About Me

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An academic, a researcher and writer.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Sexual abuse in Pakistan

A friend recently sent me this email, ' I was shocked to learn from a VOA Radio Broadcast
that in Pakistan ( according to a poll ) every fourth
child is likely to suffer rape or sodomy. Where are
we heading.    Ai Khuda Batha, Batha !!!!!'.... To this I replied:
This is not unexpected. With entertainment opportunties shrinking by the day: no play grounds, no theatres, no cinemma houses,no public parks, no opportunities for any other form of socialisation what else can one expect from young people with enormous amounts of energy in their bodies? Combine this with our repressive, exclusivist tendencies and with the increasing number of unemployed and un-educated millions of our youth. Increaingly male members of our society cannot marry before they are into their late 30's, sometimes even 40' and above. All legal ways to satisfy this natural drive called sex are closed. Our maulanas try their best to frighten people of the various 'azaabs' if they indulge in 'zina' etc but to no avail because there are no alternative avenues. The outcome of this suppression, deprivation and the consequent frustration is a stale society fixated either on renunciation of the world or on going for the gratification of the sexual drive. Sodomy is more prevalent in our society than female rape for it is easier and 'safer' to cope with the consequences if caught in this case. An 'empty mind is the devil's workshop', as they say. Personally, I have been observing that in schools those boys (if girls are reading this, they can come up with their own version of the story. I'll be happy to hear about that side of the picutre as well) are more prone to sexual tendencies who do not take part in sports, games and other entertainment/co-curricular activities. Extreme form of gender segregation is also one big source of this suffocation in the society we live in. A false sense of superficial morality is deeply in place.  Mere sermons from our clerics and a fear of 'Jahannum' won't do the job, otherwise no madrasa child would have been a victim but that is not the case (quite the opposite perhaps). We need to give positive, creative direction to the energies at the disposal of our youth.But who are WE?

Ilyas

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Medium of instruction: the non issue

Medium of instruction: the non issue

By Muhammad Ilyas Khan



Recently (October 13, 2010), one read an article, ‘Language in Education’ on the editorial pages of Dawn, an English language Pakistani newspaper, ( available at http://epaper.dawn.com/ArticleText.aspx?article=13_10_2010_007_009 ) by Zubeida Mustafa in which the writer argues against the use of English-as-a-medium of instruction  in our educational institutions and instead emphasizes the use of ‘mother tongue’ for the purpose.  It is difficult to understand the logic of writers who write in English against English. They would argue that their argument is not against teaching English as a language but against its use as a medium of instruction. Unfortunately that is not the case as most often advertently or inadvertently they end up throwing the baby out with the bath water. Anti-everything-Western demagogues then jump on the band wagon, conveniently over-stepping that blurred line between rejecting English-as-a-language-of-instruction and English as a language that needs to be taught and learnt in order for our people to go shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world and turn the 'English writing' (liberal) intellectuals' argument against English-as-a-medium of instruction at whatever-level into an argument for its complete annihilation from our education system.
Associating lack of Pakistani students' conceptual understanding with the use of English as a medium of instruction is a claim without any systematic research. Conceptual understanding or lack of it has much more to do with an entire system of pedagogy, instruction and a whole culture of teaching and learning in our educational institutions rather than just being an outcome of the use of English as a medium of instruction. This is simplistic to connect every dot in our students' lack of conceptual understanding to the single point of the 'unfortunate' use of English as a medium of instruction.
The author brings in the work of Dr Tariq Rahman in defence of her argument for the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction. One needs to keep in mind that Dr Rahman is more of a linguist/historian rather than an educationist. Much of his work revolves around the threat of extinction that the many regional languages face in Pakistan, keeping in view the dominance of other languages such as Urdu and English. A linguist's primary concern is the understanding and survival of language and not its scientific investigation in terms of its use for educational/pedagogical purposes.
The author seems to suggest that English is used by the power grabbers as a tool of attaining power against those who do not have any access to the language. If that is true, I fail to understand how can that be dealt with by taking English (a language of power) further away from the vast majority of students who go to state run schools? The author associates the acquisition of English by the elite with their grabbing of power and privilege and yet seems to suggest that the vast majority of commoners should further go away from English? Strange logic though. A more logical conclusion would be this: If English is used by the elite to perpetuate their power and privilege due to their proficiency in the language and because of the association of English with the attainment of power and status, the poor should be given an equal chance to learn this 'language of power' instead of making efforts to take this 'language of power' further away from them.
The author seems to suggest that because a majority of teachers don't have the capacity to teach their subjects by using English as a medium of instruction, therefore, it should be shunned as one. Interesting, that very point i.e. the lack of English language proficiency of Pakistani teachers in terms of its use as a medium of instruction turns her argument on its head. Let me explain. These teachers that the author refers to, try their best to teach their subjects in English but when they fail to do so, they actually resort to explaining concepts in either the mother tongue of the students or in Urdu. Thus in reality there is not much use of English-as-a-medium-of-instruction in a majority of state run educational institutions and even the so-called English medium schools save a very few 'elite' exceptions! So what is it that we are arguing against then? The reality is this: it’s not simply the use of one language or another as a medium of instruction that is hampering the conceptual understanding or creativity of students in our 'educational' institutions. The matter is not so simple. It’s a whole culture of ignorance about the very concept of EDUCATION. It’s much more than that. It’s an extremely intricate issue, full of complexities and finer lines.
As far as English is concerned, it is a language of power, 'a language of today and of tomorrow', to quote a former vice chancellor of Peshawar University. This is a reality that we need to accept. It is a misunderstanding that it is only Pakistanis who are striving to excel in this language. It’s the whole world. Thousands of students from China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and numerous middle Eastern countries, in fact students and teachers from every nook and corner of the world, are studying in Western universities and their subject of choice usually at the graduate or postgraduate and doctoral level is English teaching and learning. When the whole world is going in one direction, it doesn't seem very plausible to go in the opposite. It will be like turning the clock back. We have already turned it back in many other spheres of our life and not one for the better it seems.

The writer is a PhD student at the University of Leicester, UK

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

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Saturday, 4 September 2010

Public Service Commission impressions

I worked in the Public Service Commision as an advisor and as a representative of the IER, University of Peshawar for about two months and what a 'TAMAASHAA' (Spectacle doesn't convery the real sense here) it was! Many of these 'old horses' kept asking absurd and absolutely ridiculous questions from the hapless interviewees, almost the same set of questions from every Tom, Harry and Dick, without taking into consideration their subject of specialisation. Translate 'Aj gosht ka naghaa hai' into English was the absolute standard of one such member of the selection committee, for failing or passing candidates. Another one was stuck with asking mathematical lacunae from anyone under the sun, no matter whatever subject he/she had graduated in. Another one was obsessed with asking about 'Hajj ke Faraaiz' from every Khan, Majnoon or Laila. He failed a number of candidates just on the grounds that they didn't know 'Hajj ke Faraaiz'! And passed a candidate who was otherwise so so, but was able to narrate 'Hajj ke faraaiz' in no time. Amused, I asked the candidate, if he ever went to perform Hajj. And he said 'yes'!! There was another 'examiner/member' in the PCS who would ask every candidate, again notwithstanding his/her subject of study, to draw 'Pakistan ka naqshaa'! Only one candidate was able to do that and he was selected! Its another matter that the candidate was actually selected as an Urdu teacher and not as a Geography one! There is a lot more but I feel its enough for the time being

My newspaper articles

My newspaper articles


http://jang.com.pk/thenews/sep2008-weekly/nos-07-09-2008/pol1.htm#8







http://www.dawn.com/weekly/education/archive/060212/education1.htm







http://www.dawn.com/weekly/education/archive/080120/education1.htm







http://www.dawn.com/weekly/education/archive/081005/education1.htm







http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jun2008-weekly/education-07-06-2008/index.html

Religion

An exchange with a friend on the role of religion


Dear S



How can religion meet the challenges of 'socio-economic disorder'? What do you mean by the phenomenon of a 'fully functional' religion? What do you mean by 'structural and revolutionary reforms followed by religion'?, What is a healthy life here? How can it remove factors responsible for 'anomic' conditions in Pakistan? Do you think all the economically prosperous and more just and peaceful societies in the present world are so because of the 'role of religion'? or is it that they have completely set aside religion in the affairs of the state?



Regards,



Ilyas



Dear Ilyas,





Well thanks for you comments and concern.







I am not saying that religion is the only tool to prevent from evils in society but it is one of the most powerful and effective indicator to deal with people. You can see the Madrassa system in Pakistan ; it has structural and functional issues that are why now a days people avoid sending their children there because they feel there children will be trained as suicide bombers there. At present only economy is not the issue, my concern is to highlight the social disintegration in society and religion can play a very useful role to elevate this disintegration and to turn it in a collective society.



Regards,



S





Dear S,



Thanks for your response. I respect your take on the issue but history says it another way. Social disintegration has most often been a consequence of economic disintegration, which has been a consequence of the lack of justice in the society, which has been a consequence of two most important factors: lethargy/fatalism and renunciation of the this worldly life. Unfortunately religion (mullayiat actually) exactly plays a role of that of a facilitator in all of this. Logically speaking then its not lack of religiosity in our society but an overdose of it which is tearing the society apart. Your thesis is based on the assumption that religion can turn the society into a 'whole'. Well the case in point: in Pakistan, its the very opposite. With sectarian, exclusivist tendencies, religion is tearing our society apart and has actually turned it into an active battle ground. I don't know if that can be termed as 'wholeness' of the society and if there will be lesser 'wholeness' in the absence of religion.



Regards,



Ilyas

Education and exclusion

During the developmental stages of the present Education Policy (in 2006 perhaps), it was opened for debate/deliberation among people in the education sector on the grassroots level. One such deliberations session was held in the Khyber Medical College, Peshawar in which teachers/educationists and stakeholders from schools, colleges and universities in the province took place. I was teaching at the IER University of Peshawar and was asked by my HOD to attend the session on his behalf. I was included in the group which deliberated on 'The aims of Education'. The first question that we were asked to delibrate on was: What should be the first aim of Education? I was selected as a representative of my group and I proposed that the first aim of education should be 'The development of a good HUMAN BEING'. I was confronted with an uproar of opposition from the whole gathering of 'educationists' consisting of headteachers, DEO's, EDO's, Teachers, Principals and students, all of them proposing instead that the first aim of education should be 'The development of a good MUSLIM' and not a good HUMANBEING!. When I tried to tell them that the National Education policy should represent not just muslims in Pakistan but every Pakistani who is a citizen of the state, I was shouted down by a few firy ones among them as a 'dictator' who wanted to impose his views on the majority of the attendents. There were a few who tacitly agree with my view but did not come up in my support openly. Consequently I had to relent and the 'majority' prevailed in fixing the first aim of education as 'The development/creation of a good MUSLIM'. Ms Zubeida Mustafa(http://epaper.dawn.com/ArticleText.aspx?article=14_07_2010_007_007) is pointing out that deeper malaise. Its not just the madrassa. Probably that is insignificant in comparison to the prevalence of the ideology of 'exclusion' in the mainstream education system in Pakistan.

Looking inward

How long are we are going to put all the blame on others for our mostly self-inflicted destruction? Is it Tom, Harry, or Dick (Wester/American names) who is burning our schools, destroying our institutions, killing and maiming our innocent children in schools and bazars or those of our suicide mujahids who are on the highway to heaven, who are out to destroy us? This destruction is more a result of the 'self-archestrated' ignorance, corruption and dishonesty among muslim nations than a result of 'the war of sequential destruction'.The author says 'Under coercion, Pakistan has started a civil war that will consume its economy, national security, and tear apart its social fabric'. Isnt it that the economy, national security and social fabric that the author is worried about had already been 'consumed' by those international jihadis who were/are actually occupying parts of Pakistan ,illegally and playing havoc with its 'economy, national security and social fabric'? We need to come up with more rational, analytical answers to our mutifold problems as a nation than just putting all blame on outside forces. If we do that we will probably find 'most' causes of the destruction of 'muslim nations' inside and that would be the beginning of the reform.This doesnt absolve 'the international community' of their responsibility and their share in all of this destruction and they must be held responsible for that. But to put all the blame on others for the 'muslim nations' destruction is not the answer.

2The Reflective Teacher

Wednesday, 4 August


What is reflection?



Before considering the concept ‘reflective teacher’ and the process of preparation of the ‘reflective teacher’, let us look at a preliminary definition of the term ‘reflection’ in its educational context. Reflection as a concept in the educational milieu has its origin in the philosophy of John Dewey, a highly influential twentieth century educationist who made a distinction between a ‘routine’ action driven by tradition, habit, and authority and ‘reflective’ action which ‘involves a willingness to engage in constant self-appraisal and development’ (Pollard &Tann,1987 p.4). According to Dewey(1933) as cited by (Grant & Zeichner, 1984, p.4) reflection is that ‘behaviour which involves active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or practice in light of the grounds that support it and further consequences to which it leads’. The term ‘reflection’ as used in this context carries a special connotation and should not be taken as a typical dictionary word which means simple thinking or deliberation. It is a specific ‘behaviour’, ‘frame of mind’ and ‘attitude’ of an individual or an organisation which requires ‘the development of several attitudes and abilities, such as introspection, open-mindedness, and willingness to accept responsibility for their (the reflective practitioners’) decisions and action’ (Ross, D.D.1989, p.22).



Levels of reflection:

Reflection has been described at various levels. Van Manen (1977) has put forward three levels of reflection: technical, interpretive and critical (Munby& Russell 1993). El-Dib,M (2007), elaborating on the original concept of Van Manen(1977), says that at the technical level teachers using reflection are “primarily concerned with applying knowledge in order to achieve predetermined educational objectives”p.3. This means at the ‘technical’ level reflection is concerned with the teaching method and the way the teaching-learning process is carried out. Further reflection at the ‘technical’ level does not take into consideration the evaluation of educational objectives. In the words of Manen (1977) “On this level the practical refers to the technical application of educational knowledge and of basic curriculum principles for the purpose of attaining a given end” p.226

The second level of reflection i.e. interpretive reflection goes beyond the scrutiny of the application of means and examines the efficacy of means towards the achievement of goals and ends. As Manen says “At this level of the practical the focus is on an interpretive understanding both of the nature and quality of educational experience and of making practical choices” (ibid, pp 226-7). The third level of reflection also termed as critical reflection, besides considering the first two concerns takes into account the moral, ethical and political criteria and examines practices for justice, equity and morality (Hatton & Smith 1994, Gore & Zeichner, 1991; Adler, 1991). According to El-Dib, M (2007), at this highest level of reflection “the teacher is not simply concerned with the goals, activities and assumptions behind them but he is rather reflecting upon the larger context where all education exists. He is incorporating moral and ethical questions into his line of thinking” p.26. Manen (1977) associating the highest level of reflection with a concern for the ‘worth’ of educational goals and experiences says, “ On this level the practical addresses itself reflectively to the question of the worth of knowledge and to the nature of the social conditions necessary for raising the question of worthwhileness in the first place”p.227. Reflection at the critical level or ‘critical reflection’ is ‘a process of becoming aware of one’s context, of the influence of societal and ideological constraints on previously taken-for-granted practices, and gaining control over the direction of these influences.’ (Calderhead, 1989 p.44). Zeichner (1987) building on Van Manen’s ideas, associates terms such as teacher as a ‘technician’ when his primary concern is accomplishment of ends decided by others, as ‘craftsperson’ when he associates classroom actions with educational goals and as ‘moral craftsperson’ who is able to show concern for moral and ethical implications of the educational process.



The reflective teacher



The discussion so far gives us some idea of the reflective teacher as someone who constantly thinks and experiments on both the means and ends of educational process. A reflective teacher is one who exhibits qualities of strategic thinking, one who can look through things and events in proper perspective. Such an individual is one who is open to new ideas and multiple possibilities, sometimes even contradictory to his own long-held beliefs and values and will welcome truth no matter how bitter the taste might be to him as an individual or as part of an organisational, social or political group. Not just that the reflective practitioner (teacher in this case) accepts full responsibility for the ‘what and how’ of his actions. This responsibility, however, does not come without its reward in the form of ‘liberty’ and ‘autonomy’ to the teacher as an active, productive and responsible citizen. A reflective and hence ‘liberated’ teacher is someone who is ‘free from unwarranted control of unjustified beliefs, unsupportable attitudes, and the paucity of abilities which can prevent that person from completely taking charge of his or her life’ Siegel(1980,p.16, quoted by Zeichner &Liston, 1987,pp.23,24). In fact such a teacher has the ability to make independent decisions, to provide leadership both in terms of curriculum development and implementation besides being actively involved in the process of the social, moral and political evolution of a society. A reflective teacher is thus not a mere passive disseminator of ‘factual knowledge’ and curriculum handed over by the policy makers and bureaucrats but one who actually creates knowledge. He does not take knowledge as written in textbooks and other policy documents for granted but questions and searches for its social, moral and political relevance and adjusts the aims and means of curriculum according to the changing circumstances and the demands of particular educational environment.



What are the characteristics of a reflective teaching process?



Pollard &Tann drawing on the original notion of reflective action as enunciated by Dewey (1933) have identified the following as the four essential characteristics of the reflective teaching process:

1. Reflective teaching implies an active concern with aims and consequences, as well as with means and technical efficiency.

2. Reflective teaching combines enquiry and implementation skills with attitudes of open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness.

3. Reflective teaching is applied in a cyclical or spiralling process, in which teachers continually monitor, evaluate and revise their own practice.

4. Reflective teaching is based on teacher judgement, informed partly by self-reflection and partly by insights from educational disciplines (Pollard &Tann, 1987, pp.4, 5)



Preparation of the reflective teacher:



Teacher preparation programmes have traditionally been based on technicism i.e. preparation of teachers as ‘technicians’ by providing them ‘practices’ and ‘drills’ in certain ‘ready-made’ techniques of teaching. During the 1980s, however in Europe, Australia and in the USA a new approach to teacher education emerged, as a result of the growing concern about the utility of the old traditional system based on the positivist-behaviourist paradigm of professional training.This approach is characterised by the concept called reflective teaching methods. As a result teacher preparation got frequently associated with reflective practices such as action research by the student teachers, journal writing, seminars, reflective dialogues and discussions and other inquiry oriented teaching techniques. This means greater independence on the part of the student teacher and lesser routine and controlled approaches to teacher preparation programmes. The outcome was “a shift from a general theory about good teaching towards more appreciation for the individuality of each teacher.” Korthagen & Russell (1995)



Preparation of reflective or ‘thoughtful’ teachers as opposed to ‘thoughtless’ teachers: teachers driven by tradition and authority has since been promoted as a most important goal of the teacher education programmes. Cruickshank (1987), Schon(1983,1987,1989).



The Pakistani context:



In Pakistan like many developing countries the concepts of reflective teaching and reflective teacher education are not very well established where still the traditional models of ‘technical rationality’ and ‘teacher-as-a technician’ are in vogue. As a result teacher education programmes are highly centralized and apprenticeship oriented. Consequently ‘many practicing teachers are still not aware of ‘reflection’ or ‘reflective practice’ (Ashraf&Rarieya, 2008, p.269). The traditional ‘transmission’ model of teaching where student teachers are reduced to the status of passive learners who are there to receive packages of ‘facts’ and ‘techniques’ are still in vogue in most teacher education programmes in Pakistan. Most of the student teachers find these training courses out of context and unrelated to the demands of practical teaching once they join formal teaching in schools. Such programmes usually fail to prepare teachers capable of critical thinking, independent inquiry, and reflective context-based decision making. It would therefore be unrealistic to expect teachers prepared in this way to inculcate such values (the ultimate aim of education) in their students if they themselves lack on them. It, therefore, is highly in order that there should be a shift in our teacher education programmes from the ‘technical-rational’ paradigm based on worn out traditional models to the ‘reflective’ paradigm based on critical thinking, independent inquiry, context-oriented learning and continuous testing of educational theories and practices as far as means and goals of education and the teaching-learning processes are concerned. An outcome of such a shift would be teachers who will be able to actively, persistently and carefully consider beliefs and practices ‘in light of the grounds that support it and further consequences to which it leads’. Keeping in view the present level of ideological lunacy due to long term indoctrination, such teachers are needed more than ever before.

Righting the wrong of our history

Our relatively younger generation , who have been growing up during Zia's era like myself and who have been fed on indoctrination in the form of school textbooks specially books on Pakistan studies and social studies; who have been kept away from facts in an era when people didnt have much exposure to print and electronic media; and consequently who can see only one side of the picture(perhaps the dark one), would immensely benefit, if knowledgeble people senior people in Pakistan would bring on record, their reflections on what actually happend during those dark ages, and why are we now, where we are? I think this would be a great service to our people. We need to know facts and to tell those to our children and our students in schools, colleges and universities. I feel we are going to dogs as a nation because our rulers have been trying for too long to keep our people in the dark to deceive and exploit them. I feel this nation has been fed on hollow jingoism and self-righteousness for too long. That is why we cant see things beyond ourselves. We cant see any good anywhere else in the whole wide-world. So much so that we have lost the ability to learn from others the good things that we can, while intelligently keeping our hands off their bad things. Now we need to turn the corner for we have been moving for too long in the wrong direction. For that we need to keep our eyes and our ears open. We need to train our younger generation to be their own selves, to think for themselves, to decide for themselves, to develop a positive outlook on life and on humanity as a whole, to look at others critically but not with contempt, but with an open mind. To understand before criticising, rejecting and ultimately hating. We can be different while at the same time not pose as enemies to the whole world. That surely is not a wise way (not even a viable one) of living in today's world. I remember some western sage saying something like this 'Islam is the best religion with the worst followers'. Sometimes I personally feel the most unlucky aspect of Islam is that today this 'intellectually' most appealing religion is represented predominantly by people who have no understanding either of Islam or the modern complicated and complex world! Now combine 'this' Islam with our predominantly corrupt political culture and the level of our ignorance and hypocricy and the recipe is a lethal brew, a recipe for disaster, the results of which are now very obvious. WE NEED TO KNOW THE FACTS OF OUR PAST NATIONAL LIFE IF WE WANT TO SURVIVE!

The Socrates Triple Filter Test

The Socrates Triple Filter Test




In ancient Greece , Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem.

One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said,

"Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"

"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied..

"Before telling me anything, I'd like you to pass a little test.

It's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?"

"That's right," Socrates continued.

"Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a

moment and filter what you're going to say.

That's why I call it the triple filter test."

"The first filter is TRUTH.

Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and..."

'All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not.

Now let's try the second filter, the filter of GOODNESS.

Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"

"No, on the contrary...."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, but you're not certain it's true. You may still pass the test though, because there's one filter left:

the filter of USEFULNESS.

Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates,

"if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful,

why tell it to me at all?"

Friends, use this triple filter each time you hear loose talk about any of your near & dear friends.

