Written by John Pickard Wednesday, 23 December 2009

with thanks: International Marxist website

Many of us know that the origins of Christianity have nothing to do with silent nights or wise men. So what are its true origins? John Pickard looks at the reality of how this religion came about – from the standpoint of class forces and the material developments of society, rather than by the pious fictions fed from church pulpits.

Foundations of ChristianityMy late father had a very wry sense of humour. At Christmas, whenever there was a reference to church services on the television, he would tut and shake his head. “Look at that”, he would say, “They try to bring religion into everything!”

I imagine much the same complaint may have been made by ancient celts, annoyed that the Christian priests were taking over their traditional Yule festival, celebrating the winter solstice. Or perhaps by Roman citizens, peeved at the Christians taking over their annual ‘Saturnalia’ festival in the last weeks of December.

Those complaining would have been right, because in the absence of an identifying date anywhere in the canonical gospels, Christians grafted their celebration of the birth of Jesus onto the existing pagan festivals. In one stroke they absorbed the pagan rites into the Christian tradition and softened opposition to the new creed.

Many practising Christians today are completely unaware of the pagan and sometimes arbitrary origins of important elements of their religious beliefs and practices. Many seriously believe the origin of Christianity lies in a ‘silent night’ in a barn visited by quiet shepherds and several awe-struck ‘wise’ men. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Materialism

For Marxists, who base themselves on the real, material world, there was a completely different reality. Last year marked the centenary of the publication of ‘The Foundations of Christianity’ by the German Marxist theoritician, Karl Kautsky. This was the first attempt to describe the rise of that major western religion from the standpoint of class forces and the material developments of society, rather than by the pious fictions fed from church pulpits.

Karl Kautsky’s book was deficient in many respects, but the main lines of his argument still stand the test today. What was especially significant about Kautsky’s book was that it was the first comprehensive attempt to describe the foundation and rise of Christianity using the method of historical materialism.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels used the method of historical materialism and applied it to social and historical developments. In his book ‘Anti-Duhring’, Engels summarised what this meant:

“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or estates is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in man’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch.”

Karl Kautsky, therefore, rejected the metaphysical myths behind Christianity – the miracles, supernatural events, and so on – and attempted to describe its origins and rise through the social conditions that existed in the Roman Empire.

The classical description of the origins of Christianity is as outlined in the New Testament. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are taken as historical accounts of real events in the first thirty five years of the first millennium: how Jesus was born miraculously, how he performed miracles and preached alongside his twelve disciples, how he was crucified for his preaching and how he arose from the dead. The gospels are taken to be eye-witness accounts by four of the disciples.

Karl KautskyKarl KautskyDespite harassment, persecution and innumerable martyrs, the superior ideas of the Christians – and particularly the offer of life after death and the redemption of human sins by the crucifixion of Jesus – led to an increase of support for Christianity until it became an unstoppable force eventually recognised by the Roman Emperor Constantine. The rest, as they say, is history.

This is the ‘official’ history of the Church…and most of it is a fairy-tale. For Marxists the question has to be asked, what were the conditions in Palestine in the first century? Karl Kautsky alludes to the fact that the Roman Empire was a slave-based system in which the vast majority of the population were impoverished and lived from hand to mouth for most of their lives.

And it is true that Palestine was a society riven with bitter class conflicts and contradictions. The characteristics of the entire period were turmoil, upheaval and revolt. Overlying the class struggle was the additional factor of the national oppression of the majority Semitic population by the Romans. Within Jewish society, the priestly caste and the nobility were propped up by the Roman regime for the greater exploitation of the mass of the population.

“The fundamental conflict was between Roman, Herodian, and high priestly rulers, on the one hand, and the Judean and Galilean villagers, whose produce supplied tribute for Caesar, taxes for King Herod, and tithes and offerings for the priests and temple apparatus on the other.” (Horsley, ‘Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs’ )

The Temple priests who were paid tithes (church taxes) by the local peasantry were not a small group – some scholars number them in the thousands. The Jewish King Herod ‘the Great’, who died in 4 BCE [Before the Common Era], left a country economically exhausted from the earlier Roman conquest and subsequent taxation.

“The Jewish agricultural producers were now subject to a double taxation, probably amounting to well over 40 per cent of their production. There were other Roman taxes as well, which further added to the burden of the people, but the tribute was the major drain.

“Coming, as it did, immediately after a period of ostensible national independence under the Hasmonians (Jewish kings), Roman domination was regarded as wholly illegitimate. The tribute was seen as robbery. Indeed it was called outright slavery by militant teachers such as Judas of Galilee, who organised active resistance to the census (record of people for tax purposes) when the Romans took over direct administration of Judea in 6 CE.” [in the Common Era] (‘Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs’)

Revolts

The only contemporary account there is of this history is that of Josephus, a Jewish general who fought against the Romans during the revolt of 66 CE and who subsequently changed sides. It is clear from his histories that this whole period was one of great upheaval. There were many occasions when revolts of peasants were led by popular anointed kings (or ‘messiahs’), all of which were viciously repressed. It was not uncommon for whole towns to be razed and their inhabitants sold into slavery.

These revolts reflected the material conditions and class conflicts of the time, but they were invariably dressed up in terms of messianic revivalism and religious aspirations. Given the tradition and scripture of the Jews, these movements inevitably adopted the mantles of scriptural leaders, including, notably, Joshua. There were, in fact, many ‘Joshua’ sects at the time. (‘Jesus’ is a Romanised name which wouldn’t have been recognised in Palestine at the time). Many of these cults had a ‘communist’ outlook with property shared in common within the community.

The writings of Josephus are the only genuine surviving works written by a participant of the events. He describes what he sees as the evil influence of seers and prophets on more than one occasion, such as: “…Imposters and demagogues, under the disguise of divine inspiration, provoked revolutionary actions and impelled the masses to act like madmen. They led them out into the wilderness…” Josephus (‘Jewish Wars’) mentions by name several of the seers, ‘prophets’ and revolutionaries who stirred up the Jews, but the Joshua described in the New Testament does not appear at any point in the voluminous work of his supposed contemporary, Josephus.

The revolutionary-minded force in this period was the peasantry, which strove time and again to throw off the national and class oppression under which they laboured.

