Our curriculum may be out-dated, but it surely does not brainwash students into committing acts of terrorism

Published: September 12, 2017

We need to search extensively in order to find the root cause of our problems instead of knocking the tip of the iceberg repeatedly.

Pakistan is going through an extremely difficult phase concerning its current security situation. In my opinion, what is worrying about this scenario is that the numerous terrorists recently captured by law enforcement agencies are highly qualified individuals and are a part of the country’s prestigious academic institutions.

Whenever we hear of students involved in terrorism plots and acts, our politicians and government, instead of finding the reason behind students committing terrorist attacks, start blaming the curriculum of educational institutions.

Personally, I feel that our curriculum is perfectly fine. It may be out-dated and may lack discussions about recent scientific issues, but it surely does not glorify terrorists or terrorism. So how can it brainwash students into committing acts of terrorism?

Instead of attempting to get to the root cause of rising terrorism rates, politicians and analysts absolve themselves of their responsibility by blaming the curriculum. The curriculum alone can neither improve a person nor detract the student. Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, we need to view other numerous factors that are damaging our youth’s mind-set.

Let us begin with our society, which generally lacks tolerance and harmony. We are extremely intolerant towards each other’s values and beliefs, so much so that a particular sectarian group (Shias) refrains from offering prayers in mosques belonging to other sectarian groups (Sunni).

Our justice system needs a complete overhaul. The law of evidence should be revised and improved drastically. It is because of the prevailing system that criminals either go scot-free or when and if punished, the execution is delayed so much that it causes a lot of inconvenience for the defendant and his/her families. This only ends up damaging their trust in the system and the process.

Furthermore, primary socialisation agents have the most important role to play in this. Parents have a huge responsibility to protect their children from falling prey to these nefarious terrorist organisations. They need to be vigilant about their children’s activities and look out for any possible drastic behaviour changes.

If one reads Rehan Siddiqui’s statement, the father of absconding terrorist Sarosh Siddiqui, it is evident that he observed changes in his son’s behaviour for quite some time. He tried to guide his son away from an extremist mind-set, but unfortunately failed to do so. As hard as it may be for a father to do so, Rehan should have taken a bold step and informed the responsible law enforcement agencies about his son’s suspicious activities. This may have saved his son from committing a heinous crime.

Moreover, a few years ago, Saad Aziz, a student at Institute of Business Administration (IBA), managed to commit atrocious crimes. He first killed a social worker, Sabeen Mahmud, and later was involved in the Safoora Goth carnage. Furthermore, Aziz was also involved with various terrorist factions. Similar to the Siddiquis, Aziz’s family also observed a change in his behaviour, but did not think of speaking up. He was missing for four months and later it was revealed that he went to Afghanistan for training. It was the responsibility of his family to report his suspicious activities, and had they done so, numerous lives could have been saved.

Additionally, in this day and age, our youngsters are constantly playing various games or watching videos on their computers, phones and other gaming devices that promote violence. I feel parents should keep a vigilant eye on their children and discourage them from doing so. To an extent, they promote gun violence and other criminal activities that are not suitable for the youth since they may emulate the actions they see.

The commencement of gun culture can be traced back to the influx of Afghan refugees. This is because along with the refugees, Kalashnikovs were also smuggled into Pakistan and soon became increasingly widespread. The Afghan policy adopted by Pakistan in the late 70s is still haunting our nation. During that era, individuals were recruited to wage jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Various terrorist outfits operating in Pakistan were formed and with the state’s support, they became so powerful that they started challenging the writ of the government. Now, in order to subdue them, law enforcement agencies are carrying out various mass scale operations to liberate the northern parts of the country from these terrorists.

Various globally conducted research projects highlights that mostly engineering and science students fall prey to terrorist outlets. Unfortunately, Pakistanis take pride in choosing science for further education. To root out terrorism, the government should collaborate with educationists and try to enroll more students in social sciences, arts, and literature programs.

The presence of a handful of terrorists in universities and other educational institutions does not automatically make these institutions a terrorist breeding ground. However, to eradicate this growing menace, reforms should be established and implemented in educational institutions.

Some people argue that restoring student unions can be helpful in preventing students from becoming terrorists. In my view, these unions can only be helpful if students, without the influence of any political party, run them independently. During its 1988 tenure, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lifted the ban on student unions, but under political parties’ patronage, these unions were seen promoting a cheating culture and other negative activities, instead of promoting positivity on campus.

Furthermore, the lack of reading habits and healthy recreational activities can be a cause of rising intolerance in society. A large city such as Karachi has very few libraries or places where the youth can interact, carry out intellectual discussions and vent out their frustration about various issues.

Unfortunately, countless people blame religion for the increase in terrorism. I am of the firm belief that religion does not preach extremism, but some people, for their personal gains, manipulate Quranic verses to suit their version of Islam. It is the wrongdoings of these people that give religion a bad name.

At the moment, we have three or maybe four different types of education systems at school levels. If someone really decides to modify the curriculum, I do not know how they will manage to carry out such a difficult task.

Millions of students are studying in Pakistan and only a handful of them have links with banned outfits. This low number suggests that the problem does not lie in the curriculum or in our educational institutions, it lies somewhere else. We need to search extensively in order to find the root cause of our problems instead of knocking the tip of the iceberg repeatedly.

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (twitter.com/KhurramZiaKhan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • kdp ukp

    Pakistan is inhibited or at least looks like visually a homogeneous country where everybody dress, speak similarly and follow one religion. Tolerance becomes a part of culuture in a heterogeneous society like Indian cities where you will find all kind of people rubbing shoulders with each other speaking different languages, dressing eating differently as per their culuture and where there is a Shia Mosque, Sunni Mosque, tens of Hindu Temples representing several sub sects-Gurus ,Jain Temples, Gurudwara etc. on a same street.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Your article is just fluff. University books do not teach radicalism.

