Thursday, April 15, 2004

Why do they hate us?

Ajai Sahni
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management used by permission of
South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal

After the shock and horror of 9/11, many Americans turned inwards in incomprehension: 'Why do they hate us?' they asked, and a substantial literature of rationalization was constructed, drawing largely on America's past foreign policy errors and excesses, as well as the 'historical wrongs' inflicted on the 'Islamic world' by the 'West'. Not everyone was seduced by this literature of dubious justification, and at least some rightly pointed to the proliferating 'assembly-lines of jehad', the well funded 'schools of hatred' - the numerous and powerful marakiz (Islamic religious centres) and madrassahs (religious seminaries) that have systematically poisoned the minds of children, demonised non-Muslim cultures, and mobilized, motivated and trained armies of radicalised terrorists for their 'global jehad' against 'unbelievers', 'crusaders', Jews, Christians and Hindus. As attitudes towards terrorism hardened globally, some of the regimes that have historically sponsored and supported Islamist extremism and terrorism turned eagerly to seize upon this alibi, denouncing these 'aberrant institutions', and promising 'madrassah reforms'.

Prominent among these terrorist-sponsoring states has been America's new 'major non-NATO ally', Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf's regime has, over the past years, been insisting that the madrassahs and the radical clergy that leads the most extreme among them, will be 'regulated', and a process of registration - ignored with impunity by the overwhelming majority of such institutions - has been established.

Behind this elaborate smokescreen, however, not only have the madrassahs continued with their subversion of innocent minds, but a deeper and more sinister reality has been, till now, rather successfully concealed: the psalms of hatred are not only taught in some supposedly 'renegade madrassahs', but are an integral component of Pakistan's state administered public educational system. This has long and widely been known among those who study Pakistan with any measure of diligence, and has been systematically documented by several reports in the past - but has largely escaped the attention of most Western 'experts' on terrorism in South Asia. Even such experts may, however, find it difficult to remain ignorant, as a succession of controversies explodes in Pakistan on precisely these issues.

Early in March, the fundamentalist alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) disrupted the National Assembly and staged a walk-out on the grounds that a certain reference to jehad as well as other Quranic verses had been 'excluded' from the new edition of a state prescribed biology textbook. Later, the Punjab Teachers Union announced its decision to launch a protest movement from Gujranwala, commencing April 15, if the verses were not 'reinstated'. On March 30, 2004, however, Education Minister Zobaida Jalal clarified that no chapter or verses relating to 'jehad' or 'shahadat' (martyrdom) had been deleted from textbooks, stating further that the particular verse referring to jehad had only been 'shifted' from the biology textbook for intermediate students (Classes XI & XII) to the 'matriculation level courses' (Class X). The education ministry in Pakistan has not found it expedient to inquire - as most people familiar with the discipline of biology would - what references to jihad were doing in the biology curriculum in the first place. This is unsurprising, since it is the Ministry of Education, and its subsidiary Curriculum Wing, that put these references there.

The systematic slanting of the state prescribed curricula for all levels of the public education system in Pakistan has, once again, been exposed in great detail by a report recently published by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad, titled The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan, which is attracting a storm of protest from Islamist fundamentalist groupings in Pakistan. The report is abundantly clear on where the responsibility for these persistent distortions lies: "Over the years, it became apparent that it was in the interest of both the military and the theocrat to promote militarism in the society. This confluence of interests now gets reflected in the educational material." The state's curriculum directives demanded, and textbooks included, according to the Report,

Material creating hate and making enemy images
A glorification of war and the use of force
Incitement to militancy and violence, including encouragement of Jehad and Shahadat ·
Insensitivity to the actually existing religious diversity of the nation, and perspectives that encourage prejudice and discrimination towards religious minorities.
"It is clear," the SDPI Report notes further, "that in the presence of such material, peace and tolerance cannot be promoted."

The process began in the 1960s, and has been consistently sustained and elaborated since then. Despite "subtle and significant differences" in curricula during the Ayub, Bhutto and Zia era, however, "there is an immense overlap which lends credence to the argument that Pakistan has remained essentially a military state even during ostensibly civilian rule."