A small selection of commentaries from Josephus illustrates the turmoil of the period:

“Many [Jewish peasants] turned to banditry out of recklessness, and throughout the whole country there were raids, and among the more daring, revolts…”

“…the whole of Judea was infested with brigands…” (‘Jewish Wars’)

“Felix [Roman governor, 52-58 CE] captured [revolutionary leader] Eleazar, who for twenty years had plundered the country, as well as many of his associates, and sent them to Rome for trial. The number of brigands that he crucified…was enormous.” (Josephus , ‘Antiquities’)

Nothing could be further removed from ‘silent night’! The revolutionary upheaval spilled over into a generalised uprising in 66 CE, against the Romans and their collaborators, the Jewish ruling class the high priests of the Temple. “…hostility and violent factionalism flared between the high priests on the one side and the priests and leaders of the Jerusalem masses on the other.” (‘Antiquities’)

Siege of Jerusalem

The siege of Jerusalem, 70 CEFor the next four years there was a bloody and protracted guerrilla war followed by a prolonged siege of Jerusalem, during which the masses, fearing betrayal by the Jewish aristocracy and high priests effectively took power into their own hands in Jerusalem. One of their first acts in the revolt was the storming of the Temple and the burning of the deeds and documents relating to the debts and taxes of the peasantry. It was not surprising that the aristocracy and the high priests fled the city to the safety of the Roman lines – including Josephus himself.

Even before this revolution, Palestine had been a whirlpool of different cults and religious sects, most based loosely on traditional Jewish scripture, but often coloured by the widespread discontent with the collaboration of the priesthood and the parasitism of the Temple culture. Among these would have been the ‘Joshua’ and other messianic sects organised by a variety of charismatic leaders.

Following the bloody suppression of the revolution and the capture of Jerusalem (during which the Temple was destroyed) in 70 CE, tens of thousands of Jews fled the region and many thousands more were enslaved. Such an enormous disaster could not fail to affect the huge Jewish Diaspora, who fled from their homeland, spread round every major city in the whole Roman Empire, including the larger cities like Rome, Alexandria and the big cities in the East.

Long before the revolutionary events, all manner of sects had taken root in the Jewish Diaspora communities in parallel to those in Palestine itself. Within this lively sectarian milieu was a Joshua cult developed by Paul, with a policy of converting non-Jews as well as Jews. This sect, in effect, became the mainspring of modern Christianity by, among other things, simplifying Jewish ‘Law’ to remove the need for circumcision and strict dietary taboos.

All of the early Christian works, which were circulating from the middle towards the end of the first century – including the letters of Paul – were significantly missing any historical narrative connecting Joshua to a real-life biography. It was only later that the gospel of Mark (on which Matthew and Luke were based) was written as an allegorical description of a life, composed to match the Joshua doctrine that was becoming established. It was an expression of the growing confidence and numerical strength of this particular sect. But it was also an expression of the growing class division within the Christian community itself as it accommodated to Roman society. Of the original communistic ideas of the Joshua cults, there remain only a few hints and suggestions in the New Testament today.

It was largely in polemics with their former co-religionists, the Jews, and against the plethora of rival proto-Christian sects that the early Church elaborated its doctrine in the first decades of the second century. In parallel with the elaboration of doctrine, the Church established an apparatus to maintain itself. The evidence of the existence of a huge variety of early Christian sects has only come to light recently precisely because this apparatus, once having established itself, did its best to eliminate all others as ‘heresies,’ in the process removing most of the evidence that other strands of the Joshua cult even existed.

The question has to be asked as to why Christianity grew over the next two centuries. It was not an anti-slavery movement: slavery was ubiquitous throughout the Roman Empire and Christians possessed slaves like anyone else. There is evidence that even bishops just like well-to-do Romans owned slaves throughout this whole period.

Theological considerations were secondary. The rigid and self-perpetuating bureaucracy which had grown within the Church reflected the class divisions in society and had become an important bulwark of the class system.

“In time the discourse and sermons of the Christian leaders came to incorporate not only the formal aspects of aristocratic status concerns but also the values and ideology of the late Roman upper class.” (Salzman, ‘The Making of a Christian Aristocracy’)

Conversion

This comment refers to the period following the so-called conversion of the Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century, but long before this the Church was playing a key social and economic role on behalf of the ruling class. Many officials of state were Christian bishops or leaders. More importantly, they play a key role in the management and organisation of local government.

In so far as it meant anything in a Roman Empire facing terminal decline, they were the local government. Bishops and Church officials collected tax, distributed alms (church-based charity) and supervised local legal and land disputes. They were an unofficial ‘civil service’ on behalf of the Roman bureaucracy long before Emperor Constantine gave them imperial sanction. The Church fulfilled a social and economic function, in managing and containing an increasing proportion of the poor and dispossessed and for that reason, not because of a ‘spiritual awakening’ within the ruling class, it was allowed to grow and develop.

The Church was able to fulfil this role because it offered a safety valve for the aspirations of the masses. It gave the peasantry their only opportunity to sit in the same building with landlords and bishops (if not the same pews) and even if there was limited hope in this world, they were at least offered the promise of equality with the rich in the next. The Christians offered a messiah and ‘life after death’, in contrast to the aloof and indifferent gods of Greece and Rome.

The Church bureaucracy consciously developed policy (and theology) in its own interests, increasingly identified with the interests of the ruling class. But in its structure and outlook, it also anticipated the development of feudal society better than the decaying slave-owning state. The Church didn’t campaign for emancipation, but offered a new arrangement for exploitation.

As for the peasantry and city poor: as long as they knew and accepted ‘their place’ in the rigid class structure, for the poorest it offered a structure of alms, and support which provided respite to the worst of their poverty and insecurity. Even if watered down, it offered a sense of community. Almost uniquely in the Roman Empire, it had a limited welfare structure, moreover one that offered belonging to a national and even international church. For these reasons it had disproportionate appeal to the poor and the oppressed; indeed it was ridiculed for being a movement “of slaves and women.”

Persecution

Once it was backed by the power of the state the Church destroyed its opponents. Roman persecution of the Church in the first three centuries is greatly exaggerated, but it pales against the terrible persecution that the Church visited on all the unorthodox sects once it was backed by imperial power. Books and heretics were burnt. Theological history was re-written. Myths were piled upon myths, century after century. So much so that today even so-called ‘scholars’ treat the New Testament like a true historical narrative and not as they should as a story, no more true than ‘The Iliad’ or ‘Beowulf’.

Within a few hundred years any evidence of the existence of other Christian sects, including their pre-history in Palestine, was all but eliminated. The Church became – and remains to this day – a powerful conservative force, politically, financially and diplomatically (and at one time, militarily).

In his introduction to ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’, Marx referred to religion as “the sigh of the oppressed”. He explained that it is not spirituality, or the lack of it, which breeds support for religion. It is the alienation of the mass of the population from the class society in which they find themselves.

The crisis of capitalism is at root the crisis of a rotten economic system, but it manifests itself also as a crisis of ideas. For millions of people their hopes and aspirations are so stunted by the limits of the capitalist world that they project their hopes on to a life after death. And just as in the first decades of the first millennium, so also in the age of capitalism, new religious and messianic movements reflect the intellectual and moral impasse of a failed and failing society. Marx continued:

“…To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

Thus he made it clear that it is not a question of religion being “abolished”. The idea is absurd. To combat superstition and ignorance, the task for socialists is to struggle against the material conditions upon which these things grow – and that means above all, a struggle against capitalism.

