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How to brainwash a generation: lies about India pepper Pakistan school books

Lamat R Hasan | Updated on: 19 April 2016, 17:03 IST

If the Western fantasy of India as a land of snake charmers and tigers on the loose irks you, prepare to be really annoyed. 

Because this is what Pakistan - your immediate neighbour - thinks of you. 

** "...in the Hindu religion widows are deprived of their basic rights to live as they are burned alive with the ashes of their husband's dead body."

** "In the united India, Muslims cannot even freely call for prayers or go to mosques without fear."

** India also blocked Pakistan's assets so that the country was weakened financially; and it also stopped the flow of weapons so that the newly established state remained fragile in defense."

These aren't the rantings of a few biased individuals; these are just a few examples of what Pakistan's schoolchildren are being taught about India in textbooks. The books are loaded with religious bias, and the facts are distorted to perpetuate the 'enemy country' narrative.

Read: Indo-Pak talks: Dialogue is the best option, says Pakistan's Nafees Zakaria 

There are two dangerous aspects to the teachings: misleading info about non-Muslims in Pakistan, and outright wrong or outdated information about socio-cultural practices of Hindus and Muslims in India. 

Students are conditioned to perceive "non-Muslims" in their midst as outsiders and unpatriotic. The contribution of religious minorities or their rights is also never touched upon in the texts.

The country's minorities are seen with suspicion - Hindus as spies for Indians; and Christians as spies for Westerners. 

These examples find mention in a report prepared by the

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally.

The report, Teaching intolerance in Pakistan: Religious bias in public school text books in Pakistan - concludes that "the content of Pakistani public school textbooks related to non-Islamic faiths and non-Muslims continue to teach bias, distrust, and inferiority". 

Fact and fiction

The Social Studies textbook for Grade 5 students in Baluchistan has a chapter on the "Need for Creation of Independent Muslim State". 

It tells students how the 'Englishmen' in undivided India treated Hindus fairly and "committed atrocities against Muslims and killed them".

There's also a chapter on the "Sinister Aims of India" - India which "

purposefully blocked river water flow towards Pakistan to destroy its agriculture [. . .], India which blocked Pakistan's assets so that the country was weakened financially..."

"The title of the chapter itself shows its bias. The chapter focuses on India's hegemonic aims and injustice against Pakistan. This is particularly the case on page 13, which discusses the topic of India's illegal occupation of Kashmir," reads a comment on the USCIRF report.

Also read: Peace talks with India not suspended; Pakistani foreign office clarifies 

The school textbooks reach over 41 million children in Pakistan. Imagine 41 million children being taught to perceive religious minorities in a negative and stereotypical manner. Imagine 41 million children being offered an Islam-centered perspective as the only valid and rational school of thought. And imagine the same 41 million children being taught that the 'enemy' country persecutes their community. 

"In the social studies, Pakistan studies, and history curriculums students are taught a version of history that promotes a national Islamic identity of Pakistan and often describes conflicts with India in religious terms," the USCIRF report points out. 

The brainwashing

If you thought the damage is limited to Pakistani children learning early that India is an enemy country, and that "Hindu racists wanted to eliminate not only Muslims but all non-Hindus" - read their sermons on jihad.

Grade 8 students are learning about Jihad: 

"Jihad is going on in different parts of the world. Many Mujahidin of Islam are participating in Jihad for sake of Allah for protection of their religion, and to get freedom against tyranny". . . . "As a student though you cannot practically participate in Jihad but you can financially help in preparation of Jihad."

There is glorification of war and war heroes. The conquest of Sindh by Muhammad bin Qasim and 17 famous attacks by Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi are included in every textbook. 

The evolution of art, architecture and culture is ignored. 

"In post-independence history, wars with India are emphasised and examples of peace initiatives are largely ignored, resulting in an unbalanced historical discourse focused on intractable conflict," the report goes on to say. 

"There is a tragic irony in these accusations, because Christians and Hindus in Pakistan face daily persecution, are common victims of crime, and are frequent targets of deadly communal violence, vigilantism, and collective punishment," it adds.

The death of peace


The report quotes a line from a Class 10 Urdu textbook: "Because the Muslim religion, culture and social system are different from non-Muslims, it is impossible to cooperate with Hindus." 

It's not surprising India is depicted in less than glowing terms - it would be naive to expect otherwise. But deliberate lies seem like an own-goal by a country that has as much, if not more, to gain from peace than even we do.

Edited by Payal Puri

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First published: 19 April 2016, 17:03 IST
 
Lamat R Hasan @LamatAyub

Bats for the four-legged, can't stand most on two. Forced to venture into the world of homo sapiens to manage uninterrupted companionship of 16 cats, 2 dogs and counting... Can read books and paint pots and pay bills by being journalist.

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