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Textbook discrimination in Pakistan

PESHAWAR (SE): “As many as 55 chapters in 22 course books used in Sindh and Punjab were found to contain discriminatory material against minorities, according to a study conducted by the National Commission for Justice and Peace,” the Express Tribune reported on May 26.

It said that the discriminatory material is mostly found in textbooks used in grades one to 10 from the 2012 to 2013 academic year.

The director of the commission, Peter Jacob, addressed the study at a seminar on Human Rights Concepts and Religious Freedom, held on May 25 at a hotel in Peshawar. 

He introduced a study called, Taleem ya Nafrat ki Aabiyari (Education or Spreading Hate).

The newspaper reported, “Jacob informed participants that 55 chapters of 22 course books contained discriminatory material towards minorities and other countries.”

It continues, “He added the books also made insulting remarks against minority religions and distorted historical facts.”

Jacob also pointed out that no alternative to Islam for faith study is allowed in Pakistani schools and using the text books is mandatory for all students of all faiths.

“Extra marks are even awarded for showing proficiency in the dominant religious scripture,” the newspaper said.

“The whole treatment and arrangement of textbooks is visibly discriminatory against non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan,” Jacob stated.

“This violates Articles 18, 20, 22 and 25 of the constitution,” he pointed out.

Jacob said an increase in hate-based material in books was noted in the previous year in the Punjab, as in 2009, only 45 instances of hate speech had been found in textbooks, but this number increased to 122 in 2013.

Most of it is contained in Urdu and Pakistan studies textbooks used in grades seven to 10.

However, some politicians present were far from sympathetic.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa party spokesperson, Jalil Jan, criticised the west for creating caricatures of the prophet, Muhammad.

He said minorities enjoyed full freedom in Pakistan and his party would try to bring a change in the curriculum to accommodate all faiths.

Awami National Party chapter president and senator, Afrasiab Khattak, said the previous government that was led by his party had framed laws to impart primary education in the mother tongue across the province.

Extending his congratulations to the newly-elected government, he asked it to concentrate on education.

However, other political elements made a strong call for change.

Underlining the need for reform in the education sector in general and curriculum policy in particular, representatives of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Qaumi Watan Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians and Mazdoor Kissan Party said that education and curriculum policies should be reviewed to incorporate a clear direction for removing lessons and subjects discriminatory towards minority faiths/religions.

They called for a group of independent historians to be assigned to isolate distorted historical facts in textbooks, adding that subjects other than religious studies should not have lessons and exercises about religion, or should be inclusive of other religions without discrimination and bias.

 

They also recommended that students belonging to other religious groups, who study ethics as a substitute for Islamic studies, should be able to study their own religions, but preference should be given in terms of religion and equal treatment to students of all religions.

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