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Shaheryar Ali

Horrific reports coming from Gojra Punjab Pakistan, the Pakistani media maintained a criminal silence and blacked out the violence till People’s Party co-chairman and president of Pakistan Mr Asif Ali Zardari took strict notice of the Anti-Christian pogrom.

Gojra Violence

Gojra Violence

The banned sectarian organization Sipah-e-Sahaba, a violent criminal gang which calls itself “Army of Companions of Muhammed” was build by Pakistan’s secret agencies during period of General Zia-ul-Haq to create an Anti Shia mania in Pakistan to check the popular People’s Party whose leadership had Shia origins. The organization has been banned nominally but continue to work openly in Pakistan especially in Punjab where it enjoys government support.

Made up of ethnically Punjabi immigrants the organization which has its base in Sareiki speaking Southern Punjab, it is supported by the Lahore administration to terrorize the local seriki speaking landed aristocracy most of which is religiously Shia or Sufi minded Sunni-Barelvi sect and politically supporters of Pakistan Peoples Party. By creating ethnic and religious hatred the establishment keeps the popular demand of a separate Seriki province under control.

This organization was one of the first groups from Pakistan to join Al-Qaida, its various splinter groups are active with Taliban. It also participates in Afghan and Kashmir Jihad, one of the reasons for which it is protected by Pakistani establishmentAnotherhousetorchedbyMuslims

According to reports, this organization instigated violence using a mosque by alleging the blanket charges of desecration of Koran and blasphemy.

The Islamist organizations have frequently used these blanket charges to instigate violence. Almost every time these charges are false. No one has ever been convicted or punished in Pakistan after anti minority violence, the police, the courts and the government all are complicit in this evil tradition

The Right wing government of Punjab is continuously de-contextualizing the Islamic extremism problem in Punjab blaming the “mythological Indian-Jewish hand” in the terrorism. The anti minority organizations like Tehrik e Khatam e nabuat receives state funding to conduct its conferences by Shahbaz Sharif the latest darling of Pakistan’s pseudo secular intellectuals.

ImranTalibphotoWhen the violence started the police failed to protect the minorities, christian woman and children were burned alive. The mob refused to allow the fire brigade. During all this carnage Shahbaz Sharif’s police stood silent.

Latest reports suggest that Punjab police has refused to register cases against those who killed the innocent people. The christian protesters have blocked the railway line and refused to burry the dead till Punjab government registers the case.

It must be noted that chemical bombs were used by muslim mob to burn the christian houses. This technique has been mastered during burning of another Christian Village , Shanti Nager. The culprits never brought to justice.

Reacting to the fresh incident of violence against Pakistani Christians, Mr. Joseph Francis, the National Director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLASS), has said that the July 30 attack on Christian residents of Korian has “reopened wounds” of Christians which they suffered in the wake of 1997 attack on Shantinagar, a Christian village, as well as it has brought back “tragic memories” of Muslim violence in Christian villages of Bhamniwala and Sangla Hill.

his is the fourth biggest blasphemy-related incident of violence in seven months of this year,” Mr. Francis said, and pointed out the Christians were being subjected to atrocities, whose ancestors “had polled a casting vote for the creation of Pakistan.”

It must be noted that Pakistani media fails to report these incidents objectively. Most of the time a black out is maintained. According to ANS news women and children were amongst those who were burned alive. 2 churches were desecrated and copies of Bible were also torn apart.

Its time that conscientious Pakistani should raise their voice against the evil right wing Punjab government and the Blasphemy laws .

When these atrocities were being committed ats of heroism were also being committed. Pakistani communist Shabir Ahmad of Labour Qomi Movement risked his life and saved many Christians when mob was burning their homes. we salute Comrade Ahmad and the communist movement of Pakistan.

The issue in covered here, here and here and please see my earlier articles here and here as well

Pic: Imran , teenager accused of Blasphemy


Shaheryar Ali

The way we think is the bases of every thing. . The way of thinking is what legitimizes one thing and condemns others. A particular “way of thinking” has been dominant in human societies since antiquity. It’s this way of thinking which has resulted in evolution of Religion, conventional Morality, hierarchical society and Patriarchy. Since the olden times certain philosophers have revolted against the “main stream” way of thinking, which essentially was based on a dichotomy of “thought” and “observation”. The constant friction between both and their advancement and evolution to this day is the main source of what I call “conventional way of thinking”. Its based on different , often contradictory understanding of concepts. Different ideas of Logic, Rationalism, empiricism and Idealism make this way of thinking.

Many philosophers of olden times revolted against way of thinking, they highlighted the ideas of “contradiction” “continuous flow”, “unity of opposites” and limitedness of apparent. They were often not accepted as “philosophers” but were called “Sophists”, “mystics”, poets and “insane” etc. Xeno gave a critique of motion, declared that a “flying arrow is at rest”. He was mocked for denying “motion”, he infact was criticizing the logical way of thing which looks at “Time” and “Space” as a fixed mechanical concept, showing that with there way of thinking “motion” can be shown to be a logical absurdity. Xeno’s paradoxes resulted in development of advance mathematics and with appearance of Quantum physics, his ideas about motion once again got new fame. Heraclites, Parmenides and others like them also revolted against “liner way of thinking”. In modern times Hegel developed “dialectics” and proposed it as “new logic” it was a celebration of contradiction, continuous motion, unity of opposites and mistrust of apparent.

Marx gave it a materialist touch in form of “dialectical materialism” which resulted in a first ever organized critique of the established way of thinking and its social manifestation. With dialectical thought emerged the critique of Morality, Family, Patriarchy, State, false consciousness, etc etc. Marx libertarian ideas were destroyed by the totalitarian and dogmatic regimes of Stalin and Mao. Against this back drop emerged the youth rebellion after 2nd world way whose expression in cultural arena was movements of “free love” and in politics “civil rights movement”, “Anti war movements”,” new left movement” and “revolution of 1968’ etc. These were the greatest challenges to conformity and established way of thinking. Most of it is now remembered as “Counter-Culture”.

During all these movements certain Hindu mystics emerged on international scene who associated with “peace” and “free love” movements. One such figure was OSHO. One of the most controversial figures of our times he has been maligned a lot. Osho should be called “anti mystic”. He challenged the conventional thinking, belief system and morality. His main ideas revolve around the quest of freedom and how conventional thought has actually brought all evils in the world. An excellent conversationalist, Osho has been called “Wittgenstein of religious thought”, his work is deconstructive, and he shows contradiction of conventional morality, thought and religion.

