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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Void (& The CREaTIoNist's Filler!)

In any English Medium school in Pakistan - be it the one that people are almost dying to send their child to, or the little one on the corner of the street near your house which thinks that to be really 'acceptable' it's essential to have the word 'Saint' in its name (the one near mine is called "St. Humpty Dumpty's") - there is one common problem: Getting the children interested in reading Urdu books.

There are many reasons, of course. For one, many parents pay more than they can afford just so their child can get a basic knowledge of English - hoping that, in later years, this will open up better job opportunities. In fact it does, both internationally and locally. So when their child starts reading English books, comics, newspapers and magazines, they feel they are getting a return on their investment and rarely notice (or purposely overlook) the almost total absence of Urdu books around their child. (I live in Karachi so I am basing this on my experience, but friends across the country tell me that books in the national and regional languages share, at best, the same fate everywhere. YMMV.) For another, the quality of the Urdu books for each age group, though improving slowly now, is still so low in terms of print quality, paper quality, and illustrations (all of which are victims of 'the economies of scale') in comparison to their English counterparts that no child finds them attractive enough to choose from the school library.

One thing that puzzles me, though, is why the 'content', too, is so poor. While English books present adventures and situations that are contemporary and within the direct or indirect (via Films & TV) experience of the child, the Urdu books are often still stuck in another century. Why are there no Enid Blytons, Roald Dahls, J K Rowlings, Shel Silversteins, or even R L Stines? Why did things come to a halt with Toat Batoat and Paesa Library?

A few Urdu books from The Book Group - despite some flaws (I recall Anita Ghulamali fuming at the book that focused on Mohaavraas) - did raise hopes, at least through the production quality and wonderful illustrations. Some large school systems have brought out their own series that offers shades of improvement over the run of the mill material, as do books from established publishers. But these, too, concentrate primarily on the production quality.

Thoughtless editing mars most of them. For example, instead of actively negating stereotypes - particularly of women - that do so much damage, some actually reinforce them. Often the husband is shown coming home from work in a chauffeur-driven car while children and house-wifey dear run outside to greet him - a rather atypical situation in the home of many children who go to these upper-middle-class and elite schools. In one book mom and kids in such a scenario are even shouting out, in unison, "Hamaaray liyay kyaa laaé?" Just a few pages later, girls are shown choosing to play with dolls, while boys choose cars ... again a strange representation, today. Stand outside many of these types of schools at drop-time and see how many women (compared to men) drive their children to school or arrive to teach there.

Nationalistic lip-service to Maadaré Millat aside, few stories, if any, are ever centred around working women - except the token nurse or someone on the periphery. This from teaching or publishing organizations that are not just filled with women on their workforce but frequently even headed by them!

Poetry, one of Urdu's greatest pleasures, receives a really rough treatment. Technically wrong lines (especially in the case of mauzooniat) are often found, as are misquoted verses. This passes through not just the Editors - even at OUP - but also, unchecked, via Urdu teachers who do not make corrections that their English-teaching counterparts would routinely make in a similar situation in the same school. Why? Because, as products of the same 'Urdu-rejecting' education system, they know no better!

Of course, trying to point out a mistake to the school is even worse. Either - if the teacher is vengeful, and some are - your child has to bear the brunt for having a 'finicky' parent or, if you and your child are lucky, you merely get - as I did - a stupid response.

