Sectarian Violence through English Language Teaching
Study conducted in Sindh, Province of Pakistan
Syed Waqar Ali Shah Bukhari
BS Linguistics, University of Sindh Jamshoro
Language, Ideology and Power
Language is taken to be an abstract and neutral construct devoid of ideological, cultural and
socio-political mediation. Such elements have been categorized as ‘extra-linguistic’ and as such have been either avoided, at best, or opposed, at worst, to be a proper field of study in ELT research. Structuralism through the work of Sausssure (1959) challenged such perspective on language and considered language to be a socially constructed symbol that reflects, embodies and constitutes the values of speech community. Besides, it constructs our consciousness and helps us, through its symbol system, make sense of world around us.
Language internalizes the dominant values and ideologies. That is, language is used to carry an ideology of the dominant social group—Power. This dominant group—the Power as we call it, determines its own truth and distorts the realities. Foucault (1980) puts it as truth is not outside Power, or lacking in Power…truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. Each society has its own regime of truth produced by the dominant social group. Knowledge is produced by Power because it makes people accept certain ideas and reject others. Power uses knowledge to control people’s thinking and behavior. Thus, Power excludes, represses, censors, abstracts, masks, and conceals. In fact, Power produces reality and rituals of truth.
The mainstream belief about ELT—an innocent activity of facilitating the transmission of linguistic rules and communicative skills with a chance to enable social mobility is under question now. Suresh (1999) questions this position and proposes that much more than grammar or language skills is transmitted through language. Explicit curriculum of grammar and communication skills also include ‘hidden curriculum’ of values, ideologies and thinking which shape alternate identities and community allegiance among the students. Hidden curricula belong to larger socio-political realities. The Power always pursues the subjugation of its masses and uses various tools to propagate false consciousness to prevent from ethno-cultural threats. In doing so, Language and literature textbooks are used by Power as a tool to disseminate its ideologies—“the false consciousness” to the people.
Ideology and Pakistani Textbooks
Pakistan since its creation and appearance on the map of the world, attempting to be socially accepted has created an ideology in order to justify its creation. It has taken support of religion to be legitimatized. Parvez Hoodbhoy and A.H Nayyer have addressed this issue cited in Dr. Tariq Rahman (2002). They state that:“…in Pakistan, because of adoption of exclusivist national ideology, there are no constraints on the free expression of communal hatred. Thus, the Hindu is portrayed as monolithically cunning and treacherous, obsessively seeking to settle old scores which his erstwhile masters. This Hindu is responsible for the break-up of Pakistan.” (Tariq Rehman, 2002, p. 515)
Tariq Rahman (2002) supports this view of Parvez Hoodbhoy and A.H Nayyer and further identifies commonality and unifying force of nationhood propagated by the power. He mentions that:“…ideology-enforcing items in Pakistani textbooks pertain to Pakistani nationalism, military or the war. Islam is used to convey the impression that these three components belong to a unified, secular, religious tradition. Even poets of Punjabi, Pashto and Sindhi whose Sufi Islam was quite different from official Islam endorsed by the textbooks, are put into same ostensibly orthodox tradition.”
(Tariq Rahman, 2002, 519)
This discussion was further taken up by A.H Nayyer and Ahmed Saleem (2005) who comprehensively pointed out historical and ideological distortions in textbooks in Pakistan. They state that textbooks in Pakistan contain some specific elements which are repeated thoroughly: glorification of war and use of force, incitement to militancy and violence including encouragement of Jihad and Shahadat, and the perspectives that encourage prejudice and discrimination toward religious minority.
