A Pakistani Muslim who admits he was indifferent to the deaths of non-Muslims in the 9/11 terror attacks is calling for the nation’s school textbooks to be revised to balance the “glorification of war” with a recognition of the sanctity of life, including Jewish and Christian lives.
The stunning plea from Pakistani blogger Bakhtawar Bilal Soofi, a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, has been reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
The organization previously released a report that documented how texts used in public schools across Pakistan teach that killing Christians is a goal and martyrdom is to be sought.
The new report on Soofi’s writing explained that he had, to his own horror, realized he really didn’t care about the lives of non-Muslims.
Describing himself, he noted when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks killed thousands in America, he “descended into a mode of celebration upon discovering that the towers were in ‘non-Pakistani’ territory and that a significant majority of the dead were non-Muslims.”
“This boy was no suicide bomber in the making. He was not the product of an extremist madrassa nor was he the son of a jihad veteran. In fact, this was a boy who was being educated at one of the finest institutions this country had to offer. Yet, the boy had failed to appreciate the value of human life. He was insensitive to the deaths of more than 2,000 people. What is more alarming is that at the tender age of eight, this boy had justified his delight by distinguishing between the life of a Muslim and a non-Muslim,” he wrote.
Eventually, he concluded, it was what he learned from school books.
“Think about it – Islam and Pakistan have always been portrayed as products of persistent persecution. Textbooks on Islamiat [Islamic studies] repeatedly drive the point home that Islam faced significant oppression before attaining the global status that it has today. Similarly, our history schoolbooks constantly highlight the cruelty faced by the Muslims of British India before acquiring the independent state of Pakistan,” he said.
“Intentionally, or unintentionally, through our textbooks we have placed the traits of courage, bravery, and valor on a higher pedestal than the traits of honesty, compassion and skill,” he said. “Children are subconsciously taught to view the people of this world through a binary lens – one is either a Muslim or a non-Muslim; a Pakistani or a non-Pakistani.”
The books contribute, he affirmed.
“The irony is that while we have packed our textbooks with the bravery of Rashid Minhas and the valor of M. M. Alam, we have ignored the compassion of [leading humanitarian worker] Abdul Sattar Edhi and the accomplishments of Dr. Abdus Salam [Pakistani Nobel laureate for physics],” he said.
“I … propose the adoption of a more balanced and refined approach toward teaching these subjects. Where we celebrate a war hero, we must also celebrate a hero of science. Where we honor the bravery of an officer, we must also honor the compassion of a philanthropist. Where we recall the sacrifices of our Prophet (pbuh), we must also recall the sacrifices of Jesus,” he said.
MEMRI’s earlier report on school texts said an assessment of Pakistan school books found that they “nurture Islamism and promote hate and jihad among students of primary schools and disturbingly even non-Muslim Pakistanis have to go through this daily school ordeal from early childhood .”
Among the lessons are those that demand students know “the blessings of jihad, and must create yearning for jihad in his heart.”
MEMRI’s report said students are being taught “one of the reasons for the downfall of the Muslims in the sub-continent was the lack of the spirit of jihad.”
And 13-year-olds are taught that in Islam, “jihad is very important and the “person who offers his life never dies.”