No Compulsion in Religion Alert. “Hindu, Christian students struggle in Arabic in state-run schools,” by Amar Guriro for the Daily Times:
KARACHI: Seven-year-old Angela finds it difficult to study Islamiyat at school. “I don’t know if I have to study it or not, but it’s really difficult to pronounce the Arabic properly,” she said.
Angela, one of many children belonging to the Hindu Maheshwari, is a class three student at N. A. Bechar Government Primary School that has been converted into the Syed Mahmood Shah Ghazi Government Primary School in Old Kumbhar Para near Lee Market in Lyari Town.
She is one of thousands of other non-Muslim students, including Hindus and Christians, who are left with no choice but to study Islamic education rather than their own religion in state-run educational institutions. A majority of over two million Pakistani
Hindus have lived and worked in Sindh for centuries and half a million of them live in Karachi city alone. The Sindh government and the education board of Karachi have failed to implement a separate syllabus in the city’s primary and middle schools for minority
“Islamiyat” (Islamic studies) is compulsory for all Muslim students in state-run schools but there is no parallel curriculum in other religions. The education board has introduced “Akhlaqiyyat” or Ethics to cater to them but most of the state-run schools in Karachi do not allow non-Muslim students to take it up. In reality, teachers often force these students to sit in Islamiyat classes. This takes place even though no written permission has been acquired from the parents of the child in question.
When Daily Times visited schools in Old Kumbhar Para near Lee Market, Lyari and the Miran Naka area most teachers were unaware that there was a parallel subject to Islamic education. In most of these schools, the non-Muslim students were said to be studying
Islamiyat. “What else we can do if the state is encouraging such practices,” said Gunesh Maheshwari, a resident of Lee Market. His three children, studying in different classes, are studying Islamiyat rather than ethics or any other parallel religious studies. Aside from the fact that this is confusing for them, they don’t do very well in the subject either. “How can a child who has never heard Arabic in his or her life at home suddenly study Islamic education,” said Satipal, another resident.
But Abdul Salam Abbasi, the headmaster of N. A. Bechar (Syed Mahmood Shah Ghazi) Government Primary School tells an entirely different story. “Many non-Muslim students who study Islamic education appear to be keen about the subject and they get more marks as compared to the Muslim students,” he said.
When asked about any possible solutions, former MNA Dr Khatoo Mal Jewan suggested Hinduism education for Hindu students. “Islam as well as the Constitution of Pakistan fully protects the basic rights of religious minorities and it is the duty of the State to protect their rights,” he told Daily Times.
Blaming the parents:
Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister on Minority Affairs, provincial minister, Kishan Chand Parwani, bluntly rejected that such practices exist. “Islamic education is not a compulsory subject for all students, there is an option for non-Muslim students to study
ethics but if the students and their parents do not want to avail the option then what can we do?” he said. He said that no school in Karachi forced students to study Islamic education. “I will personally look into the matter if any school has issued a written
circular for non-Muslim students to study Islamic education by force.”
And if there’s no “written circular,” no problem?