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The role of the US in “fanning Islamic militancy” has been highlighted by a visiting Pakistani professor who was the star performer at a seminar sponsored by The Democracy Forum in London.
Nuclear physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, from Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, was a keynote speaker at the seminar entitled ‘The role of education in combating terrorism’. In his view, the US has played a major role in contributing to the Islamic radicalisation that currently prevails in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
His views were spelt out at the well attended function, chaired by Dr William Crawley of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and addressed by The Democracy Forum head and British Conservative MP Stephen Hammond. Other participants included Professor Jack Spence from King’s
College, London, Shiraz Maher from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, Mushtak Parker, Editor of Islamic Banker magazine and retired ambassador and visiting professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi G Parthasarathy. The seminar was brought to a close by retired British Crown Court Judge Sir Mota Singh.
In his speech, Hoodbhoy started by commenting on the changes to the education curriculum in Pakistani schools, quoting from a 1995 primary education document published by Pakistan’s Ministry of Education.
The document states that after the completion of Class V, all children should be able to “understand Hindu Muslim differences and the resultant need for Pakistan”. “Children should be also able to understand India’s evil design against Pakistan,” it further says.
Other requirements for Class V graduates are to “acknowledge and identify forces that may be working against Pakistan” and to “make speeches on Jehad and Shahidat”.
At least as important, according to Hoodbhoy, was the earlier meddling of US government agencies like USAID and the CIA, encouraging Islamic radicalisation which shaped the world view of both young Pakistanis and their Afghan counterparts.
The US role in this process is especially relevant today as the Taliban stage a comeback in parts of Afghanistan in anticipation of the American pullback from the country in 2014. Squads of Taliban-backed morality police are active in provinces like Nuristan where they mete out Draconian punishments to anyone who watches television, listens to music or participates in any other types of activity deemed to be un-Islamic.
Back in the 1980s, the US government spent millions of dollars to produce educational textbooks for Afghan refugee children that were filled with violent images and militant teachings from the Koran.
Published by the University of Nebraska in the US, these textbooks were subsequently exported to the madrassas (schools) operating along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
“They distributed millions of Korans to madrassas with the aim of fanning radicalism,” Hoodbhoy explained. “It was viewed as the most efficient way of fighting the Soviet Union by putting this across as a religious war. The policy was evolved between the US and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia was the funder. But it was very close consultation between General Zia (Pakistan’s late president) and the CIA which conducted the biggest covert war in history (against the Soviet Union.)”
At the time, President Bush explained that some 10 million US-supplied books intended for Afghan school children would teach “respect for human dignity, instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry.”
Yet, the content in one of the mathematics textbooks written in Dari and Pushtu, read out by Hoodbhoy, included the following:
“One group of Mujahed attacks 50 Russian soldiers. In that attack, 20 Russians were killed. How many Russians fled?"
Another mathematics problem states: “A Kalashnikov bullet travels at 800 metres per second. A Mujahed has the forehead of a Russian in his sights 3,200 metres away. How many seconds will it take the bullet to hit the Russian’s forehead?”
Still another textbook publishes a verse from the Koran, followed by a tribute to the Mujahideen who are described as obedient to Allah and willing to sacrifice their wealth and life to impose Islamic law on the government.