A child’s education from a young age influences the rest of their lives. A saint is known to have said, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” It is therefore imperative that we consider it a priority to structure our elementary school curriculum very thoughtfully. We must develop a decent academic system that we can trust our children with and expect great men in return – men who value the ideals of freedom, tolerance and mutual respect and who hold no prejudices against fellow men.
Our present education system is not serving this purpose at all. It is, without our deliberate realization, brainwashing our children in hate by presenting a selective, tailored, perverted version of our history.
The official narrative has always sought to portray Muslims as superior beings (delusion) and non-Muslims as evil people constantly conspiring against Islam (paranoia). As part of President Zia’s “Islamization” process, our curricula were revised and rewritten in 1976 in an attempt to further augment and highlight the role of “hardline” Islam in Pakistan. The new curricula also sought to downplay the role of non-Muslims in Pakistan and wrote off anything that did not conform to Zia’s state-sanctioned radical interpretation of Islam.
Today, we emerge from our schools believing Hindus are filthy, Jews are cunning and cruel and Christians are all out at war with Islam. We grow up confused, paranoid and delusional. There is a part of Pakistan’s history unknown to us, which if known, could only help promote interfaith harmony and understanding.
Did you know, for instance, that Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s grandparents were Hindu Rajputs. Jinnah’s grandfather, Poonja Gokuldas Meghji, was a Hindu Bhatia Rajput from Paneli village in present day Gujarat, India who later converted to the Ismaili Khoja branch of Shia Islam. Jinnah later became a Twelver Khoja Shia.
How many of us know that Sultan Muhammed Shah, Aga Khan III, a prominent Ismaili Shia Imam was one of the founding members and the first honorary President of the All India Muslim League, the party that Jinnah went on to lead. Just because the Imam belonged to a sect considered heretic by Zia and his confidants, the whole page making his mention has been conveniently thrown out of our Pakistan studies books.
And we would think that the Pakistan Resolution was an important document. Also known as the Lahore Resolution, this was the very basis for the legal battle for Pakistan. How many of us know that the document was drafted by Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, also the first foreign Minister of Pakistan. Pakistan’s boundaries were negotiated by this very man. Just because he was an Ahmadi Muslim, he is now forgotten. His numerous other contributions — including his popular role in the independence of many countries across the Muslim world and his legal fight for Kashmir and Palestine — have been deliberately kept out of the reach of our children.
How many of us know that Allama Iqbal identified with the Ahmadi sect for a significant part of his life. His father and older brother had converted and remained Ahmadi Muslim for the rest of their lives. Iqbal however reverted to mainstream Sunni Islam sometime before his death. Pakistani historians fail to acknowledge, let alone make mention, of this major part of Iqbal’s life.
How many know that Jinnah visited the famous London Mosque belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community multiple times while in London. It was here that he made his famous speech announcing his return to India to represent the Muslims in 1933. In fact, it was the Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya community who had persuaded Jinnah to return to India. Mr. Abdur Raheem Dard, the Imam of the London mosque, met Jinnah to deliver this message. The Sunday Times London (April 9,1933) carried a report of this encounter. Mr Jinnah frankly acknowledged the fact that: “The eloquent persuasion of the Imam left me no way of escape.” But since this would highlight the contribution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan’s creation, this important step in the story of Pakistan is left out of our books again.
It is a shame that hatred and violence against Ahmadi Muslims and Shias is rampant and goes unchecked in today’s Pakistan.
How many of us know that Maulana Maududi and co. staunchly opposed the creation of Pakistan. “Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s place is not on the throne of leadership. He deserves to face trial as a traitor,” Maududi said. He also made it clear that “It is haraam to vote for the Muslim League.” Since Maududian Islam was adopted by Zia himself, these ugly facts, were left out of our books. Not just this, these rightist forces are presented as true patriots who played major role in Pakistan’s very creation and consolidation.
The aim here is not to make mention of each and every instance distorted by right wing influence. The aim is to invite you to search for truth and question the official version of the Pakistan studies you are taught. To curb growing intolerance, extremism and sectarianism in the country, we will need a total overhaul of our curriculum – as long as this does not happen, extremism will continue to be seen as norm.
We will have to tell our children that Ahmadis and Shias are equal Pakistanis who have played major role in its creation and consolidation. We will have to teach them that Hindus, Christians and Jews are to be respected and that humanity comes first before anything else.
“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” said the saint. We have to decide what kind of men we want our children to become – tolerant and progressive Pakistanis, or intolerant and hate-filled men.