A concentrated online campaign – hashtag #BoycottBeaconHouse – against the Beaconhouse School System is currently underway across various social media platforms, calling for the boycott of and even trial for treason of the school administration for allegedly toeing an enemy agenda.
Traces of the hate campaign, which is exactly what it should be termed, first started showing up on WhatsApp forwards, wherein a short essay in Urdu highlighted how Beaconhouse school was pushing “Indian agenda” and promoting “Western” values among the students.
However in recent days, the smear campaign has gone through the roof, with #BoycottBeaconHouse becoming the top trending topic in Pakistan on Twitter by Monday evening.
The reference to the “Indian agenda” was a faulty map in a social studies book taught in a campus of The Educators School, also operated by the Beaconhouse, in Multan. The book, published abroad, showed Kashmir as part of India, instead of the international acceptance of the region as disputed. Surprisingly, the issue is being contorted to spew hate against the school, despite the law having already taken its course.
The notice of the incorrect map had been taken up by the District Education Authorities (DEAs) in Punjab and the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) had taken strict action against the school and ordered the removal of the factually incorrect book. The school administration duly conformed to the directives.
Another issue highlighted much in the social media tirade is reference to a book published by Oxford on Pakistan by Nigel Smith. In a topic related to former president Ayub Khan, the book suggests Pakistan lost the 1965 War with India. This has not gone down well with social media users, who consider it a misrepresentation of facts. One other point raised against the school is that Islamiyat is not being taught at the school. The fact is, that the subject is being taught as a regular subject at the school.
With the smear campaign in full swing, parents appear to be divided as well. A few parents involved with a prominent group that has been raising a voice against fee hikes by various private schools were of the opinion that they were already apprehensive about the activities at Beaconhouse school, and some had even gone as far as removing children from the said school. Some were particular weary of the sex education being imparted to students at the school.
However, there is another side of the picture as well. Other parents of students enrolled at the school told The Academia that the school was imparting quality education and non-issues were being raised to put the future of the children at stake. A mother, whose two children are enrolled in one of the branches of Beaconhouse, said many of the issues highlighted in the social media campaign were done and dusted and parents had taken the school administration to task over them. She said concerned parents were the first to point out these issues with culture, curricula and activities being undertaken at the school. Asked about the issue of sex education, the mother of two said considering the rising cases of harassment of children in the society, it was in fact necessary to provide basic knowledge to children about such critical issues to make them weary of sexual predators.
What Could Become Of It
The problem at hand is highly concerning not because the social media hate campaign could affect the reputation and financial outcomes of the organisation at the centre of the storm, but the issue could affect the lives and safety of thousands of people attached with it, one way or the other. With government authorities sitting mum over the development and the school administration yet to come out with a proper response, there is every chance of the campaign turning into a catastrophe.
Why? The smear campaign is not only targeting the school, but also the students enrolled in it. It is branding students liberals, immoral and disbelievers. And could well turn into a deep-rooted hatred against anyone who studied at the school in the coming years.
Extremism in Pakistan is a genie already out of the bottle, and giving it more fodder could spell doom for the social fabric. Remember the Peshawar APS massacre? Innocent children were targeted only because they were offspring of armed forces personnel, who the extremist consider toeing a foreign agenda of the West. Is this case any different? Only that the threat comes from within this time.
This aspect of the tirade has scared both parents of students and employees of the school. One such parent, Affan*, said the campaign was fanning hate against innocent students and it could lead to disastrous results. “Our society is already extremely intolerant and highly polarised. Imagine if the majority of the society starts believing Beaconhouse school students to be unpatriotic, immoral and nonreligious. That’s a quick recipe for some scary mob justice.” An employee of Beaconhouse school, Saima*, said her family was fearful that such hate mongering could lead to attacks on the workplace. “They are encouraging me to quit the organisation given the hate that is being spewed.”
With such serious consequences in store, it is high time the hate mongers realise what their actions are leading to. If they must raise a voice against what they think are dubious activities of the school administration, they must take up the matter with the law and contact the relevant forums. An incorrect line in a chapter in a book or a faulty map will remain with a student for only a bit, but hate bred into novice minds sticks much longer.
Islam is religion of peace. And inciting people to hate others destroys the very foundation of that peace. Period.