Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How would you say stupid in Arabic?

Members of Pakistan's Upper House demanded on Monday that the government implement Arabic language and Quranic studies as a compulsory part of the curriculum and include a "uniform system based on Quran and Sunnah for all institutions, whether in the public or private sector." Considering the current education crisis (Pakistan receives the "lowest" score on education index score of any country outside of Africa, has an adult literacy rate of 55% and a dismal net primacy school enrollment of 56%), it is heartening to see interest in national education. However, discussion surrounding the implementation of mandatory Arabic and Quran studies is not only irrelevant, but also disingenuous to the issues at hand.

Firstly, installing Arabic language for Islamic purposes is faulty logic at best. Given that no significant portion of the Pakistani population considers Arabic as a mother tongue, it is plain stupid to teach it at a national scale. The conflation of Arabic language and Islam only demonstrates the dominance of Wahabism in Pakistani political and cultural thought. In the minds of the Upper House politicians, if the birth of Islam occurred within the context of the Arabic language, then Arabic is the religiously mandated language of Islam. This is not the case. Islam was not based in the Arabic language because it was religiously significant, but rather as it was a part of the cultural reality of the Arabian Peninsula. If Islam had emerged from China, the Quran would be in Mandarin. Calling for the adoption of the Arabic is nothing more than a "mine is bigger than yours" contest. In this case, what is being measured is personal religiosity. After all, by simply invoking Islam political leaders can gain and maintain popular support, never mind their obvious incompetency.

Secondly, don't we already have enough Islamic education? Considering the religion classes in public and private schools and the prevalence of madressas (some good, some bad) across the country, when is it enough? Do we really need more of this?

(Image Credit: Rupee News)

Let's face the facts. The forced inclusion of religion into the Pakistani public sphere is directly responsible for most (if not all) of the problems we face today. Islamizing our society has made us more ignorant, less tolerant. We are not willing to listen to those who do not share our religious beliefs, yet feel no guilt in impressing our religion upon others.


Anyone who challenges or contradicts our belief is threatened and demonized.

And this is not only limited to those outside our belief system.


The responsibility of the public (and private) education is to equip students with the skills needed to be successful in the outside world. Given the staggering level of national illiteracy, it is clear that our current education model has failed. Instead of focusing on instilling religious values, the state should focus on providing basic public education to all. Considering that an educated and aware populace is important in improving national development, the focus on personal religiosity instead of other more pertinent issues only highlights the disconnect between our elected elite and the public.

Some would call this Schizophrenia.