"Jihad" in curriculum

Daily Times, August 19, 2005
Jihad still part of lesson plan in Pakistani public schools
* Texts promote hatred and jihad, say reformers
Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Each year, thousands of Pakistani children learn from history books that Jews are tight fisted moneylenders and Christians are vengeful conquerors, the Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday. One textbook tells kids they should be willing to die as martyrs for Islam, it added.

“They aren’t being indoctrinated by extremist mullas in madrassas, the private Islamic seminaries often blamed for stoking militancy in Pakistan. They are pupils in public schools learning from textbooks approved by President Pervez Musharraf’s administration,” LAT reported.

“Since joining the US as an ally in its ‘war on terror’ four years ago, Musharraf has urged Pakistanis to shun radical Islam and pursue ‘enlightened moderation’,” it added.

“Musharraf and US officials say education reforms are crucial to defeating extremism in Pakistan, the only Islamic nation armed with nuclear weapons. Yet reformers who study the country’s education system say public school lessons still promote hatred against non-Muslims and urge jihad,” it reported.

It quoted Rubina Saigol, a US-trained expert on education, as saying that she had been arguing that, in fact, Pakistan’s state system was the biggest madrassa. She told LAT that madrassas were blamed for everything and that they were doing a lot of things she would disagree with, but state ideologies of hate and a violent and negative nationalism were getting out there where madrassas could not hope to reach.

“The current social studies curriculum guidelines for grades 6 and 7 instruct textbook writers and teachers to ‘develop aspiration for jihad’ and ‘develop a sense of respect for the struggle of the Muslim population for achieving independence,” LAT reported

“In the NWFP, which is governed by supporters of the ousted Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan, the federally approved Islamic studies textbook for eighth grade teaches students they must be prepared ‘to sacrifice every precious thing, including life, for jihad’,” the paper said.

It further quoted the chapter as saying that at present, jihad was continuing in different parts of the world and numerous mujahideen (holy warriors) of Islam were involved in defending their religion, and independence, and to help their oppressed brothers across the world.

“The textbook for adolescent students says Muslims are allowed to ‘take up arms’ and wage jihad in self-defence or if they are prevented from practicing their religion,” it added.

It quoted the textbook as saying that when God’s people were forced to become slaves of man-made laws, they were hindered from practicing the religion of their God and that when all the legal ways in this regard were closed, then power should be used to eliminate the evil.

It quoted the book as saying that if Muslims were being oppressed, then jihad was necessary to free them from the cruel oppression.

It again quoted the book as saying that ‘jihad’ could mean peaceful struggle as well as holy war and that jihad could be waged on several levels, beginning with a peaceful, inner struggle for one’s own soul and escalating to killing ‘infidels’.

“But Pakistani critics of the public school system maintain that jihad’s softer sense is easily lost in lessons that emphasise that Muslims are oppressed in many parts of the world, and that encourage fellow Muslims to fight to free them,” LAT reported.

It quoted Hussain Haqqani, a Pakistani author and professor of international relations at Boston University, as saying that some people coming from the regular school system were volunteering for various kinds of jihad, which was not jihad in classical Islamic theory, but actually terrorism in the modern concept.

“‘All of that shows that somehow the schooling system has fed intolerance and bigotry’,” it quoted Haqqani as saying.

“‘About 97 percent of Pakistan’s people are Muslims, so it’s not unusual for its government to promote Islamic values in public schools. Many Muslims find that versions of history taught in countries dominated by non-Muslims are biased against Islam’,” the paper quoted him as saying.

“‘But Pakistan’s public education system goes beyond instilling pride in being Muslim and encourages bigotry that can foment violence against the other’,” it quoted Haqqani as saying.

“Under Pakistan’s federal government, a national curriculum department in Islamabad sets criteria for provincial textbook boards, which commission textbooks for local public schools,” LAT reported.

“Javed Ashraf Qazi, a retired army general and former head of the military’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, was named education minister in September to revive a stalled reform effort. He acknowledges that the job is still only half finished,” the paper added.

LAT quoted the education minister of a nation with Asia’s highest illiteracy rates as saying that he was determined to have specialists rewrite course guidelines and textbooks, from the first grade to the college level, so that the curriculum would be in line with that of any other advanced country.

He told LAT, “We don’t want to condemn any religion, which we will not.”

“A study of the public school curriculum and textbooks by 29 Pakistani academics in 2002 concluded that public school ‘textbooks tell lies, create hatred, inculcate militancy and much more’,” the paper said.

“The study by the independent Sustainable Development Policy Institute angered religious conservatives, and even a few liberals, who saw it as an attack on the country’s Islamic values, or even a plot by Western governments and rival India to subvert the Islamic state,” it added.

“Ashraf Qazi headed the ISI from 1993 to 1995, when the intelligence agency was recruiting students from Pakistan’s madrassas to join the extremist Taliban militia. Under Ashraf Qazi’s watch, the Taliban won its first major victory, the seizure of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, with ISI training and weapons,” the paper reported.

“His critics say that makes Ashraf Qazi the wrong man to take on hard-line Islamic parties and clerics who are blocking education reforms at every turn. But the education minister insists that he will fight hard to correct a curriculum that he calls lopsided,” the paper added.

It quoted Ashraf Qazi as saying that it would be easier to end extremism in Pakistan if Western governments did more to resolve conflicts that angered Muslims worldwide, such as the war in Iraq, the dispute with India over the region of Kashmir, or the Palestinians’ struggle against Israel.

LAT reported that Ashraf Qazi insisted he was not an extremist, but he offered a short history of the Middle East conflict that left little doubt that he wanted Pakistan’s children to continue learning a distinct view of the world.

LAT quoted him as saying that Palestinians were promised their state and originally they were the owners of the entire area. “‘OK, Israel was created by the British and they indulged in terrorism. The Jews were the worst terrorists in the world’,” the paper quoted him as saying.

“‘They created their state. Fine. Now that everybody has accepted it as a fait accompli, there was also acceptance of a Palestinian state. The Israelis, on one pretext or another, have not granted them that state. And every time something comes up in the Security Council, America vetoes it’,” it quoted the education minister as saying.

“After it won independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistan had a secular public school system. President Ziaul Haq, a former military dictator, ordered Islamic education to be incorporated into the public school curriculum in the 1980s as he consolidated power with the support of hard-line clerics,” LAT said, adding, “Pakistan is still grappling with the lethal forces that Zia’s ‘Islamisation’ policy unleashed.”

“Educators pressing for deeper reforms suspect that Musharraf wants to maintain elements of Zia’s strategy in order to preserve the military’s dominant role in Pakistani society,” it said.

LAT quoted Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor who specializes in high-energy and nuclear physics, as saying that reforming education was not a part of Musharraf’s agenda because it would require squarely confronting the mullas.


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