The conservative textbooks have produced controversies in some regions of Pakistan The case of Gilgit district of Northern areas in Pakistan is worth noting here. Nosheen Ali in her article: “OutrageousState, Sectarianized Citizens: Deconstructing the textbook controversy in Northern Areas, Pakistan” has noted down the ideological attack by state-sponsored textbooks possessing one set of knowledge with the claim to be legitimate for all. Pakistan having dominance of Sunni Muslims forming about 75% of its population propagate Sunni version of Islam in curriculum neglecting other sects of same religion and other religions per se. Nosheen Ali has pointed out one such issue that happened in Gilgit district of Northern Areas in Pakistan—forming majority of Shia Population. In May 2000, Shia Muslims based in the region began to agitate against recently changed curriculum of Government Schools. The textbooks for Islamiat for Primary Classes were particularly deemed to be unacceptable. The textbooks extensively discussed the lives of Caliphs—the Prophet’s companions while those of revered Shia Imams were barely mentioned. The textbooks portrayed the Sunni style of offering Namaz signifying to be more legitimate than others. Even, the art books contained the calligraphy of caliphs to be imitated and colored; seemingly to be attacking on Shia Community. She conducted various interview from both sides of the conflict. One of the Shia Scholar named Haider Shah in response to this ideological attack stated in an interview taken by Nosheen Ali: “First of all, what is the point of religion in art book? Don’t we have enough of it already in Urdu, English, Islamiat, Social Studies….basically all other books? Yes, calligraphy has an important place in Islamic History, so if desired, one could have an exercise about painting Allah, or Bismillah-ir-Rahman ir-Raheem. But why should our kids have to paint something that contradicts with their religious beliefs? You see, the problem is that Maulvis are writing the curriculum instead of scholars. The Maulvis get their say because they have managed to portray and dismiss scholars as westernized and secular.”
Khaled Ahmed (2011) has also noted this controversy in Gilgit-Baltistan. He mentions that the students belonged to majority Shia community while the syllabus was seen to be imposed on them by the Sunni establishment. These controversial textbooks were written by a panel of four authors, all of them Sunni and Deobandi by belief and were published by the Punjab Textbook Board.
ELT and Islamic Ideology: Deobandi-Wahabification
English language as discussed above is not devoid of ideological and cultural values. It carries either core or periphery community’s values propagated through its pedagogy. Ahmer Mahboob (2009) conducted his study on English as an Islamic language. He showed that Islamization of English language is identifiable in the discourse structure of Pakistani writings.
For example, all English language textbooks contain a lesson on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and begin with ‘bismillah-irrahman irraheem’—start with the name of Allah, the merciful and the beneficent.’ English language textbooks, both those used in public schools and those used in private schools, incorporate and project an Islamic identity. He gives an example of ‘biographies’ in English-language textbooks published by government for public schools which start with a paragraph that discusses Islamic themes. He stated that English in Pakistan opposed the colonial discourses that it contained but colonialism is propagated through it. I must add here that Pakistani state has used ‘deobandi-Wahabbism’ as a great tool to colonize the minds of people in the country which has highly discriminated others sects as this is reflected in the textbooks may it be English, Islamiat, Urdu, Pakistan Studies or Sindhi.
The issue of politics of textbooks through conservative ideology has widely been spread and questioned simultaneously. It attempts every inch to justify its indoctrination. The case of Afghanistan is notable in this respect. Bilal Sarwary (2012, August 17) has noted the deletion of 40 years history of Afghanistan by its government. He states that the curriculum of Afghanistan has left the pages related to its four decades history of the country. The curriculum of Afghanistan is funded by USA. The government of Afghanistan did not like to mention the war of Russia fought with Afghanistan. Because, in doing so the role of USA in creation and support of Mujahids (Talibans) can be revealed. This has been expertly justified by the education Minister of Afghanistan who stated that they have created the curriculum which is free from hatred and will bring all of them close to one another. In the whole process the benefit, of course, would be enjoyed by those who did wrong at that time. And the reality has been concealed from its people coming ahead.
I have analyzed three lessons from two different textbooks taught in Pakistan. One such textbook is published by Sindh Textbook Board, ministry of education. And an other book belongs to Wide Range Publications Pakistan.
