Pakistani schools, making it compulsory to study the Holy Quran is a bit like
insisting the prime minister to take a cruise along the Panama Canal for his
birthday, never mind that it’s supposed to be a beautiful spot.
compulsory Quranic studies is apparently in store for young Pakistanis
according to a speech given by the Minister of State for Education and
Professional Training, ‘Engr’ Muhammad Baligh ur Rahman.
speeches given by government ministers are often so much chaff, but still,
speaking at Al-Huda International School’s fourth annual day celebrations
(where else?) ‘Engr’ Rahman said that;
process would be initiated after consulting all the provinces through the
platform of Inter Provincial Education Minister’s Conference (IPEMC).’’
minister explained that Nazra Quran (learning to read the Quranic script) would
be taught from grade one to grade five, and ‘proper’ Quranic education with
translation would be taught to students of grade six to grade 10 in all public
to know; what constitutes ‘proper’ Quranic education? Whose interpretation takes precedence when
our religious ideals constantly conflict with one another? Why on earth should
one officially go down that road, when you’re bound to be stuck at an
of like Alice in Wonderland, when Alice, wishing to know which road to take,
asks the Cheshire cat:
of people live here?”
direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw, “lives a Hatter: and in that
direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. They’re both mad.”
don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice protested.
can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you
know I’m mad?” said Alice.
be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
we had little choice and were born here, you could wave your hand towards Gilgit
way lives one community of people,’ and this way’ waving your hand around
Punjab, ‘lives a substantial population of another.’
way,’ waving your hand towards Sindh ‘lives another group of others.’
that way’, waving your hand vaguely towards Afghanistan, ‘lives a group of
people who, along with many of those living in this country think that every
community but theirs is mad and bullets are the best way to eliminate the
make sense?’ you ask.
reader says flatly.
Good!’ you say with some satisfaction. ‘It only means you are mad as well, like
the rest of us. Welcome to Pakistan.’
brings us back to the question; which of these people would you consult as to
what constitutes ‘proper’ Quranic education? And what do you do about those
segments of the population for whom the Holy Quran is not valid at all?
government could and apparently does exempt this segment of the population, the
non-Muslims, from studying the Holy Quran. Having said that, a little boy
Naveed Rafique hailing from Chak-21 GB, Jaranwala enrolled in a government
school near Faisalabad was recently barred from sitting the viva for Islamic
studies because the examiner felt he must perform ablutions before the exam,
and Rafique, being Christian, did not know how.
Punjab, an Islamic study is already a compulsory subject. If you happen to
belong to one of the hapless non-Muslim communities you can take Ethics
instead. But Rafique’s school could not afford to hire an Ethics teacher for
him – the only non-Muslim in the school. Rafique was therefore forced to opt
for Islamic studies, but come exam time, he was unable to take the viva.
How many schools are there in the country that can ill afford additional
teachers like Rafique’s school?
How many people do you suppose think the way the examiner did in Rafique’s
Are they mad or are you?
not, so they must be.
good luck for a consensus on what constitutes ‘proper’ Quranic education. Oh,
and welcome to Pakistan. You fit right in.
there’s a bullet headed your way. Or mine.