ISLAMABAD - Textbooks in Pakistani schools foster prejudice and intolerance of Hindus and Christians, while most teachers view religious minorities as “enemies of Islam,’’ according to a study by a US government commission released today.
The findings indicate how deeply ingrained hard-line Islam is in Pakistan and help explain why militancy is often supported, tolerated, or excused in the country.
“Teaching discrimination increases the likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow, weakening religious freedom, national and regional stability, and global security,’’ said Leonard Leo, the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Pakistan was created in 1947 as a homeland for the Muslims of South Asia and was initially envisaged as a moderate state where minorities would have full rights. But three wars with mostly Hindu India, state support for militants fighting Soviet-rule in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and the appeasement of hard-line clerics by weak governments seeking legitimacy have led to a steady radicalization of society.
Religious minorities and those brave enough to speak out against intolerance have often been killed, seemingly with impunity, by militant sympathizers. The commission warned that any significant efforts to combat religious discrimination, especially in education, would “likely face strong opposition’’ from hard-liners.
The study reviewed more than 100 textbooks from grades 1-10.