LAHORE: Panelists discussed on Tuesday the impact of hate material in textbooks on society at a conference by the National Commission for Justice and Peace on “Uprooting Religious Intolerance through Formal Education in Pakistan”.
They discussed a Supreme Court judgement of 2014 which is the very first reinterpretation of Article 20, which calls for religious freedom in Pakistan.
Panelists agreed that the roots of intolerance arose from the two-nation theory and later the Objectives Resolution. They criticised Zia’s education policy for promoting hatred and intolerance.
Dr Parvez Hoodbouy said that media was one of the major players openly promoting hatred. It was the media, he went on, that considered the theory that foreign agencies could be behind the massacre of the Ismailis, sparing militant outfits which were proudly claiming the attack.
“It must be understood if we don’t treat all citizens as equal, Pakistan can never progress or survive peacefully.”
He said it must be noted that hate material taught in schools was against Article 22 of the Constitution.
Irfan Mufti said that religion had been strongly promoted through politics and this was dangerous because whoever met a certain set criteria was considered a Muslim while anyone outside that circle was in danger today.
“Schools have become factories where children are being churned out with warped mindsets,” he said.
According to research, he said, most of the teachers taught religion in class rather than their own subjects. He said the institutions which taught religion solely should be separated from formal education so that religion had no space in other subjects like science. He said Supreme Court’s decision to revise the curriculum should be taken very seriously.
Peter Jacob quoted some excerpts from textbooks, highlighting some of the “shameful and intolerant perspectives being drilled into the minds of children”. Those excerpts portrayed non-Muslims as negative, preached open hatred, and declared the Muslims more superior. In some places even eminent figures of other religions were regarded as inferior.
But, he said, that most people would live in a state of denial, saying there was no inequality among citizens in the country which was very dangerous. He said too many publishers had made it difficult to monitor such issues.
Amarnath Randhawa said his mathematics teacher would ask him to read Islamiyat in math periods.
Neelum Hussain said hate material affected mostly those people, who considered themselves to be “nice people”. But these people were the same who believe that Muslims were the most persecuted in the world, and never took into account any reasons as to why non-Muslims would ever form a mob. They would never even think if it was the responsibility of the majority Muslims not to set a trend of violence. She said rote learning in schools had affected generations of Pakistanis.
“We have entire generations who only repeat, who cannot think for themselves, whose language skills are poor, and all this suits an authoritarian regime so basically none of this points to any failure by the government,” she said.
“Afterwards when someone questions you, and you do not have the ability to think on your own you react in the form of violence.”
Saroop Ijaz also spoke along with Reverend Bishop Tariq Jamil, and both agreed upon certain basic facts regarding religious discrimination and the violation of the Constitution.
MPA Qamarul Islam Raja the government had made a Publishers’ Regulation Committee which would consider laws for publishers and that no books would be printed without the permission of the textbook board. He said an authority on curriculum was also recently formed to discuss and eliminate hate material from text books.
IA Rehman said that radicalism had come into the system since the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. He concluded saying that first religious discrimination must end in society in order to be cleared from textbooks and for this society must pressures the government and State to ensure tolerance.
Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2015