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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