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Pakistan kids taught A for ‘Allah’, B for ‘bandook’

London: Citing stark examples from school curriculum, a prominent Islamabad-based scholar has said that extreme religious and anti-India views fed into children in schools reinforced the cycle of extremism that showed no signs of receding in Pakistan.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist and prominent commentator on current issues, showed the examples at a seminar in the King’s College on the role of education in combating terrorism, organised by the Democracy Forum.

The examples showed by Hoodbhoy included images and text from a primer that mentioned the Urdu equivalent of A as ‘Allah’, B as ‘bandook’, T as ‘takrao’, J as ‘jehad’, H as ‘hijab’, Kh as ‘khanjar’ and Ze as ‘zunoob’.

Pakistan kids taught A for 'Allah', B for 'bandook'

Hoodbhoy, whose presentation title was ‘How education fuels terrorism in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’, also showed a college that is seen as going up in flames, containing images of things considered sinful – kites, guitar, satellite TV, carom board, chess, wine bottles and harmonium.

Examples cited by Hoodbhoy from another curriculum document for Class V students included tasks such as discussion on: ‘Understand Hindu-Muslim differences and the resultant need for Pakistan’, ‘India’s evil designs against Pakistan’, ‘Make speeches on shehadat and jehad’.

“There has been a sea change in Pakistan in the last six decades. The poison put into education by Gen Zia-ul-Haq was not changed by subsequent regimes. And attitudes have changed over the years, makes my country alien to me,” Hoodbhoy said.

Recalling his growing up years in Karachi, he said the city was home to Hindus, Parsis and Christians: “They are all gone. The same is true of much of Pakistan. Minorities have no place in Pakistan today”.

He held madarsas partly responsible for the situation, and regretted that efforts initiated during the regime of General Pervez Musharraf to reform them did not go far.

After the 2007 Lal Masjid incident, liberal voices were also less welcome in Pakistan’s news media, he said. “Every attempt at education reform has failed to remove the hate material in curriculum, but there is a minority that wants change. The situation will remain in freefall, until something drastic is done to change the situation,” he said.

Stressing on the need for pluralism and secularism in education, former Indian diplomat G Parthasarathy said tensions began when education did not foster respect for diversity and for other religions.

There was more to terrorism than education, because some of the recent perpetrators were well educated, he said. “The most important part of education is that diversity should be cherished, that unity does not mean uniformity.”

Other speakers included King’s College experts Professor Jack Spence from the Department of War Studies and Shiraz Maher from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

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