Pakistan is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. Non-Muslims are an essential part of it. Many of them have contributed to the country’s well being in various fields.
However, according to renowned scholar and educationist, Professor A. H. Nayyar, the culture and the idioms of Muslim ‘majority-ism’ (after the 1971 East Pakistan debacle) started gaining more currency in the country’s politics and, in turn, also got reflected in the educational process.
Though agreeing with Nayyar, another well known academic, Dr Rubina Saigol, however, suggests that the attempt to mould the minds of the young through textbooks started in earnest in the early 1980s.
The syllabus was redesigned and textbooks were rewritten to create a monolithic image of Pakistan as a theocratic state and Pakistani citizens as Muslim only.
According to Saigol, this clearly tells young non-Muslim students that they are excluded from the national identity.
In an extensive study conducted by Nayyar and Dr Ahmad Salim (in 2002), the following four themes emerge most strongly in history textbooks in Pakistan:
That Pakistan is for Muslims alone; the ideology of Pakistan is deeply interlinked with faith and one should never trust Hindus and India. Students should take the path of jihad and martyrdom.
Scholars like Ayesha Jalal and Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy have argued that the term ‘ideology of Pakistan’ is an after-thought; it was absent at the time of the creation of Pakistan.
According to them Jinnah never used the term ‘ideology of Pakistan’ (especially with respect to Islam).
For 15 years after the establishment of Pakistan, the term was not known to anybody.
The phrase ‘ideology of Pakistan’ has no historical basis in the Pakistan movement. It was coined much later by those political forces that needed it to sanctify their particular brand of politics: especially those religious parties that had earlier been against the creation of Pakistan.
Even though in a 1954 report Justice Munir strongly noted that Jinnah never uttered the words ‘ideology of Pakistan,’ the curriculum documents (ever since the 1980s) insist that the students be taught that the ideology of Pakistan was pronounced by the Quaid.
No textbook has ever been able to cite a single reference to Jinnah using this term.
Jinnah’s speech to the Constituent Assembly on Sept 11, 1947 is completely contrary to the so-called ‘ideology of Pakistan’ as it is presented in school history books. Nayyar, Jalal, Hoodbhoy and Saigol suggest that associated with the ‘ideology of Pakistan’ is an essential component of hate against India and Hindus.
Some time after 1971, the subject of Indo-Pakistan history was replaced with ‘Pakistan Studies,’ whose sole purpose now was to define Pakistan as an Islamic state. The students were deprived of learning about pre-Islamic history of their region. Instead, history books now started with the Arab conquest of Sindh and swiftly jumped to the Muslim conquerors from Central Asia.
Nayyar and Salim have pointed out the following examples of expression of hate in post-1971 history text books:
Hindus have always been enemies of Islam; they worship idols in temples which are very narrow and dark places; they declared the Congress rule as Hindu rule, and started to unleash terror on Muslims. The Hindus always desired to crush the Muslims as a nation and Gandhi was as an extremist.
Though still not part of the mainstream text books, another ‘enemy’ has recently been added in the shape of the ‘modern American (read Christian) crusaders.’
What’s more all history in these books is along religious lines while social, historical, material and economic causes are missing. Pakistanis are not told that the rise of Western powers in the last 500 years was mainly due to the advances made in education, science and culture. This rise was not based on military might alone, and certainly not on any overwhelming religious doctrine.
After 1979, the themes of jihad and martyrdom in textbooks became strong. In this period, history and social studies books openly eulogise jihad and martyrdom.
According to Nayyar, in Pakistan the impression one gets from textbooks on the subjects of Pakistan Studies is that the students don’t learn history, but rather a carefully crafted collection of falsehoods.
For example, in these books, Muhammad bin Qasim is declared the first Pakistani citizen. The story of the Arabs’ arrival in Sindh is recounted as the first moment of Pakistan with the glorious ascendancy of Islam.
Also a widely taught history book insists that, “Although Pakistan was created in August 1947, the present-day Pakistan has existed, as a more or less single entity, for centuries.”
A history book published in 1992 has on its cover a Muslim warrior holding a sword and charging in on a horse; and a chapter called, ‘The Enemies of Islam.’ This chapter is broken into various sections that define these enemies as being Hindus, Christians, Jews and “secularists.”
In their study, both Nayyar and Salim conclude that one should not be surprised at the irrational hate and confusion among Pakistani children after what they learn at school: a state of mind that they can carry well into their adult life as well.
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com
He tweets @NadeemfParacha
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