Glancing at 6-year old Ragni's Urdu notebook I noticed that in the homework given to her a word had been written wrongly (the assignment was in the teacher's hand and a letter of the alphabet in it contained an extra 'shosha'). I sent a separate polite note to her saying that she should be a little more careful as the children would think that the 'shape' was the correct one ... to which the teacher responded that the child in question was too young to read the homework assignment and, obviously, it would be read by a parent who is expected to know the correct form and, so, there really was no problem. O-kayyy....
Enter - The Deceiver: One problem that poor quality Urdu books (as well as poorly printed pirated English books) published here have created is that schools are hungry for any well-presented books in Urdu and Islamiyaat (the 2nd of the 3 subjects that children find boring for the way it is taught ... the third being Pak Studies.) I shan't even delve into the fact - at least in this post - that Urdu course books have turned almost entirely into 'Islamiyaat plus Pak Studies' books in an obviously failing effort at producing better Muslims or Pakistanis. Nature abhors a vacuum and gaps are soon filled by matter ... but nature passes no judgement on the quality of the matter that fills the vacuum. Precious stones and bullshit are equally welcome as long as the volume is the same. So, in jump books from that misleading fraud, the phenomenon known as Harun Yahya. After all, they are beautifully published. The quality of the photographs is at par with the kind one sees in NatGeo (some may even have been licensed from that publication). The text is simple (even when it contains distortion or misrepresentation of facts). The books have in-built protection: The subject is clothed in the magical world of 'beliefs', even the most stupid of which are difficult to challenge today - unless, of course, the view is that of a minority - for fear of offending some highly inflammable weirdo. And - a boon in this age of multimedia - there are even videos (again, of very high quality) available that can supplement the text.
Teachers: Just switch them on. Switch yourselves off. Relax. No great damage will be done to the students, who, once the lights go off for 'projection', will either fall asleep or indulge in other productive activities.
So who can resist introducing these gorgeous books into schools? Or who can, at the very least, delete non-factual passages? Better still, who can encourage the students to debate them ... for isn't debating 'censorship' the best of ideas in a learning environment? Well, I don't know about who can, but I know who should: An 'educated' Principal or Teacher.

Recently I said this to a 'school-owner' and she said those are difficult to find. Hmmmm ... I have suggested that (since she is aware of this poor state of affairs and is, to the best of my knowledge, a decent and honest human) her school should carry a warning banner (like cigarette packets do): Beware - Teaching in this school is often done by people who don't know their subject.

Harun Yahya fans may be angered by my putting down someone so respected among people who, when confronted with specifics, have a question that always drives me up the wall: "Aap itnay deep mayñ kyooñ jaa rahay haeñ?" Those who may not be aware of HY's "mistakes" (if one is feeling 'charitable') or "intentional fraudulent manipulation" (if one is willing to call a spade a spade - for it is unlikly that an author, with a veritable fundo-funded publishing industry behind him, would not have researched matters better), here's a link that should clarify why I feel so strongly against the use of these books in schools, especially the purchase of his Atlas of Creation. A more recent and frightening phenomena is the showing of his videos as in-flight entertainment. This, too, must stop ... unless, in the interest of fairness, the films are followed immediately by this video.

Any ideas?

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Anonymous Vic said...

Watch another long video? No thanks, I think I'll go fly fishing instead... with St Humpty Dumpty, perhaps, he's a good egg.

19 November, 2008 13:09

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I find the situation in terms of English vs. Regional/Local languages to be very similar, here in India.

22 November, 2008 16:33

Anonymous rahmat masih said...

How could you not, my dear Sidhusaaheb?

@zakintosh: may i suggest you break this post into two?

22 November, 2008 17:03

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@rahmat masih

I write my blog like a diary entry - in one straight go. So the flow of one topic into the other was not planned. It just happened.

Just the same, your suggestion is somewhat justified ... but tricky to handle since archival and referential links would suffer. So I have done the next best thing: Altered the title and added a phrase where the not-quite-rigid demarcation begins.

See. You can please some of the people all of the time :~)

22 November, 2008 17:19

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please do not undermine the good work that Mr. Yahya is doing just because of a few mistakes. He is brother Muslim. Do you want to take a Kafir's word against his? Don't forget that he is from among the same Christians who altered God's word by distotion of Injeel.

24 November, 2008 15:01

Blogger Naveen said...

To Anonymous: I'm afraid I must point out the following:

1) Richard Dawkins is an atheist.

2) An individual's religious beliefs or affiliations, or lack thereof, do not qualify them as scientists, nor do they give them credibility. Expertise, knowledge and repute must be earned.

3) 'Good work' does not mean the airbrushing of incorrect statement of hypothesis/research/findings through religious beliefs. And a few mistakes count rather a lot when one is arguing as important a subject as evolution.

