Is Islamization Persisting in Pakistani Education? An Institutional Analysis

October 3, 2011

Talks & Interviews

Dr. Imdad Hussain

: Dr. Imdad Hussain was Director, Punjab Urban Resource Centre and Instructor of Public Sector Management Course at the Civil Services Academy, when he was invited to deliver a talk on “Is Islamization Persisting in Pakistani Education? An Institutional Analysis” on the 13th of January 2011. He has since joined CPPG as Assistant Professor.

Hussain framed the context of his talk by stating that when the 9/11 Commission Report found the genesis of terrorism in Islamized education of Pakistan, the critical analysis of Islamization of education and its reform became an essential feature of the War on Terrorism (WoT). The American and Pakistani planners of the WoT took no time to agree that terrorism could not be defeated without reforming Muslim education in general and Pakistani education in particular. In 2001 and 2002, the President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf, the Interior Minister Moin-u-din Haider and Education Minister Zubaida Jalal publicly acknowledged the link between education and terrorism before the national and international media and resolved to reform education in general and curriculum and textbooks in particular. Ten years down the road however, Islamized education is functioning largely unchanged: the curriculum of Social studies, Urdu, Islamic studies, Pakistan studies and English have only slightly been changed, and the old textbooks in these subjects are still being taught which carry intolerant contents that encourage violence. In 2007, the draft of a new education policy (NEP) of Pakistan did not have a separate chapter on Islamic education indicating that the government was thinking to end the Islamization of education. However, the final draft released in 2009 by the Government of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) again had a separate chapter on Islamic education. This twist generated a question as to why Islamized education continued to persist in Pakistan when it has not contributed to advancing peace, tolerance and security. It has not even produced civil Muslims believing in the co-existence of religious and sectarian pluralism.

Hussain argued that the six decades long Islamization of education in Pakistan did not follow a single logic as various regimes advanced Islam in education in varied political ways. If the reasons of Islamization had been changing over time, the associated political factors could easily be isolated for study. Similarly, by identifying the leaders behind Islamization and by understanding their styles of Islamization, it was possible to make sense of political agendas. Once the political aims of Islamization in education were known, Hussain said, we could understand the affects of Islamized education on society. In precise terms, by understanding how Islamization under various regimes had changed the institutions related to education policymaking, the question of why Islamization persisted in education could be answered.

“Ayub did not try to synchronize institutional arrangements of the State with his modernist views.”

He then discussed his methodology to explain the persistence of Islamization in education. He identified exogenous variables (the variables outside the Ministry of Education, even outside Pakistan) to explain Islamization of education in Pakistan. In explaining how the Pakistani State advanced Islamization in education, Hussain tried to balance the existing scholarship on the reforms of Islamized education which incorrectly fancied a combination of computers, science and mathematics education, and fancy textbooks as both an alternative to Islamized education and as a cure to the problems of violence ostensibly produced by Islamized education. He believed that these technical solutions were neither an alternative to Islamization nor a panacea to intolerance. He further argued that the literature on public policy in Pakistan had mainly been produced using the framework of elite theory which assumes elite competition as determinant of policies. While suggesting that education policymaking in Pakistan was elitist, elite theory did not provide sufficient explanation to understand the problems of Pakistani education policy. In contrast, institutional analysis provided a better lens to explain the persistence of Islamization in education in Pakistan. The institutional theory started with the identification of critical junctures (CJs) in a country’s political and social life. The critical junctures were events or situations which are shaped over a period of time, produced significant political changes and necessitated institutional response. Sometimes, the CJs made existing norms of a society irrelevant, created the demand for an extraordinary political response and contributed towards lasting institutional changes.

For his analysis, Hussain developed an exogenous shock strategy commonly used in institutional analysis to identify periods in Pakistani history when exogenous factors stimulated particular kind of Islamization of education. The strength of institutional analysis lay in its potential to help understand the present by looking to the past, while by using exogenous shock strategy, Hussain divided the six decade history of Islamization of education in Pakistan into four periods: (i) Setting the Path to Islamize Education, 1947 to 1964; (ii) War, Islam, Militarization, 1965-75; (iii) Legitimacy, Control and Jihad, 1976-88; and (iv) Sharia, Jihad and Neoliberal Agenda, 1988-1998.