Secular humanism

The message in (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIHk4_7l-yY&feature=player_embedded) is positive and welcome but I dont think religion or metaphysics in their essence would stand in the way of what Paul Kurtz call 'Secular Humanism'. It is only obscurantism, bigotry and myopism that's the enemy of both humanism (secular or otherwise) and mytaphysics...




"So, you young men (and women) out there, I commend you your spit and vinegar. Go out, sharpen your minds, arm yourselves to the teeth with the beauty and the power afforded through mastery of secular disciplines; science, math, philosophy, history. Never subjugate your independent,rationale and awesome intellects to the doctrine or dogma of others. But I would hope for each of you, that when and if the time comes, that you can be objective and rational when you are confronted with experiences that can not be explained or mastered via the tools with which you have equipped yourselves. When and if that time comes, I implore you:



Do not make the mistake of assuming that that which you cannot see does not exist.

Do not make the mistake of accepting that that which you cannot understand can not be experienced.



Do not make the mistake of submitting that that which you cannot master completely cannot be harnessed for your benefit.

Do not make the mistake of believing that that which you can not imagine cannot be made real.



I believe that we have all suffered from the imposition of and indoctrination by the dogma and doctrine of the religious mainstream. I am heartened that we are taking back control of our thought processes, values and ideas. But we are capable of mastering both conceptual and empirical pursuits. One is not subversive to the other. The warrior armed with both shield and sword will always fare better in battle that the warrior armed with but one.

Such has been my experience, at least."



To the above someone come up with the following questions: ok, Ilyas, here are some of my questins



1. Why do you mention about religion and metaphysics after you listen to the song? For me it’s just a simple love song.



2. What is secular humanism? I checked on line and read the explanation, but still don’t know what that is? Can you give me an example?



3. I commend you your spit and vinegar. Is there any other meaning for spit and vinegar?



4. Metaphysics: I have heard this terms for many many times since I was a college studnet, but never understand what it means, we once discussed about the matter of existence, you showed me your hand from the pocket and wanted me to guess what is inside? Frankly speaking, I think this guy is insane, your aberrant behavior caused me worry about your sanity, but the more I listen to you, the more i am interested in what you are saying. It seems there are some points, so I become patient then, after a while, You began to talk about the God, the existence of God? I lost my patience again. I rather believe that GHOSTS are everywhere.



I wonder why do people have a wild religion enthusias, why do people go to church, temples, mosques on a regular basis? if all the religions teach people to be good, why not just doing the right things without the guidance from god. I digress a bit from the topic, but still, what is metaphysics? It’s so controversial that even the scholars can’t reach concensus, right?????







5, i will hold my last question since i am so tired now. will ask later...



My response:



1. After listening to which song?

2. Humanism which is not in need of any particular religion or even religion. So a believer in Secular Humanism cares for HUMANITY without taking into consideration anyones religious affiliations. And I'll love/ take care of you as a human being not as a muslim, or christian or Hindu or a follower of any other religion, creed or ideology.

3. Spit and vinegar: ' It means everything from having a little spunk or a little fun, to taking a stand for yourself or someone else'

4. Smiles me insane...you were so right! Now...METAPHYSICS! Well begin with this : "Metaphysics- Derived from the Latin word meta which means beyond, metaphysics would literally mean that which is beyond the laws of physics." So what is it that goes beyond the laws of physics? That's for you to think princess!

5. Now what's your fifth question???

Love and (dis)honour

A friend writes in an email : "At stone's throw from my house a very young man


has been shot dead ~~his fault, loving a girl, perhaps

related to him, in another village. I am sure the girl will

also be disposed off sooner than later. The weaker vessel

is generally so treated here. Ghani Khan in his book ''The Pathan''

which he wrote about 70 yrs ago remarks about the Pakhtoon,

" He will sell his old wife to buy a new rifle."

If this is how we treat love, the fountainhead of all that is good in human

nature then Nature has a good case for emptying its reserve of calamities

on this province of the brutal Pakhtoons. And, as we say in Pashtu the green

and the dry will burn down together in wildfire."



My response: "The problem is not the 'treatment of love', I am not generalizing it to every Pukhtoon as educated and enlightened sections in our soceity would think and act differently but the real problem is our false concept of honour, our male chauvinism and most of all our 'hypocricy' and double standards. So I, as a Pukhtoon male, would take pride if someone else's sister falls in love with me and will readily boast about it in the circle of my friends. But if my sister falls in love with someone, I'll consider it as a dishonour and will kill her. The same will I do to a man who dares to show a feeling of love to my sister. This mindset is added by our myopic vision and hence by killing our sister or her lover we, in the process, instead of restoring our honour, only expose ourselves in front of others on the one hand and become murderers on the other. I feel only an education which develops rational thinking is our way out of this ignorance."

Posted by Muhammad Ilyas Khan............. Email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com

Libraries (and priorities) ours and theirs

Libraries (and priorities) ours and theirs




By Muhammad Ilyas Khan



Peshawar, once ‘a city of flowers’ beauty, peace and tolerance has become the centre-stage of bigotry, extremism and violence. For its more than two million people, there is only one public library which is in real poor shape, with almost obsolete facilities and most of the books lying on its worn out shelves are outdated for any practical use. The library is first and foremost used as a reading room by the jobless youth for a look at the job advertisements in the few newspapers lying on a table there. These daily newspapers are probably the only up-to-date reading material available in the lonely public library of this huge city! Now contrast that with this one: Leicester city in England is the city where I am studying for my PhD for the last two years. The total population of the city is just about three hundred thousands i.e. only about one-tenth of the population of Peshawar. This small city has 24 well-equipped, well-resourced and excellently organized public libraries. Besides there are many libraries present in the numerous schools, colleges, universities and other educational centres of the city.

The catalogue of latest and up-to-date books cover almost all aspects of life from education to medicine, politics to economics, philosophy to religion, history to economy, and literature to linguistics; in short on virtually any field of human knowledge. Books, CD’s and DVD’s are available for small children, for juveniles, for the young adults and researchers and for the old scholars; books for serious study and for leisure and entertainment. Promotion of reading is the sacred aim of these libraries and they are doing their job with utmost honesty, dedication and enthusiasm. The extremely friendly and efficient employees would go to any length and breadth to seduce people to read. If you have any mobility or access problem and cannot come to the library you call or email the Home Library Service and they are at your door step to provide you with reading needs.



The libraries extend the facility to every member to borrow up to twelve books at a time for up to three weeks, and this borrowing period can be extended just by one phone call, online or through an email. Keeping in view the multi-cultural and multi-lingual character of the British society and the metropolitan make-up of their socio-economic fabric books are available in these libraries in more than twenty different languages. Books and other reading material can be reserved, or renewed by phone, on- line or in person twenty four hours, seven days a week.



The libraries have sections for children, young people, teenagers and families, where they can share in all kinds of activities such as storytelling, socializing, competitions. There are also books, videos and even ‘talking books’ available for toddlers and babies. For 0-3 year olds there are ‘Free Book Start’ packs! Then there are mobile libraries (library set up in a beautiful colourful van) for young children, which make regular rounds of the various parts of city to provide books and other reading material to young children at their homes.



Every library is equipped with computer and internet facilities which are free to use. “Don’t worry if you’ve never used a computer before, mice don’t bite…neither do librarians! We’re here to help beginners & people of all ages”. All details of library books and other material and resources are available online twenty four hours. The spirit behind this excellent library structure throughout the UK is the importance that people and governments in the developed world give to the intellectual development and promotion of knowledge among its populace. It gives one an idea about their priorities and the direction that they are moving in.



But where are our priorities? A look around the city of Peshawar tells me the direction of our priorities. During the rule of the previous government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa millions of rupees were spent on constructing a magnificent provincial assembly building and on erecting many replicas of missiles in various public spots in Peshawar besides consuming enormous amount of paint on blackening off every female face on billboards and embarking on a jihad against ‘female’ mannequins in bridal dress centres . Would that that money had been spent on establishing a few well-equipped libraries in the city. Ironically that provincial government of the pious ‘won’ the election with ‘book’ as their election symbol.





Now that much water has flown under the bridge since then we have to say ‘no’ to our old guns and bombs with which we are slaughtering only ourselves and say ‘yes’ to books! China, Japan and Germany are excellent examples of the success this course can bring. In the meantime the west and the developed world, if they are really sincere in their slogan of eliminating terror and war, too, have to change their course. Bombs and guns are not going to take them to their goal of a peaceful world (if that is the aim); a helping hand from them in our endeavour to educate our illiterate millions will surely help. A missile costs millions and adds only to ignorance and extremism, working against its very purpose. A library costs much less and like a candle reduces the strength of that darkness!





Imran Khan put in his name, fame and energy to build us the cancer hospital, Ibrarul Haq is doing a great job in the same field. Shahzad Roy and Jawad Ahmad are serving us by establishing and supporting schools and Abdul Sattar Edhi gave us the emergency relief and other humanitarian services. Inzamam-ul-Haq (who a while ago came to the city of Leicester on a Tableeghi mission and I had the good luck of shaking his hand and listening to his sermon in a mosque), Junaid Jamshed and Saeed Anwar are out on their proselytising mission. Wouldn’t it be a great idea for them to turn their attention to the establishment of libraries in this country starving for the light of knowledge, besides calling people towards virtue and against vice in the far off lands? And Jansher Khan,Shahid Afridi, Younas Khan and Rahim Shah and other such men and women of means and fame can do a lot in this regard for Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan, Nowshehra and Abbotabad and many other cities and towns of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which is burning with the fire of ignorance and starving for the light of learning.



The writer is a PhD student at the University of Leicester, UK.

Email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com

Posted by Muhammad Ilyas Khan............. Email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com

My dream for Pakistan by Muhammad Ilyas Khan

I would like to highlight my ideal of Pakistan as a country:




1. Education should be at the top of our priority list with at least 20 percent of our annual budget spent on providing quality education to the people of Pakistan.



2. As a sage once said, 'If you want to see the condition of a nation, see the condition of the teacher'. So teachers should be the most valued (in the real sense of the word) people in the country.



3. Our hospitals should be our second best priority after education



4. We should establish complete peace with our neighbouring countries including our arch-rival India



5. We should spread a network of playgrounds in each and every city and town and village of our country



6. There should be a network of libraries in each and every of our cities and towns with latest books, magazines, journals available, and with computers and internet facilities



7. Immediately there should be complete ban on pressure horns on roads and streets and gradually the ban should come down to any kind of horn, of course people need to be educated through electronic and print media against indiscriminate use of horns



8. There should be a centrally controlled system of mosques in each and every city and town. The Imams should be properly educated, trained, should be at least secondary school graduates and should be recruited by the local administrative authority. They should be paid adequately for their services with the help and cooperation of the local population. The Friday sermons and teaching of these Imams should be monitored closely and they should be trained and persuaded to present the peaceful, inclusive, humanitarian face of religion to the people and not to turn religion into a sectarian, exclusivist, ideology that breeds extremism and violence in the name of religion



9. Democracy should be embraced, nurtured and practiced in the true sense of the word and for that to happen efforts should be made to take the power centre out of the feudal class and to bring it down to the reach of the common people. The first step in this regard is for political parties to themselves become truly democratic and shun hereditary and dictatorial practices prevalent inside their ranks



10. A Pakistani nationalism based on an international, humanitarian outlook should be nurtured through a nationwide system of inclusive education. The purpose should be to broaden the horizons of the Pakistani youth to feel a part of the rest of the world instead of looking at every other nation as an enemy out to destroy our dear country. For this the concept of 'positive national ego’, should be promoted. This will help the Pakistani youth feeling a responsible part of the rest of the humanity and shouldering the burden of the world instead of asking others to always extend a helping hand to our sinking ship.



