School Textbooks Need to be free of Religious Discrimination

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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 (NCJP).The textbooks were used in grades one to 10 in the 2012-2013 school year.

In a meeting with political parties on the subject of ‘Human Rights Concepts and Religios Freedom’ held on Saturday at a local hotel, NCJP Executive Director Peter Jacob elaborated on the study titled ‘Taleem ya Nafrat ki Aabiyari’ (Education or spreading hate).

Jacob informed participants that 55 chapters of 22 course books contained discrimintory material towards minorities and other countries. He added the books also made insulting remarks against minority religions and distorted historical facts.

Apart from showing evidence of religious biases in school textbooks, NCJP’s study also identified discrimination against the country’s religious minorities in the education policy itself, Jacob said.

No alternatives for studying any faith other than the religion followed by the majority exist. Extra marks are even awarded for showing proficiency in the dominant religious scripture.

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.”

Comparing the study’s results to previous years, Jacob said an increase in hate-based material in books was recorded in the 2012-2013 academic year in Punjab.

In 2009, there were 45 instances of hate speech found in textbooks and this number increased to 122 in 2013. Most of this material is found in Urdu and Pakistan studies textbooks used in grades seven to 10, he informed.

In Sindh, during the academic years 2009-2011, a total of 11 lessons consisted of hate-based material. In the current year, the number has jumped to 22.

Following Jacob’s address, the political parties’ representatives expressed their parties’ points of view on human rights, religious freedom and reforms in education.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) chapter spokesperson Jalil Jan criticised the West for creating caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). 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 (ANP) K-P chapter president Senator Afrasiab Khattak said the previous ANP-led government 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 should concentrate on education.

Underlining the need for reforms in the education sector in general, and curriculum policy in particular, the following recommendations were made by the participants.

Representatives of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Qaumi Watan Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians and Mazdoor Kissan Party were also present at the meeting.