September 30, 2013 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1020

Textbooks In Pakistani Government Schools Teaching Hate Against Christians And Hindus, Jihad And Martyrdom To Young Students

September 30, 2013 | By Tufail Ahmad*
Pakistan | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1020

Cover page of Urdu for Grade 2 in Punjab province


This paper examines the role of school textbooks in promoting hate against religious minorities in Pakistan. On September 22, 2013, more than 80 Christians were killed and hundreds wounded when two Taliban suicide bombers targeted worshippers as they were leaving after a Sunday mass at the 130-year old All Saints' church in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.[1] Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party which governs the province, slammed the attackers but in the same breath asked: "why do terrorist attacks occur when dialogue is on the table?" – the insinuation being that foreign forces planned the attack to sabotage Pakistan's peace negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).[2]

Jundul Hafsa, a militant outfit which functions as part of the Hakimullah Mehsud-led TTP, claimed responsibility for the attack. Ahmad Marwat, the group's spokesman, said the following about Christians: "They are the enemies of Islam; therefore we target them... We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land."[3] There are 200,000 Christians in the province and of them 70,000 live in Peshawar.[4] Such hate against Christians is the result of decades of teachings in government-run schools across Pakistan.

In Pakistan, where Islamist groups are launching regular attacks against non-Muslim Pakistanis like Christians and Hindus as well as some sects of Muslims such as Shi'ites and Ahmadi Muslims, whom they do not consider to be real Muslims, the official and unofficial media, government leaders and religious scholars have legitimized hate against religious minorities, with the term "minority" itself having come to be seen in a pejorative context. As a result of such legitimization of hate through school textbooks, government policies, sermons in mosques and religious congregations, there is growing persecution of Pakistani Christians, Hindus, Shias and Ahmadi Muslims. In September 2012, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) released a paper by this author, cataloguing Islamist and jihadi attacks against these minority groups and underlining the need to put Pakistan on international genocide watch.[5]

After the September 22 church attack, senior Pakistani journalist Aamer Ahmed Khan commented on the Pakistani elite's silence in condemning such attacks on minorities in unequivocal terms, stating: "This silence of our ruling elite is itself the real Talibanism."[6] In Pakistan, the federal government and the provincial government headed by Imran Khan's party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are engaged in talks with the Taliban. Their ministers are publicly seen as silent in their criticism of jihadi groups and the TTP. In turn, the Taliban are emboldened. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PTI-led government has recently been in the news for initiating policies to restore jihadi lessons in school textbooks which were removed as part of reforms by the previous government of the secular Awami National Party (ANP). "What kind of sovereignty, freedom, and Islamic values are these when Islamic teachings, jihad, and national heroes are removed from textbooks? Jihad is part of our faith. We will not back down (from our decision)," Shah Farman, the information minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told reporters on August 21, 2013.[7]

Pakistani Journalist Maheen Usmani: "14-Year-Old Students Of Pakistan Studies Are Being Taught: 'One Of The Reasons For The Downfall Of The Muslims... Was The Lack Of The Spirit Of jihad'"; "13-Year-Olds Are Instructed: 'In Islam, Jihad Is Very Important'"

Throughout Pakistan's history, since its creation in 1947, hate speech against non-Muslims has been a normal phenomenon in Pakistani society. In August-September 2013, a Lahore Grammar School received backlash for introducing a supplementary course titled "Comparative Religion" which was designed to "educate about Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism."[8] A television channel played its part in inciting popular opinion against the school. According to a report, "The course received considerable backlash, gaining mainstream attention following an episode of a talk show aired on ARY News, Khara Sach, on September 16, 2013. In the episode, hosted by [television] anchor Mubasher Luqman, the school was falsely accused of attempting to convert students to other religions..."[9]

In an article published by the Dawn newspaper earlier, journalist Maheen Usmani described how religious fundamentalism and state-sponsored obscurantist textbooks are creating a generation of literate Pakistani youth who identify themselves more with Islam than with Pakistan. In the article, titled "The Ideology of Thought Control in Pakistan," she observes:[10]

"Let us consider a ubiquitous slogan about the 'ideology' of Pakistan. A staple of our school textbooks, it echoed in massive public rallies as well as debates on secularism. 'Pakistan ka matlab kiya? La illaha il lallah' (What is the meaning of Pakistan? There is no God but Allah) has become the rallying cry of the campaign to Islamize Pakistani society. Ironically, it is a slogan that was coined long after the creation of Pakistan, but it is now being falsely ascribed to the leaders of the Pakistan movement... History textbooks written soon after Partition – a time when the grief of shattered families who experienced communal killings was at its peak – show a more liberal mindset. The history of the subcontinent was taken to start with the ancient Indus valley civilizations rather than with the conquest of India by the first Muslim invader, Mohammad bin Qasim, in 712...