    The local mullahs of the mosques, seminaries, Islamist teachers, and the good old highly-charged up ultra-religious parents do the job of brainwashing these kids.

    Pakistan was created on religion. If ones’ identity is based on religion, everything that comes about (good and bad) is only natural.

    Pakistan’s Islamization started from the 50s on-wards; it’s not going away, anytime soon.Recommend

  • resilient

    sorry with the title.. but it does.. You teach hatred and intolerance by glorifying “Mehmood Ghaznavi and Ghori like characters” and if I explain Islamic studies the way it is taught in schools.. my fate will not be different than Mashal Khan.Recommend

  • rationalist

    ” I am of the firm belief that religion does not preach extremism, but some people, for their personal gains, manipulate Quranic verses”

    Please read the quran with an unbiased and objective view not clouded by emotionalism and denial.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Our curriculum promotes violent conquest as glorious. You can find stories of conquering, marauding kings presented as heroes beckoning an age of global conquest (mostly religion-based conquest)
    But there is a lot of positive reinforcement to the ideas of conquering in the education system. And when militant groups come along trying to recruit young, impressionable men, offering them glory of battle in life and shahadah in death, it does seem very attractive.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Religion has its place but when it starts to define a nation, there is bound to be problems. The solution is to put religion back where it belongs and embrace plurality.Recommend

  • raj

    Ban all student unions linked to politicial organizations. Universities like Cambridge and Oxford have organisations like JCR (for undergrads) and MCR (for grads) and theie task is to help students mingle and organise activites for them. They do not engage in any politics unlike Pakistan where all “political parties” / terrorists gangs have student wings that they use. Its not the first time students have done terrorism from university channel. APMSO and Jamiat have long been ganging up against each other and thousands of students have died because of that. Its just that now their terrorism is at mass level. Ban them and also check what happens in mosques inside the Universities like KU and other.Recommend

  • Dhamdev

    and the teachings and curricula of madarasas may also need to be examined.Recommend

  • fahad

    Even the Madrasas curriculum is so called outdated but they also dont brain wash students. It is simply western propaganda which we follow.Recommend

  • Rohan

    What about Pakistan studies books which promote bigotry and hate against minoritiesRecommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    I read and understand Holy Quran with open heart and mind and firmly believe that islam did not teach any extrmism.Recommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    What is taught in Islamic studies which is wrong ? please elaborateRecommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    Which book promote hate ? Where is hate taught ?Recommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    Good suggestions by youRecommend

  • KlingOn2K

    @khurramziakhan:disqus, Ibn Ishaq: 327Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Alright. I will give one example from my own school days. In the urdu textbook from Sindh textbook education board. Class 7 or 8. There was a story of “Somnath Mandir”. I am not sure if it is still part of the curriculum.

    The story was about how Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi invaded India 17 times, killed seventy thousand Hindus, “sending them to hell”, according to the writer. After the Sultan finally conquered Somnath, the Hindu Paadris threw themselves at his feet offering riches if he lets the temple stay. Mehmood Ghaznavi said something along the lines of “I am an idol-breaker not an idol-seller”. And then he broke the statue into four pieces and sent them to Mecca/Medina and also found treasures inside the statue. The whole story was written with pomp, glorifying conquest.

    I was a kid back then and obviously very impressed with Ghaznavi. I don’t know how much of this story is true, if there was a treasure, why it is a good thing to attack and humiliate people who have done you no harm and kill thousands of them in the name of religion. Certainly the idea of breaking a Hindu temple is contrary to Jinnah’s August speech where he tells non-muslim Pakistanis “They are free to go to their temples, churches”?

    But this was being taught in our schools not so long ago (maybe still is). I don’t know why you are surprised when people blame the curriculum.Recommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    Do reading this made you terrorist ? Which year you did your matriculation, I never read so much glorification of Mehmood Ghaznavi. Everyone taught history the way it suites them, We call 1857 war as war of Independence where as in history books written under British influence it is mentioned as revolt.Recommend

  • http://solomon2.blogspot.com/ Solomon2

    “it surely does not glorify terrorists or terrorism. So how can it brainwash students into committing acts of terrorism?”

    Consider just this directive from Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission, in response to a Model U.N. exhibit that portrayed the government of Israel favorably. The H.E.C. required its removal and demanded universities “remain very vigilant and forestall any activity that in any manner challenge(s) the ideology and principles of Pakistan, and/or perspective of the government of Pakistan.”

    So in the name of ideology Pakistan’s curriculum demands its students not challenge state-directed hatreds using facts in context based on an independent value system. Unquestioning and unquestionable hatred being legitimate on the basis of force, acting upon such hate outside the law is legitimate as well. As people subscribing to such ideology compete for advantage, violence increases, the rule of law decreases, and peace-loving citizens must either join, flee, or take up arms to assert a different set of values..Recommend

  • Juan

    “Let us begin with our society, which generally lacks tolerance and harmony. We are extremely intolerant towards each other’s values and beliefs, so much so that a particular sectarian group (Shias) refrains from offering prayers in mosques belonging to other sectarian groups (Sunni).”

    Considering most of Pak’s extremist and terrorist threats are most likely to be of the majority Sunni Islamist variant kind, isn’t it any wonder the minority Shias adherents would want to ‘refrain’ from being outed and targeted in some of these majority Sunni jamaats?Recommend

  • rationalist

    Apparently, the author must have totally flunked in Pakistan Studies.Recommend