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Pakistan Day: Freeing the Colonized Minds of the Elites

Pakistan achieved independence from the British colonial rule 70 years ago. However, the minds of most of Pakistan's elites remain colonized to this day.  This seems to be particularly true of the nation's western-educated "liberals" who dominate much of the intellectual discourse in the country. They continue to look at their fellow countrymen through the eyes of the Orientalists who served as tools for western colonization of Asia, Middle East and Africa. The work of these "native" Orientalists available in their books, op ed columns and other publications reflects their utter contempt for Pakistan and Pakistanis. Their colonized minds uncritically accept all things western. They often seem to think that the Pakistanis can do nothing right while the West can do no wrong. Far from being constructive, these colonized minds promote lack of confidence in the ability of their fellow "natives" to solve their own problems and contribute to hopelessness. The way out of it is to encourage more inquiry based learning and critical thinking.

Orientalism As Tool of Colonialism:

Dr. Edward Said (1935-2003), Palestine-born Columbia University professor and the author of "Orientalism",  described it as the ethnocentric study of non-Europeans by Europeans.  Dr. Said wrote that the Orientalists see the people of Asia, Africa and the Middle East as “gullible” and “devoid of energy and initiative.” European colonization led to the decline and destruction of the prosperity of every nation they ruled. India is a prime example of it. India was the world's largest economy producing over a quarter of the world's GDP when the British arrived. At the end of the British Raj, India's contribution was reduced to less than 2% of the world GDP.

Education to Colonize Minds:

In his "Prison Notebooks", Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist theorist and politician, says that a class can exercise its power not merely by the use of force but by an institutionalized system of moral and intellectual leadership that promotes certain ideas and beliefs favorable to it.  For Gramsci "cultural hegemony" is maintained through the consent of the dominated class which assures the intellectual and material supremacy of the dominant class.

In "Masks of Conquest", author Gauri Viswanathan says that the British curriculum was introduced in India to "mask" the economic exploitation of the colonized. Its main purpose was to colonize the minds of the natives to sustain colonial rule.

Cambridge Curriculum in Pakistan:

The colonial discourse of the superiority of English language and western education continues with a system of elite schools that uses Cambridge curriculum in Pakistan.

Over 270,000 Pakistani students from elite schools participated in Cambridge O-level and A-level International (CIE) exams in 2016, an increase of seven per cent over the prior year.

Cambridge IGCSE exams is also growing in popularity in Pakistan, with enrollment increasing by 16% from 10,364 in 2014-15 to 12,019 in 2015-16.

Globally there has been 10% growth in entries across all Cambridge qualifications in 2016, including 11% growth in entries for Cambridge International A Levels and 8 per cent for Cambridge IGCSE, according to Express Tribune newspaper.

The United Kingdom remains the top source of international education for Pakistanis.  46,640 students, the largest number of Pakistani students receiving international education anywhere, are doing so at Pakistani universities in joint degree programs established with British universities, according to UK Council for International Student Affairs.

At the higher education level, the number of students enrolled in British-Pakistani joint degree programs in Pakistan (46,640) makes it the fourth largest effort behind Malaysia (78,850), China (64,560) and Singapore (49,970).

Teach Critical Thinking:

Pakistani educators need to see the western colonial influences and their detrimental effects on the minds of youngsters. They need to improve learning by helping students learn to think for themselves critically. Such reforms will require students to ask more questions and to find answers for themselves through their own research rather than taking the words of their textbook authors and teachers as the ultimate truth.

Summary: 

The minds of most of Pakistan's elite remain colonized 70 years after the British rule of Pakistan ended in 1947. They uncritically accept all things western. A quick scan of Pakistan's English media shows the disdain the nation's western educated elites have for their fellow countryman.  Far from being constructive, they promote lack of confidence in their fellow "natives" ability to solve their own problems and contribute to hopelessness.   Their colonized minds uncritically accept all things western. They often seem to think that the Pakistanis can do nothing right while the West can do no wrong. Unless these colonized minds are freed, it will be difficult for the people of Pakistan to believe in themselves, have the confidence in their capabilities and develop the national pride to lay the foundation of a bright future. The best way to help free these colonized minds is through curriculum reform that helps build real critical thinking.

