Teachers urged to promote social, religious harmony

islamabad - One of the central challenges to teachers of Islamic studies is how to engage with the diversity around them. Curriculum with questionable contents, for sure, is one thing but equally important is to learn how sensitive are teachers in reaching out to students from diverse backgrounds.

These thoughts came in an exclusive training workshop with teachers of Islamic studies at higher-tier of education. Around 31 teachers from Punjab and Azad Kashmir participated in the workshop on the role of teachers in promoting social and religious harmony, organised by Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think-tank. Opening the debate, PIPS Director Amir Rana asked teachers to explore the causes behind social disharmony and what they, as teachers, could do to end that.

Some teachers argued that they are wrongly blamed for not being sensitive in their content delivery, saying that the curriculum is developed by public departments, which don’t engage teachers. They argued if curriculum is not uniform, the challenges to harmony are inevitable. Some content, for instance, is not acceptable by members of different faith. “Harmony is not possible,” one of them said, “if teachers and society are headed in different directions.”

But many argued that teachers are engaged in shaping curriculum, though they tend to avoid going to the meetings, which are often tedious. Peace activist Romana Bashir argued that not only is their insensitivity in textbooks, but teachers too don’t reflect sensitivity in their teaching.

Knowledge acquired beyond textbooks is not appreciated. “A teacher should think how to address students of all faiths,” she said.

Dr Khalid Masood, former chairman of Council of Islamic Ideology, said, “Because of diversity, we tend to stress upon unity, even though there is nothing wrong in that.” He argued that even in Islamic tradition, diversity was upheld.

Speakers highlighted how diversity has been benchmark of civilisational success. Scholar Ammar Khan Nasir argued that the glorious Islamic civilisation even relied on knowledge from non-Muslims; today too, some civilisations accept people from all backgrounds.

Several charged that media too highlight differences, instead of stressing upon commonalities.

Scholar Raghib Naeemi said harmony is often missing on some media shows.

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