24 November, 2008 23:30

Blogger Ali Kazim Gardezi said...

That was an interesting read...

I esp read with interest the last portion of ur post where u discussed HY's increasing influence/popularity in our society. I have read some of his articles/books and found it harmless. But I have a big objection at his creation theory. Thats where he got it absolutely wrong. Just wondering who finance him???

Richard Dawkins is a highly respectable scientist and he is an agnostic not an athiest (in his own words). He happen to have deep interest in the conflict between science and religion and has expressed his feelings through books and documentries. For those interested should read him before claiming such...

25 November, 2008 12:06

Anonymous H said...

Evolution and Evolutionary theory is a pet peeve of mine.

That is how I came to your blog.

You are dismissing HY on the basis of his mistakes. Would you then dismiss evolutionist scientist if they made similar mistakes? Or better yet lied outright?

The unfortunate problem is that people are of either two extremes.


25 November, 2008 14:19

Anonymous H said...

I just went to the link you posted.

Have you ever read any of HY books or are your "analysis" based on a cursory "flip through" of his books or dare I say even worse, adopting another "experts" opinion?

So which one is it?


25 November, 2008 14:23

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@A K Gardezi

most insidiously dangerous material seems harmless at the beginning until i snowballs into something we cannot handle.

for dawkins's beliefs, see:

26 November, 2008 00:44

Blogger Zakintosh said...


Yes ... I have read 4 of his books in detail and glanced through a couple of others.

I had not read any other expert's opinion about him until I came across Dawkins cutting through HY's falsifications in the Atlas of Creation.

I have, of course, exchanged views with some of his followers and opposers

26 November, 2008 00:56

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@H (again):

I am not sure if 'pet peeves' have rational bases that one can base serious discussions upon. I have many, myself, (Adnan Sami Khan and Jagjit's singing, for example, though neither has ever been guilty of an incorrect note) but - on an honest self-analysis - I put them down to personal likes, dislike,s and inherited biases.

A mistake is a mistake and an outright lie is an outright lie, regardless of who is guilty of these. It is the context that defines whether the person's views are to be admitted in future or not.

Scientists are searching for answers and, often, new techniques bring answers that contradict older conclusions. And it is scientists who then announce these corrections that science, itself, makes possible.

Creationists and ID supporters start with a premise that stems from their interpretation or understanding of a work they believe to be divinely inspired and try to make all their teachings fit these assumptions. For example 'young-earth creationists' who believe the earth came into existence just 6000+ years ago (based on a literalist view of the Bible), insist that dinos and humans walked the earth together.

H ... I could respond in your 'style' by questioning whether you have ever read or just cursorily flipped through the writings about Evolution... or, worse, merely adopted the opinions of fraudulent quacks.

But that would not be anything but an argument designed less to contradict and more to ridicule. So I will assume you have a working knowledge of the subject, itself, and are familiar with the various variations and views within the basic theory. (Those readers who are not, may wish to look up:

May I ask, instead, if your basic distrust of Evolutionary Biology is that it seems to conflict with a set of beliefs? For then the discussion (not argument) will have to revise the framework under which it is held ...

26 November, 2008 01:25

Anonymous H said...


[i]I have, of course, exchanged views with some of his followers and opposers[/i]

Well you know what they say about followers!

The pet peeve isn’t evolutionary theory itself, rather the nigh religious reverence given to it by is proponents ho are unaware and ignorant of its history.

[i]Scientists are searching for answers and, often, new techniques bring answers that contradict older conclusions. And it is scientists who then announce these corrections that science, itself, makes possible. [/i]

Yes agreed and that is what we call a mistake, new revelation etc.. A lie is knowing that something is not true you still present as true to support your “theory”.

Also please note I do not wish to be labeled a creationist. I detest the whole concept of labels and then attacking the person based on that label as opposed to listening to what he/she is saying.

