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Catholic Priest Flays Compulsory Islamic Studies at Colleges in Pakistan

By Sheraz Khurram Khan

ANS (09/21/06) – Expressing his reservations on teaching of Islamic studies as a compulsory subject in the country’s colleges for the last 30 years, a Catholic priest has alleged that it has done more harm than good to the cause of education.

“Prejudices and biases on account of religion, sect and gender that have been part of the curriculum are an obstacle to creating a tolerant society and moderate social behavior. If we see sectarian division among the Muslims, the cause can be seen in the separate syllabus for Shias and Sunnis”, Fr. Abid Habib wrote in an article published by the Pakistan Christian Post.

Flaying rulers he further wrote: “The common error the rulers make is that they think only for the benefit of the Muslims. They do not realize that we are living in a multi-religion society. And when they do consider anything for the minorities, it is still done for the benefit of the majority Muslim population”

In his article the Catholic priest wrote that the minority students have been given the option of studying Ethics in place of Islamic studies but alleged that the subject is presented from Islamic perspective.

“Taking the subject (Ethics) would only isolate and enhance discrimination against them. That is why in order to avoid discrimination they are forced to take Islamiat (Islamic studies) as a subject. Therefore, in making policies and laws the authorities must take this particular fact into consideration”, he wrote in the article.

Fr. Abid Habib in his article went on to say that despite the fact that policy makers acknowledge services of Pakistani Christian community in the field of education but regretted that they (Christians) are neither taken into confidence by the policy makers nor their advice is sought.

The priest in his article referred to an open letter the Archbishop of Lahore diocese Lawrence J. Saldanha wrote to the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf on July 24 in which he called for treating religion as an optional subject.

“Moreover, when religion is discussed in other subjects, the lessons must show equal respect to all religions and a reference to religion should be avoided in subjects of secular nature, or else the government should provide curriculum and teaching staff for all children to receive religious lessons in their own respective faiths, as prescribed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 29, 30 and 40), which is signed and ratified by Pakistan. He (Bishop Lawrence J. Saldanha) strongly recommends that the curriculum in Pakistan should comply with the ideal set out in Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality of citizens in all aspects”, Fr. Habib wrote in his article while referring to the letter Archbishop Lawrence J. Saldanha wrote to the President of Pakistan.

“Thus for the benefit of the country’s education, I strongly suggest that policymakers take into consideration the suggestions put forward by Archbishop Lawrence J. Saldanha. And in future, whenever they have to bring about a change in the education policies, they must include members of the minority community and come forward with such a curriculum that would benefit all”, Fr. Habib wrote in his article.