“Islamized education is functioning largely unchanged: the curricu-lum of Social studies, Urdu, Is-lamic studies, Pakistan studies and English have only slightly been changed…”

According to Hussain, Pakistan faced its first CJ at its independence. Cross-border migration, refugees’ settlement, tensions with India over Kashmir, and participation of Pakistan in the Cold War set the path for a kind of Islamization in education, which suppressed the expression of ethnic identities within Pakistan. In addition, education was assigned the task of preparing students to fight against communism within and without Pakistan. Americans provided financial and intellectual support to Islamize education during the 1950s, which continued until 1980s. In 1950s, the visions of modernist and traditionalist Islam battled in the domain of education policy. Under the imperatives of State building at home and challenges of Cold War abroad, the modernist visions of Islam in education policy were defeated by the traditionalists such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). Between 1948 and 1952, the State leaders in Pakistan institutionalized a kind of Islam in education policy, which could be applied to fight against all kinds of political dissent at Pakistani universities. The first major institutional development was the adoption of the Objectives Resolution in March 1949. This provided powerful impetus to traditionalists to consolidate their power in the discourses of Islamization of education. By the time, the modernist military general, Muhammad Ayub Khan took over in 1958; the proponents of modernist Islam were almost insignificant in the Islamization debates. Owing to his personal inclinations, Ayub Khan tried to empower modernists in education policymaking. For example, the Report of the Commission on National Education, 1959 had a number of modernist provisions such as teaching Islam in light of the latest scientific knowledge. But the report was not implemented much to the pleasure of traditionalists. As a result, institutional arrangements consolidated during the 1950s continued unchanged while Ayub did not try to synchronize institutional arrangements of the State with his modernist views.

The loss of war against India in 1965 initiated a second CJ in the history of Pakistan. Despite all his modernist inclinations, Ayub turned to traditionalist ulema and Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) to retrieve legitimacy deficits for his regime. The Textbook Boards established in East and West Pakistan, in 1962, were also mobilized to advance Islamization which was qualitatively anti-India and anti-Hindu. In the aftermath of 1965, Ayub adopted some of the traditionalist suggestions of the JI and its student wing, Islami Jamiyat Talaba (IJT). Anti-Hindu Islamization in education was supplemented by banning the screening of Indian movies in Pakistani cinemas. Ayub’s successor General Muhammad Yahya Khan (1969-1970) did much to construct ‘ideological frontiers’ of Pakistan. In July 1969, Yahya’s minister of National Affairs, Nawab Sher Ali Khan Pataudi—a great admirer of the JI—introduced a measure of seven years imprisonment against ideological offenses, which included speeches and publications against Islamic ideology. Yahya and Pataudi also introduced measures to curtail academic freedom on college/university campuses. In July 1969, for example, Professor Fazalur Rahman’s book on Islam, which offered a modernist theory of Islam, was banned in Pakistan. The new Education Policy drafted in 1969 privileged madrassa education and traditional Islamic learning. The loss of Bangladesh in the war with India in 1971 acted to entrench traditionalist precepts of Islam in education policy. The institutional consequences during the CJ between 1965 and 1976 were immense. Even the Islamic-Socialist regime of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto continued the anti-Indian Islamization in education. The CII established in 1974 did much to promote Islamization in education while Islamization and centralization in education progressed in combination: the parliament of Pakistan passed “Federal Supervision of Curricula, Textbooks and Maintenance of Standards of Education,” in 1976 inferring powers on the Curriculum Wing in Ministry of Education, Islamabad to check that no textbook could be published in Pakistan carrying material not in conformity with Islamic ideology. During the same year, the parliament granted equivalence to the degrees of madrassa students making them eligible for government jobs.

