Construction of a jihadi mindset
By Khadim Hussain
Wednesday, 25 Nov, 2009
THE fact that a sizeable number of those recruited by religious militant organisations for conducting terror attacks in Pakistan are between 14 to 19 years and are products of both the religious and public education systems in the country should be reason enough to revamp these educational systems.
Considering the present curricula, teaching methods and learning culture in elementary and secondary schools in particular and higher education in general, it is not surprising that there is confusion regarding the objectives of the ideological paradigm of the well-coordinated and well-networked jihadist movement in Pakistan.
The ideological paradigm of the jihadist network in Pakistan is, however, clear enough: it justifies the formation, regimentation and militarisation of non-state groups that are bent upon eradicating the socio-cultural, political, economic and state capital of Fata, the NWFP, Punjab and other parts of Pakistan.
The jihadist network in Pakistan feeds on the jihadi mindset that is nurtured by the elementary, secondary and higher public education system and madressahs in Pakistan. The jihadi mindset, like other extremist belief systems, feeds on a rigid, inflexible, isolationist and myopic worldview. The curricula, methods of teaching and the teaching-learning environment in the elementary and secondary educational system in Pakistan perpetuate a culture of silence on the one hand and status consciousness, feudal behaviour and a morbid individuality on the other.
Over the past several decades, the majority of young men and women in Pakistan have been heavily influenced by the curricula, teaching methods, and learning environment to adopt a one-dimensional approach to reality. This denies them creative space within the pedagogical system. It also increases the probability of their becoming jihadi recruits.
A cursory look at the curricula of social sciences, history, Islamic studies and other subjects followed by elementary and secondary schools shows an emphasis on what is perceived as the Muslim ummah through the manipulation of historical reality, glorification of Muslim monarchs, hatred of other beliefs and the perpetuation of jihadist ideology.
Instead of presenting young minds with a broad-based civilisational perspective, the curricula in public elementary and secondary schools instills an isolationist identity focusing on the demonisation of the leadership of other nations, the construction of a peculiar historical context and the denunciation of religious, linguistic, cultural, social and political diversity. Content on peace education, environment and life skills has yet to find its way into Pakistan’s public education curricula.
This kind of content alienates the young minds from humane values that are the result of a long civilisational evolution. It denies young minds the skill to evaluate a process critically. Hence, the judgmental approach of our educated middle class as evident in the print and electronic, especially the Urdu, media, during socio-cultural, political, religious and economic debates, and the heavy dependence on conspiracy theories, should not surprise us.
The denial of space for students’ participation inside the classroom, the absence of encouragement to question established ideals and the lack of initiatives for basic skill development largely define a typical classroom in an elementary or secondary school in Pakistan. Debate and discussion on an established ideal are usually banned inside the classroom. The lack of teaching strategies to develop skills to construct a reasonable argument leads to the students adopting a subjective approach in almost all spheres of life. This process defeats the process of critical thinking among the students on the one hand, and constructs a mindset that is unwilling to accommodate ideas of diversity and pluralism on the other.
The learning environment of the majority of elementary and secondary public schools across Pakistan depicts a culture in which a predilection for adopting shortcuts to ‘achievements’ is effectively nurtured. (This attitude is especially exhibited in the shape of plagiarism that we find among the university students of Pakistan.)
The behavioural system that is adopted in one’s formative years thus becomes an integral part of adulthood. Rarely are strategies adopted to make students aware of their indigenous knowledge base or to give them the confidence to build on this. In such an environment, natural curiosity is usually the first victim.
Segregation and discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion and socio-economic class define the attitude and conduct of the faculty and management of schools across the length and breadth of Pakistan. Activities that nurture innovation among students have yet to find a place in the learning culture. Art, music and dance never find room in our public education system.
Events that include sporting activities, song competitions, poetry recitals and other cultural undertakings are decreasing in elementary and secondary schools with the passage of each day. Physical punishments in schools, especially in rural Pakistan, perpetuate violent behaviour among the students between five and 18 years. Even the walls of the schools and classrooms are decorated with verses and poetry that glorify war, superiority over other nations and religions etc.
Though family upbringing, broader socio-cultural spaces and politico-economic vacuums are powerful factors responsible for young minds falling prey to the jihadist machine, the curricula, teaching methods and learning environment at schools accelerate the process. It is high time that we not only revisit the policy contours of our educational system but also make sure that young minds are taught to value critical thinking and develop a positive attitude towards diversity and show curiosity and a desire to explore knowledge and critically examine established ideals.
The writer teaches at Bahria University in Islamabad and coordinates the research activities of AIRRA, a regional advocacy group.
Oddly enough, it sounds suspiciously familiar for someone who went through the French Catholic School system in Québec in the Sixties... And we wonder where the new recruits come from? Clearly all this bullshit rhetoric from Muslim leaders of how the West's actions are driving young dispossessed Muslims towards jihad, is simply that... empty bullshit rhetoric and a feeble attempt to blame the poisoning of young minds elsewhere than their own culture.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The making of a jihadi...
Construction of a jihadi mindset