[i]H ... I could respond in your 'style' by questioning whether you have ever read or just cursorily flipped through the writings about Evolution... or, worse, merely adopted the opinions of fraudulent quacks. [/i]

It was a genuine question and I merely wanted to know whether a discussion could take place or am I talking to a evolutionary “quack” (they are similar to the bible thumping Creationist you mention).

[i]May I ask, instead, if your basic distrust of Evolutionary Biology is that it seems to conflict with a set of beliefs? For then the discussion (not argument) will have to revise the framework under which it is held ... [/i]

The distrust is based on genuine facts, lies that have been spread and the set of the evolutionist. Let me clarify by belief I am not talking about whether the evolutionist is a Muslim, Christian or atheist but rather the beliefs the person hold regarding evolution.

This is actually the crux of the issue that HY and his series of books have highlighted, they are not scientific journals by far and are not meant to be either.

HY books expose that as opposed to reasonable scientific investigation on evolution what we have in the real world is the theory comes before everything. As opposed to the genuine search for knowledge and truth they work on the premise that evolutions is fact and how can we prove it. Even when each subsequent finding in the last 50 years keeps going in the opposite direction.

I would request you to read about the history of evolution.

The unfortunate thing is that it isin’t really about evoltuion vs creation. But rather about sceince. I have been in discussion with evolutionist and creationist who have presented the same data to prove their theory. In the end it is about interpetation, you can either interpet the data to find God or you can interpet the finding to support your unbelief in God.

Similar to how people will read the Quran and become Muslims or read the Quran and become anti-Muslim.


26 November, 2008 15:36

Blogger Zakintosh said...


HY's followers (the 2 I spoke with and was referring to) were staunch supporters of his works but, sadly, seemed to have read little else beside him. His opposers, on the other hand, included a couple of believers who faulted him for misrepresenting religious texts and 2 others whose belief/unbelief I do not know about, who disagreed with his his anti-evolution stance for the deceitful manner in which it is conveyed.

As for those who give religious reverence to evolution or anything else, I have no time for them.

I totally agree that knowingly continuing to promote a lie is unforgivable - whether the act is committed by a scientist, a politician, or a religious leader ...

Ref your sentence on labeling, I did not label YOU a creationist. But surely those who call themselves Creationists have chosen that label for themselves and should be referred to as such.

We part ways more or less at this point of our discussion. HY has not exposed any flaws in the theory of Evolution ... he has only exposed lthe liars who may als be part of a group of scientists just as liars can be part of any group. Just as exposing HY for the liar that he is does not make Islamic ideology or beliefs false, exposing lying scientists (or even scientist who may have reached wrong conclusions but not necessarily lied) does not falsify that part of the scientific evidence that does exist in favour of Evolution.

You need not requet me to read up the History of Evolution. And I, tempted as I am, will not ask you to read up on Evolution, itself (which, from your drift, I feel you have not fully grasped). In any case, I'd rather that one study evidence of continental drift, for example, and draw conclusions rather than read the history of the phenomenon - when discovered, by whom, etc., - in order to find some hidden agenda. I say that with the total understanding that your interest in the History of Evolution may not be in discovering 'plots', but I have encountered many who do look upon it in that light and I felt it was worth mentioning in a space that others, too, read.

Evolution, itself - whether you like it or not - is a fact. Darwinist explanations or Lamarckian explanations of it belong to their own times and further insights, instruments, tests may find better explanations in some areas, just as Newtonian Physics may have some (not all) of its ideas replaced by Einsteinian or Quantum theories.

I find particularly amazing your sweeping and, pardon my bluntness, totally ridiculous statement that "each subsequent finding in the last 50 years keeps going in the opposite direction." I found this falsification (or, if you find this word offensive, distortion) of facts particularly odd, coming from one who actually has criticized the act of knowingly misrepresenting the facts.

Finally, not all who accept the fact of Evolution are disbelievers in God or even spirituality or even mysticism (Sam Harris is case in point). Darwin, himself, was a fairly regular church-going Christian. And there are many religious scientists who reconcile the (seemingly) dichotomous position of accepting a halfway position: God, they say, created Evolution and even guided the process along. This is certainly not a Creationist POV.

