By Rooshanie Ejaz, HRS Lahore
Adnan was a very young boy in the final year of his studies at Peshawar University. He was listening to music in his dormitory room when another student walked by and decided that listening to music was inappropriate and that Adnan should stop. The difference between Adnan and the other boy was that the latter was a member of the IJT – Islami Jamiat Tulaba, a supposedly political student wing of the Jamat-e-Islami. I say supposedly, because the deeds of the IJT are well known throughout universities and colleges across Pakistan as anything but academically motivated.
Adnan got into a fight with the protesting boy: exam time was near, and tensions were high. Adnan managed to fend him off, but the boy summoned other members of the IJT to back him up. According to some accounts, he managed to gather over a hundred boys, who then proceeded to brutalize and eventually murder Adnan. The boy spent a week in the ICU, skull cracked, comatose, with his grieved family at his side, before he passed away on the 20th of March, 2010. No arrests have been made, as usual; the IJT followed a pattern that it has adhered to since the 1980s. It always attacks in a mob; it always attacks innocents without weapons; and someone always posts the bail of arrested members who are right back on the campus grounds before you know it.
The IJT now has a considerable history of violence. It says a lot about the future of education in Pakistan when a known terrorist organization has been allowed to continue brutalizing and policing the morality of students and professors for decades. It began during Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime, when the IJT actually set up “torture cells” on the campus of Punjab University for those who opposed their Islamization. This included not allowing anything to remain open on campus during prayer time, banning multinational goods in the campus canteen, and not allowing boys and girls to sit together. This absurdity went so far as to involve the harassment of a professor who sat with his wife at lunch!
President Musharraf, a somewhat liberal leader, did initiate a crackdown on the IJT, yet since his resignation the organization appears to be back in action. Recently at the Punjab University, Dr. Iftikhar Baloch was beaten into critical condition by IJT activists. The reason was simple: he was heading the committee responsible for expelling IJT activists with records of violence and non-compliance with formal university rules. Afte their expulsion, the IJT took to arms, beat him to a pulp, and ransacked the Vice Chancellor’s office. The university shut down in protest – a day that came to be knownas the darkest in the history of the teaching profession. No one was arrested.
Despite all this outrageous activity, Punjab government officials have not made so much as a single visit to the campus. The police force in charge of arresting the culprits claimed that the alleged IJT activists “escaped.” The truth is that the students who belonged to the IJT back in the day grew up to take over official positions, both at the university and various other organizations. And then there’s another thing that everyone knows: one need only pay an administrative professional at most government universities about 10,000 rupees to obtain a legitimate degree, with all the stamps and all the right signatures. That is where the crux of the problem probably lies. The IJT is a well-trained and organized terrorist wing. It knows how to lure would-be students into a life of ease by promising a degree and future jobs and affiliations simply by becoming a member of an “Islamic” organization. The organizers know that fervid young people succumb easily to mob psychology. What 18-year-old wouldn’t want to get out of having to study for exams? Here lies the root of corruption. Using religion as a means for politically brainwashing children and young people is a very dangerous – and very effective – tool employed by all terrorist organizations.
The danger of religious indoctrination at schools is also great because it takes the power out of the hands of teachers and school administration to do their job – teach. It’s one thing that schools don’t teach religion, yet an entirely different thing to prohibit acts of religious bigotry on educational grounds. Nowadays, especially in Europe, Muslim children obtain religious education outside their schools and then are sent off to school with the feeling that the school itself is their battleground. School is, in their minds, not a safe place, because that’s where they may be corrupted by Western influences. It’s not healthy for children to think that their place of learning isn’t absolutely safe and that their peers and teachers are not companions on the journey toward knowledge.
Whether it is madrassas training young boys to hate all other religions or Jesus Camp calling Harry Potter the Devil’s work – or even hijab on three-year-old girls in schools – religion has no place in a child’s education.