Analysis of ‘King Faisal’ from class tenth
Things in focus: King Faisal as a personality and Wahabist Islam as a religion
The ELT textbook of class tenth contained ‘King Faisal’ as a personality. His services to his own country and good wishes for Pakistan have been shown. King Faisal as a monarch belongs to the SaudiKingdom and his inclusion in ELT textbook reflects the socio-political context to understand. Pakistan has older relations with Saudi Arabia. Parvez Hoodbhoy in his article ‘what next: A Sunni Bomb?’ mentions that both countries are Sunni and conservative. Since 1960s, Pakistan has received more aid from Saudi Arabia than any other country outside the Arab World. Major funding for Pakistan’s nuclear program came from Saudi Arabia in 1970s and 1980s; it is said that suitcases of Saudi cash were brought into Pakistan. Following this bilateral relation which was more strengthened with the islamization process of Zia-ul-Haq supported by Saudi Arabia. Khaled Ahmed (2011) notes that Saudi Arabia encouraged Pakistan to collect ‘zakat’, the 2.5 percent ‘poor due’ from all earning Muslims from their money and assets. King Faisal gave Zia the ‘seed-money’ to start the ‘zakat’ system in Pakistan with the condition that a part of it to go to the Wahhabi party, called Ahle-e-Hadith in Pakistan. Zia’s first Islamic Sharia laws were promulgated after being framed by an Arab scholar sent by King Faisal.
Due to these relations and ideological attachment of Pakistan with Saudi Arabia, the name of King Faisal as a noble personality is being introduced in ELT textbook which is rather more than ELT for the students of tenth grade who know nothing of such historical context.
“Under his rule Saudi Arabia made great progress in many fields. He spent a lot of money on the development of his country.”
These statements distort the reality that the kings including Faisal himself have remained monarch throughout their periods and used the wealth for their own purposes not for the people’s progress. Saeed Qureshi in his article “Saudi monarchy is unislamic” notes that the system of Saudi Arabia concentrates power and wealth in a fewer hands. The house of Saud is ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia nearly three centuries. The major portion of oil income that runs into billions every year is distributed among the royal family members. He further writes that almost all the royal family members are sitting on mounds of wealth. They have their private banks, their private jets, luxury villas and places in fun cities around the world. Their lavish, legal and extravagant life style denies the teachings of Islam as practiced by the early disciples of Islam.
“King Faisal was devoted to Islam. He was a good Muslim and led a simple life. He did his best to see his people live according to teachings of Islam.”
These statements about King Faisal are historically blunted. The history does not support it that the king Faisal led a simple life. As I mentioned above that the house of Saud has been ruling royal family of the country for three centuries with lavish life style. Islam, the divine religion is against the monarchy. Saeed Qureshi in his article ‘Saudi Monarchy is unislamic’ notes that those who believe that Saudi Arabia has an Islamic system of government are either mistaken or ill-informed. It is outright a monarchy or kingdom. Even its name is ‘kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ missing the word ‘Islamic’ as we can find in the name of Pakistan and some other Muslim countries. So, in this situation where the system is entirely opposite to Islam how one can claim to say that king Faisal was a devoted Muslim and he was a good Muslim, indeed! As his very monarchy is unislamic.
“He possessed great qualities of leadership and proved to be an able ruler.”
This fits into category of overstatement. The king Faisal was a ruler and monarch not an able ruler; He as good for his people, that is, the ones who agreed with him and his ideology. He did not possess the qualities of leadership for the leaders maintain equality and balance among the masses. Where as in Saudi Arabia the diverse customs and traditions that are observed by various Sunni sects as Chistia, Qadria, Naqshbandia etc and also the mainstream Shia branch have been/are disallowed as being unislamic as noted by Saeed Qureshi. All the kings have neglected the minorities and their rights. King Faisal is not an exception! His services in modernizing Saudi Arabia can not be neglected for instance, his support for girls’ education. He started supporting women. His one effort can not be generalized to prove his ability or leadership.
“Perhaps no one outside Pakistan could be unhappy than King Faisal was, on the separation of East Pakistan which is now Bangladesh.”
This involves overstatement. There is possibility of King Faisal being upset on separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan. But, ‘perhaps no one outside Pakistan’ could be as unhappy as Faisal ignores other well-wishers of Pakistan. This shows that Faisal was more friend to Pakistan than any other.
“He lived like a soldier and died like a martyr.”
This involves exaggeration. King Faisal lived a lavish life as king within his palace and did not fight with the sword or did not do any jihad. He lived like a king and died like a king.
“King Faisal was a sincere friend and Well-wisher of the people of Pakistan.”
