Pakistani schools teach students to hate Hindus and non-Muslim minorities, according to a study by an American government commission.
The results of the investigation would seem to suggest how deeply-rooted militant Islam is in the country at a time when peace negotiations with overwhelmingly Hindu India have become especially crucial.
The study examined more than 100 textbooks given to students in grades 1-10 and also interviewed hundreds of pupils and teacher across Pakistan.
According to the report, Pakistan textbooks relentlessly depict Hindus very negatively (and to a lesser extent, Christians are also derided).
”Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful,” the report said.
”Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and eternal enemies of Islam whose culture and society is based on injustice and cruelty, while Islam delivers a message of peace and brotherhood, concepts portrayed as alien to the Hindu.”
Christians and Hindus together account for only about 3 or 4 percent of Pakistan’s population. Theer are also much smaller numbers of Buddhists and Sikhs.
Indeed, the report also noted that the contributions made by Christians, Hindus and Sikhs and virtually absent from textbooks.
”In most cases historic revisionism seems designed to exonerate or glorify Islamic civilization, or to denigrate the civilizations of religious minorities,” the report said.
”Basic changes to the texts would be needed to present a history free of false or unsubstantiated claims which convey religious bias.”
Moreover, suspicions have emerged – by the U.S. and others – that hard-line Islamic terror groups have the tacit approval (and even support) of the highest reaches of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services.
”Teaching discrimination increases the likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow, weakening religious freedom, national and regional stability, and global security,” said Leonard Leo, the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, in a statement.
Pakistan, which was formed in 1947 as a homeland for Muslims in the former ‘British India,’ has waged three wars with independent India. In1971, East Pakistan broke off to become the nation of Bangladesh.
Moreover, since the late 1970s, when former Army General Zia ul-Haq seized power and imposed Sharia law in Pakistan, extremism in the country has flourished, leading to a state where non-Muslims and other minorities have been persecuted, abused and even killed.
Pakistan also has a highly controversial ‘Blasphemy law’ under which anyone convicted of ‘insulting’ Islam can be put to death.
Given this backdrop, the study authors warned that any efforts to change Pakistan’s education would likely be met with significant resistance and hostility for Islamic militants, both within the government and outside of it.
The study also revealed that Pakistan’s education system spreads the sentiment that Islam is under threat from outside global forces.
The researcher cited a social studies textbook taught to fourth-grade students in Punjab province, which declared: ”The anti-Islamic forces are always trying to finish the Islamic domination of the world. This can cause danger for the very existence of Islam. Today, the defense of Pakistan and Islam is very much in need.”
In addition, school textbooks (which are supposed to be secular according to Pakistan’s Constitution) nonetheless are filled with Islamic teachings and quotes from the Holy Quran.
The report comes just after three Hindu men were murdered in the town of Shikarpur in the Sindh province during the Eid holidays.
In response, Hindus in the region have called a strike to protest the killings. Police has reportedly arrested 13 people in connection with the murders.
The Hindu community has shut down its businesses and are observing the strike until the killers are apprehended, Pitanbar Sewani, an elected representative of the local Hindu community, told Indian media.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.