"The seeds of the distortion of history and the preponderance of religious dogma which were sown decades ago are bearing fruit today. Examples from the curriculum designed by the Federal Ministry of Education abound. The Social Studies textbook for Class 7 says: 'European nations have been working during the past three centuries through conspiracies on naked aggression to subjugate the countries of the Muslim world.' 14-year-old students of Pakistan Studies are being taught: 'one of the reasons for the downfall of the Muslims in the sub-continent was the lack of the spirit of jihad.' 13-year-olds are instructed: 'In Islam, jihad is very important... The person who offers his life never dies... All the prayers nurture one's passion of jihad.'

"The cause for the intolerance experienced by Ahmadis [i.e. Ahmadi Muslims, declared non-Muslims under Pakistani law], Hindus, and Christians lies in public education, structured as it has been to defend Pakistan against some phantom enemy. Non-Muslims are forced to read the same textbooks which contain derogatory remarks against Hindus, such as them being eternal enemies of Muslims. Our myopic educational system discourages questioning and causes ethnic and religious minorities to be viewed with suspicion..."

In addition to official school textbooks, there are thousands of unregulated madrassas (Islamic seminaries), whose curriculum is not discussed here, that teach their own Islamist and jihadi lessons, leading to hate campaigns against religious minorities in Pakistan. And many of these madrassas not only engender extremism among Pakistani youth but have also emerged as training grounds for terrorists. As late as August 2013, the United States imposed sanctions on the Ganj Madrassa in Peshawar for training and recruiting militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.[11] The head of the madrassa, Fazeelat-ul-Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari aka Shaykh Aminullah, has been a UN-designated terrorist since 2009, for his support for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Study By Pakistani NGO: Textbooks Teaching Jihad And Martyrdom To Primary School Children Include Desired Learning Outcomes Such As: "Must Be Aware Of The Blessings Of Jihad, And Must Create Yearning For Jihad In His Heart"; "Recognize The Importance Of Jihad In Every Sphere Of Life"

A landmark study of Pakistani school textbooks, "The Subtle Subversion – The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan" edited by A. H. Nayyar and Ahmad Salim and published by the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute, reveals a worrying picture. Their study examines in detail how school textbooks nurture Islamism and promote hate and jihad among students of primary schools and disturbingly even non-Muslim Pakistanis have to go through this daily school ordeal from early childhood. A sample of highlights from the study is given below:[12]

i) The 2002 National Early Childhood Education Curriculum requires as an objective: "To nurture in children a sense of Islamic identity and pride in being Pakistani. There is no mention that this is to be done among Muslim students alone."

ii) For Class IV and V students, the Urdu curriculum requires: "A feeling be created among students that they are the members of a Muslim nation. Therefore, in accordance with the Islamic tradition, they have to be truthful, honest, patriotic and life-sacrificing mujahids (janbaz mujahid)", "To educate and train the future generations of Pakistan as a true practicing Muslim"; "To develop a sense of pride in being Muslim and Pakistani"; "Knows that national culture is not the local culture or local customs, but that it means the culture the principles of which are laid down by Islam."

iii) A lesson on "Our Country" in the Class II Urdu book states: "Our country is Pakistan. We live in our country. Pakistan is an Islamic country. Here Muslims live. Muslims believe in the unity of Allah. They do good deeds..." A Class 6 book teaches: "Who am I? I am a Muslim. I am a Pakistani. I love my country and I love my people;" "You know that you are a Muslim and your religion is Islam."

iv) The National Early Childhood Education Curriculum requires the teaching of the following "life skills" to both Muslim and non-Muslim children: "Use greetings such as Assalam-o-Alaikum [words of Islamic greeting]"; " Know when to say Bismillah [I begin in the name of Allah]"; "Recite the first Kalimah [words declaring belief in Islam] and understand its meaning"; "Name the five daily prayers"; "Learn about Ramadan and Eidain [Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha]".

v) The 1995 primary education curriculum requires both Muslim and non-Muslim children to "be proud of the Islamic way of life, and try to acquire and adopt Islamic teachings"; "try to adopt principles of Islamic way of living"; "participate in Salat ba Jamat [collective prayers] in mosques, to develop a sense of respect for Muezzin and Imam"; "read the Koran, and respect it"; "listen to the events from Islamic history and derive pleasure from them"; "try to adopt principles of Islamic way of living"; "respect for Islamic beliefs and practices"; "study religious books in order to understand Koranic teachings"; "respect Islamic or national customs and urge others to do the same"; "love Islamic traditions", etc.

