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Non-Muslims and our textbooks

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  • Non-Muslims and our textbooks

    The issues that make huge differences to our lives are rarely discussed on our assembly floors. Instead, too much time is taken up by the frivolous or the irrelevant. Against this backdrop, the issue brought up recently by minority MPA Saleem Khursheed Khokhar on the floor of the Sindh Assembly is highly welcome. It demonstrates that, at least, some of our parliamentarians possess the courage to raise issues related to minority rights and the marginalisation of non-Muslims in the country. The matter is, of course, not an unfamiliar one for most of us. However, Mr Khokhar has brought up an especially pertinent point. He questioned why there was no mention in our textbooks, of persons, who had contributed so much to the country, such as the late Justice Dorab Patel, war hero Cecil Chaudhry who many believe had his career in the Pakistan Air Force cut short on the basis of his religion and former Chief Justice of Pakistan AR Cornelius.
    We have, in fact, attempted to exclude such important figures from memory and thought. Our children will never learn about the exploits of such men, their love for their country and their contribution to it. As a result, non-Muslim Pakistanis have been pushed aside completely out of thought and out of mind. There are, of course, other members of minority communities who have done just as much for the country. Even the contributions of missionaries in the education and health sectors are rarely brought up and certainly do not form any part of what is taught at schools.
    Mr Khokhar makes a welcome proposal in suggesting that teaching children about our national heroes, and in fact, trying to change the climate of intolerance by focusing on the achievements of minorities could help a great deal in pulling them back into the mainstream. We need to collectively act on this proposal so that we can rid our children from the false impression perpetrated by textbooks that non-Muslims have played no role in the history and achievements of Pakistan.
    Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012.