The third CJ formed slowly but it created conditions which made Islamization of education persistent. The political instability of 1976 and 1977 resulted in a military takeover by General Zia ul Haq in July 1977. Zia was religiously conservative. Unlike Ayub Khan before him, Zia engrafted his ideology on institutions related to education. Although Zia intensified Islamizing education from October 1977, still it was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Khomeini led revolution in Iran that perfected the CJ of 1970s and 1980s. If Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party was an enemy of Zia at home, communists in Afghanistan and Shia government in Iran were the external threats providing perfect circumstances for Islamization to thrive in education. More importantly, it was the Islam practised in Saudi Arabia that was infused in education as an official policy. Zia used the available institutional arrangements to employ Islamized education against all internal and external threats to his regime. Thus the CJ of 1970s and 1980s provided perfect circumstances for the supremacy of Islamization as the only political option for Pakistan. The Objectives Resolution of 1949 was inserted in the constitution in 1985. A new dimension of jihad (holy war) was added to the existing Anti-Hindu Islamization of 1960s and 1970s. Islamized education policy became the chief instrument of not only spreading the ideas of jihad but also of providing practical training in conducting holy war. Most of the instruments of cultural production such as cinema, television, radio, print media, Urdu literature and theatre were Islamized to intensify the influence of Islamized education. Textbooks were rewritten inserting many stories of jihad in them and many progressive and leftist teachers were removed from their jobs in Pakistani universities and colleges.

The institutional consequences of Islamization during the Zia regime were enormous. The CII was reconstituted in 1977: most of its members were Deobandis. International Islamic University was established in 1980 largely to Islamize Pakistani education. Islamic Research Cell was established within the Ministry of Education in 1979. Five thousand mosque schools were established in Pakistan where imams (mosque leaders) were hired as teachers with a small honorarium. Official collection of Zakat was instituted in 1980 and significant share of Zakat funds was provided to the madrassa students across Pakistan. The recommendations of the National Committee of Deeni Madaris (est. 1979) regarding provision of land and utilities to madrassas were adopted officially. The patronage to religious leaders created a large support for Islamization of education in Pakistan.

When Zia died in 1988, Pakistan was in political, social and economic disarray. After his death, the CJ in the making was related to the neoliberal paradigm of governance and moral anxieties produced as a result of liberalizing media. In the 1990s, Kashmir Jihad and the glamorizing of Jihad provided an anti-dote to the moral anxieties of a liberalizing economy. The takeover of Kabul by the Taliban reinforced the confidence of military leaders, Islamists of various persuasions, and militant groups in the power of Islamized education. At the same time, the Pakistani State reduced its spending on education while encouraging privatization which resulted in the immense growth of private schools and private Islamic schools. The National Education Policy 1998-2010 said little about issues such as access to education but more about Islamizing the content of education. It increased the hours spent for the recitation of the Holy Quran and rewriting of social sciences using the Islamic framework. A detailed reading of the policy of 1998 suggested that Pakistani State wanted to continue Islamization.

In 2004, when the federal minister of education, Zubaida Jalal an-nounced to remove jihad related Islamic references from the school textbooks, she could not find more than a handful of people support-ing her.

In 2004, when the federal minister of education, Zubaida Jalal announced to remove jihad related Islamic references from the school textbooks, she could not find more than a handful of people supporting her. The opposition from the religious organizations such as the JI, IJT, Mut’hidda Majlis Amal, Jamiyat Ulema Islam of Maulana Fazalur Rahman, Tehrik Usatza Pakistan was expected and understandable. The opposition, however, was not constituted only by these religious organizations. A significant resistance to Jalal’s plan came from within the institutions which had been involved in Islamization of education. The agitations of religious parties and resistance from within the government did not let Jalal actualize her promise despite having the support of General Musharraf. The pro-Islamization officials in the Ministry of Education, Curriculum Wing, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Council of Islamic Ideology successfully lobbied with a number of parliamentarians. As a result, the support for rewriting curriculum and textbooks did not grow. Both the traditionalists and government officials mobilized the Objectives Resolution, constitutionalist provisions of Islamization, and Islamic provisions of various education policies as their agitating symbols. The curriculum wing, ministry of education was reluctant to draft alternative proposals to rewrite textbooks. As a result of these agitations, many officials and politicians chose to remain silent.

