Education which is a basic human right has faced serious security threats in few countries like Pakistan. The terrorist’s ideological and conservative mindset has crossed limit to an extent that apart from imposition of Islamic Sunnah and Shariah in their areas of influence, they wanted to forbid acquisition of education to children and particularly girls education. The example of Swat valley can be best quoted in this regard, where Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) banned education and an education icon and noble peace prize laureate Malala Youzafzai was shot in head by Talibans because of her voice for education. These militant elements consider western education as Haram, unethical and immoral. In 2014, group Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan (TIF) started an anti-west campaign warning all private schools imparting western style and co-education to shut down in the Panjgur district of Baluchistan province. Another tragic incident of Peshawar attacks in December last year was belligerent show of terrorist’s hatred for education. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) killed around 130 school children ranging between eight and eighteen years of age in Army Public School, Peshawar.
History reveals that such catastrophic events are not new. The Beslan school hostage crisis in Russia, back in 2004, resulted in death of 300 people and mostly included school children. It was done on the account that Chechnya be recognized as independent entity at UN and Russian troops be withdrawn from Chechnya soil. According to the UN report, there have been regular school attacks in atleast 70 countries between 2009 to 2014. Girls accessing education were particularly targeted in these attacks. The high profile cases in last five years included Peshawar attacks, Boko Haram Kidnappings of Chibok schoolgirls; Taliban’s 2012 shooting of Malala Yousafzai, poisoning and acid attacks between 2012-2014 against schoolgirls in Afghanistan, forced removal of school girls in Somalia to become wives of “Al-Shabaab fighters” and in 2013 abduction and abuse of girls at Christian school in India. All these events point out to security and human rights dimensions. Thus, the impact on survival and need of girls education has a rippling effect i.e. safety of children specially girls and security of their educational institutes.
Islam, which is a religion of peace attaches great importance to knowledge and learning. According to Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H), “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim, (male and female).” In Islam there is no gender discrimination to seek education. At another place Prophet (PBUH) quoted, “He who has a slave-girl and teaches her good manners and improves her education and then manumits and marries her, will get a double reward; (narrated by Abu Musa Al-Ashari)”. These Hadiths indicate the importance of girls’ education in Islam but the terrorists with their own narrative about education deny this basic right of education for girls. In Islam, those who learn are given sacred place. An educated person has a conscious about right and wrong. Equality education is a socio-economic progress base for any society. Women empowerment and freedom of education is a key to success of any nation. Ignorance and lack of education is one of the major root causes behind terrorism. Only an educated mother can provide an educated nation and Islam truly understands all these facts. However, these terrorists’ factions fear education because education establishes true relationship between Allah Almighty and his mankind. Education can threaten their false ideologues and their foul preachings that compel militants to target poor women and innocent children. The basic human values and professional skills which education inculcates are against their core agendas and organizational interests. All these terrorists groups Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Talibans may differ in their races, geographical locations and culture but their misogynist ideologies are similar. These so-called Islamists with their self-created Islamic interpretations and ideologies have promoted discrimination against women in the society. Islam has been used as a tool for their political objectives for decades. These false religious idols and so-called Mullahs with their shallow knowledge and limited vision have eroded the true concept of education.
Education has been given top priority in Islam and its pursuance considered as a matter of great dignity and honour for every Muslim. Terrorism against education is a global threat. It is the dire need of the hour that all Muslim nations including Pakistan must condemn this terrorism against education in a more practical way. The best weapon to fight terrorism and extremism is only through education of our next generations and particularly through girl’s education. Education can transform fundamentalist and extremist’s mindsets into rational and tolerant ones. Thus in the end, education would ultimately empower us with peace, knowledge, prosperity and take guns out of our hands.
Published in The London Post on March 29, 2015 and as a Letter to the Editor, “Terrorising School Children” in Express Tribune on March 22,2015.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.