Pakistan to Use Jinnah’s Speech to Combat Religious Intolerance

Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Sindh Province in Pakistan has plans of introducing to its existing education curriculum, a speech that was made by the country’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in which he had appealed for religious freedom, an impartial and inclusive government, rule of law and equality for all. The government believes that the speech, which was delivered to Pakistan’s new constituent assembly on August 11, 1947, would help combat the prevailing religious intolerance witnessed in the country today.

Minorities in Pakistan have long demanded the inclusion of Jinnah’s speech in the education curriculum so as to instill interfaith harmony among its citizens.

“You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State,” Jinnah had told lawmakers. “Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

Sindh Education Minister Nisar Khuhro said on March 23 that his government would be adding Jinnah’s speech in its entirety to the course books used by students so that the message is intact and clear.

“The step, besides spreading awareness among the younger generation, would help them face and fight the mindset of intolerance found in many people today. They should understand that Pakistan was meant to be a secular nation where everyone has the right to follow their own religion,” he said.

National Commission for Justice and Peace, the human rights body operating under the Catholic Church, welcomed the move as well.

“We appreciate the decision of the education minister. This has been one of our longstanding demands to purge the [school] curriculum of prejudice and hate,” saif Saleh Diego, spokesperson for an archdiocese in Karachi.

Yet, a lot more needs to be done at both federal and provincial levels to foster interfaith harmony in Pakistan, according to Diego.

“There is a lot of talk about Christians and other minorities being equal citizens of Pakistan. But we don’t see it in practical sense,” Diego said. “There is a lot of hate material in our curricula. Federal and other provincial governments should follow suit to ensure that our next generations are taught the real vision of Jinnah.”

Legal advisor to the human rights body Salim Michael said the decision was a move towards a positive direction.

“Given the increasing numbers of attacks on minorities in Pakistan, it is encouraging that we are gradually realizing the importance of hate-free education for all,” he said.

Photo Credits: South Asian Generation Next

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