By Momal Mushtaq | June 30, 2012 | 0 Comment
A common misconception among the youth of Pakistan is that people from other cultures and nations are hostile towards them. Many feel that other societies reject their moral values and encourage anti-Islam feelings. The resulting misunderstanding divides youth into extremes and makes them easily vulnerable for messages of hate and violence.
The rising extremism and sectarian violence among the new generation, who comprise almost 70 percent of the population, is one of the most pressing problems facing the country. The “Curriculum of Hatred” is often termed as one of the major causes of increasing extremism and sectarian violence in Pakistan. The term refers to the contents of school textbooks, especially those printed and distributed by the public sector. For decades, this curriculum has helped shape the views of Pakistan’s young people . Only recently it has been exploited for ulterior motives by those in power.
Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto introduced Pakistan Studies and Islamic Studies into the national curriculum as compulsory subjects in 1971. Former military dictator General Zia ul Haq, under a drive towards Islamizing schools, encouraged the revision of this curriculum for vested interests. The Islamic concept of Jihad was propagated and is still being exploited, even though the material on Jihad and Muslim supremacy over non- Muslims has been removed from Islamic Studies text books. Today, Jihad and terrorism are considered closely related, with Jihad being one of the major factors behind suicide bombings.
According to an editorial in Dawn, the oldest and one of the most widely read newspapers in Pakistan, “By propagating concepts such as jihad, the inferiority of non-Muslims, India’s ingrained enmity with Pakistan, etc., the textbook board publications used by all government schools promote a mindset that is bigoted and obscurantist.”
In schools, Pakistani students are oftentimes taught biased and exaggerated histories of Pakistan. The Social/Pakistan Studies text books in Pakistan, for instance, present India as an evil opponent. The separation of the subcontinent is written down in a very crude manner – highlighting only the what-went-wrongs on behalf of the British and how partition gave Hindus a chance to victimize Pakistanis.
According to a report of Sustainable Development Policy Institute, “for the upholders of the Ideology of Pakistan, the existence of Pakistan is defined only in relation to Hindus, and hence the Hindus have to be painted as negatively as possible.” The following examples are taken verbatim afrom the Grade VIII textbook reading the ideology of Pakistan:
“The Hindu belief was that only a Hindu nation could live in the Indian subcontinent. Other nations should become a part of the Hindu nation or leave India. Many Hindu extremist parties such as the AryaSamaj were working against Muslims since the nineteenth century and even after fifty years after the creation of Pakistan, these organisations continue working to erase the ‘Muslims’ existence from the region.”
According to Mahrukh Mumtaz Hussain, 20, a student at the National University of Sciences and Technology, Pakistan, “it may not be every Hindu, but majority of them followed the ‘Hindu belief’.”
Maaz Tahir, 24, from the Pakistan Marine Academy held a similar view. He felt that, “Hindus never believed in co- existence with Muslims.”
Khoala Baloch, a 23, a graduate from Islamabad, Pakistan shared, “The part ‘leave India’ can be an exaggeration to some extent but the willingness to merge the believers of two religions into a single nation was and is ‘’the mightiest notion’’ that exists as an obstacle on the way towards a peaceful continent.” It is important to note that these are the thoughts of university educated young people of Pakistan, who constitute about one percent of the country’s population.
According to Hanu Prateek Kunduru, 22, from the Indian Institute of Management Ranchi, , “India is a country where religion is very central to the life of people. This age-old philosophy as expounded in Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads is ‘sarva dharma samabhava,’ which means respect for all belief systems.”
There is a need to clarify the misunderstandings to ensure long-term stability and peace between India and Pakistan, in particular between non-Muslims and the people of Pakistan in general.
Though the global community is aware of these issues, the Pakistani government has done little to change these misperceptions.Since changing the mindset of public would be a long-term process, the elected governments are not interested in investing in such changes These governments have focused on short-term investments as they are measurable and ensure direct success in elections.
To ensure a peaceful society, it is vital that the contents of the school textbooks be thoroughly revised and reproduced so tht the next generation will be provided with correct historical perspective instead of one-sided stories that allow them to draw independent conclusions.
With over 130 million of its population under the age of 30, Pakistan’s young people are the torch bearers of the future.
Social media could play an important role in bringing about peace and education this regard. The internet and mobile penetration rates in the country are reported to be over 20 and 60 percent respectively, and a large number of young people in Pakistan are increasingly using Web 2.0. Hence, if utilized constructively, social media may play a prominent role in changing the perceptions of public at large.
Originally published in Orange Magazine, Jun. 2012
I am a passionate women's rights activist and an aspiring social entrepreneur from Pakistan. My work in development and media communications, with focus on youth and gender equality, has been recognized by global awards, including a first place award from the United Nations.