Kashif Aslam, program coordinator for the Pakistan Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace, explains the extent of hate material in Pakistan's education system, March 30 in Karachi. (Photo by Ayyaz Gulzar)
Hate material still exists in Pakistani school textbooks and they need to be removed from the country’s education system, Catholic Church officials told a conference in Karachi, March 30.
"The first priority of the education system should be teaching students about humanity, moral and ethical values," said Father Saleh Diego, director for the Justice and Peace Commission in Karachi Archdiocese.
He was addressing church and social workers at the conference organized by the Pakistan Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace and the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research.
"Inculcating hatred among innocent children will lead us to massive disasters in future. We have to discourage such discriminatory material in our textbooks that creates division among children belonging to different religions, castes, ethnics, tribes and cultures," said Father Diego.
Kashif Aslam, program coordinator for the commission, said researchers reviewed 70 textbooks, which are used in 74 percent of Pakistan’s schools. Among them, he said, were textbooks that included hate content against other religious beliefs and nationalities.
Authorities in Punjab and Sindh provinces have corrected some of these books, Aslam said.
However, he pointed out that in Khyber Paktun Khwa and Baluchistan provinces there has been no progress in reducing hate content in school texts. "This has been due to political compromises," Aslam told the conference.
Aslam said one textbook used in Baluchistan said: "Muslims are superior than the people of all other nations." He gave another examples of a social studies book that said: "Hindu India poses a danger to Islam" and a history book that stated "British rulers of the sub-continent considered Muslims as their real enemies because they took over the rule from Muslims."
Speakers at the conference included Father Saleh Diego, left, followed by Karamat Ali and Dr. Charles Amjad Ali. (Photo by Ayyaz Gulzar)
Shafi Muhammad Jamote, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, told the conference that instead of promoting fundamentalism and extremism through education, it would be better if the focus were on moral and ethical values.
Opposition lawmaker Syed Hafeezuddin said he appreciated the work done by the commission but added that a long way has to go in addressing the issue. "It’s only the beginning … it will not be easy to change the mindsets of people in a short period of time," said Hafeezuddin. "But we have to speak about such matters and dialogue with governments and political parties."
Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research, said religious intolerance is an extremely serious issue. The use of "religion in politics and society should be curtailed", otherwise, he said, the "future of this country will be bleak."
Charles Amjad Ali, a professor from the Luther Semianry in the United States, voiced his concerns at the direction Pakistan was heading.
"Any state which is incapable of looking after the rights of minorities is dysfunctional and not a state in the true sense," said Ali.
"Amendment and changes in the education curriculum are very important because these are generating hate for other religions and fellow Muslims," he said.
Shahida Rahmani, a National Assembly member said the teachings of Islam are being taught incorrectly. Islam is a religion that upholds equal rights and values a proper education, Rahmani said.