A new study on textbooks used in Pakistan’s public schools found “deeply troubling content” in the representation of Christians and other minority religions as fundamentally inferior and less trustworthy than Muslims.
The comprehensive report, Teaching Intolerance in Pakistan: Religious Bias in Public School Textbooks, found that the textbooks are used to confer “public shaming” on Christians and other minorities, indoctrinating schoolchildren with a pro-Muslim prejudice from the earliest ages.
“Public shaming begins at a very young age,” the report found, and the Pakistani curriculum teaches that religious minorities, particularly Christians and Hindus, are “nefarious, violent, and tyrannical by nature.”
Pakistani public school textbooks reach over 41 million children and negatively portray religious minorities as outsiders, unpatriotic, and inferior, which helps explain the alarming state of religious freedom in Pakistan today.
The study, released on Tuesday, was sponsored by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and conducted by the Pakistan-based Peace and Education Foundation (PEF), a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting peace and tolerance in Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s public school textbooks contain deeply troubling content that portrays non-Muslim citizens as outsiders, unpatriotic, and inferior; are filled with errors; and present widely-disputed historical ‘facts’ as settled history,” said Robert George, the USCIRF chairman.
“Missing from these textbooks are any references to the rights of religious minorities and their positive contributions to Pakistan’s development,” he added.
The report found that “the public school system is still fundamentally intolerant of religious minorities,” noting that Christian children are taught that “Christians learned tolerance and kind-heartedness from Muslims.”
The report’s findings are especially worrisome in the face of recent examples of violent anti-Christian persecution in Pakistan.
On Easter Sunday, an Islamist suicide bomber blew himself up in a park in Lahore, Pakistan, killing more than 70 children and adults.
The faction of the Pakistani Taliban that took credit for the Easter-Day massacre stated that the attack was religiously motivated and was specifically targeting Christians.
Despite negative attention from the international community, Pakistani’s textbooks have actually gotten worse in the last five years rather than better, the study revealed. “The trend toward a more biased curriculum towards religious minorities is accelerating,” the report states. “These grossly generalized and stereotypical portrayals of religious minority communities signal that they are untrustworthy, religiously inferior, and ideologically scheming and intolerant.”
In its 2015 report, the independent, bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom stated that “Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as ‘countries of particular concern.’”
Noting that Pakistan’s “repressive blasphemy laws” continue to “violate religious freedoms and to foster a climate of impunity,” the USCIRF has repeatedly recommended to the State Department that Pakistan be designated a “country of particular concern,” a move it has been pushing since 2002.
Nonetheless, for political reasons, the U.S. State Department has doggedly refused to place Pakistan on its list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), despite its status as one of the worst violators of religious freedom in the world.
The State Department has acknowledged a “general failure” on the part of the Pakistani government “to investigate, arrest, or prosecute those responsible for religious freedom abuses,” and that this dereliction of duty “promoted an environment of impunity that fostered intolerance and acts of violence.”
The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act calls for the president to make CPC designations annually for countries that have “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” The Act also calls for the president to take various actions against such countries.