He was very popular in Pakistan during the cultural fascism of Zia. Rebel youth was attracted to his un inhibited talk on sex and freedom. After his fall from grace his ideas were largely forgotten but have seen a re emergence lately all over the world even in Pakistan. Osho was a trained philosophers, his talk is an expression of a sharp sense of humor and simplicity of expression. Those who have an interest in philosophy can see that in his simple lines he is usually commenting on some very serious philosophical problems.

This video is a short talk by him in which he speaks about concept of God and philosophical concept of contradiction. Its an excellent attack on organized religion, logical thinking and some politics

In this video Osho is criticizing philosophy, its an excellent attack on Idealism. [All proponents of non conventional way of thinking have condemned philosophy, from Xeno to Marx, Derrida and Deleuze want to destroy the whole tradition of western metaphysics as main cause of tyranny]

Few days back world celebrated Darwin’s 200th birthday. What do ideas of Darwin mean? The religious thought has taken a u turn on Darwin from total and violent rejection to cooption. Osho here puts things in perspective, those who have read Kant will enjoy his talk on “perfection”. Rediscovering Osho now will reveal a lot of new things, one need to be bit non judgmental and listen to him not considering all the package that we have inherited.

shalome1

Shaheryar Ali

We live in strange times when it is easy to hate and difficult to love. The spirit of enlightenment, the goddess of liberty is now under attack in Universities of France herself. We live in the age of “Late Capitalism”, this is the age of rampant capitalism, the age of extreme alienation. With the extreme alienation things start loosing their “corporeal beings”, concrete ideas take the form of ghostly phantoms, and reality seems to merge with fantasy. The expression of this phenomenon can be seen everywhere, Salman Rushdie’s most original protest against colonialism, the hegemonic dualities created by the immigrant experience, the identity crisis, the de-humanizing experience of disillusionment from both cultures, the old and new, the very division of self brought about by modernism, through colonialism and immigration, the lament and cry of pain and anguish became the object of hostility of those for whom it was done. The ghostly or hallucinatory expression termed as “magical realism” represent this epochal phenomenon in literature.

Extreme fluidity of the narrative, the interplay of contradictory streams of meaning, the nauseous experience of existence in the hostile universe is not the monopoly of literary giants; rather it has become an everyday experience of life. The monstrous war between two illegitimate children of Capitalist imperialism Zionism and Islamic fundamentalism is one of such events. While some want us to believe that heartless fascists, the prophets of Gaza are champions of progressive cause others wants us to believe that the blood thirsty child killers , the Zionists are fighting the war for the very survival humanity against the forces of darkness. The people are being killed. They are victims of this age of confusion. The Islamic Republic, just like the Zionist state was a “liberal” act of British imperialism to provide the national homeland to “Muslims” in India. The “ideological” state has been one of the most loyal allies of United State’s imperialism rivaled only by its distant cousins Israel and Egypt. The Pakistani middle classes who take these ideological fallacies of state quite seriously have got a new hero in recent times, Adolf Hiter. Angered by the scenes of Zionist barbarism in Gaza and fuelled by the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Pakistani Islamist and Liberal dominated media the middle classes are chattering about the “great vision” of Adolf Hitler in his recognition of “Jewish evil” and his great efforts to save humanity from it.

The Jewish evils of course being the good old theories of Jews controlling “all the banks” and “state institutions” of USA etc.: their inherent “racism”, “their intolerance”, “their non acceptance of our great holy prophet” etc. In this discourse Pakistan and Islam becomes the “greatest, best and most tolerant and humanist ideologies and state which ever existed in this cosmos. The ideological paradise of the Islamic Republic in which the Pakistani middle and chattering classes live and play the eternal victim of every thing which exists in this universe ; Big bad India, USA, Jews all the cunning, evil enemies who want to destroy humanist and tolerant Pakistan, the “divine land”, the “land of the pure”. We who are the critics of Islamic Republic occasionally remind the chattering classes about the things which don’t fit in their “ideological paradise”, things lost in the “collective amnesia” of divine state and Pure of pure. We are so much threatened by perceived “Indian hegemony” that we find our selves permanently scarred by “Gandhi, the Movie” but we don’t bother 3 million Bengalis butchered by us and thousands of Bengali women raped by our macho Jawans

“Where are the Pakistani Jews?” I just ask this question. The picture you see above is that of “Magain Shalome Synagogue”. The synagogue was built by the small but vibrant Jewish community of Karachi in 1898. The Jews of Karachi enjoyed tolerance and acceptability as British subjects in India. In 1936 one of the leaders of the Jewish community, Abraham Reuban became the first “Jewish councilor” of the city corporation. The city also had a number of “support organizations” like “Young Man’s Jewish Association”, the “Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund” and “Karachi Jewish Syndicate”. In 1947, Jinnah got his laboratory of Islam and for Pakistani Jews the clock started ticking. As the people, who have been victim of tyranny for thousands of years Jews knew the warning signs. Partition of India on religious lines and formation of a “Laboratory of Islam” was a bad omen. The Pakistani Aliya had started. Jews started leaving for India and Iran. The “night of broken glass” for Pakistani Jews was a night in 1948 when State of Israel was proclaimed. Karachi which was home to Jews for decades suddenly became hostile. The anti Jew pogroms started. The mob attacked and torched the “Magain Shalome” synagogue. Every thing was broken, the windows, the ornaments. The Mujahids also desecrated the Holy Ark and Bible.

The community still tried to live with the illusion of “Jinnah’s words”, “you are free to go to your temples and your mosques—” , the anti Jewish pogroms and anti-Semitic rhetoric intensified with the Arab , Israeli wars, the synagogue remained the point of hatred of the mob. 1948, 1956 and 1967 were the periods where small Bene Israeli community of Pakistan faced the rage and hatred. The Magain Shalome resurrected itself after every fire till nobody was left to pray. Those who called themselves anti-Zionists pushed Jews from every land which was their home, pushing them to look for their mythical homeland, The Zion. Peshawar had a Jewish community as well, with two synagogues. Along with Bene Israeli community, “Bukharin Jews” also called Peshawar their home. Now none is left. A whole community vanished , along with their language, culture, art and most important their ‘stories”. I once read a novel which had a haunting line, “You scratch a Jew and you will get a story”. I have now no one to ask too; all that is left are few graves and Stars of David on certain buildings in both cities. The Magain Shalome Synagogue was finally demolished in 1980 when Fascist General Zia ul Haq was ruler of Pakistan to make a shopping plaza. The Jews from Karachi now live in Ramle, Israel. They have made a “Magain Shalome” there. 200 or so Jews still live in Karachi; they have disguised themselves as “Parsies”.

Such are the fascist societies where people are forced to live as some one who they are not, weather Jews or Homosexuals.

