Letters To The Editor

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

The increasing culture of forced conversions

Every year in Pakistan, several 100 young Christian or Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam, and sometimes married off. The growing radicalisation in the country is making life increasingly hard for the 10 per cent of non Muslim Pakistanis – and they have little recourse in the face of violence. Sources report that non-Muslim girls and women in Pakistan are kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and married to Muslim men. Forced conversion and marriage is a common issue for non-Muslim women and girls. Some sources also indicate that minority girls who are kidnapped and forcibly converted are also raped. The practice of kidnapping and forcibly converting non-muslim girls had been increasing over the previous four or five years. Sources indicate that such incidents most commonly take place each month in Karachi, Sindh Province. Girls who are forcibly converted and married are prevented from having contact with their families. Such girls and women are often subject to intimidation and isolation and are coerced by police and their abductors to testify in court that they converted willingly to Islam. And this was exactly the case with the 13-year-old Arzoo who was forcefully converted to Islam a few days ago but after she was found, she completely denied being abducted. Such abductors usually ensure the girls' compliance by threatening to murder their family members or accuse them of blasphemy. The law strictly forbids forced conversions, as does Islam. The government must work on legislation against forced conversions and make stricter laws to prevent this crime as religion and faith are not things that can be followed forcefully. Forced conversion cannot create love and faith in one's heart.

Hira Zia,

Education under attack

In situations of armed conflict and insecurity, deliberate attacks on and threats against learners, academics, teachers and education facilities are both a barrier to the right to education and a serious protection issue. These violent incidents involve the use of force in ways that disrupt and deter educational provision, putting educators and learners at risk in environments that should be safe, secure and protective. There have been many incidents of terrorist attacks on educational institutions in Pakistan, the biggest one has been the APS massacre and the most recent one has been the bomb attack in a madrassa in Peshawar. But one always wonders, why would terrorists attack such targets? One obvious answer is because they can. Schools are usually unprotected. Embassies, military bases, even hotels are, after a decade and a half of rolling waves of terrorist violence across the world, now harder to hit. But there are other reasons, too. Terrorism aims to undermine the legitimacy and authority of a state. In many parts of the world, the local school is that state’s only tangible presence. Another goal is simply to stall education, of both girls and boys. A more pragmatic aim may be to send a message to policymakers or even to the general public. But there isn’t any clear answer to why educational institutions have always been the terrorists’ biggest target. But what is clear is that such attacks are increasing and that this needs to be prevented. It’s high time that the government provides the same level of security to our educational institutes as it provides to embassies and military bases. Students and teachers are our future and their security needs as much regard as any leader or dignitary.

Ali Raza,