I remember growing up reading the textbooks assigned to us; each subject heavily influenced the ideology of Islam. As a student, especially when you are living in a less privileged area of Pakistan, you tend to absorb and believe everything that books tell you about your country. My books highlighted how the religion of Islam had united the nation, and how our Quaid, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, fought for the lives of the minorities of India.

What those books failed to highlight was that we are not what they claim us to be. We are not united as they claim, we are not peaceful as they claim, and we are certainly not a brotherhood as our religion wants us to be. We made the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, with the promise that everyone here would have the right to live as a free citizen, and practice whatever religion that they believed in.

However, over time we have made sure that all minorities leave the country gradually because the land of pure is only for particular kind of Muslims. Slowly we started demonising our own people, pointing out people within our own faith that no longer can be called Muslims because we do not have enough acceptance for how a person raises their finger during Salah.

I may have read great stories of sacrifice, forgiveness and acceptance from 1400 years ago, but no one has set an example of such a good character in the current times. Children are taught of a faith that was exemplary 1400 years ago by a Maulvi who blatantly abuses his students. A faith that pushes you to ask questions and enhance your knowledge, has caretakers that do not allow any questions. The trend of killing a child’s intellect starts right with his religious education. And right when he should learning to be humble and kind; he learns that the neighbours next door are not good people, entirely because of a different faith. His textbooks again and again mention how piety is the only differentiating factor in the eyes of God, but he learns that some people are above others purely because of being born into a particular faith. He learns that despite hurting people, and indulging in corrupt practices; the Muslim tag will gain them entry into heaven.

I live in a country where religion is everyone’s affair. No one has the right to believe in whatever they want in their own spheres. You will be judged for not praying five times a day or for not covering yourself by people. You will be labeled as a “desi liberal” for accommodating differences of opinion, and for not questioning the acts of others as long as they are not hurting anyone.

One thing that never changes in the curriculum and in the societal circles is the ardent criticism of the Western culture of liberalism and secularism. You grow up hating these particular terms and criticize anyone who supports a person’s choice to live how he may please. The idea is simple and appealing that if Islamic principles are applied, the state would be better governed. But who is to explain the politicisation of Islam? Who is to explain religious parties moulding the ideology to garner more votes? Who is to explain the brutal use of a tarnished Islamic ideology against the co-existence of other beliefs? Why have I never seen a “liberal” outraged enough to brutally murder someone?

My books have betrayed me. The words that I held sacred betrayed me. I have been fed lies about our nation. The greatness that is attached to the country can rarely be witnessed. All I witness is people ready to slit throats in the name of religion, people not willing own fellow citizens because of a different belief, and every new day is a proof of how much further can the society deteriorate.

Stop printing lies! We stand at a point in history where the future only looks dismal and morbid.  Start telling citizens who we actually are and what we do to each other. For how long will we cover our deeds by printing stories of the past? For us to actually move forward as a nation, stop lying to us. Tell us where we stand, and force us to accept the truth; so that the next time a child picks up a textbook, he does not feel betrayed by the portrayal of his homeland.