Picture: Naveed Riaz Karachi

Magain Shalome was built by Shalome Solomon Umberdeker and his son Gershone Solomon; Karachi’s last synagogue was demolished in 1980

Eve oh Eve                                                                                    
    
Why wouldn’t Eve have eaten of the fruit?
Didn’t she have a hand to reach out with,
Fingers with which to make a fist?
Didn’t Eve have a stomach for feeling hunger,
A tongue for feeling thirst,
A heart with which to love?
    
Well, then, why wouldn’t Eve have eaten of the fruit?
Why would she merely have suppressed her wishes,
Regulated her steps,
Subdued her thirst?
Why would she have been so compelled
To keep Adam moving around in the Garden of Eden all their lives?
 
Because Eve did eat of the fruit,
There is sky and earth.
Because she has eaten, 

                    There are moon, sun, rivers, seas,

Because she has eaten, trees, plans and vines.

because Eve has eaten of the fruit

            there is joy, because she has eaten there is joy. 

joy, joy–

Eating  of the fruit, Eve made a heaven of the earth. 

Eve, if you get hold of the fruit 

       don’t ever refrain from eating

 

MOSQUE,  TEMPLE
 
Let the pavilions of religion
    be ground to bits,
let the bricks of temples, mosques, guruduaras, churches
     be burned in blind fire,
and upon those heaps of destruction
let lovely flower gardens grow, spreading their fragrance.
let children’s schools and study halls grow.
 
For the welfare of humanity, now let prayer halls
be turned into hospitals, orphanages, universities,
Now let prayer halls become academies of art, fine art centers,
          scientific research institutes.
Now let prayer halls be turned to golden rice fields
          in the radiant dawn,
Open fields, rivers, restless seas.
  
From now on, let religion’s other name be humanity. 

 

NOORJAHAN
    
  They have made Noorjahan stand in a hole in the courtyard.
  There she stands submerged to her waist, her head hanging.
  They’re throwing stones at Noorjahan,
  stones that are striking my body.
   I feel them on my head, forehead, chest, back,
  and I hear laughing, shouts of abuse.

  Noorjahan’s fractured  forehead pours out blood, mine also.
  Noorjahan’s eyes have burst, mine also.
  Noorjahan’s nose has been smashed, mine also.
  Noorjahan’s torn breast and heart have been pierced, mine also. 
 
        Are these stones not striking you? 
   
  They’re laughing aloud, laughing and stroking their beards.
 Even their caps, stuck to their heads, are shaking with laughter.
 They’re laughing and swinging their walking sticks.
 From the quiver of their cruel eyes,
 Arrows speed to pierce her body,
 My body also.

         Are these arrows not piercing your body?

THE GAME IN REVERSE

The other day in Ramna park I saw a boy buying a girl.

I‘d really like to buy a boy for five or ten taka,
a clean-shaven boy, with a fresh shirt, combed and parted hair,
a boy on the park bench, or standing on the main road
          In a curvaceous pose.

I’d  like to grab the boy by his collar
          and pull him up into a rickshaw –
tickling his neck and belly, I ‘d make him giggle;
bringing him home, I’d give him a sound thrashing
with high-heeled shoes, then throw him out –
           ‘”Get lost, bastard!”

Sticking bandages on his forehead,
he would doze on the sidewalks at dawn,
scratching scabies.
Mangy dogs would lick at the yellow pus
             oozing out of the ulcers in his groin.
Seeing them, the girls would laugh with their tingling sound
             of glass bangles breaking.

I really want to buy me a boy,
a fresh, nubile boy with a hairy chest –
I’ll buy a boy and rough him up all over.
Kicking him hard on his shriveled balls,
              I’ll shout, “Get lost, bastard!”

Was a poet ever kept in house arrest?

Taslima Nasreen

Was a poet ever kept in house arrest?
May be she has been a subject of politicking
True she caused clashes once in a while
May be an arson, too.
But no, a poet was never taken to safe custody.
This India, this civilization, this 21st century
They all had welcomed the poet
Ignoring its childish religionism, its merciless politics.
But today, the poet languishes in house arrest.
She has done no offense.

Having been deprived of the view of the sky
No longer she can tell how does the sky look like;
Deprived of the sight of men, no longer can she say how are folks today.
They have left leaving a world of darkness before the poet
They won’t return ever, they informed.

Today for the one hundred and fiftieth day, the poet languishes in safe custody
For one hundred and fifty days the poet is unaware
If this earth yet hosts any creature with a human soul
For one hundred and fifty days the poet is unsure
If she is alive or dead.

Whom she will approach to ask back these days for?
Facing darkness the poet ponders
Who will restore sunrays into her life?
Who is there to bring her back the song of life?

O man, tell me, all who suffered in house arrest
Most of them were poets, a big consolation will that be,
It will relieve the burden of my aloneness.
(Translated by Faizul Latif Chowdhury)

Shaheryar Ali

Though the Islamists, imperialist, fascists and their “softer” supporters, the conservatives, capitalist Liberals, are on the forefront of promoting the agenda of “clash of civilizations”. The people, the real people, the poor and workers of the world have repeatedly demonstrated their solidarity with each other, their rejection of religious hatred and fascism. The capitalist media which is known as “free” media, is on the forefront of promoting hatred. As Noam Chomsky has demonstrated in his remarkable study “Manufacturing Consent”, that this free media just plays the role of spreading hate and built public opinion , in favor of Imperialist wars. To sell , George Bush’s War on Terror [which is nothing but War of Terror], Media and others have built stereotypes have marginalized Muslims and Islam. A stupid thesis was put forward by HH cardinal Tony Blair that all this oppression and tyranny is some how to “defend our way of life”. To save the European values. He forgot that these are the “values of whole humanity” Europe has no doubt the leading role in building them but thanks to Modernity these are now “Human values”. With books, novels, films, tv a “simulacrum” was created , a “hyper-reality”, that suggest that some how a “great war” is going on, the Muslims and Christians are cutting each other throats, Europe and Islamic world is some how engaged in a “Armageddon”, their culture, values, life every thing is different. They cannot co-exist. All this is classical “de-realization” of reality.

People of the world demonstrated again and again, that they are not at war, their is no clash, but our “free media” and “Liberal Intellectuals” fail to see it. When Iraq was being attacked, Millions took to street in London, Berlin,Paris,Rome, where was the Hate? where was the clash? 3 million Christians, Jews and non-Muslim workers were on streets of London supporting a Muslim and Arab country.

The day was so remarkable that Derrida, the greatest philosopher of our times who was on his death bed wrote a Manifesto with Marxist Philosopher  Jurgen Habermas ;15 Feb1urary : What Binds the Europeans”. They called these demonstrations the “re-birth of Europe”, telling the Capitalist war warmongers what European values are.

This was a remarkable day that people of Europe whose “way of life” was supposedly in danger , took to streets demonstrating they reject this war. These were the largest demonstrations in history of Europe since 2nd world war.It was a sharp slap on the face to the Islamic fanatics as well who just like their European counterparts, with help of their media were projecting all this as “western attack on Islam”. They kept saying “Jews and Christians” are enemies, “they hate Islam”.

