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Tasleema Nasreen And The Four Pillars Of Learning

By Mustafa Khan

02 March, 2010

Ten years have passed since UNESCO published its report on education for the 21st century, The Treasure Within, which among other things emphasizes learning to live together. Ten years into the new century and our education seems to be where it was at the turn of the last century. This is quintessentially true in one of the four pillars of learning, learning to live together. In the other three, viz., learning to know, to do and to be, there is some change in the contour.

We and particularly young learners inherit a complex world. If the world has not made us learn to live with others better what is the remedy? The remedy is surely education itself which Jacques Delors describes as a necessary utopia; “humankind sees in education an indispensable asset in its attempt to attain the ideals of peace, freedom and social justice.” It is “a principal means available to foster a deeper and more harmonious form of human development and thereby to reduce poverty, exclusion, ignorance, depression and war.”

Failure to educate so results in violence and disruption. On March 1, 2010 violence broke out on account of what Tasleema Nasreen had purportedly written much earlier. "If the Quran advises women to use purdah, should they do so? My answer is No. Irrespective of which book says it, which person advises, whoever commands, women should not have purdah. No veil, no chador, no hijab, no burqa, no headscarf. Women should not use any of these things because all these are instruments of disrespect". She denied that the words ascribed to her are hers. Why did the violence break out, then?

Doing anything on the spur of the moment reveals lack of education. Only when you know all the aspects of a case you can respond, if at all you choose to do so. Since the Quran shows other ways of responding, have the protesters gone through them? Have they tried some of them and exhausted them? Keeping patience in the face of provocation would have paid better dividends.

Similarly you are given right of expression, but should you twist the words of a writer who did not intend it and then publish them? Or would you put words of your own in her mouth?

In the same way why did the Kannada papers wait until she was granted her last extension of visa only last week and republish her article to coincide with it? Of course, there is a tactical move which would bring political gains to one party but would not have the moral justification of communities living together. Harmonious peaceful coexistence rather than political skullduggery should have weighed in republishing that article, “Let’s Think Again About the Burqa”.

However, two people have been killed and scores of others injured. Hundreds of vehicles vandalized. That does not seem to go down so easily.

Learning to know should have helped learning to do better. The first incident took place in Shimoga the constituency of Chief Minister BS Yeddyuappa and then it spread to Hassan, the constituency of former Prime Minister HD Devi Gowda. From there to Gokak in Belgaum district. Then, entered Shri Ram Sene. It shows that those who maneuvered this or chose to act did not learn to be better informed and enlightened citizens. As a result of the failure in varying degree of the four pillars of learning the society suffered. If the executive, legislative and administrative wings fail, the onus is on the teachers. Will they take on the daunting task of education for a brighter India?

They have to when they renovate themselves to the task. On their shoulders more rather than on any others’ lies the responsibility that the media has played havoc with the society. It has sensationalized issues which have disfigured our streets with hundreds of shops and vehicles burnt. Bringing panels of ‘experts’ who are die hard politicians and ideologues to discuss and thrash ad absurdum the latest incidents of violence and thereby making people more entrenched in their petty biases and prejudices!

The teachers have to make the young generation to discover “the treasure within” rather than come out on the streets with their hidden treasure of stones, bars, sticks, knives and swords to confront the other.

It is time for the teachers to sensitize the youths and children that we have common purposes to struggle together for. That, we must strive to avoid our slow collective suicide that is the degradation of our environment. That, equitable distribution of the wealth accumulating from our more than 8% growth of our gross national products reaches to all. Given these common goals of all the people of the country the violence in Karnataka is puerile. Is Tasleema Nasreen, a foreigner, such a powerful visiting planet that can pull us out of the gravitation of the orbit of our noble national endeavour for a better life?