In conclusion, Hussain argued that the Islamization of education helped the Pakistani State to expand its reach in society. It also helped the State to legitimize itself without democratizing the dispensation of education and the institutions of the State. The framing of political issues in Islamic terms restricted the emergence of alternative political agendas. Since the late 1970s, Islamization blocked emergence of any leftist student movement which could pose a threat to the status quo. Hussain stated that majority of his 2009 and 2010 interviewees at the Ministry of Education, Council of Islamic Ideology, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Curriculum Wing supported continuing Islamization and disapproved removing of religious and anti-Hindu material from textbooks. Based on his analysis of the history of education policymaking in Pakistan and interviews with the officials involved in Islamizing education, Hussain was convinced that Islamization of education would continue in future in Pakistan. A reading of the curriculum documents published in 2007 attested this claim as only negligible changes were made to the Islamization paradigm.

The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session. In answering a question if the federal government had retained curriculum development in the 18th Constitutional Amendment and what kind of problems could emerge after the devolution of curriculum to the provinces, Hussain stated that curriculum development had been transferred to the provinces through the 18th Amendment. Although Ahsan Iqbal and Abid Sher Ali of Pakistan Muslim League (N), Professor Khursheed Ahmed of Jamat-i-Islami, Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali of Pakistan Peoples Party were trying to stop the devolution of curriculum wing to the provinces, still another constitutional amendment would be required to stop this devolution. The possibilities for an amendment were extremely dim. He cautioned that many problems would emerge when provinces start making their curriculum and writing textbooks because three of the Pakistani provinces nurture strong anti-Punjab and anti-Centre feelings. The Gilgit Baltistan Assembly has recently pointed out that the Islamiyat textbooks predominantly narrated Sunni version of Islam thus offending the sensibilities of the local Shia population. Sindhi legislators wanted to write Raja Dahar as their national hero in provincial textbooks. Similarly, voices to rewrite history along nationalist line were being raised in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In these circumstances, Hussain opined that it would be harder to promote national harmony if provincial histories were in conflict with each other.

While answering a question why leaders such as Bhutto, Musharaf, Benazir and Nawaz Sharif who were liberal in their outlook did not reform education, Hussain corrected that Nawaz Sharif was actually more conservative than Zia as Sharif introduced the Sharia Act in 1991, established Permanent Commission on Islamization of Education under this Act, and granted many privileges to the propagators of Saudi version of Islam in Pakistan. Bhutto’s were liberal but they did not institutionalize their politics. An education policy document drafted during Benazir’s first tenure was never made public while the rise of Taliban in Afghanistan and jihad in Kashmir during her second tenure made the removal of jihad related material from the textbooks impossible.

Commenting on the question of how Islamization of education policy has contributed to the feeling that one was no longer a Muslim and needed to be Islamized, Hussain recalled the words of Professor Kaneez Fatima Yousuf who once said “we [Pakistanis] were better Muslims before the State actually started teaching Islamiyat in schools… our [Pakistani] families used to provide good Islamic education to their children.” Hussain agreed with Professor Kaneez. He said that by enforcing a particular version of Islam in Islamic studies, Islam itself had been politicized and the contention over Shia and Sunni Islamic studies illustrated this point well.

Answering a question of how Islamization of education had influenced knowledge generation in Pakistan, Hussain said that a very selective Islamization was promoted by Zia ul Haq and Nawaz Sharif primarily to maintain status quo, moral policing and violence. As a result, reason had gradually and systematically been suppressed in educational institutions. Islamized education had focussed more on morality than on social problems and creation of a just society. Rather than being about producing scholarship of higher standing, Islamization had actually stifled it as it was used to silence modernist scholars such as Professor Fazalur Rehman who was forced to leave Pakistan in 1964. In fact, Islamization promoted mediocrity in politics and academia.

“…education policy would change if citizens from various sectors were involved in curriculum policy and textbook writing and if inclusive institutional arrangements for curriculum and textbooks were put in place.”

Answering the last question of whether there were possibilities of the reconstruction of education policy in Pakistan, Hussain argued that the existing institutional arrangements did not support change. Nevertheless, modest changes would be possible only through installing different institutional arrangements accountable to the parliament and the people. Hussain said that the present state of education policy would change if citizens from various sectors were involved in curriculum policy and textbook writing and if inclusive institutional arrangements for curriculum and textbooks were put in place.

“Nawaz Sharif was actually more conservative than Zia as Sharif introduced the Sharia Act in 1991, established Permanent Commis-sion on Islamization of Education under this Act, and granted many privileges to the propagators of Saudi version of Islam in Pakistan.”