Speakers at a workshop have urged Islamic studies’ teachers to adopt tools of critical inquiry in both their own research and teaching others.
They said that these tools should empower them to question their own notions, without falling prey to hearsay or getting influenced by political ideologies.
They were speaking at a two-day training workshop organised by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) — a think-tank, exploring links between educational institutions and religious harmony. Around 36 teachers from Khyber-Pakhtunkwa and FATA attended the workshop.
Columnist Khursheed Nadeem stressed the need for having ‘genuine’ scholars as opposed to knowledge ‘quacks’. “If scholars stop producing knowledge – knowledge with relevance – quacks with superficial information will take over,” he said adding “a teacher should be what he called activist,” – in the sense of having relevance to what he or she researches.
Speakers noted how religion has been invoked
in Pakistan’s history to justify political and strategic goals.
“To engage students in research, universities should open up new thinking – something that requires being ready to ‘unlearn’ things afresh,” said former vice chancellor of Peshawar University Dr Qibla Ayaz. “We are influenced by different schools of thought, sometimes, it’s necessary to learn from scratch.”
Dr Ayaz pointed to the 1980s as the pivotal decade when the country’s socio-political worldview changed – all in the name of religion. “Because we lacked critical inquiry, we accepted notions that were never untrue,” he argued.
Renowned journalist Wusutullah Khan recalled that even though the environment in 1960s was much tolerant compared to today’s Pakistan, even then, students were taught in such a way that they couldn’t differ between Hindu and Indian.
Sharing example from media, he narrated how the newspapers till 1970s would often report riots or even fistfights in India as some sort of anti-Muslim riots.