Here's an interesting discussion of the legacy of the British Raj in India as seen by writer-diplomat Shashi Tharoor:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN2Owcwq6_M




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Alam vs Hoodbhoy

Inquiry Based Learning

Dr. Ata ur Rehman Defends Higher Education Reform

Pakistan's Rising College Enrollment Rates

Pakistan Beat BRICs in Highly Cited Research Papers

Launch of "Eating Grass: Pakistan's Nuclear Program"

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Impact of Industrial Revolution

Hindutva: Legacy of British Raj


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Comment by Riaz Haq on September 17, 2017 at 8:56pm

How the British convinced Hindus that Muslims were despots and religious invaders

The East India Company wanted to be seen as a rectifier of the historical harm inflicted by the Muslims.


https://scroll.in/magazine/850787/how-the-british-convinced-hindus-...


It is a fact not so easily known, thus rarely acknowledged, that the British colonial project in India at one moment turned into an excavation of India’s pasts. This excavation was aimed at exploring the arrival of various foreign people, cultures, religions and politics into the subcontinent. After all, the Indian peninsula had been the site of commercial, political and military incursions by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the Timurids since 1498. Surely, one reason for the excavation was that, as the latest foreigners to arrive in India, the British wanted a justification for their own arrival. The other reason is tied to the way in which the British saw themselves as heirs to the Romans.

Edward Gibbon published the first volume of his book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776, the year Great Britain lost 13 of its colonies in America. All six volumes of the book came out by 1788 to tremendous acclaim and sales. A central theme in Gibbon’s work was his quest for historical linkages between Pax Britannica – the period of British-dominated world order – and Pax Romana.

He provided the foundational stone for a theory that sought to legitimise British colonial enterprise as a successor to a great empire of the past that brought a long era of peace and prosperity for Europe in its wake. Even more influential, I would argue, is his exploration of the relationship between race and politics within the context of the Roman experience. This relationship was immediately employed in legitimising the British conquest of India.

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John Jehangir Bede’s doctoral dissertation, The Arabs in Sind: 712-1026 AD, was written within this academic context. Submitted to the University of Utah in 1973, the thesis remained unpublished until Karachi’s Endowment Fund Trust for Preservation of the Heritage of Sindh printed it earlier this year.

We do not know why Bede never published his work. Notes on the dust jacket of the book state that all attempts to trace his family or career were largely unsuccessful. The only thing we know is that he worked with Dr Aziz S Atiya, an influential historian of the Crusades, and that his work has been cited and expanded upon by historians such as Derryl MacLean, Mubarak Ali, Muhammad Yar Khan and Yohannan Friedman in the 1980s and 1990s. How are we to read this dissertation in 2017? One possible way is to see what the history of Muslim origins in India, as well as the historiography detailed above, looked like in 1973.

Bede starts his dissertation by reflecting on the fact that the history of Sindh has received little contemporary attention. He observes that this is because there have been relatively few textual sources for this history and that historians have been “generally subject to preconceived prejudices mainly colored by the religious outlook of particular authors”.

Instead of treating the Muslims as religious invaders, he explores an economic basis for their conquest of Sindh by examining a variety of sources, earliest of which date to the middle of the 9th century. In his last chapter, Commerce and Culture in Sind, he draws upon travelogues, merchant accounts and poetry from the ninth and 10th centuries to argue that there once existed an interconnected Indian Ocean world in which Sindh was a pivot.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 28, 2017 at 4:22pm

Where did the idea of an ‘Islamic bomb’ come from?

https://theconversation.com/where-did-the-idea-of-an-islamic-bomb-c...

