New chapter for minority religions in Pakistan

Islamabad university praised for including religions other than Islam in human rights textbook
New chapter for minority religions in Pakistan

Pakistani and foreign religious students take an exam at an Islamic Jamia Binoria seminary in Karachi on Jan. 12. Many people believe there is an overemphasis on religion in Pakistan's education system, often with a bias against non-Muslims. (Photo by AFP)

Catholic educators are lauding Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad for recognizing the human rights of people following minority religions in Pakistan.

A chapter titled “Human rights in Islam and other religions” adds the teachings of Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism to a human rights textbook for students in grades 11 and 12. The latest edition dedicates seven pages to Biblical teachings.

“Except Islam, no other religion or its concepts were part of education policy. For the first time in the history of our country, students will be able to study references of different sacred books. This will dispel the general impression in our society that only the majority religion guarantees fundamental rights,” Catholic professor Anjum James Paul, chairman of Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association, told ucanews.com.

“We made sure that there is no comparison between religions mentioned in the book. The new additions will promote the culture of human dignity, social harmony, respect for religious diversity, peaceful coexistence and acceptance of diverse religious and ethnic communities.”

Last year Punjab Assembly passed a bill making the teaching of the Quran compulsory in schools across the province. Catholic educators had long been requesting the education board to introduce human rights in all educational institutes as a compulsory subject.

Although non-Muslim students can opt for ethics instead of compulsory Islamic studies in pre-high school examinations, Catholic institutes prefer to teach Islam for better scores and access to competent teachers.

According to the latest research by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the Catholic Church's human rights body in Pakistan, there is an overemphasis on religion in Pakistan's education system, often with a bias against non-Muslims.

Christian human rights organizations have filed several court cases against the practice of awarding extra marks to students who have memorized the Quran by heart.

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