Universities Are Producing Fanatics In The Land Of The Pure

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Universities Are Producing Fanatics In The Land Of The Pure

Pakistan was envisioned to be a democratic and multi-ethnic country where everyone could practice their faith freely regardless of their affiliation to any cast, creed or religion. However, after the 1970s the decline in the democratic values caused disarray in the society which led to jihad being the main ideology of the state. No doubt our own sovereignty was at stake at the time so it was somewhat justified.

But that period brought its ‘perks’ along. The whole narrative of a pluralistic society was replaced by an imported version of Wahhabism which was then peddled through the curriculum and social values.

The ideology of superiority over other religions and intolerance for differing opinions also made their way into the curriculum. Such doctrines completely changed the direction of the society and put it onto the course of fanaticism.

So much so that some eight years ago, a sitting governor of the largest province of the country was murdered in broad daylight and no one had the courage to challenge this repulsive dogma that had been fed to generations of our nation polluting the minds with hate, discrimination, apathy, chauvinism and prejudice.

We have become so toxic and totalitarian in our own ways that we’re not even willing to listen to the differing opinions. Recently, a teacher was stabbed to death because he defended the idea of a welcome party at a university during the class. I wonder if our schools and universities have become places for systematic indoctrination that are totally ignoring the need for inclusion of the marginalised, underprivileged and disadvantaged quarters of the society in the mainstream.

It also appears that they are completely unaware of their responsibility to improve the society as a whole, hence giving an opportunity to the religious fanatics to capture the minds of a large chunk of the society to exploit the young brains and propagate their own version of Islamic education, creating a polarized society.

The quality of education in our academic institutions should broaden the spectrum of individuals’ critical thinking to be able to realize their role in the society. As long as we do not shift our narrative from moral superiority over other religions and start being considerate towards other religions, values, traditions and culture, we can’t reform a society based on Quaid’s vision of a land of the pure.

There is an urgent need to put in effect an educational emergency to reform and change the mind-sets of the coming generations and make them more receptive and tolerant towards other communities. Also, the trend of defective methods of teaching has handicapped the prospects of inculcating the spirit of enquiring and inventing.

The textbook is considered a divine source of truth and the teacher is seen as a prophetic orator who considers it a sin to acquire knowledge from any other source. In contrast, if an instructor asks students to refer to other sources or materials using online databases or going to libraries and reading different points of view on a certain topic, wouldn’t it create a sense of acceptance and open-mindedness among the students?

Never in the history had we suffered so much from cognitive dissonance and moral discord that we see today in our society. I always thought that the rural areas were illiterate and governments, regardless of their differences, needed to expedite their efforts to develop a sense of forbearance by fostering social and cultural activities pursuing a narrative of inclusive society. It’s not only the government that needs to step up its efforts but also the collective effort from civil society and NGOs that would make a significant difference for coming generations.

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Sharoon Javaid Ismail

The author is based in Lahore. He's been serving in academia for almost four years now. He loves to read, explore and travel.

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