The heavily freighted idea of an “Islamic bomb” has been around for some decades now. The notion behind it is that a nuclear weapon developed by an “Islamic” nation would automatically become the Islamic world’s shared property – and more than that, a “nuclear sword” with which to wage jihad. But as with many terms applied to the “Islamic world”, it says more about Western attitudes than about why and how nuclear technology has spread.

The concept as we know it emerged from anxieties about proliferation, globalisation, resurgent Islam, and conspiracies real and imagined, a fearful idea that could be applied to the atomic ambitions of any Muslim nation or non-state group. It looked at Pakistan’s nuclear programme and extrapolated it to encompass everything between the mountains of South Asia and the deserts of North Africa. And ever since it appeared it has retained its power to shock, eliding terrorism, jihadism, the perceived ambitions of “Islamic” states, and state-private proliferation networks into one fearsome term.

It has also made a useful avatar for all sorts of specific threats – Muammar Gaddafi’s anti-Western “fanaticism”, Saddam Hussein’ssocialist Ba’athism, the Iranian Mullahs’ revolutionary Islamic ideology, contemporary fundamentalist terrorism, and Pakistan’s military-Islamicthinking.

But of course, the Islamic bomb idea is part of a web of complex geopolitical ideas. International terrorism, the rise of modern political Islam, and Western interventions all muddle the issue. And oddly enough given the way it’s used today, the term in fact began its strange life outside the West.

High hopes

The connection between religion and the bomb was in fact first explicitly made in 1970s Pakistan, where leaders Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Muhammad Zia ul-Haq both saw nuclear weapons as a means to enhance the country’s status within the so-called “Muslim world”. Yet Pakistan’s atomic programme was at its heart a nationalistic security project, not a religious one.

The term “Islamic bomb” didn’t appear in the Western news media until around 1979, when the Iranian Revolution set outsiders worrying about the potential intersections between nuclear weapons, proliferation and Islamic politics. At around the same time, India was mounting a campaign against Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions; its government and media duly began deliberately stoking fears of a pan-Islamic nuclear threat originating with Islamabad. Israel’s government, too, made it clearthat it believed an Islamic bomb was imminent.

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Through the 1980s and 1990s, countries as diverse and mutually antagonistic as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Niger and Pakistan were all tied together by the Western fear of an Islamic bomb. Prominent commentators such as Jack Anderson and William Safire consistently deployed the term; politicians as diverse as Tam DalyellEdward Kennedy, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan all talked about it in fearful terms. All were off-base.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 19, 2017 at 10:48am

Post Colonial Conversation
By Aqsa Junejo
Web Stories
October 19, 2017
http://newslinemagazine.com/post-colonial-conversation/

The Postcolonial Higher Education Conference (PHEC) has been hosted for the third time by Habib University, Pakistan’s first liberal arts and Sciences University located in Karachi. The conference is one of the premier occasions to bring some of global academia’s most renowned speakers into discursive engagement with Karachi’s academia and interested public. In 2014,Dr. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor of Columbia University was welcomed as the keynote speaker.

This year’s PHEC focused on the theme “Inheritance of Injustice” to highlight the results of historical injustices seen today in many facets across the world, from economic and ecological to geo-political. As the forms of knowledge inherited from colonialism further entrench this injustice, the PHEC seeks to fill the void by inviting scholars, thinkers, activists and writers to reflect on the lingering crisis. This year’s conference included top global academics from South Asia, Africa, the US and UK.


Economist Dr. Mwangi wa Githinji from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in his keynote speech addressed the question of a just postcolonial development. He explored the ways in which “inherited economic, social, language and ecological structures transmitted colonial injustice into the present.” He suggested that today, “Development still is understood in a deficit model based on dualities with the aim to move countries to be more like the ‘modern’ and ‘industrialized’ world” and called for education systems to also break out of their post-colonial inheritance to indigenizing systems in which “language is a library of ideas and telling a story allows us to create our own histories.”