This statement is generalized. Because, King Faisal was not well-wisher of the people of Pakistan but a particular group living in Pakistan, that is, the one that conformed his ideology. Raza Rumi, a Pakistan columnist and analyst mentions in his article ‘the rise of violent sectarianism’ that King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was reported to have given ‘seed money’ for Zia’s zakat fund on a precondition that a part of the money would be donated to Ahle-e-hadith—an Islamic party closely allied with Wahhabi movement of Saudi Arabia. This clearly shows that King Faisal was well-wisher of one particular group that favored his ideology.
“The Muslims all over the world mourned over his death. The people of Pakistan, in particular, felt deep grief at this sad new. There was not a single house in Pakistan which did not mourn his death as if an elder of family had died.”
This is over generalization. Firstly, King Faisal was a leader of Saudi Arabia. Even in Saudi Arabia, he was not liked by all the people there. He remained in favor with the people of his faith only as I quoted above. The Muslims of the world include other Sunni sects and Shia, Ahmedis etc who could, of course, not mourn his death. Secondly, People in Pakistan is a generalized phrase. Most importantly, the phrase ‘there was not a single house in Pakistan which did not mourn’ is out of understanding. For, this includes all Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Shia, Ahmedis, Sunni sub-sects who did not feel any grief for him. There are thousands of houses who yet do not know who the king Faisal was.
“If you visit K.S.A—the kingdom of Saudi Arabia—you will find hundreds of Pakistani doctors, nurses and teachers serving their Arab brethren.”
This involves emotional attachment. This indoctrinates the young students to be faithful to the Saudi Arabia for many people of Pakistan are already serving there. In Pakistan and many other countries Islam is equated with Saudi Arabia. People think that Islam emerged in Arabs; therefore, the Arabs are true custodians of Islam. Due to this relation, the youth is being trained to be loyal to the Saudi monarchy without considering the monarchy to be unislamic.
Eulogized words: The great King Faisal, A noble and pious Muslim leader, a good Muslim
The eulogizing words for King Faisal have been used to show the students of tenth class that the true Islam relates to Saudi Arabia and their kings are noble, good and pious, hence, the modal for the Muslim world. Saeed Queshi ‘Saudi monarchy is unislamic’ mentions after the rule of four caliphs in Islamic history, the caliphates and empires to this day though profess to be Islamic have been oppressive, brutal, family dynasties that survived as long as they could hold on to power by sword and military muscle.
Analysis of ‘Caliph Haroon-ur- Rasheed’—a lesson from class tenth
Things in focus: Caliph Haroon-ur-Rasheed as a personality and Sunni version of Islam
The inclusion of caliph Haroon-ur-Rasheed in ELT textbook of class tenth reflects one particular ideology, that is, the Sunni version of Islam. Caliph Haroon-ur-Rasheed belonged to the Abbassid caliphate (750-1258) who is, according to Shia the murderer of their 7th Imam Hazrat Musa Kazim (a.s) who is the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Shia note that Haroon-ur-Rasheed imprisoned their Hazrat Imam Musa Kazim and incurred severe tortures on him for he was a threat to Haroon-ur-Rasheed for his caliphate. The caliph Haroon-ur-Rasheed found no choice than murdering him. This lesson is entirely contradictory in the sight of other sects especially the shia. The inclusion of the lesson in the textbook is to eulogize one particular group of people while entirely marginalizing others. Saeed Qureshi in article ‘Saudi monarchy is unislamic’ notes that after the authoritarian rule of the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali, the empires from Ummayad to Abbassids and succeeded by others have been oppressive and brutal. The very important thing to note here is that this story is not a real story related to Haroon-ur-Rasheed, but taken from a story by Leo Tolstoy’s book ‘Tolstoy’s fables and fairy tales’. Tolstoy has mentioned such story in the name of ‘A Just Judge’ which has been violated to relate to the abbassid caliph: Haroon-ur-Rasheed!
“At night, he would disguise himself as a common man and go through the streets of Baghdad. He would mingle with the common people in order to gain first hand knowledge of their difficulties and problems.”
These lines eulogize the personality of Caliph Haroon-ur-Rasheed and authenticate him to be the most responsible and care-taker of common people. The students of class tenth are indoctrinated to revere him as a great personality for he loved the mainstream. This ignores the fact the Haroon-ur-Rasheed had a great empire and kingdom which is very unislamic. But the facts are hidden from the students and they are taught to love and revere him.