11. Strength in terms of economic and social development should be our primary goal driving our national policies and not just military might and our capability for destruction. Live and let live should be our motive from now onwards if we really want to continue to exist and flourish in the comity of nations in the twenty first century.



12. Rigorous measures should be taken to control our dangerously growing population, which is already beyond our means. Poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and a false understanding of religion are primary source of this menace. The role of religious leaders is of special importance in this regard. A majority of rural population devotedly listen to the sermons of our Imams who unfortunately actively encourage people to produce more children and discourage from population control which they think of as an act against God. This perception must be changed and religious leaders must be educated, trained, made aware and later on used as a task force to create awareness among our people against uncontrolled population growth.



13. For me one of the indicators of the degree of civilization of a society is the way women are treated in it. Women emancipation through a process of education and awareness among the masses should be one of our top priorities. Pakistani women are exemplary in their devotion to their families and the welfare of those around them and this extraordinary source of our strength must be taped by giving them their due place in the social, economic and political spheres of our national life. Again the role of religious leaders is of primary importance in this regard, who unfortunately think of women as nothing more than a tool of domestic utility and use their enormous clout as opinion makers against the freedom and autonomy of our women. This trend needs to be changed and women brought in our national life as equal partners and stakeholders.



14. We should, as a nation make it a core principle of our national ethos, that a society cannot live for long in the presence of injustice and endemic corruption. It should therefore be one of top-most priorities to clean up corruption in our legal system, to have an independent, well-paid judiciary and an excellent, efficient and corruption free police force.



15. And last but not least let our armed forces once and for all decide not to ever interfere in our political system and confine itself to it constitutionally rightful place: that of the guardian of our (primarily) external security and (if need be) the internal security. Let soldiers be soldiers and not political leaders. Let us for the coming thirty years at least try democracy in its true sense and then decide which way to go. Let our democratic system correct its own course without anymore interference. Let us show to the world that we can be truly professional in our respective fields, whichever that might be, as soldiers, military officers, teachers, doctors, politicians, lawyers, judges, engineers, bankers, religious leaders, farmers, labourers, craftsmen, technicians, journalists or people from any other profession.

Posted by Muhammad Ilyas Khan............. Email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com at

Education: Beyond The East and West Myopia

Education: Beyond The East and West Myopia


By Muhammad Ilyas Khan



Recently (August, 15, 2010) I read two ‘interesting’ articles published on the Education page in Dawn. The first article titled, ‘Game of deceit’ [ http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/education/game-of-deceit-580 ] by Ismat Riaz, has been written in the backdrop of the current crises of the fake degree phenomenon of our parliamentarians. The author rightfully calls it fraud and links it to the prevalence of injustice in our society. The author laments the fact that this kind of cheating and fraud lead to ‘regression’ in the society and ‘erodes its sense of fairness and honesty which should be the hallmark of progressiveness’. The author argues that as a consequence of conferring fake degrees on unqualified people, our universities have lost their credibility. According to the author, "transparency and accountability have been eroded from the matriculation examination which is why the international O and A levels have become popular as alternatives within the system in Pakistan. At least, if nothing else, their results can be accepted as reliable in terms of transparency in fair and honest checking of examination papers". The author brings in support for introducing morality and ethics into education through ‘Western’ philosophers such as John Dewey and Edmud Burk and seems to tacitly appreciate their moral standing and progressive educational philosophies based on democracy, freedom and fair play. In order to elaborate the harms of ‘fraud’ she quotes Edmund Burk, a ‘Western’ philosopher saying, “Fraud is the ready minister of injustice”. There is however an interesting twist in her argument when she compares these ‘western’ philosophies for upholding morality in the society with Zia regime’s making of "Islamiyat compulsory in schools as part of the Islamisation programme of that era", which she thinks had the "underlying purpose" "to inculcate moral and ethical values through the study of religion." It doesn’t seem easy to accept this assertion without a pinch of salt though. Zia’s motives seem to be going beyond this simple face-value claim. Overall the author seems to be of the view that by ‘unfortunately’ ignoring ‘progressive’ (Western?) philosophies such as reconstructionism and progressivism through the adoption of which the West "has been able to radically change its societies by equalising educational opportunities for all and laying the foundations of a qualitative and progressive society", "Social evils have worsened and equity is a distant dream" in Pakistan. As a whole the gist of the article seems to be an appreciation for Western educational philosophies and progressive education system which has culminated in phenomenal development in every field of life in the West.

Ironically, the same page which carries this article, carries another article titled, "Westward bound" [http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/education/westward-bound-580 ] by Afshain Afzal, which seems almost a complete contradiction of whatever is proposed in the above article. It is a classic example of a jump from the paradigm of ‘inclusion’ to the paradigm of ‘exclusion. From education for internationalism to education for narrow natinoalism. The author bitterly announces the unlucky news, "top universities from the USA opening campuses in Islamabad is fetching new hopes for the elite class here. Their children would obviously be able to bag the top jobs while also saving the parents millions of rupees being spent in sending them abroad for further studies". One feels like asking: is it a bad thing for top USA universities to open campuses in Pakistan? Is it unfortunate if our ‘elites’ educate their children inside Pakistan and save ‘millions of rupees’ rather than keep, as they do now, sending them abroad and spend those millions there in foreign countries? Is it indeed bad to construct an ‘Educational city’ in Islamabad? Before moving further to fully deconstruct the author's thesis of opposing foreing universities' campuses, it would be in order to mention just a few benefits of these campuses in Pakistan. First of all the cost of a degree from a foreign university through its local branch would be enormously reduced (in terms of travel cost, and living cost in a foregin country)and students from those strata of our society who cannot pursue education in those foreign countries would be able to get the same or almost the same level of education at a much lower (less than half on a rough estimate)cost in their own country. Investment by foreign universities in the form of establishing local branches in Pakistan would enhance cooperation in the field of education between our local universities and academia and those foreign universities. By establishing these local campuses not only our middle classes and lower middle classes would have access to foreign univeristies' education but also it will create enormous opportunities for jobs in the local educational market for our people. These foregin university campuses by providing world class education would bring in competition for the local educational institutions and universities who would strive for excellence in order to compete with these rivals. Politically speaking it is an irony that we are happy when these foreign/western nations sell us their weapons and fighter jets and tanks and missiles at exhorbitant prices but we are not ready to accomodate their educatinoal institutions as those are a 'danger to our identity and ideology'!