Professor Githinji thoughtfully answered questions from the audience, and thoroughly endorsed “liberal arts and sciences education [that] allows us to become knowledge creators rather than just consumers. Part of this process requires a rethinking of our history, even before colonialization.Telling of a story is the creation of a memory.”


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In the first panel, Dr. Suren Pillay (right), University of the Western Cape, stressed that “intellectuals must struggle to decolonize knowledge, by not taking progress and civilization at face value, but by telling more multiple and messy stories that co-constitute the story of the modern state.” Professor Peter Hallward of Kingston University, London, explored the nature and value of popular sovereignty. They are pictured above in conversation with Dr. Nauman Naqvi (left) of Habib University.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on October 19, 2017 at 10:59am

Center of
Study and Investigation for
Decolonial Dialogues

Decolonizing Knowledge and Power: 
Postcolonial Studies, 
Decolonial Horizons

A summer school in Barcelona, Spain
July 2 - July 12, 2018

http://www.dialogoglobal.com/barcelona/description.php

Course Description

“Decolonizing Knowledge and Power: Postcolonial Studies, Decolonial Horizons” is part of a larger intellectual and political initiative generally referred to as the “modernity/(de)coloniality research project.” A basic assumption of the project takes knowledge-making, since the European Renaissance, as a fundamental aspect of “coloniality” – the process of domination and exploitation of the Capitalist/Patriarchal/Imperial Western Metropolis over the rest of the world. “Decolonizing Knowledge and Power” becomes, then, a task and a process of liberation from assumed principles of knowledge and understanding of how the world is and should be, as well as from forms of organizing the economy and political authority.

The world we live today is the result of more than 500 years of Western colonial expansion and imperial designs. This created a world system with unequal power relations between the North (including the North within the South) and the South (including the South within the North). These global inequalities are produced by racial, class, gender, sexual, religious, pedagogical, linguistic, aesthetic, ecological and epistemological power hierarchies that operate in complex and entangled ways at a world-scale. This “Western-centric/Christian-centric, capitalist/patriarchal, heteronormative, modern/colonial world system” denies the epistemic diversity of the world and pretends to be mono-epistemic. The Western/Capitalist/Patriarchal tradition of thought is the hegemonic perspective within the world system with the epistemic privilege to define for the rest of the world, as part of an imperial universal design, concepts such as democracy, human rights, economy, feminism, politics, history, etc. Non-Western traditions of thought are concomitantly inferiorized and subalternized. This process is intricately tied to the history of imperial designs such as the Renaissance and Christianization in the 16th century, the Enlightenment in the 18th century, Positivism in the 19th and early part of the 20th century, developmentalism in the mid-20th century, neo-liberalism in the late 20th century and the imperial project of “exporting democracy” at the beginning of the 21st century. These imperial/colonial designs over the past 500 years illustrate over and over again that modernity is produced on the shoulders of coloniality, that is, there is no modernity without coloniality.

The international Summer School, “Decolonizing Knowledge and Power,” aims at enlarging the analysis and investigation of the hidden agenda of modernity (that is, coloniality) in the sphere of knowledge, power and being. Who is producing knowledge? What institutions and disciplines legitimize it? What is knowledge for and who benefits from it? How is our social existence colonized and how to think about decolonization of being? What power hierarchies constitute the cartography of power of the global political-economy we live in and how to go about decolonizing the world? Decolonizing knowledge and power as well as de-colonial thinking is the priority of this summer school.

Our summer institute will question basic assumptions engrained in the idea of modernity, progress, and development and will encourage thinking and living in search of non-eurocentric, non-corporate social and human values. Doubts about such capitalist, patriarchal and Eurocentric horizons, are also generating distinct horizons of knowledge and understanding that the seminar will address as "decolonial horizons."

