Author: Rabia Khan
My mother teaches Kindergarten kids; almost every day she will tell us some interesting thing that happened in her class. One of my favorites is when she was taking an Islamiat (Islamic studies) class
Under the Constitution of Pakistan it is compulsory for schools to teach Islamiat to Muslim students, no special programs are made for non-Muslim students who most of the time have to take, or sit through these classes.
There are a few Hindu and Christian kids in my mother’s class, and as she was teaching Islamiat, she started listing down all the things Allah made- the moon, sun, stars, the world, animals etc; Most of the time she tries to include God and Bhagavan in the discussions too, but I guess this one time she forgot. As she was listing down all of Allah’s creations, a Hindu kid burst out with, “Bhagavan nay bhi to kuch banaya hoga!” (Bhaqavan must have made something too)
Coming from a 5 year old kid this seems amusing when you first hear it, but you have to wonder what he must have been feeling at that time for him to have burst out with such a frustrated and desperate plea. All the beliefs that he has grown up with; challenged in that one instance, when all the credit for Creation goes to a God he doesn’t believe in, and knows next to nothing about.
There is a huge difference between learning about a religion and religious preaching; schools in Pakistan do the latter. Asking students to memorize verses from the Quran, testing them on how well they can recite the Quran and how well they remember its translations, is nothing short of forcing Islam on students, whether they be Muslims or Non-Muslims.
A 5 year old child doesn’t even know what religion is, he doesn’t understand it, then what is the purpose of teaching him religious injunctions? Isn’t it basically just institutionalized brainwashing? Force religion down a child’s throat at such a young age that by the time he grows up he doesn’t even bother to discover religion, instead just follows what he has been taught without any understanding of what he ‘believes’ in. And the worst part is when that child is forced to learn about a religion, which his background doesn’t even correspond with. This is just another aspect of minority marginalization in Pakistan.
Teaching kids about religion in this way at such a young age only breeds hatred and discrimination. Especially since no one can teach religion impartially, the teacher’s bias always comes through, and at an older age that may be fine because students know better, but what about a 6 year old being told that she shouldn’t be friends with Christians by a teacher whom she is told to obey and respect?
When I was around 7, my Islamiat teacher was a bit of an extremist (understatement); she would openly condemn Hindus and Christians in class and say that friendships with them were Haram (forbidden) in Islam. And because I was a naïve 7 year old like the rest of the children in my class, I believed her, and just like the rest of the class I broke off being friends with all the Hindu kids in my class. To this day, I cannot explain how disgusted I feel with myself when I remember what I did, and if could, I would find those people and apologize to them.
Quite a few years later when I realized what I had done, I told my mother and I could see the shock in her eyes, because she never taught me this. She never taught me to hate other religions or discriminate between them, my Islamiat teacher did. Even when I was in 9th Grade and around 15 years old, my Islamiat teacher had a major problem with Shia Muslims, so most of the time she would mention their teachings in a mocking tone or other times she would just flat out refuse to acknowledge them, adding into the cycle of hatred that we have been taught since we were 4.
Religion is a personal matter, over which institutions should have no influence. A perfect example of why religion and institutions should not mix is: Pakistan, which is plagued by Islamic extremism, practiced by the State, which always gives into pressure by extremist Muslim groups as in the case of openly declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims and limiting their religious freedoms in an amendment to the constitution in 1974. One would think that by now Pakistan would have realized that state and religion is a terrible combo, but alas here we are, in 2016, still forcing Islamiat down students’ throats and breeding bigotry in our future generations.
Rabia is a Pakistani Student, Blogger & Contributing Writer to The Conversation Room.
You can visit her excellent blog here: