What Muslims Learn
"No sir, please, I promise sir, I won't do it again. P-l-e-a-s-e
His pleas made no difference. Our English teacher had a vise-like grip
on the left wrist of that student. A few days before we had a brief
English test. That student got 5 out of 10. Like everybody else, he had to
get the signature of one of his parents. Which he did, after he had
changed that "5" to an "8". Now, the student was
fruitlessly attempting to avoid the customary thrashing.
The teacher held the wrist of the student with his left hand and with
his right hit the student multiple times; on the head, the face, the neck,
a few punches on the ribs. I sat in front of the class, a few feet away
from the entire revolting episode.
The student was half-way between standing upright and on his knees. His
voice muffled because of sobs, he again futilely begged, "P-p-please
s-s-sir, I w-w-won't do it..."
Then, a man from the school administration entered the room to hand the
teacher some kind of note. That man looked at the whole situation and
airily inquired about the weeping student. The teacher told the story as
he hit him again. The man responded in Punjabi, "Tsk, kids
nowadays" and then left.
The above scene was from my Pakistani school in Saudi Arabia. It was
just another normal day at our Muslim school. Everyone knew about the
default mode of "teaching". Most of the teachers barked out
whatever was in the books and the students heard the whole thing without
often comprehending the subject. Practically all the students had study
guides, or photocopies of them, to answer the questions for the various
Most students, myself included, simply memorized whatever was in the
books and the study guides and regurgitated the material on tests and
exams. This activity of cramming alien material into our heads was known
as ratta (pronounced rut-ta). It was sad that most students did
the same with mathematics; they could solve any problem from the book but
give 'em something even slightly different, and they would be stumped.
Arabic was our third language; Urdu and English were the first and
second respectively. This made Arabic and Islamiyat (the study/world of
Islam) our worst courses. To top it off, we had the most grotesque teacher
for these two subjects. He wore shalwar kameez and had a big black beard.
His style of teaching was quite simple: If the kid doesn't learn, then you
haven't beaten him enough.
On the day of our test, this teacher would start off by calling out a
student and then telling him to write such-and-such sura from the Quran.
Understand that the meaning of the Quran is immaterial, what matters is
that a student could vomit it all back. If the student made even a single
mistake, then the teacher would send him off to the faculty lounge. You
see, all the exquisite dunday (long and strong wooden sticks)
were there. The teacher would tell the student to bring back the one with
the black tape--the heaviest one. I can't imagine that long walk.
Afterwards the teacher would hit the open palms of the student with the
stick, one hit for every mistake. A few students later, the teacher would
get bored, so he would start hitting students on the back of their knees
and thighs as they wrote out the verses on the board and made errors.
Imagine the effects of this Muslim way of teaching on the psyche of
young kids. Formal education becomes synonymous with pain and suffering.
These kids repeatedly learn that violence is an acceptable method of
instruction. When they do graduate from high school, they have little to
zero understanding of what they've "learned". Whatever they've
memorized evaporates within a few years and all they're left with is
horror stories of vile teachers.
If it wasn't for my introduction to the Western way of teaching less
than a decade ago, then I would have forever thought of teaching as an
odious profession. Though, most Muslims aren't so lucky. Everyday,
thousands, perhaps millions, of Muslims are brutalized by their teachers
as we're repeatedly told that Islam is a Religion of Peace.
Some of you might be asking, "How could the parents allow this
barbarity to continue in schools?" You naively assume that such
violence is limited to schools in Muslim lands.