To understand, within this scheme, how jehad ends up in a biology textbook, it is useful to note the "basic principle that recurs repeatedly in the Pakistani curriculum documents":

In the teaching material, no concept of separation between the worldly and the religious be given; rather all the material be presented from the Islamic point of view. [Curriculum Document, Primary Education, Class K-V, 1995, p. 41]

This principle conforms to the position argued by Syed Abul A'la Maudoodi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, and an inspiration to many contemporary radical Islamist ideologies, that "all that is taught would be in the context of the revealed knowledge, therefore every subject would become Islamiat."

The process begins at the earliest stage of schooling, and permeates every single subject - language, literature, the sciences, social studies, and, of course, the specialized courses in Islamiat. The last of these are compulsory for all Muslim students, but the minority of non-Muslims is also offered an incentive of 25 marks for taking up the subject.

It is useful to see how the state imposed curricular requirements work their poison. The National Curriculum, Social Studies for Classes I-V, issued by the Curriculum Wing in March 2002, (very much within the tenure of the present 'moderate' regime headed by the 'democratising dictator', General Pervez Musharraf') for instance, provides the following instructions:
"Concept: Jehad
Activities: To make speeches on Jehad
Learning outcome: Evaluate the role of India with reference to wars of 1956 (???) (sic), 1965 and 1971 AD.
Evaluation: To judge their spirits while making speeches on Jehad, Muslim History and Culture."

These instructions, it is useful to note, are for classes of students in the age group 5-11 years, and constitute part of a 'Social Studies' curriculum.

The SDPI Report notes "four primary themes that emerge most strongly as constituting the bulk of the curricula and textbooks of the three compulsory subjects" (Social Studies/ Pakistan Studies, Urdu and English):

that Pakistan is for Muslims alone;
that Islamiat is to be forcibly taught to all the students, whatever their faith, including compulsory reading of Qu'ran;
that Ideology of Pakistan (sic) is to be internalised as faith, and hate be created against Hindus and India;
and students are to be urged to take the path of Jehad and Shahadat.
The 'Ideology of Pakistan', the Report notes further, is Islam, and curricular policies insist, is to "be presented as an accepted reality, and never be subjected to discussion or dispute" or to "be made controversial and debatable." Further, "Associated with the insistence on the Ideology of Pakistan has been an essential component of hate against India and the Hindus… the existence of Pakistan is defined only in relation to Hindus, and hence the Hindus have to be painted as black as possible."

The 140-page SDPI report illustrates the many and complex ways in which these ideologies of hatred are disseminated through the state's educational system, creating a fanatical and unrelenting mindset at an early age, and systematically reinforcing such tendencies throughout the schooling process. While the report does not cover University education, the same processes continue at work there. Very significantly, the Federal Public Service Commission, which selects the country's superior bureaucracy, in its competitive examination (according to the Rules issued on August 25, 2003) also prescribes a compulsory paper on Islamiat with a full 100 marks, which includes the concept of Jehad among the "Fundamental Beliefs and Practices of Islam".

It is, thus, not renegade madrassahs that have seeded the hatred in the minds of the people of Pakistan, raising armies of international terrorists. On the one hand, these madrassahs themselves have been supported and sponsored by the Pakistani state. There are, moreover, only a small part of the elaborate structure of indoctrination that has systematically been exploited by successive governments over the past three decades and more.

When the rich don't understand a problem, they throw money at it. So it is with Western aid to Pakistan. Uncomprehending of the floodtide of hatred they provoke among Muslims, Western policy makers are trying to 'solve' the problem of the radicalisation of the Pakistani mind by investing very substantial sums of money in 'madrassah reform' and investment in education. Part of the investment is going towards creating the infrastructure for 'technical and scientific education' and the teaching of English in Pakistani madrassahs and schools. But if you combine technical competence with a fanatical mindset, the probabilities are - as terrorists coming out of the 'Gucci mosques' of Europe demonstrate - that you will only produce more efficient terrorists. Investing in these spheres can only increase the distortions inherent in these systems.

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