WASHINGTON, – A new study of Pakistani public school textbooks, which reach over 41 million children, found that these textbooks negatively portray religious minorities and signal that these minorities are untrustworthy and inferior. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) sponsored this study, which was conducted by the Pakistan-based NGO Peace and Education Foundation (PEF), an organization dedicated to promoting peace and tolerance in Pakistan.
“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,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George. “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. A country’s education system, including its textbooks, should promote religious tolerance, not close the door to cooperation and coexistence.”
The study, Teaching Intolerance in Pakistan: Religious Bias in Public school tesxbooks, analyzes Pakistan’s public school textbooks, assessing the degree to which derogatory and biased content is included. The report also compares the current textbooks to those analyzed in USCIRF’s groundbreaking 2011 study, Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan. The new study found that some intolerant passages identified in 2011 were removed from the current textbooks, while many new examples of bias were added, including passages that, for example, portray Pakistani Christians as Westerners or equal to British colonial oppressors, and Pakistani Hindus as Indians, the arch enemy of Pakistan.
The study made several recommendations, including:
- The textbooks should reflect that religious freedom is a constitutional protection provided to all Pakistanis;
- The curriculum should inculcate a sense of constructive patriotism, rather than a sense of fear;
- Peaceful coexistence and religious diversity in Pakistan should be acknowledged so that students learn to respect all faiths; and
- Historical omissions and misrepresentations of different events should be eliminated, and diverse viewpoints should be included.
- USCIRF since 2002 has recommended that the State Department designate Pakistan as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for its “systematic, ongoing and egregious” violations of religious freedom. The State Department has not designated Pakistan a CPC. For more information on religious freedom conditions in Pakistan and recommendations for U.S. policy, please see USCIRF’s 2015 Annual Report chapteron Pakistan. USCIRF’s 2016 Annual Report, which includes a chapter on Pakistan, will be released later this month.