By Irfan Mahar*
Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi raised the bill named “The Islamabad Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language, Bill, 2020. The bill was presented by Senator Rahila Magsi, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Federal Education, Professional Training, National History and Literary Heritage and approved by the Senate. The present government of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has decided to make the Arabic language compulsory from level I to XII in the Islamabad Capital Territory including the educational institutions affiliated with the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education in all the public sector institutions owned and controlled by the Federal Government. In the meantime, it will further be extended to get the knowledge of the Holy Quran with translation in schools, colleges and universities throughout Pakistan for better understanding the ocean of the knowledge incorporated in the Holy Quran.
Furthermore, according to a new system of education, students have to memorize the verses of the Holy Quran to get a deep insight into the Holy Book. Additionally, these reforms in the education system of Pakistan consist of the Arabic language as mandatory in Islamabad schools. Meanwhile, the present government of Pakistan gives the logic about the policy that this will help the students to comprehend the Holy Quran not only in Arabic but also the translation in a language that is more understandable and easy. Similarly, learning the Arabic language will open the vistas of opportunities for Pakistan people throughout the Middle Eastern region.
As far as the critiques are concerned, they keep an anti-perspective about the new system of Arabic education within the country. Such as distinguished scholar and educationist, Parvez Hoodbhoy, has shared his views concerning the new policy of PM Imran Khan’s government that it is not just the Islamization rather it is the Islamization of the fronting space. Furthermore, he explains that Islamization during PM Imran Khan’s reign is far speedier than the reign of General Zia-ul-Haq, who started the trend of infusing religious education within the country. According to him, it is propaganda by some entities to achieve political ends. Furthermore, he explained that the government of Pakistan is ruining the future of the country through its children by introducing a single national curriculum that would take Islamabad back towards the dark ages.
Meanwhile, Senator Raza Rabbani, a leader of the secular party of Pakistan named Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), keeps the view that cultures cannot be promoted artificially. Moreover, he explains that “the state of Pakistan has been trying to enforce an artificial culture to end diversity within the country by negating its status as a multiethnic, multilinguistic, and multicultural country”. Similarly, Rabbani prioritizes the culture by saying that “The Arab culture is not mine, the Indus Valley Civilization is my culture.
Coming to the research and scientific study over the mother tongue and foreign as well as other languages, the study favours the mother tongue over another language. Research shows that the mother tongue is critically important for cognitive, psychological and personality development, education and learning. The mother’s tongue plays a key role in shaping the personality of an individual and his or her thought process. In this regard, a prominent scholar Vygotsky explained that infants are born with abilities such as attention, sensation, perception and memory; therefore, the first language has an important role in shaping our personality, thoughts and life. Further, professor, Alice Mado Proverbio, said that a direct connection between the heart, brain, and tongue is established when one speaks in the first language.
Moreover, Proverbio explained that native language triggers a series of associations within the brain because the mother tongue is the language one uses to think, dream and feel emotions. Similarly, several studies based on psychological, social and educational experiments show that learning through the mother tongue is deeper, faster, and more effective. Additionally, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) conducted a study in 2004 and found that “submersion programs may succeed in teaching students to decode words in the dominant language, but it can take years before they discover meanings in what they are reading”. In this regard, the students experience higher testing scores and higher levels of understanding and stay in schools longer when taught in the language they speak at home.
As far as the respect and reverence of the Arabic language are concerned, not only the Muslims living in Pakistan but also all the Muslims living in any part of the world give much respect and importance to the language in which the Holy Quran is revealed as well as it is the mother tongue of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). Meanwhile, every country and region have their own culture, language, traditions and geography according to which they have to behave, make policies and take actions that prove most suitable as well as beneficial for their people. While, logically, scientifically, rationally, philosophically as well as religiously (if taken properly and rationally), it is considered that the mother tongue is the most effective and suitable language in which the cognitive ability of a child works better and could find out the hidden talent of children in which they want to proceed. It is the mother tongue in which a child gets more understanding and explores the multiple vistas of life than foreign or another language.
Therefore, one thinks that what could be the reasons behind the present government’s decision about making the Arabic language compulsory first in the capital and then in the whole country? If one glances over the problems of Pakistan concerning economics, finance, society, politics as well as religion, one finds multiple problems in which the present government has failed to achieve the expected results claimed by PM Imran Khan before his government. Likewise, many rulers throughout history have used multiple strategies to hide their inefficiency and incompetence to divert the mind of people from real problems. Moreover, such kinds of issues have mostly political reasons and ends and are raised by the rulers that fail to deliver. In this regard, they try to raise sensitive issues to divert the thinking and minds of people towards other issues to hide their inefficiency and bad governance as people remain strangled in such problems which do not exist but created by them.
So, it might be one of the reasons that the present government wants to divert the minds of people from real problems through generating artificial problems such as the Islamabad Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language, Bill, 2020.
*The Writer teaches at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan.