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Published Date: Jul 13, 2012

Attitude of Female Teachers towards Religious Minorities(W-123)

Pakistani society comprises people belonging to different cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Ninety five percent of the population is Muslim while the other five percent belongs to other religions, — these are known as religious minorities. Irrespective of religious identity every person living in Pakistan has equal constitutional rights. Conversely, the dominating majority at times takes advantage of religious minority groups, violating the law and resulting in disregarding the rights of minorities. Several studies have been carried out to find out what is behind such behavior and suggest a large number of social, economic, cultural, political and historical factors. At the heart of all these factors lies the education system which serves as a means to reinforce the discriminatory attitudes of the majority (Nayyar and Saleem 2003).

In Pakistan, there are three major types of educational systems, (i) public schools (ii) private schools and (iii) the madrassa2 education system. The public education system has extensively been studied to find out the ways in which education promotes biases and discriminating attitudes based on religious identities – through textbooks and teaching practices. However, far less attention is paid to understand the ways in which madrassa education plays its role in shaping the attitudes of students towards religious diversity.

Within the madrassa education, there is a dearth of literature on the dynamics of female madrassas particularly related to the role that textbooks and teachers play in influencing the behaviour of female students towards various religious identities. This paper, in this context, is an attempt to explore the attitudes of female madrassa teachers towards the followers of different minority religions in the broad sense as well as within the madrassa education system. The paper is based on SDPI’s recent report on education and religious discrimination, titled, “Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan, a Study of Public Schools and Madrassas”. The report explored prejudices against people of other religions in both educational systems; public schools and madrassas. Despite being a comprehensive study on the subject, this report did not provide any insights into the attitudes of female madrassa teachers and instead focused on male madrassa teachers only. This paper is based on qualitative data collected from Khyber Pakhtoonkwa (KPK) province through focus group discussions of female madrassa teachers. The analysis of the data provides a mix of responses showing the coexistence of biases alongside tolerant attitudes towards religious diversity.