vi) Class 5 textbooks teach the following: "Events from the life of the Holy Prophet, His family and Islamic leaders"; "Stories of Imams and the Prophet's companions (sacrifice: from the life of Hazrat Usman [third caliph of Islam])"; "Stories about the Pakistan movement, eminent personalities of Pakistan, and martyrs of Pakistan"; "Simple stories to urge for jihad"; "Unity of the Islamic world", etc.

vii) The following objectives of teaching Urdu are laid down for both Muslim and non-Muslim children: "To create love for religion and respect for personalities [of Islam and Pakistan]"; "must have belief in the unity of God, and know that Allah is the creator of the universe"; "Must regard Islamic ways as the best of all; "Must have reverence for all the messengers of God, the Prophet Mohammad..., his family members, his companions, the imams and the leaders, and must try to know their teachings and adopt their ways"; "Must maintain affinity (love) with the Islamic world"; "Must respect the leaders, books, places of worship of other religions"; "Must be aware of the blessings of Jihad, and must create yearning for Jihad in his heart."

viii) The authors, A. H. Nayyar and Ahmad Salim, observe: "The... disturbing part of this is to make the non-Muslim students read the Koran, not in Islamiat [Islamic Studies] which they are not required to learn, but in the compulsory subject of Urdu. Urdu textbooks from Class I to III, which are compulsory for students of all faiths, contain lessons on learning to read the Koran. Progressing from Class I where Arabic alphabets are introduced in a lesson titled Iqra, to the lesson entitled 'E'rab' on punctuations in a Class II Urdu book, to the lessons in a Class III Urdu book entitled 'Koran Parhna' (reading the Koran), which has seven lessons (out of a total of 51) on learning to read the Koran. The non-Muslim students must learn these lessons and prepare them for examinations also."

ix) The textbooks teach: "Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam"; "The religion of the Hindus did not teach them good things – Hindus did not respect women"; "Hindus worship in temples which are very narrow and dark places, where they worship idols. Only one person can enter the temple at a time"; "In our mosques, on the other hand, all Muslims can say their prayers together."

x) The following chapters, learning outcomes and educational activities related to jihad and shahadat (martyrdom) are part of the Pakistani school curriculum both before military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq ushered Pakistan on a bold jihadi path and continuing after him: "Recognize the importance of jihad in every sphere of life"; "Must be aware of the blessings of jihad, and must create yearning for jihad in his heart"; "Concept: Jihad; Affective objective: Aspiration for Jihad"; "Love and aspiration for Jihad, Tableegh (Proselytization), Jihad, Shahadat"; "To make speeches on Jihad and Shahadat"; "To make speeches on Jihad"; "Evaluation: To judge their spirits while making speeches on Jihad, Muslim History and Culture"; "Concepts: Jihad, Amar bil Maroof and Nahi Anil Munkar [promoting virtue and rejecting vice]"; "Importance of Jihad"; "Concepts of Ideology of Pakistan, Muslim Ummah and Jihad"; "Folk tales (mythical, moral, Islamic, travel and adventure, jihad)."

Contents page of Islamiat (Islamic Studies) for Grade 5 – it introduces early Islamic wars to 5th grade students in Punjab

NCJP Study Of Textbooks: "Islamic Studies Is A Compulsory Subject For Muslim Students In Each Class At School, [And At] College Levels... Non-Muslim Students Are Also Forced To Take Islamic Studies Due To Fear Of Enhancing Discrimination For Themselves"

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a non-governmental organization that defends the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan, released a study in 2012 titled "Education or Fanatic Literacy?" It examined how Pakistani school textbooks view religions other than Islam "with contempt and prejudice."[13] The study expressed concern over the teaching of Islamist content to non-Muslim students. Some of its concerns are excerpted below:

* "Islamic Studies is a compulsory subject for Muslim students in each class at school, college levels and [in] most of the Universities. A majority of non-Muslim students are also forced to take Islamic Studies due to fear of enhancing discrimination for themselves and other technical difficulties involved in taking the so-called option of Ethics."

* "The recent Education Policy (2009) also made 'Reading of Koranic Parts' (Nazira) a compulsory subject from grade 3 to 8, without giving a viable alternative to non-Muslim students."

* "The subjects other than Islamiat [Islamic Studies], especially social studies and languages, have 20-40% of material on the subjects solely related to the religion of the majority."