We will arrive at “decolonial horizons” by following three interrelated routes: a) embracing epistemic diversity in order to move beyond the mono-epistemic privilege of the West; b) examining the different moments of imperial/colonial histories and geographies in which the West colonized other cultures, civilizations and historical systems; c) providing a series of basic questions and concepts to facilitate the decolonization of power, knowledge and being.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 18, 2018 at 9:26am

In Pakistan, English fiction is gathering pace in its search for approval and recognition
The number of writers and books is increasingly exponentially.

https://scroll.in/article/871234/in-pakistan-english-fiction-is-gat...

Authors of Pakistani origin writing in English are on fire abroad. And in Pakistan, they are igniting a frisson of excitement and minor pyrotechnics among their readership. It is a moment to celebrate. If this reviewer could create awards, say, the Herald’s Best Novels Awards 2017, these would go to Osama Siddique, for his superb, succinct yet vast book Snuffing Out the Moon, and to Sami Shah for Boy of Fire and Earth. With these exceptional novels, the two writers have changed the texture and tone of Pakistani English fiction.

Irrefutable evidence that possession, and being possessed, is the current state of Pakistani English literature can be found in The Djinn Falls in Love, a captivating collection of short stories edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin. Included in this collection are spellbinding and riveting stories by contemporary writers of Pakistani origin such as Sami Shah and Usman T Malik. Transformative? Yes.

Most of the authors getting attention are those who emerged on the international scene and are on their third or fourth novel. Mohsin Hamid with Exit West and Kamila Shamsie with Home Fire made it to the longlist for the Man Booker Prize in 2017. Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, too, was shortlisted for the Booker, in 2007.

Pakistani novelists located in Pakistan and abroad – at first mostly women; now increasingly women and men in equal numbers – have been writing in English for 70 years.
Getting noticed and unnoticed in unequal measure and owning this tongue of the Empire, they have been telling stories that chip away at boundaries and categories within ourselves and between “us” and “them”, the colonised and the coloniser, the post-Empire and the new empires.

The numbers are increasing exponentially. This alone is exhilarating. Over 100 writers have over 150 novels and many anthologies among them. But they have not necessarily written 150 different and good stories which resonate with an audience beyond a small elite group. And this may be because we cannot exorcise our colonial past or rise beyond our vantage points of birth.

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they have a tendency to be the sole spokesperson for Pakistan, speaking to a foreign power in the way it wants to be addressed and, in the process, strangulating and muffling all other voices. The urgency to be the native informant. Why is this so? The answer is complicated. It may boil down to geographical boundaries and political blueprints imposed on us by our colonial masters and the abused nature of our still-colonised society in a country that, to foreign interests, seems nothing more than a potash mine, a petroleum field or a port – the great plantation and its house slaves yearning not to be free.

Colonisation tends to keep on giving long after the colonisers have physically left. Literary careers are made in the nostalgia for it. The writers who are nostalgic about it are labelled as native informants mostly by those who are bitter about their success. These native informants, the accusations go, tend to continue having the out-of-body experience of never being able to be themselves. They can only see themselves through eyes that are not their own — always imagining and narrating reality in a way that might be pleasing to the colonial abuser. They pick up subjects that are pleasing to the abuser. They create characters that fit the characterisations created by the abuser. They stick to the dominant power’s narrative.

The novels that get praise abroad, and subsequently in Pakistan, promote narratives written in the tradition of taking cues from elsewhere and seeing Pakistan from a foreigner’s eyes. Even the websites for the authors published abroad do not mention reviews and interviews published in Pakistani magazines or newspapers.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 23, 2018 at 8:42pm

Education In Pakistan And The Need For Dynamic Organic Curriculum

https://academiamag.com/education-pakistan-dynamic-organic-curriculum/

Education is the wholistic development of an individual. Intellectual, moral and emotional knowledge are crucial to achieve the end wherein a pupil becomes a socially responsible, compassionate and functional member of a society. Education is more than what any school can provide to a child, and the learning does not, cannot and should not stop once a child steps out school boundaries.

