Set up to fail: Pakistan’s Single National Curriculum will only make life harder for religious minority children

In July 2020, the government of Pakistan announced the creation of a ‘Single National Curriculum’ (SNC) to replace its 2006 school curriculum. Given the country’s long history of discriminatory practices in educational settings, and the SNC’s stated objective of providing “all children… a fair and equal opportunity to receive high quality education,” one would have expected this to be a welcome development for minorities in Pakistan, a chance to tackle inequalities and division from the ground up.

Sadly, this was not the case.

In an attempt to make the proposed curriculum more digestible to Pakistan’s more conservative Islamist elements, and particularly to win the support of the country’s madrassahs (Islamic religious schools), the government of Punjab granted the Islamic Muttahida Ulema Board (MUB) a role in the review and approval of all textbooks under the SNC.

This has proved disastrous, providing the MUB with an opportunity to reinforce the sectarian and divisive agendas which have permeated the Pakistani education system for decades.

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Conversion as an act of self-liberation: A history of the Dalit community in India

On 7 June 2020, a Dalit Christian man named Bura Singh, his wife and daughter were conducting prayers in their house in Madhya Pradesh, India, when police officials barged in and beat them up.

For Bura, his conversion to Christianity was a matter of faith. For many other Dalits like him, however, conversion to a religion other than Hinduism is not just a matter of faith, it’s also a means – the only means – to escape the centuries-old harassment and injustice meted out to them under the caste system.

Historically, and even today, Dalits who choose to convert to another religion are socially boycotted and harassed. But to understand why there is so much opposition to Dalit conversion by the upper castes, we must understand the origins of the caste system and the history of the Dalit struggle.

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Abandoning human rights for identity politics in Sri Lanka

During an address to senior Buddhists leaders at the Vibhajjavadi Dhamma Symposium and Maha Tripitaka Pooja on 4 January, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that the defence of the Buddhist order is central to ensuring unity and the protection of religious freedom of Sri Lankans who profess other faiths. Just one day prior, his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledged his commitment before parliament to protect and nurture the Buddha Sasana as part of his government’s policy. In the Sri Lankan context this is often understood as the ‘physical bounds of the land consecrated by the Buddha.’ 

Buddhism is enshrined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Article 9 states: “The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana,” while assuring the freedom of thought, conscience and religion to everyone. Furthermore, with a 2003 Supreme Court ruling which affirms that only Buddhism should be protected by the state, Sri Lanka established in law that there is no constitutional guarantee that other religions will receive similar protection.

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The face of Hindu Rashtra in India – Towards a majoritarian state

Almost eight months since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was elected for a second term on promises of economic development, the BJP and its ideological ally the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have instead focused their attentions on a familiar theme – fuelling communal tensions.

This time the alliance has made an unprecedented attack on the nation’s foundational tenets: the Indian Constitution. India is currently being ruled by a regime of executive orders and polarising policies, which are being used to manoeuvre around issues of race, religion and identity.

Violent integration: Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)

On 5 August 2019, possibly one of the darkest days in India’s history, Home Minister Amit Shah tabled a motion in Parliament to abrogate Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. The move essentially stripped Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) of the degree of autonomy the region had enjoyed since its secession to India on 26 October 1947.

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Mexico’s Culture of Impunity Part 2: Lost years and missed opportunities

Last week, CSW’s Latin America Advocacy Officer detailed the culture of impunity that hinders the protection and promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Mexico. In this post we put a human face on the effects of the government’s inadequate response to violations of FoRB, showing what happens to individuals when authorities delay or neglect their responsibilities to protect religious minorities.

Click here to read this post in Spanish.

One case which illustrates the deep rooted culture of impunity that surrounds attacks on religious minorities in Mexico is that of the community of Yashtinin in San Cristóbal de las Casas Municipality in Chiapas State.

Everything began in 2012, when several people converted away from the majority religion. Some members of the community were afraid that this new religion would damage their customs and traditions and negatively affect their children. On 10 June 2012 a large group from the community went to the house of a Santiago Hernández Vázquez, one of the men who had converted, and took everyone that was meeting there to prison, insulting them and threatening them with violence and even death in the process.

After imprisoning 16 men and boys in a space normally meant to hold a single individual, local teachers employed by the government falsified a document stating that the families had voluntarily decided to leave the community. The victims were forced to sign it and given three days to leave. Upon the expiration of the ultimatum, 12 families were expelled after villagers destroyed all of their homes and property. By 2015, a total of 28 families had been expelled.

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