US Panel: Pakistani Schools Teaching Religious Intolerance

Posted November 9th, 2011 at 8:40 pm (UTC-5)
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A U.S. government panel says textbooks in Pakistan's public schools and madrassas are fueling discrimination by negatively portraying Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities in the country.

In a report released Wednesday, the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom said teaching discrimination increases the likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow. It said such teachings weaken religious freedom, and national and regional stability.

The report also documents how schools in the mostly-Muslim country are not teaching religious tolerance. The commission found that public school textbooks often had a strong Islamic slant, and that religious minorities were referred to in a derogatory way or omitted.

The report said Hindus were depicted in especially negative terms, and references to Christians were often inaccurate and offensive. The report also said teachers expressed negative views about Christians, Jews, and Ahmadis, a sect of Islam.

Religious minority leaders in Pakistan welcomed the report. A member of the All Pakistan Hindu Movement told VOA Pakistani schools need to stop promoting religious intolerance, while the education minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province also said the curriculum must be changed.

The U.S. commission and the independent Pakistani think tank, Sustainable Development Policy, conducted the study and reviewed more than 100 textbooks in schools from Pakistan's four provinces. Students and teachers from public schools and madrassas were also interviewed.

The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom is funded by the U.S. government but is independent. It has actively monitored the rise of violent religious extremism in South Asia.