Allow me to begin with two anecdotal tales:
1.) I was talking to my son's second grade teacher from last year and he told me about a Pakistani national curriculum project he's working on, commissioned by one of Pakistan's largest publishing houses, Ferozsons Ltd. The Pakistani government, he told me, had hired some consultants from Germany to revamp their nationwide curriculum in attempts to modernize archaic teachings found in their outdated education system.
They submitted their proposal and one of the members of some governmental board wasn't too happy with the additions, which included subjects such as the celebration of Diwali (Hindu holiday) as well as taboo topics such as dating. This eventually led to Ferozsons getting involved and hiring my friend.
2.) My wife's friend teaches at King Saud University here in Riyadh at a newly opened English prep program that has been subcontracted to a British educational company. Their textbooks (and I read them myself) are filled with references to pop culture completely foreign to local Saudi culture (dance clubs, mixed social gatherings, Britney Spears, Bruce Springsteen, and many more cultural icons).
I was floored by the blatant message being pushed in their texts. It wasn't even subtle. Conversations discussing Xmas parties and social mixers. Vocabulary focused on attire specific to western society (tank tops, shorts, etc.).
I figured that since the program is new, the school administration hasn't gotten the chance to review the material, but boy was this stuff explosive. I would seriously have a difficult time exposing my children to such cultural propaganda (the Disney channel is bad enough).
I share with you these two tales to introduce my post on censoring education, especially as is being practiced in Pakistan/Afghanistan.
I'm seriously beginning to get upset with Muslims so callously denouncing the actions of ultra-orthodox traditionalists in the tribal areas of Pakistan - all based solely on the media's misrepresentation. But its a bit too much when respected teachers in the (online) community take a public stance without due diligence in getting all the facts.
For sure, I haven't traveled to northern Pakistan and gotten all the details, but based on my limited experience and personal reactions to disturbing trends in Western educational material being presented to our children, I can *begin* to understand what drastic measures an uber-conservative people (as found in Pakistan and Afghanistan) would carry out in order to counter such garbage.
Let's keep these factors in mind when reading about stories on girls education in northern Pakistan/Afghanistan:
1. These places are extremely poverty-ridden. The dynamics of such a society differs from ours. Education, for both sexes, is not necessarily seen as a way out of poverty. The boys normally drop out in order to help the family make ends meet, while the girls end up either staying home to help the extended family or they get married off. So when the school is seen as a source of questionable teachings, introducing thoughts and practices not only foreign to the society but antithetical to it, the result is a closing down of the schools.
2. The tension in the north of Pakistan has less to do with implementing Islam and more to do with the failure of the Pakistan government. The insurgency has used Talibanization as its vehicle to counter the gross incompetency of the national leadership. Sadly, education, seen as a propaganda tool for passing along the government's curriculum, is collateral damage in this war.
3. The other side of the story as told by the pro-Taliban folks is that the schools being blown up by them are in reality being used as base camps by the Pakistani army. They aren't targeting schools in order to shut them down, but as military tactics in their battle against Pakistani forces.
4. There is a major propaganda war going against militant Islam and one of the main weapons against them is the issue of educating girls. Just as apostasy, honor killings and FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) were the favorite topics of yesteryear, girls education is the hot topic of today in countering Islamism.
Such sensationalism is so widespread that CNN has even ascribed shutting down girls schools to the recent implementation of Shariah in Somalia. Such a phenomenon (of preventing girls from attending school) was never advocated under the Islamic Courts nor has the more radical Shabab ever promoted it. CNN's attempt at cross-over demonizing is pure disinformation at its best.
So before we start criticizing these movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan for taking away the God-given right of education, let us introduce some perspective into our dialogue as well as get our facts straight.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Allow me to begin with two anecdotal tales:
Monday, March 02, 2009
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This entry was posted on Monday, March 02, 2009 and is filed under Media , Muslims , Pakistan , Shabab , Shariah , Taliban . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.