When Jews and Christan of Europe in millions were on streets opposing a war against a Muslim country, not even 2 dozen Muslims took to streets in  Islamabad, Jeddah, Riyadh, or Abu Dhabi.

Now once again, people of Europe have demonstrated their rejection of “clash of civilizations” theory. This report filled my heart with joy, it once again increased my faith on values of Enlightenment, humanity and progressive thought.

The right wing Fascist thugs of Europe had planned a “conference” against “Islamic threat” to Europe. “To stop the Islamic March” into Europe”The Grand European Anti Islamic Congress” was to be held at Cologne, the great German city.

When the fascist delegates landed on air port, they noted:

A. No taxi driver was ready to give them transport

B. No restaurant gave them a table

Thousands of German protesters, came out to protest against the Anti Islam Fascists. Once again Left organized a moving event. Which once again showed there is no clash of civilizations , this is an Imperialist War. Its clash of fanatics. This is the report published in International Marxist website.

“Grand European Anti-Islamic Congress” stopped in its tracks
By Walter Held in Cologne

 

 

 It had been planned as a central meeting of leading proto-fascists, right-wing populists and neo-nazis. A grand “European Anti-Islamic Congress” was scheduled to be held today Saturday 20th September in the huge German city of Köln – Cologne – on the banks of the river Rhine.Invitations had gone out to the Italian Lega Nord, the French Front National, the Austrian FPOe and the BZOe, the British National Party the Belgian Vlams Belang and others. Theme of the weekend “congress” at which the organisers confidently expected 1500 participants was a campaign against the “advance of Islam in Europe”.

The organisers belong to a political grouping called Pro-Köln. This rag tag and bobtail splinter group with a couple of dozen members picked up just under 5 per cent of the votes for Köln ’s city election and have a fraction of five councillors on the city council. These have a small basis amongst backward elements in the pubs and on the housing estates and have set up a campaign to fight against the building of a central mosque for the city’s Moslem population.

In fact most of the organisers are ex-members or secret members of extreme right-wing groupings like the Republikaner, the German League for Folk and Homeland and the NPD but they hide behind the new respectable organisation “Pro Köln”. As a front organisation the right are keen to set up similar groups in other German cities. The Congress this weekend was to be a signal of their presence and their growth.

Yesterday evening – Friday 19th – supporters of the congress started to arrive in Cologne. Confident that they had organised everything down to the last detail, they were aghast to discover that no taxi driver would take them to their destination, no restaurant honoured their table reservation and no hotel would give them keys to their rooms. They had to snatch a snack where they could under cover of darkness and sleep rough.

One group of right-wingers took a steamer trip down the river Rhine intending to hold speeches at various stop-off points but the vessel was stoned from the banks by demonstrators. When the captain discovered who his passengers were, he refused to take them near land and they spent five cold hours out in open water safe from the stones which had smashed several of his windows. Eventually he put them ashore. They tried and failed to get taxi drivers to take them on. Most taxi drivers nowadays are foreigners as are restaurant owners and waiters and they knew who they were dealing with.

As the sun rose this morning on the city, tens of thousands of Cologne residents started to converge on the city centre to join a massive demonstration of protest at the presence of the Right in their hometown. All the main political parties, the churches, the trade unions, immigrant groups had all called for support for the demo. At present as I write this there are around 40,000 foregathered in protest. A magnificent rebuttal of the claims of the tiny grouplet which claims to speak “for Cologne”.

Even the Christian Democrats who had effectively helped the Pro Köln group by voting with them against the plan to build a central mosque was forced to take part and the CDU mayor of the city Fritz Schramma had to give a speech condemning the European fascists. The trade union federation made excellent speeches, local bands played adaptations of well-known songs with new lyrics. All nationalities and generations are enjoying a day of anti-fascist solidarity.

Meanwhile at Cologne airport around 150 potential participants in the Grand Congress landed from abroad only to discover that they are still unable to leave the airport. Militant left-wingers are staging a sit-down on the rails of the airport/city shuttle trams. Taxi drivers refuse to move the rightists.

And back in the city centre, a right-wing rally on the Heumarkt – Haymarket – which had only attracted a few dozen demonstrators has just been summarily forbidden by the police because of a threat to the safety of Cologne’s citizens. The police union itself, in this traditionally cosmopolitan and hospitable city, is taking part in the anti-fascist demonstration with green Police Union banners a few hundred metres away at the main demo but a few dozen crazy ultra-lefts have been attacking the police as if they were the enemy!

So the Grand Congress to rally European anti-islamists has fizzled out in an embarrassing fiasco for the right. The unions, the SPD and the Left together with most of the ultra-left groups and others have done a tremendous job in organising the resistance. An inspiration for all

Shaheryar Ali

Yvette Rosser is a famous historian from Texas USA. Her field of expertise is South Asian History, especially the “education of History” in South Asia. She has wrote extensively on “Politics of Historiographies”  in SouthAsia. A scholar with Post-modern turn she is critical of traditional left, especially in India. She has written an article on Pakistani text books. How hate and prejudice is cultivated in young Pakistani minds. Recently this subject got a great media attention in Pakistan, with General Musharaff’s rhetorical “change in curricula” policy, which like all  of dictator’s policies proved to be nothing more than  a propaganda stunt.

The much “condemed” changes largely remain ineffective  and the Pakistani text books remain bigoted and prejudiced. Many Pakistani scholars have worked on this subject, Some of which are acknowledged in this article, Others are Dr KK Aziz and Mubarak Ali who have systematically worked on “Murder of History” theme in Pakistan.

Pakistani Textbooks: Politics of Prejudice

Yvette Rosser

All students in Pakistan are required to take courses called Pakistan Studies and must pass standardized tests based on that curriculum. Pakistan Studies is a compulsory subject in all secondary schools and colleges. There are numerous textbooks published under this title for the 9th class to the BA level. In general, the curriculum is a composite of patriotic discourses, justification of the Two-Nation Theory, hagiographies of Muslim heroes, and endemic in the discourse, polemics about the superiority of Islamic principals over Hinduism. The rubric in these textbooks must be learned by rote in order for students to pass the required exam.

Many students in Pakistan with whom I have spoken not only dislike this required course, but openly mock it. A student at a women’s college in Lahore told me that “Pak Studies classes were usually scheduled at five or six in the afternoon” and “hardly any students attend,” choosing instead to spend their time studying for “important classes such as Math or Urdu or English” which are held in the mornings. “Besides,” the student continued, “we’ve covered the Pak Studies material year after year, it’s just the same Lucknow Pact, Two-Nation Theory. . . we don’t have to study for the test, the Ideology of Pakistan has been drilled into us.”

