Why can’t we bring better role-models in our curriculum?
The SNC comes loaded with moral and religious content. Some of it has the potential to generate positive values, whereas most of it remains controversial for many reasons. One such troubling aspect is the choice of role models that have been enlisted in the knowledge concepts of compulsory subjects. The curriculum set for History (class VI-VIII), the following role models in subcontinental Muslim history (pre-partition) have been presented as our national heroes.
1.Sheikh Ahmed, or Mujaddid alif Sani earned a name for objecting to Akber’s steps on consolidating powers through Hindu Muslim unity. However, his orthodox views were rigid and sectarian, as can also be observed from his work “Radd e Rawafiz” which justified execution of Shia leaders, and his letters decried emergence of Sikhism.
2.Shah Waliullah was also against non-Muslim religious celebrations and was particularly against Marathas.
3. Syed Ahmed Shaheed Barailvi promoted the idea of Islamic reformation through Jihad, an idea which is anachronistic and dangerous to promote in today’s already religiously polarized Pakistan.
MWM, a Shia representative body, has already rejected the SNC stating serious reservations over “inclusion of controversial figures” and “exclusion of names from their school of thought” in the curriculum. These are not good signs if sectarian and xenophobic values are being generated instead of inspiring values of coexistence& love, equality and dignity.
The other role models included here are the Muslim warriors and invaders of the sub-continent. Except for the brief introduction to Ashoka and Chandrigupta, there is no mentioning of the many indigenous rulers in making a pluralistic society and improvising systems of governments. A perspective on evolution of history here, the differences and the attempts at overcoming conflicts is important knowledge that has a potential for inspiring our young minds towards peace for sustainable societies. However, it is disappointing to note that as opposed to the government’s claims made about including pluralism and diversity in the curriculum, no serious effort was taken to that effect. The government to this date fails to address all previous and present issues in curricula and textbooks that are responsible for creating religion-backed divisiveness in the young minds of our children.
Religious and communal syncretism and how love and togetherness have been defined by great Sufi and Bhakti leaders through poetry and music are integral to our history. Where is the mention of the great names of Baba Buleh Shah and Baba Ganj Shakr Fareed, or Pir Waris Shah or Kabir Das of Bhakti movement? Why interfaith harmony is only taken as a “filler” to cosmetically appease the “liberals” while the spirit of integrating their messages on humanism is greatly ignored?
Including the names of orthodox Muslim religious leaders as role models while making attempts in making their views relevant in today’s Pakistan– which is already suffering from religion-based sectarian violence and extremism —will lead to more divisions based on religion.
There is a serious need for the SNC architects to reconsider some names it has added to the list of heroes or role-models for our children. With recent growing incidents of violence, inclusion of persons whose roles have been controversial is the last thing we need our children to be exposed to. A little mindfulness and sensitivity would have been appreciated in undoing the damage already done to our nation’s children and youth.