The author, for all we know, somehow associates the establishment of "foreign schools and university campuses’ with "running away from our identity"! "Foreign or western institutions, no matter how high in stature they might be, would promote western values while failing to make provision for Islamic aspects in their way of teaching", writes the author! It is difficult though to know the logic behind any such assumption. One is inclined to ask: How many ‘foreign or Western’ institutions are already working in our country, on the basis of their impact in terms of imposing Western values on us, as the author concludes that they would promote “Western values while failing to make provision for Islamic aspects in their way of teaching”? Besides what are those harmful ‘Western’ values and what kind of ‘Islamic aspects’ does the author think are in danger of withering away? The author says, “Subject to law and public morality, we in Pakistan encourage the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures. Not allowing the Muslims to have a public education system of their own, which protects their religion and culture, poses a danger for the ideology of Pakistan.” One is inclined to ask the author,if she could let us know who is not allowing Muslims to have a public education system of their own and thus causing a danger to the “ideology of Pakistan”? Does the author think that by establishing a few university campuses in Islamabad, the Westerners will be able to take hold of our entire public education system; and “cause danger to the ideology of Pakistan”? Isn't is the case that our existing educational system and our curriculum is almost entirely based on 'Western' educational philosophies both in the fields of natural and social sciences? What presently is so 'Eastern' or 'Islamic' about it anyway, that will be endangered by the establishment of a few 'Western' university campuses in Islamabad? What is so rational about wrapping iron curtains around ourselves, our people and our country? Why is our 'identity' so fragile that it cannot stand the weight of a few foreign university campuses? This again belies logic.

The real eye-opener is the paragraph where the author says, “Turning back the pages of history… It would be a matter of interest for many to note that Aligarh University initially came into being as a conspiracy against the Muslims in order to produce a pro-western educated lot. It was a tool in the hands of British imperialists and their handful of sympathisers, who wanted to destroy the religion, culture, traditions and values of the people of this region.” Hmmm! so what does the author here think of the ‘original founder’ of the ‘Two Nation Theory’, the very basis for the creation of Pakistan and the founder of the Aligarh movement: Sir Sayyed Ahmad Khan? Was that great Muslim thinker, the originator of the Two-Nation theory, the basis of the demand for Pakistan, a ‘conspirator’ against the Muslims and their identity then? This is immediately followed by a school girl level reasoning (contradiction?), “Today, no one can deny that Aligarh University is a well-reputed institution. However, it has very little to do with the struggle for Pakistan. In the same regard, although, certain leaders from the university became active members of the Pakistan movement, they had different ideologies as compared to the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Dr Allama Mohammad Iqbal”. Interesting isn’t it, if one can twist logic to its ultimate limits.

The author subsequently, out of the blue, comes up with a ‘message’ on the value of indigenous education from the Quaid-i-Azam trying to put a stamp of validity and approval on her argument but obviously remaining oblivious to the finishing words of message, “…bring our educational policy and programmes on the lines suited to the genius of our people consonant with our history and culture, and having regard to modern conditions and vast developments that have taken place all over the world [emphasis mine].”

The author in the end has an interesting suggestion for us, “We must rebuild our educational system on the foundations of the Islamia and Jamia Millia schools, colleges and universities”. Well, why go so far back in history? Why not instead follow the models of their recent counterparts which are flourishing in every nook and corner of our blessed country at the moment and the graduates of which are now dragging us back to the cave era in every way they can? The author gives examples of a number of universities, from which campuses should be including in the ‘Education City’, including ‘Khyber University’. I wonder if there is any university in Pakistan by that name. Finally the author comes up with her ultimate piece of wisdom: allowing foreign universities to establish campuses in the "heart" of Pakistan (Islamabad), according to the author is akin to nullifying the very creation of Pakistan! And what does she think about herself writing in ENGLISH, a ‘Western’ language in an English language newspaper which somehow promotes this ‘foreign’ ‘Western’ language? Doesn’t it feel like a conspiracy against our ‘identity’ as well?



The writer is a PhD student at the University of Leicester, UK. Email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com

Posted by Muhammad Ilyas Khan............. Email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com

Floods and credibility deficit

If you have to choose between the devil and deep sea, where do you go? The West(and the rest of the world) perhaps don’t feel they have much of a choice. That is why they are reluctant to come to the rescue of the Pakistani people. Ironically the people of Pakistan seem to be as indecisive (helpless?) if not more, as is the rest of the world to make any clear cut choice between the two ‘evils’: corruption/inefficiency/indifference/lack of vision and will and obscurantism/extremism. Donors of every kind should perhaps err on side of the ‘lesser evil’. There are so many ways to help without going through govt or the Taliban way. And for the international community to win the Pakistani population and drag them away from the extremists, this is perhaps the best opportunity. The Americans, who have not been faring well in terms of reputation in Pakistan for quite sometime, have been winning hearts and minds through their generous rescue effort in the current floods. That should be a model for other people around the world if they have genuine interest in the welfare of humanity and who have the rationality not the bracket a whole nation of 180 million with some extremists in their country. That surely is not the case. Conservative thinking might be prevalent but Pakistani people like the rest of the humanity are biologically capable of rational thinking, progress and development. Indifference on the part of the international community on one pretext or another will push millions of people to the extremist camp, who will be more than happy to jump on the opportunity