Daily Archives: June 21, 2008

Where every subject is Islamiyat

An exclusive contribution by Zara K for the Pak Tea House (pictures from here)

We harp on long and often about illiteracy being the root of most our problems. But what does it mean to be literate in Pakistan? Everybody knows madrassas need reforming, but unless serious reforms are also made to the curricula of public schools, getting more people educated in Pakistan may not necessarily bode well for us.

The overarching principle in a National Education Policy document for 1998/2000 stated: “Pakistan is an ideological Muslim state … Curricula and textbooks of all subjects shall be revised so as to exclude and expunge any material repugnant to Islamic values, and include sufficient material on Quran and Islamic teachings, information, history, heroes, moral values etc relevant to the subject and level of education.”

Excerpt from a Curriculum Document for Primary Education from 1995: “in teaching material, no conception of separation between the worldly and the religious be given; rather all material be presented from the Islamic point of view.” From a certain angle, this implies that every subject taught in public schools is Islamiyat.

And madrassas are not the only nurseries breeding intolerance.

Public schools comprise 70% of Pakistan’s enrolled students, with madrassa enrolment resting barely at 1% (as per Andrabi et al, 2005). So, if there is evidence that the curricula of public schools are imparting a biased and intolerant ideology, does that not render our narrow focus on reforming madrassas both unproductive and unfair?

In 2004 Tariq Rahman administered attitudinal surveys to the students and teachers of various madrassas, government and private schools. He inquired after their support for jihadi groups and the utility of peaceful means to resolve conflicts, their views towards open war with Indian, and their views toward religious minorities (Ahmediyas, Hindus and Christians) and women. Unsurprisingly, he found that madrassa students were more likely to support war with India and the use of militants in Kashmir, and less likely to support equal rights for minority groups and women. Continue reading

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Abro’s unique photo-art

Zinda Hai Bhutto Zinda Hai! celebrating Benzair Bhutto’s birthday on June 21, 2008, originally uploaded by *abro*.

The talented Abro in Karachi has innovated these illustrations for a poetry collection.

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Happy birthday, Bibi

by Naheed Khan

There is not a single moment when I do not think of you. Then again, dearest Bibi, I realise I am not the only one who feels such emotions and your presence.

For anyone who cares for Pakistan – and for peace at large – she means much. Bibi resides in the hearts of not just the democracy-loving Pakistani but also those whose lives she touched in myriad ways.

On June 21, 1953, a little princess was born to the lucky parents. Her cheeks were pink and rosy and so she was instantly nicknamed Pinkie. She brought joy along with her; her proud parents couldn’t take their eyes off their beautiful bundle of joy, their first-born. Her rose-petal lips curled into a big smile every time Mummy or Papa touched her cheeks. Papa wanted to give her a unique name, so they chose the name Benazir (incomparable or one of a kind). Continue reading

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