Textbooks in Pakistan must first be approved by the Curriculum Wing of the Ministry of Education in Islamabad after which they are published by the provincial textbook boards located at Jamshoro in Sindh, Quetta in Balouchistan, Lahore in Panjab, and Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The social studies curriculum in Pakistan, as both product and propagator of the ”Ideology of Pakistan,” derives its legitimacy from a narrow set of directives. The textbooks authored and altered during the eleven years of General Zia-ul-Haq’s military rule between 1977 and 1988, are still in use in most schools. They are decidedly anti-democratic and inclined to dogmatic tirades and characterized by internal contradictions.
When discussing General Zia’alasting influence on the teaching of social studies in Pakistan, a principal at a woman’s college in Lahore told me a joke which she said was well known among intellectuals in the country, “General Zia– May He Rest in Pieces.” Indeed, after his airplane exploded in the sky, the pieces of his body were never found, along withthe American ambassador and several other top brass generals on board the fatal flight. The casket in Zia’s mausoleum near the beautiful FaizlMosque built with Saudi money in Islamabad, purportedly contains only his false teeth, jawbone, and eyeglasses. The remaining weight of his coffin is compensated with sandbags. There are, however, bits and pieces of Zia-ul Haq’s body politic littered across the Pakistani psychological, educational, political, and military landscape.
During the past three decades, the Pakistani military3 has helped to empower a vast cadre of politically motivated, religiously conservative Mujahideen, evidenced by the accelerating crisis in Kashmir, the war like situation in Kargil, airplane hijackings, and the Talibanization of madrass education. This continuing move towards Islamization is accentuated against the ominous backdrop of nuclear testing, missile development, failed diplomacy, and sporadic tit-for-tat acrimonious exchanges between India and Pakistan. The social studies curriculum in Pakistan employs a very narrow definition of Islam in the construction of Pakistani nationalism.
Islamizationis a controversial term with a variety of interpretations. There are subtle distinctions among usages of words such as Islamization, Islamic nationalism, Islamic Republic, Islamizing, that represent the manipulation and implementation of religious terminology and symbols as political tools. Both Maududi of the Jaamat-I-Islami and Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran saw Islamizationas a model for the world-wide community of Islamic Ummah, distinct from Islamic nationalism, which is “essentially a Western, non-Islamic, secular, and territorial concept that emphasizes patriotism and love of one’s nation-state, its sacred territory, political institutions and symbols”.5 A more thoroughly Islamized Pakistan, which would finally fulfill the true Shariat-ruled mandate inherent in the creation of an Islamic Republic was how General Zia constructed the meaning of his Islamization campaign, which he propagated and popularized as the inevitable evolution of Pakistani nationalism. Zia institutionalized a kind of paranoia about parading Islamic symbols, which were seen as essential for the survival of the nation-state. Unfortunately some of the strategies that Zia and his fundamentalist mullah supporters appropriated and propagated were based on narrow, medieval interpretations of Islam, which resulted in gender-biased attitudes and policies and militarized exhortations to take up arms for the sake of jihad.
The “Ideology of Pakistan’quot; is based on Islamic nationalism. Islamizationis what Zia called it, but not coincidentally. He was consciously pushing for stricter adherence to external expressions of religion, placating conservative forces, exerting social control, influencing social norms. Pakistan’s ideology of “Islamic nationalism,” still has a dynamic and powerful hold over the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis. Professor Mir Zohair Husain wrote in a personal communication:
Just because Zia used the word ‘Islamization’ time and again, doesn’t mean that he was successful in his so-called ‘Islamization’ of Pakistani political and economic institutions. While Pakistan’s governing elite may have been relatively liberal, pragmatic and secular, the majority of Pakistanis were always devout Muslims, and Pakistani culture was always ‘Islamic’ [and] thus didn’t need any further ‘Islamizing.’ If Zia’s so-called ‘Islamization’ of Pakistani society had actually occurred, Pakistanis would never have elected two relatively liberal, pragmatic, and secular Muslims to run Pakistan four times in 11 years in free and fair elections based on adult franchise–Benazir Bhutto (1988-1990, 1993-1996) and Nawaz Sharif (1990-1993, 1996-1999). General Pervaiz Musharraf, who usurped power on October 12th, 1999, is also a liberal and pragmatic Muslim, who has said that he admired Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey [who] is denounced by devout Muslims all over the world for being a secular dictator who tried to Westernize Turkey. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was not ‘actually working to establish an Islamic-dominated state.’ A ‘Muslim-led government’ is by no means the same thing as an ‘Islamic-dominated state!’ Most governments in the Muslim world are led by Muslims, but they are not Islamic regimes based on the Islamic Shariah (like Iran or Afghanistan [under the Taliban]).
Husain’s observation, contrasting the elites with the more “Islamized common” people highlights the irony of Zia’s efforts. Though this impetus to Islamizethe outward manifestations of social and political institutions was itself a reflection of a world-wide movement towards religious conservatism and fundamentalism within the Islamic community, the results of twenty years of Zia’s Islamization indoctrination programme has given rise to more women in burqas, a generation of Pakistani girls prevented by social conventions from riding bicycles, and militant mullahs preaching political jihad from their Friday pulpits. Though certainly, these expressions are part of the international trend among Muslims toward religious conservatism, Zia latched on to that and used it. The Islamization of Pakistan initiated during the eighties brought an end to the liberal secular ambience of the sixties and seventies, inherited from the sophisticated and educated father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam, when some women still wore saris to weddings and elbow-lengthsleeves were the norm in a hot climate, and girls still rode bicycles to the market. Middle-aged Pakistani women remember when hijab and traditional headgear was an anomaly.
Men in Pakistan have also adopted more Islamic expressions in their outward attire. Prior to the pressures exerted by Zia to Islamize all facets of society, Pakistani men who sported long beards and short pants could be seen on their way to pray at the Mosque, they were respected as either sincere Tabliqi practitioners or elderly gentlemen who had performed Haj. Now, as friend in Sindh told me, ‘Most of the men who dress up as mullahs are quacks and crackpots. Every dacoit, shopkeeper, middle class businessman, and rickshaw walawants to look like a mullah.’He added, ‘Twenty or thirty years ago Pakistani men were not judged by the length of their pants or their beards.’ Once social and political conventions become codified by conservative religious dictates, it is extremely difficult to break or oppose those newly imposed norms that quickly become sacrosanct and in fact, required of ‘true believers’. External expressions of Islamization, such as traditional Muslim fashion–beards and caps for males, burqas, purdah, or at least long-sleeved clothing for females–are also potent symbols of patriotism, proving one’s personal commitment to the Ideology of Pakistani.
Since the deadly terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, the popular media in the West has begun to pay attention to the vitriolic anti-American narratives that are pervasive in textbooks in several Islamic countries, including allies such as Saudi Arabia. For years, objective Pakistani scholars have warned that the textbooks in Pakistan were fomenting hatred and encouraging fundamentalism. For several decades now, textbooks in not only Pakistan, but many Islamic nations have promoted a radically restrictive brand of Islamic exclusivism, and exported that perspective to other nations as in the case of Pakistani born Taliban and their negative impact on Afghani society. In March 2001, an article I wrote appeared in The Friday Times, a weekly newspaper published in Lahore, Pakistan. In that article I warned of the imminent blowback of America’s foreign policies, in the 1980’s in South Asia.6 Unfortunately, the dire predictions became front-page news on September 11, 2001 and the Pakistani government will hopefully take some action to tone down the jihadi rhetoric that characterizes not only Islamic educational institutions but also the government sponsored social studies curriculum.
In the minds of a generation of Pakistanis, indoctrinated by the “Ideology of Pakistan’ are lodged fragments of hatred and suspicion. The story manufactured to further Zia’s ‘Be Pakistani/Buy Pakistani’ worldview is presented through a myopic lens of hyper-nationalism and the politicized use of Islam. According to Dr. Magsi, a psychiatrist at the Civil Hospital in Karachi, ‘When Civics classes teach negative values’ the result is a xenophobic and paranoid acceptance of authoritarianism and the denial of cultural differences and regional ethnic identities.’ In the past few decades, social studies textbooks in Pakistan have been used as locations to articulate the hatred that Pakistani policy makers have attempted to inculcate towards their Hindu neighbors. Vituperative animosities legitimize military and autocratic rule, nurturing a siege mentality. Pakistan Studies textbooks are an active site for negatively representing India and othering the Subcontinent’s indigenous past.
The teleological nature of the civic responsibility to create patriotic citizens finds a malleable tool in the social studies curriculum where myth and fact often merge. The many textbooks published in Pakistan under the title Pakistan Studies are particularly prone to the omissions, embellishments, and elisions that often characterize historical narratives designed for secondary level social studies classes. During the time of General Zia-ul Haq, social studies, comprised of history and geography, were replaced by Pakistan Studies, which was madea compulsory subject for all students from the ninth standard through the first year of college including engineering and medical schools. Curriculum changes, institutionalized during Zia’s Islamization campaign, required that all students also take a series of courses under the title Islamiyat, the study of Islamic tenants and memorization of Quranic verses. Committees formed under Zia’s guidance began to systematically edit the textbooks. The University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a directive in 1983 that textbook writers were
To demonstrate that the basis of Pakistan is not to be founded in racial, linguistic, or geographical factors, but, rather, in the shared experience of a common religion. To get students to know and appreciate the Ideology of Pakistan, and to popularize it with slogans. To guide students towards the ultimate goal of Pakistan’the creation of a completely Islamized State.7

