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Mice: Treatment of minorities in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – by Nadeem Paracha

NFP asks if minorities will ever be treated well enough to not feel like misfits. — File photo

Some days ago, while waiting in my car for a traffic signal to turn green, a young kid nonchalantly stuck a flyer under one of the car’s wipers. Usually I throw away such pieces of paper, but this time I decided to take a look at it. It was a flyer advertising a Montessori school called ‘Model Islamic Montessori.’

Once home, I decided to call the school and asked to be connected to the principal.

“Hello, Asalamwualaikum,” I said.
“Walaikumasslam,” came the reply. It was a lady.
“Is this the principal of Model Islamic Montessori?” I asked.
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“I have a three-year-old son whom I wanted admitted in your school,” I said.
“Okay, he’s most welcome,” she replied.
“But I have some questions,” I said.
“Sure, you can ask us anything,” she offered.
“How is your school different from the non-Islamic Montessori schools?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” She responded.
“Yours is an Islamic Montessori, right?” I said.
“Well, yes…” she hesitated a bit.
“So how is an Islamic Montessori different from a non-Islamic Montessori?” I asked again.
“Well… we teach children about their Islamic heritage and the basic principles of Islam, like roza (fasting), salat …”
“You mean namaaz?” I interrupted.
“Yes, namaaz, it’s the same thing” she explained.
“Fair enough,” I said. “What else do you guys teach the children?” I asked.
“Well, we teach them good manners and…”
“Islamic manners?” I interrupted.
“Well… yes,” she hesitated again.
“That’s good,” I said. “Islamic manners are so much better and civilised than non-Islamic manners.”
“Err, sir… may I ask you a question?” She asked, politely.
“Sure, madam.”
“Why are you going on and on about Muslim and non-Muslim?” She protested.

“Well, I want my son to be in an Islamic school. And since yours says ‘Model Islamic Montessori’, I am just trying to make sure it is not like all these other non-Islamic Montessori schools out there.”

“How old is your son?” She asked.
“He’s three.”
“Why don’t you come over and we’ll take you around the school,” she said.
“Do you teach them how to recite naats?” I asked.
“Yes, we do,” she replied, proudly.

“And you don’t teach them those stupid old English nursery rhymes that have sinister hidden Zionist messages in them, right?” I said.

She snickered: “Don’t know about that, sir, but yes, we do discourage teachers from teaching children nursery rhymes.”

“That good to know,” I said. “What about qawalli? Are the children taught any qawalli? I love qawalli.” I started to hum one, “Bhar do jholi meri…”

“Err… no, sir,” she interrupted. “Just naats and basic Islamiat.”

“But doesn’t a kid usually study and learn all this in a non-Islamic school as well? How is your school Islamic?” I asked.

“Sir, why don’t you come over and see for yourself,” she insisted. “No other montessori has young girls in hijab and boys in traditional Islamic dress. Come and see for yourself. You’ll be impressed,” she explained.

“Young girls in Hijab!” I sounded delighted. “Wonderful. What about the young boys?”

“They are only allowed to wear shalwar-kameez and praying caps,” she said.

“But shalwar-kameez is a national dress, not an Islamic dress,” I said. “You should have the boys wear Arabic choghas! I will make sure my son wears one.”

“What’s his name?” She asked.
“Paul Neil Fernandes Jr.,” I said.
“Hello? Madam Principal. You there?”
“Is this a joke?” She responded, somewhat sternly.
“No, madam. Not at all. I am very serious,” I replied.
“You are Christian. Why would you want your son in an Islamic school?” She asked.

“That’s simple. Because I am Christian in an Islamic Republic. Do you know how it feels like being a religious minority in an Islamic Republic, madam?”


“Well, I want my son to learn all the mannerisms of a good Muslim so he does not feel like a misfit!” I continued.
“Why don’t you convert then?” She replied, in a matter-of-fact manner.
“Why should I?” I said.
“Because of the way you feel,” she said.
“Why don’t you change?” I replied.
“Change?” She asked.
“Yes, change the way we are sometimes treated here.” I said.

“Sir, I don’t want to get into all this,” she announced. “And anyway, I don’t think we can accommodate your child in our school.”

“Just because he’s Christian?” I asked.
“I’m afraid so,” she said.

“But a lot of Pakistani Muslims are accommodated in Christian schools,” I protested. “Why not treat my kid as a Pakistani and more so, a human being?”

“Sir, I am sorry, but we can’t help you,” she lamented.
“What if I give you double the usual fee of your school?” I offered.
“Sir, that would be seen as a bribe,” she said.
“Not really,” I replied. “Take it as jaziah!”

Source: Dawn

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  • Sadly this is the same feeling i get when i see small children (as young as 5-6) with prayer caps and hijab in India. I guess it seems like the reverse peep hole here in India as compared to Pakistan. Indian Muslims parents asserting their religion and inculcating the feeling of us VS them too early in them.

    I remember over hearing a conversation between two kids in a Delhi bus. The Hindu kid was lamenting his friend leaving the playground early with his bat for namaz. And the reply that he got was ” ‘we’ practice our religion strictly than ‘you’ Hindus who it appears was deemed not a true believer”.

    Sadly hindus are always seen as religious bigots who is insensitive to Muslims. Many Muslims are so deep rooted in their superiority complex (followers of one true religion) that they seem unwilling to give credit to Hinduism which despite being at crossroads of time has always survived.

    Its time we started respecting all religions and their followers.

  • London School of Islamics is an educational Trust. Its aim is to make
    British public, institutions and media aware of the needs and demands of the
    Muslim community in the field of education and possible solutions.

    The demand for state funded Muslim schools is in accordance with the law of
    the land. Muslim community is not asking for any favour. Muslim community
    pays all sorts of taxes and is contributing for the economic, social and
    spiritual prosperity of the British society.

    Bilingual Muslim Children need state funded muslim schools with bilingual
    Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is
    no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school. It is
    better to put your children in a toilet instead of in a state school. At
    least if you put them in a toilet you can wash them after. If you put your
    children into state schools, you are sending them to be indoctrinated with
    the common views and beliefs of a society.Children are young and
    impressionable. There is a danger that liberal, feminist, radicalist and
    homosexual and lesbian teachers are implanting their values into children.
    It is a well known fact that children tend to listen to their teachers
    before their parents. There are hundreds of state and church schools where
    Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be
    designated as Muslim Community schools.

    A Muslim is a citizen of this timy global village. He/she does not want to
    become notoriously monolingual Brit. A Muslim needs to learn and be well
    versed in Standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for
    higher studies and research to serve humanity. At the same time, he/she
    needs to learn and be well versed in Arabic, Urdu and other community
    languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of
    their literature and poetry.
    Iftikhar Ahmad