In most parts of the world, parents are encouraged to become every bit a part of a child’s educational journey and become key stakeholders in turning children into the finest specimens of humanity. But unfortunately in Pakistan, a peculiar and worrying trend is emerging; keeping curriculum a secret from the parents/families.

School teachers are handed out curriculum guidelines as set by various international examination boards, however, parents are increasingly not being allowed to review the syllabus under the pretext that sharing the curriculum feeds into the parental competition, causes unnecessary stress to the students as they are enrolled in extra tuition to get ahead and reduces the effectiveness of the teachers at school.

Not only are all these excuses merely trying to treat the symptoms, they also take away the ability of providing a more all-round learning experience as children cannot be engaged at home for reinforcement of any concepts that are under discussion at the school. The curriculum, resources, reference books, activities are now seen as the competitive advantage one school might have over another, leading to a very unhealthy trend and a race that neither serves the interests of students nor parents.

Monotony Rules The Roost
Besides the increasingly safeguarding and concealment of these ‘strategic’ resources, the curriculum guidelines laid out are itself confusing and have unrealistic expectations of school managements. Someone who has never met the teachers or a class of students, can hardly gauge the calibre of either; but still gets to decide how long each topic should take and how soon a class – of 2nd graders for example – should master the art of multiplying. At the same time, the guidelines conclude that the concept of division is beyond the cognitive capacity of a 7 year old.


The curriculum followed by most schools do not take into account the varying capabilities and learning curves of individual children. There is no regard for differing interests and inclinations. Students remain spectators that have no control over the flow of the game. Though the “One Size Fits All” approach serves administrative objectives of running a school, it in no way caters to individualized needs, requirements and progress of students.

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Solution: Dynamic Organic Curriculum
The solution to this problem of our stagnant and didactic curriculum approach is two-pronged. First, the power to create, curate and adapt the curriculum needs to be shifted to the people who are closest to students and have a deep understanding of their learning styles, capabilities and cognitive boundaries. These include teachers, principals, and families [whoever is in a position to contribute owing to their own expertise and passion], and last but not the least, students themselves.

The other part of the solution is ensuring that the curriculum itself is flexible and can be personalised to the needs of each student. Individually. The one-size-fits all approach to education is now losing ground. We need to give way to students and allow them to author their own learning, at their own pace and according to their own interests. Apart from the core skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, the children need to be empowered with the ability to learn how they want to, and where they want to and when they want to.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 8, 2018 at 4:29pm

“Treated like royalty”: What it’s like to be a #white #expat in #India.They assume I am very successful by virtue of the pigmentation of my skin. #racism #inferiority #BritishRaj https://qz.com/india/1414490/ via @qzindia

Despite wearing a sun-faded t-shirt, oil-stained shorts, and chappals that look like an elephant used them to walk around.

It’s curious. At times I enjoy it and play along, using elaborate language and speaking in an American accent rather than the neutral one I’ve developed over my many years of living abroad.

Other times, I’d love to just be like one of the locals and not be treated any differently.

But the fun thing about it is that I can get away with wearing whatever I want—something I wouldn’t feel comfortable with if I were in the US.

I remember staying in a hotel in Chennai and the two managers, both wearing glossy suits, chatting with me about their work, the hotel, and the nature of my “business.”

They assumed I was very successful by virtue of the pigmentation of my skin. I wanted to tell them that I’m just an average guy who freelances as a writer, spends time with his family, and likes to watch people, animals, (and) trees and then write about them.

Imagine the looks on their faces if I’d said I was a college dropout.

I ended up fibbing something about having some kind of business in the US because I wanted to get away from the conversation without drawing further attention to myself.

Whenever I visited the house of a friend—especially someone uneducated from a rural area—it would be a huge deal.

Children would stop playing and gape at me. The neighbors would come and see me, say hi, and quiz me to find out whether I can really speak their language or not.

And my host would smile proudly at everyone as if to say, “See, I am so important that even foreigners visit me!”

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