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“Students belonging to minority communities in government schools will study the curriculum according to their own religion,” STBB chairman Syed Zakir Ali Shah announced on Tuesday.
The new book which has been named Ikhlaqiat (ethics) will be included in the curriculum of all public schools across Sindh from April 1 of the current year, the chairman said. “This book will be added to the curriculum of grade 7 students and above in the first phase of induction.”
Talking about the contents of the book, the chairman pointed out that the book includes the teachings of different religions, including Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism and mystic poetry.
Last year, the Sindh government had announced to include Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech in the school curriculum from classes 8 to 10 in a bid to teach religious tolerance.
The founder of the nation’s August 11 speech is famous for the Quaid explicitly talking about giving equal rights and freedom to all religious minorities.
However, some have pointed out how teaching ‘ethics’ instead of a subject that relates to minority faiths is inherently ‘discriminatory’.
“Discrimination begins from the point when children are offered [to study] ethics [rather than compulsory Islamic studies] instead of a subject that relates to their faiths,” Peter Jacob, the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) executive director said in 2012.
Jacob says ethics is not a suitable alternative for religious studies. He says considering that the contents are derived from Islamic traditions, the stated purpose of giving students this option is lost.
“If Muslim students have a right to study Islamic studies, non Muslim students, too, should be entitled to study subject that relates to their religion,” says Mariam Arif, head of the Street Law Clinic at the Quaid-i-Azam Law College. Referring to sub-section 1 of the Article 22 of the Constitution, she says the government is legally obligated to ensure that non Muslim students receive religious instructions in accordance with their faiths.
“Ethics is not a religious study. It certainly does not subscribe to the faith of a religious minority,” she said.
Jinnah has talked about giving equal rights and freedom to all religious minorities in the speech.
Pakistani school textbooks have often been criticized for fostering prejudice and intolerance of Hindus and other religious minorities in the country.
A study by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2014 has found systematic negative portrayals of minorities, especially Hindus and to a lesser extent of Christians, in the Pakistani school textbooks.
“Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful,” the report has said.
Hindus make up a little more than one per cent of Pakistan’s over 199 million population.
However, over two million Hindus live in Sindh and over half a million of them live in Karachi city alone.
After finishing the Hindus almost from the picture of Pakistan, in these days some consciousness in Pakistan’s administrators are surfacing sometimes for an “face-saving”.
Various Hindu-Sikh-Christian people’s forums have been fighting to restore the Human rights of the minorities there under the onslaught of abduction, rape, persecution, conversion, forceful marriage, killing, property capturing, destruction of religious sites etc. in an intolerable state.
Base Reports: Pak Express Tribune and PTI.