorities in pakistan are not a group protected by Islam and it does not need to be protected, otherwise it would be Dhimma, because the religious minority gave votes to get Punjab in the West Pakistan and Est Pakistan was obtained thanks to the untouchables' vote. NCJP or any individual of any faith in Pakistan have the same dignity as institution and as citizen as anyone else who lives and contributes for the growth of the Nation. Even if it is true that the amendments in the "Constitution" already after Jinnah's death have taken away, the right of being (full) citizen of Pakistan, from all the religious minorities. The Excellent suggestions by NCJP for the change in the Curriculum for sure will contribute in the growth of Pakistan and its citizens towards peace and reciprocal respect.

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