“The caliph Haroon-ur-Rasheed was known and respected for his justice and wisdom.”
This statement involves eulogy of the caliph Haroon-ur-Rasheed and notes that his ‘identity’ is attached with ‘justice’ and ‘wisdom’. That shows he was just and wise ruler. This entirely neglects the facts that he murdered the 5th Imam of Shia sect named Musa Kazim (a.s) which was injustice and his brutality. Historical distortion is a part of this lesson which is appreciated here.
“Then the beggar limped forward and said: ‘O leader of the faithful! You are the helper and guardian of the poor. You wise and just caliph.”
The utterance by the beggar refers to the emotional element that caliph Haroon-ur-Rasheed is helper and guardian of the poor. He was very merciful and always remained wise. His tortures over people have been overlooked. Historically distorted truths are inculcated into the minds of the students at this stage to train them for future not to accept any new knowledge or truth. The same feeling of mercy emotionally linked with Haroon-ur-Raheed, the abbassid caliph is given in the following lines.
“Then the caliph turned to the Beggar and said: You are a liar and a wicked man. You tried to rob an honest and respectable citizen. You deserver severe punishment but I shall be merciful and forgive you this time if you beg forgiveness of this gentle man here.”
Further lines in the lesson go as under:
“When the beggar touched the horse, it winced as if it did not like the touch of his hand. But at the touch of the rich man’s hand, the horse snorted and neighed with pleasure.”
These lines reveal unscientific and assumed decision. This relates horse to consciousness as if horse at the time of hearing was listening everything carefully and waiting for the caliph to announce to place their (Rich man’s and Beggar’s) hands on it. The horse was displeased with the touch of poor man and showed pleasure when the rich man—the owner touched it. The horse here becomes a very conscious and active being playing its role in solving the quarrel.
Analysis of ‘Imam Bukhari’—a lesson from class eighth
Things in focus: Imam Bukhari as personality and Sunni version of Islam
Imam Bukhari as a collector of Prophet’s (peace be upon him) hadiths is deemed to be a contradictory figure in the Muslim world. ‘Sahih Bukhari’—a book of collection of Prophet’s hadiths by Imam Bukhari is considered to be most authentic book after the holy Quran among Sunni Muslims. Where as, the Shia contradict with the views of Imam Bukhari whose collection of hadith is taken to be subjective and the book contains a lot of hadiths which violates the basic Islamic beliefs according to Shias. The inclusion of such lesson is to support just one ideology—the Sunni version of Islam in the text and marginalizing others. Khaled Ahmed (2011) mentions that Pakistan began to Islamize the state after 1947 and reached a high point of social transformation in the 1980s when Islamization was done in the midst of jihad. During this era, the other religious and irreligious minorities in the country were subjected to discrimination. One particular version of Islam came to be popular while neglecting all other varieties existing there. This resulted in inclusion of those particular personalities that belonged to the state-sponsored ideology.
“Imam Bukhari laid down the rules to judge the traditions and teachings of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him whether they were correctly narrated or not. If he found any gap between the narrators that were not included in his collections.”
This is contradictory and distorts the reality that Imam Bukhari was subjective in collection of Hadiths. Tijani Samoui a converted Shia Scholar mentions in his book ‘Ask those who know’ that in reality, if a researcher were to free himself from a yoke of blind imitation and abject fanaticism, he would find in Al-Bukhari and Muslim strange and astonishing things which reflects absolutely the outlook of Bedouin Arab whose thinking is still stagnant believing in some tales and legends. He further comments that Bukhari and Muslim mention anything that laud Abu Bakar and Umar—the first and second caliph after Prophet respectively. He discusses many other flaws found in Imam Bukhari’s collection of Hadiths. This shows a great contradiction among the Muslim plurality. The students of class eighth who are unconscious of these historical events are indoctrinated regardless of their relation to the ideology that the Imam Bukhari carries with.
“He was endowed with excellent mental power and marvelous memory.”
This involves overstatement. The writer attaches certain attributes like ‘excellent mental power’ and ‘marvelous memory’ with Imam Bukhari so that the students could not doubt him. They are psychologically pressurized not question him because he had excellent mental power.