* "Religions other than Islam, when mentioned, are dealt with contempt and biases. Educationists, intellectuals and civil society organizations have time and again identified lessons reflecting religious hatred and twisting history; this critique has been absolutely ignored. Hate materials and religious discriminations are still part of curricula in languages, social studies, geography and history..."

* "There are other religious discriminations in education policy; e.g. Every Hafiz-e-Quran is eligible for 20 extra marks for admissions and jobs at the Public Service Commission according to a Federal Cabinet decision dated 20-10-1992. Yet on March 8, 2012 the Punjab Assembly passed a unanimous resolution to make teaching the Holy Koran part of the curriculum."

Textbooks In Punjab Province – In Urdu Book For Grade 5, A Lesson Teaches: A Selfish Jew Was The Owner Of A Well And He Never Allowed Muslims To Take Water From It (Page 32); Do You Like It That We Remain Under These Infidels (Page 56)

Citing school textbooks published by the Punjab Textbook Board, Lahore, the NCJP study found teachings of hate against religious minorities in Punjab province. The following are just a sample of teachings which are more widespread throughout school curriculum:

* In the Urdu book Meri Kitab (My Book) for Grade 3, children are taught the following: The British and Hindus were both against the independence of Pakistan (Page 57). In a lesson titled "Story of Minar-e-Pakistan" in Meri Kitab for Grade 4, children are taught that after the British left in 1947, Hindus would have imposed their religious laws and Muslims would have been discriminated against (Page 23).

* In Social Studies for Grade 5, children are taught the following: the creeds of Hindus and Muslims are totally different; Hindus never accepted the independence of Pakistan; Hindus are enemies of Islam; Raja Hari Singh, the Hindu king of Kashmir, hatched conspiracies against Pakistan (Pages 2-5). A lesson titled "Muhammad bin Qasim" in the same book lauds the Muslim invader for converting Hindus to Islam (Page 77).

* In an Urdu book for Grade 5, a lesson on the Pakistan Resolution, which paved the way for creation of Pakistan, mentions the following: Soon after the resolution was passed, the Hindus kicked up a row of hatred (Page 19). A lesson in the same book teaches: A selfish Jew was the owner of a well and he never allowed Muslims to take water from it (Page 32); Do you like it that we remain under these infidels and our next-generation lives as their slaves (Page 56).

* In an Urdu book for Grade 6, a lesson titled "King Saladdin Ayyubi" contains several references to "infidel/kafir" (Pages 30-32). A page in the same book shows a "map of barbarism" before the arrival of Islam (Page 15). In Social Studies for Grade 7, a lesson on the "Situation of Pre-Islamic Society" teaches hatred against non-Islamic people (Pages 7-14). A lesson in Urdu for Grade 8 teaches that Hindus declared the independence of Pakistan the dream of an insane person, a reference to Muhammad Ali Jinnah who led the movement for Pakistan (Page 58).

Textbooks In Sindh Province – In Social Studies For Grade 8, Children Are Taught; "Hindu Racists Not Only Want To Destroy The Muslims, But All The Non-Hindu Nations As Well (Page 97)"

The NCJP examined a series school textbooks taught in Pakistan's Sindh province and published by the Sindh Textbook Board, Jamshoro. A sample of teachings of hate against religious minorities, especially Hindus, are given below:

* In Urdu for Grade 6, children are taught the following: After the independence of Pakistan, fanatic Hindus [in India] started practicing injustice and cruelty against Muslims (Page 22); a chapter on Sufi mystic Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh teaches that non-Muslims started hating the Muslims (Page 45). The book on Social Studies for Grade 6 is littered with anti-Hindu hate (Pages 64-66, 75-76). A chapter on the history of the British in India accuses Christian missionaries of converting locals into Christianity (Page 85).

* In Social Studies for Grade 7, the word "Eeasai" – derogatory for Christians – is used frequently instead of Masihee/Christian (Pages 12-14); a chapter on "the Muslim world and colonialism" castigates the Western and Christian governments for narrow-mindedness and fanaticism (Page 16); a lesson teaches that "to destroy the Muslims completely, they (the British) encouraged and supported the Hindus (Page 46); hate material runs throughout, especially on pages 47, 48 and 50.

* In Urdu for Grade 7, anti-Hindu teachings are common through pages 14-15 and 49-50. In a lesson on Pakistan's national poet Muhammad Iqbal, students are taught that before the creation of Pakistan, Hindus were violating the economic rights of Muslims and Hindus and also opposed the ideology of Muslims (Pages 49-50). In Social Studies for Grade 9-10, a lesson on the Completion of Pakistan teaches that Hindus wanted to keep Muslims away from all walks of life in independent India because Muslims were aware of Hindus' selfish attitude (Page 22, 27 and 46).