Pervez Hoodbhoy and A.H. Nayyarpublished an article, ‘Rewriting the History of Pakistan’ in 1985 when Zia’s policies were in full swing. They commence with a near prophetic comment regarding the inevitable and eventual blowback from General Zia’s efforts to Islamize the educational system, ‘the full impact of which will probably be felt by the turn of the century, when the present generation of school children attains maturity.’8 Nayyar and Hoodbhoy explain that the UGC’s directives centered on four themes:

1. The ‘Ideology of Pakistan,’ both as a historical force which motivated the movement for Pakistan as well as its raison d’être

2. The depiction of Jinnah as a man of orthodox religious views who sought the creation of a theocratic state

3. A move to establish the ‘ulama’ ‘ as genuine heroes of he Pakistan Movement

4. An emphasis on ritualistic Islam, together with the rejection of interpretations of the religion and generation of communal antagonism 9
The broad expanse of South Asian history is a tabula rasaupon which Pakistani historians and policy makers have created the story of a new nation replete with cultural roots and ancient socio-religious trajectories. This manufactured view of the past narrates Pakistan’s emergence as an independent country: in just seven short years, under the enlightened guidance of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Quaid-e-Azam, the father of the country, Pakistan rose from the strife and oppression of religious communalism in Hindu dominated India to join the comity of modern nations. Nayyar and Hoodbhoyexplain, “The ‘recasting’ of Pakistani history [has been] used to ‘endow the nation witha historic destiny’.”10The story of Pakistan’s past is intentionally written to be distinct from and often in direct contrast with interpretations of history found in India.
In the early seventies, Z.A. Bhutto in a precarious political position, governing a drastically diminished territory, strove to win the support of the religious sectors of the population. He had the textbooks altered to placate these factions. An integrated Pakistan, one strong Islamic nation that could overcome separatist movements and prevent another splitting such as the creation of Bangladesh, was the mandate. To appease the conservative clerics, such policies as the declaration that Ahamadis11 were “non-Muslims” were enacted under Bhutto. Textbooks laid even greater stress on the Islamic perspective of historical events. Islamiyat was made a required subject up until class eight. The use of the phrase, “The Ideology of Pakistan” had already been inserted into social studies textbooks during Bhutto’s first term, and pre-Islamic South Asian history was obliterated. Despite all this, Bhutto gets no credit for Islamization, textbooks calling his efforts ‘too little, too late.’
The military coup that ended Bhutto’s second term and eventually his life brought his protégé General Zia-ul Haq to power. Islamization began in full measure. Non-Muslims, such as Hindus in rural Sindh, were madeto vote in separate electorates. Blasphemy laws were often used selectively against non-Muslims. The phrase “Ideology of Pakistan” was installed with vigor and the textbooks were rewritten by committee to reassert the Islamic orientations of Pakistani nationalism according to General Zia’s socio-political decrees. It has now been over a decade and a half since Zia was assassinated yet, the textbooks he caused to be authorized have survived four democratically elected governments, and the supposed de-jihadization campaign of General Musharraf, the propagandistictone of the historical narrative is still taught as absolute truth to the youth of Pakistan. Zia is depicted as benevolent and religious minded, a discourse that remains in the textbooks published through the 1990’s during the two tenures of his protégé, Nawaz Sharif. BenazirBhutto was too preoccupied withremaining in power to concern herself about the revision of curriculum, even concerning the dismal representation of her father in textbooks. Once a historical character or event is divinely sanctioned and anointed with religious significance, altering that discourse is difficult, almost apostasy.
From their government issued textbooks, students are taught that Hindus are backwards, superstitious, they burn their widows and wives, and that Brahmins are inherently cruel, and if given a chance, would assert their power over the weak, especially Muslims and Shuddras, depriving them of education by pouring molten lead in their ears.12 In their social studies classes, students are taught that Islam brought peace, equality, and justice to the Subcontinent and only through Islam could the sinister ways of Hindus be held in check. In Pakistani textbooks “Hindu” rarely appears in a sentence without adjectives such as politically astute, sly, or manipulative.