Bakhtawar Bilal Soofi is doubtless correct: he did learn this in Pakistani textbooks. But it isn’t as if the textbooks made it up. This is an accepted principle in Islam, that the life of a non-Muslim is worth less than that of a Muslim:
“The indemnity for the death or injury of a woman is one-half the indemnity paid for a man. The indemnity paid for a Jew or Christian is one-third the indemnity paid for a Muslim. The indemnity paid for a Zoroastrian is one-fifteenth that of a Muslim.” “” ‘Umdat al-Salik, o4.9
“Thus if [a] Muslim commits adultery his punishment is 100 lashes, the shaving of his head, and one year of banishment. But if the man is not a Muslim and commits adultery with a Muslim woman his penalty is execution…Similarly if a Muslim deliberately murders another Muslim he falls under the law of retaliation and must by law be put to death by the next of kin. But if a non-Muslim who dies at the hand of a Muslim has by lifelong habit been a non-Muslim, the penalty of death is not valid. Instead the Muslim murderer must pay a fine and be punished with the lash….Since Islam regards non-Muslims as on a lower level of belief and conviction, if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim”¦then his punishment must not be the retaliatory death, since the faith and conviction he possesses is loftier than that of the man slain…Again, the penalties of a non-Muslim guilty of fornication with a Muslim woman are augmented because, in addition to the crime against morality, social duty and religion, he has committed sacrilege, in that he has disgraced a Muslim and thereby cast scorn upon the Muslims in general, and so must be executed….Islam and its peoples must be above the infidels, and never permit non-Muslims to acquire lordship over them.” “” Sultanhussein Tabandeh, A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“An intolerant educational system made me indifferent to the death of non-Muslims,” by Bakhtawar Bilal Soofi in the Express Tribune, November 23 (thanks to Twostellas):
As the Twin Towers came crashing down in New York City on September 11, 2001 an eight-year-old boy remained unmoved some 7,000 miles away in Lahore as the horrifying images unfolded before him. The boy then, descended into a mode of celebration upon discovering that the towers were in “˜non-Pakistani” territory and that a significant majority of the dead were non-Muslims.
This boy was no suicide bomber in the making. He was not the product of an extremist madrassa nor was he the son of a jihad veteran. In fact, this was a boy who was being educated at one of the finest institutions this country had to offer. Yet, the boy had failed to appreciate the value of human life.
He was insensitive to the deaths of more than 2,000 people. What is more alarming is that at the tender age of eight, this boy had justified his delight by distinguishing between the life of a Muslim and a non-Muslim.
As much as I hate to admit it, I was this boy.
In retrospect, I question why I showed such insensitivity to the events around me.
On what basis had I come to believe that the value of the life of a Jew or Christian was less than that of a Muslim?
How did I develop this extremely bi-polar perception of an “˜angelic” East leading a crusade against the “˜demonic” West?
After some pondering, I realised that my response to the events of 9/11 points towards an educational system that is deeply flawed, particularly the content of our textbooks. The factual inaccuracies, historical inconsistencies and the inherent bias that permeates these books has been criticised on numerous occasions — the most prominent being The Murder of History by KK Aziz.
However, beneath the veil of this customary disapproval lies a subtle but grave problem that still goes unnoticed. This problem is primarily two-sided. The first side is concerned with our treatment of the two identities that any Pakistani holds dear, that is, their nationality and religion, while the second arises from the content of our textbooks.
Think about it — Islam and Pakistan have always been portrayed as products of persistent persecution. Textbooks on Islamiat repeatedly drive the point home that Islam faced significant oppression before attaining the global status that it has today. Similarly, our history schoolbooks constantly highlight the cruelty faced by the Muslims of British India before acquiring the independent state of Pakistan.
It is not difficult to understand then, why this theme of persecution and oppression adopts such a paramount status in our treatment of Islam and Pakistan. Consequently, this breeds an instinctive feeling of vengeance against all those who fall outside the boundaries of Islam and Pakistan. Hence, children are subconsciously taught to view the people of this world through a binary lens — one is either a Muslim or a non-Muslim; a Pakistani or a non-Pakistani….