* In Social Studies for Grade 8, children are taught that Hindus believed in the ideology that there is only one nation: Hindu (Page 97); in pre-divided India, the majority Hindus were a problem for Muslims (Page 97); "Hindu racists not only want to destroy the Muslims, but all the non-Hindu nations as well (Page 97)." Similar views are articulated in a lesson on the ideology of Pakistan (Pages 100 and 101).

Textbooks In Baluchistan And Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces – In Urdu For Grade 8, An Entire Chapter Refers To Christians By The Derogatory Term "Eeasai" (Pages 51-55); In Social Studies For Grade 8, A Lesson Notes: Hindus And Sikhs Started Bloodshed On A Large Scale Against Muslims (Page 119)

The reason why Hindus are the main targets is because of the Two-Nation Theory, an underlying principle that Hindus and Muslims are two nations and therefore could not live together. This thinking became the foundation of the Pakistan Movement, leading to the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Teachings of hate against Hindus and other non-Muslim religious groups in Pakistan is also reflected in textbooks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces. The following is a sample of such teachings found by the NCJP study in textbooks published by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board, Peshawar:

* In Social Studies for Class 5, children are taught: the Hindus did not cooperate with Muslims; they were against the Muslims and wanted them to leave sub-continent (Page 5-6); If the sub-continent remained as one state, the Hindus would have introduced law and policies that serve their interest. In this case the Muslims had to survive under the Hindus forever (Page 7-8); India continued enmity against Pakistan (Page 11). In Urdu for Grade 6, a chapter on the Organization of Islamic Conference notes: On August 21, 1969 Israelis tried to set Aqsa mosque on fire in occupied Baitul Muqadas (Page 76). In Urdu for Grade 8, an entire chapter refers to Christians by the derogatory term "Eeasai" (Pages 51-55).

* In Social Studies for Grade 7, there are numerous derogatory references to Christians in a lesson on the British-era colonialism in India (Page 16) and against Hindus (Pages 49-50). In Social Studies for Grade 8, a lesson on the ideology of Pakistan notes: racists Hindus want to destroy not only the Muslim but all the nations other than Hindus (Page 92); Christian pastors are blamed for organizing seminars and delivering speeches against other religions (Page 93); pejorative terms are used to refer to Christians (Page 94); Hindus are accused of aiming to finish all Muslims (Page 104); and so on.

Some samples of teachings of hate from the NCJP study of textbooks published by the Balochistan Textbook Board, Quetta, are given below:

* In Social Studies for Grade 8, a lesson on the ideology of Pakistan teaches: "Hindu racists" want to destroy the Muslims as well as other nations (Pages 103-104); every Hindu violated the rights of Muslims (Page 115); Hindus habitually deceived Muslims and similar anti-Hindu references run throughout the book (Pages 107-109, 111-112, 115-116). A lesson on the existence of Pakistan notes: Hindus and Sikhs started bloodshed on large scale against Muslims (Page 119), etc.

* In Urdu for Grade 9, a lesson notes: "at one end there were frequent attacks by Christian missionaries against Islam"; Christian missionaries found it "easy and result-oriented" to target Islam and some missionaries thought that if they could defeat Muslims, there would be no other religion that could take a position against them (Page 16). In Urdu for Grade 10, students are taught: infidel practices began in the country due to the interference of Hindus in politics (Page 15); Hindus conspired to hurt Muslims and Hindus converted Muslims (Page 16); Hindus did not like the decision of the existence of Pakistan and opposed its creation (Page 17), and so on.

* Tufail Ahmad is Director of MEMRI's South Asia Studies Project (


[1] The News (Pakistan), September 23, 2013.

[2] (Pakistan), September 22, 2013.

[3] Daily Times (Pakistan), September 23, 2013.

[4] (Pakistan), September 22, 2013.

[5] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 884, Calls To Put Pakistan On Genocide Watch Amid Mounting Persecution Of Its Religious Minorities, September 25, 2012.

[6] (UK), September 22, 2013.

[7] (India), September 2, 2013.

[8] (Pakistan), September 19, 2013.

[9] (Pakistan), September 19, 2013.

[10] (Pakistan), August 1, 2011.

[11] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), August 21, 2013.

[12] (Pakistan), accessed September 24, 2013. The 2003 study, "The Subtle Subversion – The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan", is available for a free-of-cost download from their website.

[13] A copy of the study is available with MEMRI.

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