Sunday, April 07, 2013

Urdu equals Islam? The decline of common sense continues...

by Salman Hameed

Somewhere Ghalib, Manto and a host of other great Urdu writers must be rolling in their graves. I grew up reading and loving urdu novels and poetry. I don't remember much from the urdu textbooks used in schools (with the exception of Patras Bukhari's fantastic "Kuttay" ("Dogs"). So the new battle over the lack of sufficient Islam in Urdu textbooks is sad, baffling, and outrageous:
The Punjab government has excluded several key subjects from the fresh 10th class Urdu
text book edition published in February 2013 which is now being marketed for new students of matric. 
These subjects include ‘Islamic ideology of Pakistan’ and ‘Hazrat Umar (RA)- a Great Administrator’ besides removing persuasive Islam-related poems of even poets like Allama Iqbal. On the poetry side, all the Islamic poems including ‘Rabbe Kainaat’ of Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, ‘Mohsin-e-Insaniat (PBUH)’ (the Saviour of Humanity) by Mahirul Qadri, ‘Tulu-e-Islam’ (the rise of Islam) of Allama Iqbal, ‘Siddiq (RA)’ on Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddiq (RA) by Allama Iqbal, ‘Shaan-e-Taqwa’ (which is against drinking) by Allama Iqbal etc have also been removed in the new text book.

It is besides the point that Islamiat is a full separate subject that students go through in their 10th grade. But don't worry. Those wonderful, humble folks of Jamaat-e-Islami are there to protect Islam:
Jamaat-e-Islami Punjab Ameer Dr Syed Waeem Akhtar has express concern over exclusion of Islamic chapters from the course of class 10.

In a statement issued here Sunday, he said this disgusting act unveiled the dirty faces of the Punjab rulers. He said the rulers had become blind in the slavery of their foreign masters. He demanded the excluded chapters be included in the syllabus. He said Pakistan came into being in the name of Islam, hence there would be enforced Islamic code of life instead of ‘English code.’
But then this is a time when (some) candidates for elections in Pakistan are being asked to recite Qur'anic verses - or else their nomination papers would be rejected:
If Najma Bibi was unable to recite the Dua-e-Qanoot, she would have been unable to contest the upcoming elections, despite her status as a law-abiding and upright citizen, who paid her taxes regularly. 
However, her memory served her well and she breezed through the returning officer’s ‘ruthless’ scrutiny. 
Bibi, a 60-year-old political aspirant backed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, recited the dua seamlessly, prompting RO Jalaluddin Soomro to accept her nomination papers and declare her eligible to contest the general elections for a provincial assembly seat in Sindh. 
“The returning officer only asked me to recite the Dua-e-Qanoot, which I did confidently, so he accepted my papers,” Bibi, who intends to stand for PS-110 in Karachi, told The Express Tribune. 
The second question was a textbook classic. “How many Farz are in the Namaz-e-Isha?”
Under the Election Commission of Pakistan’s policy on judging the eligibility of candidates, the returning officers have initiated ‘ruthless’ scrutiny in accordance with the Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. 
Such relentlessness was visible at City Courts, where sessions judges are performing duties as ROs. 
Like Bibi, all other candidates were asked to recite first Kalma, second Kalma or Dua-e-Qanoot, declare, on oath, whether or not they believe in one God (Allah), and to confirm whether they fulfill their religious obligations such as regularly offering prayers and performing Umrah or Hajj.
I left Pakistan a while ago but have visited it regularly. While some of the wacky things around religion were always present (for example, one of the requirements for getting a Pakistani passport as a Muslim is to declare that Ahmadis are non-Muslims!), this new Pakistan is fast becoming a stranger each passing day.

Okay - back to the issue of Urdu textbooks. What is interesting is that less than two years ago, a report suggested that Pakistan's education system is fueling religious discrimination. Perhaps, some of the changes to the urdu textbooks were in response to that report (you can download the pdf of the report: Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan), but now it seems that the government is backing down on this effort (also see this earlier post about a recent survey: This is Pakistan's most conservative generation).

Here is Pervez Hoodbhoy's take on this, Banning a textbook - the Punjab government panics:
This episode is important for only one reason: the new Urdu reader represented an attempt, albeit a feeble one, to remove the blinkers forced upon students by General Ziaul Haq’s education fantasia. The 1980s Islamisation of education meant that every subject — languages, geography, history, social studies, chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc. — could only be viewed through a narrow prism. All else was to be shunned and filtered out. It is this attempt to break loose that Mr Abbasi finds so terribly objectionable. 
Pakistan’s educational system and the books used in schools unquestionably needs drastic reform. Our education does not prioritise the production of well-informed, socially responsible, thoughtful and civic-minded individuals. It does not ask for creating a mindset that can readily accept Pakistan’s diversity of religions, languages and cultures. It pays relatively little attention to what much of the rest of the world considers important: knowing and respecting the law of the land, preserving the environment, etc. Instead, what goes under the name of education here emphasises ritual, tradition and submission to authority. It is this which needs changing. 
The shameful retreat of the Punjab government before the forces of narrow-minded intolerance and prejudice augurs ill for the future. It negates the good work done by Shahbaz Sharif in the education sector. Sadly, yet another generation of children will be deprived of their right to an unblinkered view of the world. We, the citizens, must not allow such blackmail by any individual or group to succeed.
Read the full article here.

For those who understand Urdu, here is Zia Mohiuddin reading Patras Bukhari's Marhoom ki yaad main:


Akbar said...

There is a lot of work related to the religious side of literature like Hamds or Naats (poems to honor God or the Prophet PBUH) or literary work by renowned writers like Hali or Iqbal related to Islamic history. These cannot be directly incorporated into the text of Islamic Studies. In addition, these are more of literary importance than religious therefore are present in the main Urdu text.

Salman Hameed said...


Sure - and a lot of it is great literature as well. It would be fantastic to include Iqbal's Shikwah, Jawab-e-Shikwah or Madjid-e-Qartaba. But the criterion for selection has to be literature.

However, this is all irrelevant. Here is the thing: the new version of the book also has Hamd/Naat etc. It is just not Islam enough for the JI folks. From the Hoodbhoy article:

"Contrary to Allama Iqbal being absent, the front cover has the poet in his classic pose, thoughtfully staring at a candle. The very first item listed in the contents is a hamd (a poem in praise of Allah) by Hafeez Jalundhri. The second item is a naat (poem in praise of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) by Ehsan Daanish. The third centres around the high-culture surrounding the Urdu-speaking elite of Delhi, while the fourth is a kind of fairy tale (Paristan ki shahzadi). Other items are “Letters of Ghalib”, “A camel’s wedding”, “The tattle-tale”, “Celebrating Eidul Fitr”, “The story of Karbala”, “Thrive, thrive, Pakistan”, etc."

Faisal Irshad said...

There was an episode of Shahzad
Roy's programme "Chal Parha" about the religious idiocy of our curriculum in which several hindu and christian kids were being asked to read Hamd/Naat which is quite ridiculous.

Wonder what would religious Pakistanis say if it were that christianity/hinduism/judaism oriented poetry was included in foreign countries and all students would have to read it and prepare for the examinations.i.e. being a compulsory part of that particular language's course?

To my mind the only logical solution is to include "comparative religious studies" course in the curriculum rather than any special religious study course like Islamiat.

Anjem Choudary said...

What is your intention behind writing this article? Are you funded by CIA/MOSSAD or RAW to oppose Islamic teachings?

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