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.

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

Criminalised, killed and cursed: The plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community

On 11 February, Abdul Qadir, a 65-year-old Ahmadi homeopathic doctor, was shot dead outside his homeopathic clinic in the Bazikhel area of Peshawar in north-western Pakistan. His killing marked the latest in a concerning uptick in religiously motivated attacks on Ahmadis, particularly in Peshawar.

Last year, CSW documented at least five other instances in which Ahmadis were killed, including an incident in which 31-year-old doctor, Tahir Mahmood, was murdered in front of his family at his home in Murch Balochan in Nankana Sahib District, Punjab.

The fact that Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community has a long history of experiencing harassment, discrimination, violence and other human rights violations within Pakistani society leaves little doubt that these murders are religiously motivated. A pattern is also clearly emerging whereby prominent doctors and academics have been specifically singled-out by extremists.

Continue reading “Criminalised, killed and cursed: The plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community”

For Sri Lankan Muslims, the coronavirus isn’t the only thing they’re hoping to see the back of in 2021

As the world enters a new year, and one in which many will be hoping to see the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka’s Muslim community will surely be hoping that promising vaccines are also enough to bring an end to a policy which has violated a core tenet of their Islamic faith.

Since 31 March 2020, Sri Lankan government guidance has required all victims of COVID-19 to be cremated. This practice goes against the tradition of the Muslim community and infringes on their right to manifest their religion or belief, as protected under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Under Islamic law, a deceased Muslim should be buried in an individual grave, and the dignity of the dead must be preserved at all times. Cremation is prohibited ‘because it is considered a violation of the dignity of the human body.’ In addition, as the burying of the dead is considered a collective obligation, known as Fard Kifaya, the entire Muslim community is guilty if they fail this communal duty.

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Sri Lanka’s Anti-Cattle Slaughter Law: Lessons from India

In September 2020, the Sri Lankan cabinet approved Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s proposal to ban domestic cattle slaughter. Cabinet spokesman and Mass Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella announced that the decision would pass into law in ‘due course.’ The move may be considered a way of ‘thanking’ the country’s Buddhist majority, who have long lobbied for a beef ban, or to win support and maintain favour with the same group. Ultimately it is a politically motivated decision designed to appease the island’s majority population of Sinhalese Buddhists.  

According to Mr Rambukwella, the current governments ban follows requests from ‘various quarters’ and was mostly put forward as a ‘good gesture’ toward the Buddhist community. Under the proposed ban, beef imports are still permitted, and would be sold at a concessionary price to those who consume it. In addition to this, a programme will be launched for ageing cattle which can no longer be used for agricultural purposes.

Rampant and rising Islamophobia

Others are less convinced. In 2017, scholars Mohammad Agus Yusoff and Athambawa Sarjoon, of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and University of Peradeniya respectively, suggested that such campaigns are actually motivated by religious and ethnic concerns:

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The relationship between blasphemy laws and religious extremism in the Middle East and North Africa

While an estimated 69 countries across the globe possess blasphemy laws of some kind, no geographical region has as many countries with such laws as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Furthermore, in many of these countries the penalties for committing the ‘crime’ of blasphemy are among the most severe.

In Iran, for example, anyone who insults the ‘Great Prophet … or any of the Great Prophets’ of Islam can be sentenced to death under Article 262 of the Penal Code. In Egypt, the crime of “inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unity” is punishable by up to five years imprisonment under Article 98(f) of the Penal Code.

What are blasphemy laws?

Blasphemy laws criminalise actions, often emitted in speech, writing or art deemed defamatory to a certain religion, offensive against religious figures or harmful to religious feelings. They also criminalise actions such as the disruption of religious services and the desecration of religious sites.

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