“He was a man of piety and strictly followed the traditions and the path shown by the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him.”
This is an overstatement. This again captures the minds of students to relate Imam Bukhari with the piety and strict practice of the Prophet’s hadiths. In this situation, Imam Bukhari would remain unquestionable. Because, the students of class eighth are not so mature to understand the reality; therefore, the indoctrination would work. This explicitly involves otherization.
“He devoted his whole life of sixty two years in gleaning and compiling the traditions and teachings of the last Prophet peace be upon him.”
The phrase ‘his whole life of sixty years’ in compiling the traditions is an overstatement. This means that the day Imam Bukhari took birth began to collect the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. He was mature and literate at the time of birth. He listened hadiths and noted them down. This overstatement is neglected by the young minds in schools where they are too obsessed with the worries about rote learning that they forget thinking about what they are taught. Hence, they begin to believe in.
“He traveled extensively throughout the Muslim Countries like Hijaz, Yemem, Iraq and Syria and received further education and knowledge from the Islamic scholars of those countries.”
This actually connects Imam Bukhari with certain countries by adopting ‘exclusive-inclusive policy’. Imam Bukhari visited many Muslim countries and those he visited the name of Hijaz comes on top here. This extremely favors the Sunni school of thought by connecting Imam Bukhari with Hijaz—now Saudi Arabia. This authenticates the doctrine of Imam Bukhari as he has been to Saudi and Saudi Arabia is taken to be a symbol of authentic Islam by many Muslims as countries as well as individuals.
The study conducted was intended to find out how ELT textbooks in Sindh—Province of Pakistan propagate the sectarian violation in the name of English Language Teaching. The questions that guided the study were how do these ELT textbooks propagate sectarian discrimination and hatred? And what is more focused in the books that lead to such violence? After the analysis of the ELT textbooks it is known that the state of Pakistan has propagated one ideology. That is, the state has sunnified the textbooks and neglected other sects of Islam who form major portion in the population of the country. Cyril Almeida (2012, August 26) shows the division of masses in Pakistan comprehensively. According to him, the country falls into two divisions: Muslims (97%) and Non-Muslims (3%). The intra-Muslim division separates 20% Shias from Sunnis forming (77%). Next, the intra-Sunni divisions: Hanafi and Ahl-e-Hadith; Seventy percent of Pakistan may be Hanafi and five percent Ahl-e-Hadith. Then, the intra-intra-Sunni divisions: Hanafi split between growing Deobandis and static Brelvis. And finally, the Brelivis forming 40% of Pakistan fall into three divisions: Chishtis, Naqshbandis, and Qadris. This shows that there is no majority in Pakistan. Nevertheless, the textbooks have been dominated by just one ideology of the Deobandi Islam—a minority itself and ignores other minorities. The study has worked on finding such themes in the textbooks which have ignored these religious minorities and cause a promotion of sectarian violence.
The ELT textbooks I analyzed had the lessons as under:
The English language textbook of class tenth contained 26 lessons. Three personalities belonging to Sunni sect of Islam were included and highly praised. They included The Wise caliph: Haroon-ur-Rasheed, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Dignity of Work where certain personalities which are debatable in the history for other sects were mentioned. Not a single personality belonging to Shia or Ahmadi sect of Islam was mentioned. The other book from class tenth contained 24 lessons. Out of 24 lessons, four of them belonged to Sunni sect of Islam. They included Imam Bukhari, King Faisal, Saudi Arabia, the just and wise caliph: Hazrat Umar.
All of these personalities along with place Saudi Arabia are a symbol of higher discrimination against other sects of Islam especially shia. Besides, it is only 30% Deobandi Islam that dominates the curriculum. All other 67% population belonging to various other sects of Islam has been marginalized. This causes violence in the young minds that on one hand, are taught about ‘Deobandi-Wahhabism’ brand of Islam in schools; on other hand, they are taught an other ideology may it be Shia, Ahmadi, Brelvi etc in their homes. This highly disturbs the young intellectuals who are double-minded. The schools are not adopting critical approach toward these things. Rather critical approach and some topics have been ‘taboos’ in schools. George Barnard Shaw (2004) notes it that the schools do not allow discussing sex, religion and politics.
Source: World Shia Forum