Hate mongering worries minorities
* National Commission for Justice and Peace report urges government to take notice
By Ali Waqar
LAHORE: Several civil society organisations have taken notice of religious hate speech and textbook content and urged the government to take the issue seriously.
According to a recent report by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a Catholic Church body, the commission monitored four major national Urdu dailies from August to October 2005 and found extremely provocative news reports, statements and editorials against religious minorities including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and even Jews (hate in absentia).
A common hate speech method is the use of derogatory terms for minorities. Ahmedis are called ‘Qadiani’ or ‘Mirzai’ while Christians are called ‘Isai’. Until some years ago, these terms were not even considered derogatory.
MP Bhandara, a minority National Assembly member, wrote a letter of protest to an editor of a national daily on September 13, 2005, but if had no effect on the newspaper’s policy.
Religiously motivated hate speech: Speakers in a rally organised by Khatam-e-Nabuwat on November 14, 2005 in Badin made provocative speeches against Ahmedis. Rallies and seminars were organised in various cities to commemorate September 7, 1974, when Ahmadis were declared non-Muslim.
Khatam-e-Nabuwat leaders then held a conference on September 29 and 30 in Ahmadi-majority town Rabwa, where the audience were provoked against Ahmadis. On October 1, Amjad Shakoor, a teacher at Jamia Ashrafia mosque, told students that whoever murdered an Ahmadi went to paradise. Following teacher’s instruction, some children beat up an Ahmadi child the next day. Local residents informed the police but no legal action was taken.
Hatred in Urdu press: ‘Sar-e-Rahe’, a column in an Urdu daily criticised Pope Benedict XVI for encouraging Catholics to have more children and called it a ‘preparation of raw material for crusades’. The columnist said the Pope should allow nuns and priests to follow the same direction and made an offensive remark about children born out of wedlock in the West.
A national Urdu daily wrote in its October 20 editorial that a Christian Pastor Peter Robertson associated with a correspondent school was converting Pakistanis to Christianity and operating from Mianwali since 1995, he had converted 17,000 Muslims all over Pakistan. The paper said he used good looking young boys and girls for the purpose and urged clerics to ‘wake up to the threat’.
Within 22 days of the printing of this editorial, Churches and Christian property were burnt at Sangla Hill on the pretext of desecration of the holy Quran. Liberal Muslims remained silent and there was no protest or condemnation by Muslims at large. After the incident, Dr Sarfraz Naeemi, secretary of Tanzimat Madaris-e-Deeniya said the Christian clergy had set the churches on fire after the alleged desecration, ‘like they did in Shantinagar’ (a Christian majority village that was burnt by Muslims because of an alleged desecration of the Holy Quran).
Another newspaper reported that six groups consisting of young and beautiful girls and boys were on a mission to convert Muslims to Christianity by ‘entrapping them in fake love affairs’. Muslims were provoked that they should take steps in order to prove Christian priests liars.
A national daily published opinions of clerics who said the Pakistani government should not celebrate minorities’ religious festivals and said the government was giving minorities more importance than the majority.
On Christmas eve, Dr Israr Ahmad said in a national daily newspaper that Christians were wrong when they said that Jesus Christ was crucified and quoted the Gospel of Barnabas as proof.
According to the NCJP report, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya had pointed out about 1,379 hate news reports in the national press during 2005.
Hate content in textbooks: According to the report, the Social Studies curriculum in Pakistan, as the product and propagator of the ‘Ideology of Pakistan,’ derives its legitimacy from a narrow set of directives.
The textbooks authored and altered during the 11 years of General Ziaul Haq’s military rule, are still being taught in schools. They are decidedly anti-democratic and inclined to dogmatic tirades, the report said.
It said the Pakistani education system had nurtured a cadre of religiously conservative youth as the Pakistan Studies curriculum employed a narrow, politicised definition of Islam in the construction of Pakistani nationalism.
Pakistan Studies textbooks in Pakistan have been used to articulate the hatred that Pakistani policy-makers have attempted to inculcate towards the Hindus. “Vituperative animosities legitimise military and autocratic rule, nurturing a siege mentality,” the report said.
Government-issued textbooks teach students that Hindus are backward and superstitious, and given a chance, they would assert their power over the weak, especially, Muslims, depriving them of education by pouring molten lead in their ears. “Pakistan Studies textbooks are an active site to represent India as a hostile neighbour,” the report stated. “The story of Pakistan’s past is intentionally written to be distinct from, and often in direct contrast with, interpretations of history found in India. From the government-issued textbooks, students are taught that Hindus are backward and superstitious.”
The report added that students were taught that Islam brought peace, equality, and justice to the subcontinent, to check the sinister ways of Hindus.
“In Pakistani textbooks “Hindus” rarely appears in a sentence without adjective such as politically astute, sly, or manipulative,” the report says.
“Textbooks reflect intentional obfuscation. Today’s students, citizens of Pakistan and its future leaders are the victims of these partial truths,” the report quoted a news article.