Lahore, Pakistan — As Pakistani Air Force jets circled the eastern border city of Lahore last week in a show of strength, journalist Rab Nawaz was despondent. But what occupied him was less the threat of war with India than the things his son had begun saying recently.
“My 7-year-old came home from school one day insisting that Indians are our natural-born enemies, that Muslims are good, and Hindus are evil,” the widely traveled journalist recalls. “He asked about the relative strength of our air forces and insisted we would win if it came to war.[…]
All public schools must follow the government curriculum — one that critics say is inadequate at best, harmful at worst.
According to Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physics professor at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, the “Islamizing” of Pakistan’s schools began in 1976 under the rule of the former dictator, the general Zia ul-Haq.
An act of parliament that year required all government and private schools (except those teaching the British O-levels from Grade 9) to follow a curriculum that includes learning outcomes for the federally approved Grade 5 social studies class such as: “Acknowledge and identify forces that may be working against Pakistan,” “Make speeches on Jihad,” “Collect pictures of policemen, soldiers, and national guards,” and “India’s evil designs against Pakistan.”
“It sounds like the blueprint for a religious fascist state,” says Professor Hoodbhoy. “You have a country where generations have grown up believing they are surrounded on all sides by enemies, they are the only righteous ones, and the world is out to get them.”[…]
An Islamist alphabet chart published in this month’s Newsline shows Urdu letters accompanied by guns, daggers, and a depiction of planes crashing into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The chart is not approved by the government. But it is, the article claims, in use by “by some regular schools as well as madrassahs associated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, an Islamic political party that had allied itself with General Musharraf.” The Ministry of Education says there are 1.5 million students in 13,000 madrassahs acquiring a parallel religious education.
Critics also complain about insensitivity toward minorities. A section on Christian festivities in the Federal Ethics textbooks had been removed, according to a Daily Times report from 2006 titled “O Jesus, where art thou?” Hindu and Sikh festivals were mentioned only fleetingly.
In the latest edition of Pakistan Studies for Grades 9-10, approved by the Punjab textbook board, all mention of non-Muslim festivals of Pakistan had been removed. Hindus and Christians make up about 5 percent of the population of more than 170 million.
In 2007, two Pakistani students at Middlebury College, Hamza Usmani and Shujaat Ali Khan, embarked on a review of all state-sanctioned texts in a project called “Enlightened Pakistan.”
They enlisted contacts ranging from seniors in high school to teachers. The bulk of their report (www.enlightenedpakistan.org), targets poor teaching in sciences, languages, and math. But in social sciences and history, they found “disturbing” themes like “Pakistan is for Muslims alone,” “The world is collectively scheming against Pakistan and Islam,” and “Muslims are urged to fight Jihad against the infidels.”
The report notes that the textbooks routinely engage in historical revisionism and place questions designed to portray Hinduism as an inherently iniquitous religion: “There is no place for equality in Hinduism. Right/Wrong.”
Mr. Usmani says the texts encourage illiberal worldviews and “dumb down” education. “No opposing views are presented, no differing ideas. It makes the population less intelligent,” he says…