Textbooks In Pakistani Government Schools Teaching Hate Against Christians And Hindus, Jihad And Martyrdom To Young Students
This paper examines the role of school textbooks in promoting hate against religious minorities in Pakistan. On September 22, 2013, more than 80 Christians were killed and hundreds wounded when two Taliban suicide bombers targeted worshippers as they were leaving after a Sunday mass at the 130-year old All Saints’ church in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party which governs the province, slammed the attackers but in the same breath asked: «why do terrorist attacks occur when dialogue is on the table?» – the insinuation being that foreign forces planned the attack to sabotage Pakistan’s peace negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Jundul Hafsa, a militant outfit which functions as part of the Hakimullah Mehsud-led TTP, claimed responsibility for the attack. Ahmad Marwat, the group’s spokesman, said the following about Christians: «They are the enemies of Islam; therefore we target them… We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.» There are 200,000 Christians in the province and of them 70,000 live in Peshawar. Such hate against Christians is the result of decades of teachings in government-run schools across Pakistan.
In Pakistan, where Islamist groups are launching regular attacks against non-Muslim Pakistanis like Christians and Hindus as well as some sects of Muslims such as Shi’ites and Ahmadi Muslims, whom they do not consider to be real Muslims, the official and unofficial media, government leaders and religious scholars have legitimized hate against religious minorities, with the term «minority» itself having come to be seen in a pejorative context. As a result of such legitimization of hate through school textbooks, government policies, sermons in mosques and religious congregations, there is growing persecution of Pakistani Christians, Hindus, Shias and Ahmadi Muslims. In September 2012, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) released a paper by this author, cataloguing Islamist and jihadi attacks against these minority groups and underlining the need to put Pakistan on international genocide watch.
After the September 22 church attack, senior Pakistani journalist Aamer Ahmed Khan commented on the Pakistani elite’s silence in condemning such attacks on minorities in unequivocal terms, stating: «This silence of our ruling elite is itself the real Talibanism.» In Pakistan, the federal government and the provincial government headed by Imran Khan’s party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are engaged in talks with the Taliban. Their ministers are publicly seen as silent in their criticism of jihadi groups and the TTP. In turn, the Taliban are emboldened. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PTI-led government has recently been in the news for initiating policies to restore jihadi lessons in school textbooks which were removed as part of reforms by the previous government of the secular Awami National Party (ANP). «What kind of sovereignty, freedom, and Islamic values are these when Islamic teachings, jihad, and national heroes are removed from textbooks? Jihad is part of our faith. We will not back down (from our decision),» Shah Farman, the information minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told reporters on August 21, 2013.
Pakistani Journalist Maheen Usmani: «14-Year-Old Students Of Pakistan Studies Are Being Taught: ‘One Of The Reasons For The Downfall Of The Muslims… Was The Lack Of The Spirit Of jihad'»; «13-Year-Olds Are Instructed: ‘In Islam, Jihad Is Very Important'»
Throughout Pakistan’s history, since its creation in 1947, hate speech against non-Muslims has been a normal phenomenon in Pakistani society. In August-September 2013, a Lahore Grammar School received backlash for introducing a supplementary course titled «Comparative Religion» which was designed to «educate about Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism.» A television channel played its part in inciting popular opinion against the school. According to a report, «The course received considerable backlash, gaining mainstream attention following an episode of a talk show aired on ARY News, Khara Sach, on September 16, 2013. In the episode, hosted by [television] anchor Mubasher Luqman, the school was falsely accused of attempting to convert students to other religions…»