Published Date: Nov 14, 2011
ASIA/PAKISTAN – PUBLIC SCHOOLS TEACH INTOLERANCE TOWARDS RELIGIOUS MINORITIES: A U.S. REPORT
The textbooks used in public and private schools in Pakistan teach Pakistani children prejudice and intolerance towards non-Muslim religious minorities: this is what a study reveals, the first of its kind, conducted by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF and presented today in Washington. The Report, sent to Fides, the Commission, an independent bipartisan organization of the U.S. federal government indicates the school system as being the root of widespread Islamic radicalism and helps explain why militancy is often supported, tolerated and justified in the country.
The study, titled “Connecting the dots: education and religious discrimination in Pakistan”, reviewed more than 100 textbooks from grades 1-10 from Pakistan’s four provinces. Researchers in February 2011 visited 37 public schools, interviewing 277 students and teachers and 19 madrases (Islamic schools), where they interviewed 226 students and teachers.
“Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens, who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful” the report said. “Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and eternal enemies of Islam”: their culture and society “is based on injustice and cruelty, while Islam delivers a message of peace and brotherhood, concepts portrayed as alien to Hindu”, continues the study. Some textbooks contain specific references to Christians, “which are generally negative, painting an incomplete picture of the largest religious minority in Pakistan”, the Report says, noting a systematic negative portrayal of religious minorities, Hindus (1% in Pakistan ) and Christians (3%) but also Sikhs and Buddhists.
The textbooks avoid references to the role played by Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in the cultural, military and civic life of Pakistan. In most cases “historical revisionism seems designed to vindicate or glorify the Islamic civilization, or to denigrate the culture of religious minorities”, explains the Report, suggesting urgent changes “to present a history free of false or unsubstaintiated claims which convey religious bias”.
The texts also promote the idea that “Pakistan’s Islamic identity is under constant threat” and that “anti-Islamic forces are always trying to finish the Islamic domination of the world”, as read from a social studies text being taught to Grade 4 students in Punjab province.
These Islamic texts and teachings are found in compulsory textbooks, not just religious ones, meaning Pakistan’s Christians, Hindus and other minorities were being taught Islamic content: a fact that violates Pakistan’s Constitution, which states that students should not receive instruction in a religion other than their own.
Teachers are also an issue: according to the study, more than half the public school teachers acknowledge the right to citizenship of religious minorities, but the majority believes that religious minorities must not be allowed to hold positions of power, “in order to protect Pakistan and Muslims”. Moreover, 80% of teachers considered non-Muslim teachers “enemies of Islam”.