Pushing for inclusion of Islamic content in school textbooks is nothing new in Pakistan. Dawn reported in 2014 that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wanted to reintroduce verses of the Koran, dealing with jihad (Holy War), and adding passages on the divine creation of the universe into science textbooks. Lately, the Express Tribune of Pakistan reported that Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) is pressuring the ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (FEPT) to include in public school curriculum such Koranic verses which make explicit mention to the concept of jihad.
As part of its mission statement to “ensure holistic growth”, the FEPT has already proposed that all public schools in the country should include the provision of teaching the Koran to its students from grade 1 to 12. The holy book will be a “compulsory subject”, the Minister of State for Education Balighur Rehman confirmed last month.
Much to the chagrin of CII members, however, the minister’s proposal seems to have left out verses that mention jihad. On reviewing the proposal the top religious legislative advisory body expressed reservations at such exclusions. CII member Maulana Zahid Qasmi said, “484 verses of jihad are mentioned in the Quran but they were deliberately not included in the syllabus so students could not be taught about it”.
Education falls under the legislative control of the provinces in Pakistan. FEPT is definitely making a centralising bid here in trying to co-ordinate the nature of religious education on a national basis. In the plea of making Koranic education affordable by offering it in public schools, FEPT makes a clear attempt not to leave religious instruction in the hands of privately employed Quran teacher or to religious seminaries, as is the current practise in Pakistan. Its guarantee of enabling a student to recite the Koran in five years, however, faces a challenge, as powerful members of the religious body object to the very authenticity of the project.