(CNSNews.com) – A new study released Tuesday found that Pakistan’s public school textbooks negatively portray the country’s religious minorities, including Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis, as “untrustworthy, religiously inferior, and ideologically scheming.”
The report, “Teaching Intolerance in Pakistan: Religious Bias in Public School Textbooks,” analyzed 78 textbooks from all four provinces covering grades five through 10.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) sponsored the study, which was conducted by the Pakistan-based NGO Peace and Education Foundation (PEF). The study found 70 new instances of bias in addition to finding that some problematic content found in a 2011 study conducted by USCIRF had remained and even been expanded upon.
“Pakistan’s public school textbooks contain deeply troubling content that portrays non-Muslim citizens as outsiders, unpatriotic, and inferior; are filled with errors; and present widely-disputed historical ‘facts’ as settled history,” USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George said in a statement on the report’s release. “Missing from these textbooks are any references to the rights of religious minorities and their positive contributions to Pakistan’s development.”
“These textbooks sadly reflect the alarming state today of religious freedom in Pakistan,” he concluded. “A country’s education system, including its textbooks, should promote religious tolerance, not close the door to cooperation and coexistence.”
The 52-page report contains many examples of a troubling portrayal of religious minorities in the public school textbooks.
A passage in an eighth grade Islamic Studies book published in 2015 as part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Curriculum describes jihad in a positive light.
“Prophet (PBUH) said that ‘Jihad will continue till the end of times’. Jihad is going on in different parts of the world. Many Mujahidins of Islam are participating in Jihad for sake of Allah, for protection of their religion, to help their oppressed brothers, and to get freedom from tyranny,” it read. “As a student if you cannot practically participate in Jihad you can at least financially help in preparation of Jihad.”
A passage from a tenth grade Punjab textbook, also published in 2015, states, “Because the Muslim religion, culture and social system are different from non-Muslims, it is impossible to cooperate with Hindus.”
Another Punjab curriculum textbook for sixth grade Islamic studies reads, “Christians learned tolerance and kind heartedness from Muslims. The fair treatment and good governance of Muslims improved the living standard of the region. They started to live prosperous and peaceful lives under the patronage of Muslims.”
The report’s recommendations call for textbooks that “reflect that religious freedom is a constitutional protection provided to all Pakistanis” and ask that “historical omissions and misrepresentations of different events should be eliminated, and diverse viewpoints should be included.”
At a National Press Club event Tuesday USCIRF Commissioner Katrina Lantos Swett discussed the report’s findings as well as Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws used to target its religious minorities.
“Every year since 2002, USCIRF has continued to call on our State Department to designate Pakistan a country of particular concern or a CPC, marking it as one of the world’s worst violators of freedom of religion or belief. We believe such action is long overdue,” Swett emphasized.
Azhar Hussain, president and founder of PEF, reflected on the words of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan.”
“It’s very sad for us, for Pakistan, to see that very founding mission of Pakistan that anybody can come and live and pray and practice their religion to be not true,” Hussain said.