27 November, 2008 04:38

Anonymous H said...


I am against the agenda driven evolution that has taken hold the world of science. It is less about science and more about "proving to those dumb religious morons there is no God". Second my criticism of evolution does not come because HY wrote his books but comes from reading the material put in science journals by evolutionist.

I can also assure you, this statement of yours:

"Evolution, itself - whether you like it or not - is a fact"

Means that you have no idea what evolution really is.

Honestly after the above statement there really isn’t much we can discuss and please it isn’t about what I like. As I said in my previous statement you will believe what you want to believe and the facts be damned!

Good day

27 November, 2008 11:13

Anonymous rahmat masih said...

Evolution as a biological phenomenon is acceptable with the same scrutiny that all ideas should be subjected to. I do not think that our (Catholic) church should be at odds with it. It should learn from its Galileo encounter and the backtracking it has had to do since. But the applications of a biology theory to society (such as justifying genocide with it or using 'survival of the fittest' to support certain business practices) is basically evil.

27 November, 2008 11:16

Blogger Zakintosh said...

C'mon H.

Saying "... you have no idea what evolution really is." is sheer verbal tennis. Also, you have omitted to explain or support your majestic statement that "each subsequent finding in the last 50 years keeps going in the opposite direction." ... though the omission may not have been intentional.

I agree that we may not accept - but not unreasonably so - what the other has concluded from studying this particular topic. But at least our discussion was (fairly) civil and not the dogmatic kind that the deceiving HY and some equally prejudiced detractors often resort to. However, I am sure we probably see eye-to-eye on many other issues ... so don't part with hard feelings.

Peace! And thanks for 'sparkling' the blog.

27 November, 2008 17:27

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Here's a piece that may interest those genuinely interested in the evolutionist's point of view.

07 December, 2008 22:45

Anonymous Babar said...

HY has done some work on cosmology also. You know mixing it up with islam. Whenever I need a laugh a read those books. They realy crank me up. May be its just because i am a theoretical physicist with published work in cosmology.

22 December, 2008 22:38

Blogger Qudsia said...

Evolution is a fact but it is in no way contrary to the teachings of Islam. Muslims stumble because they take their cue from Christian scholars. The Bible was written by human beings, so they liberally added their own comments defining things the way they understood them.

The Holy Quran says,the earth was created in 6 stages or periods. The word used for stages/periods is YAUM, which can be used for "a day" but the Holy Quran states that it could be this many thousands of years or that many thousands of years etc. The narrators of Bible restricted the concept of a 'day' by adding something to the effect that 'the sun rose and the sun set and the Lord said it was a day.' Muslims should go with the Quranic definition of 'yaum' and not the Bible's.

Those who lie and deceive are in fact working to destroy the very fibre of religion and should be rejected by all God fearing people. To lie, in itself is committing 'shirk' (associating partners with God) as the one who lies actually believes that it is the lie that will save the situation and not God.

As a devout Muslim, I have been taught that we should persue the truth in all research even if it seemingly contradicts what we believe in, because all truth ultimately leads to God even if we fail to see it at first.

As a last note, having done my undergraduate degree in Biology, I would respectfully request those who reject religion simply because evolution exists, to study a little deeper. You will find that attempts to deceive come not only from Creationists, but also from those who have made the current theory of evolution into their god.

The very theory of natural selection fueled by genetic mutations cries out that there must be a creator to guide evolution as it is a mathematical impossibility, under the rules of this very theory, for life to have evolved as it has.

There is a remarkable book on this subject which also talks about a range of other topics which I think will interest this audience. The book is called Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth. It is by Mirza Tahir Ahmad. It is a volumnous book so I would recommend that anyone interested in reading it should purchase it. otherwise, it can be downloaded and/or read from this site:

(Used copies are also available on, very cheaply)

For shorter articles, those interested can search the website, however, it would be worth your time to read this book, even if online.

There is one small sentence in the book which I found was not in accordance with what I have read in biology courses at university. It was, however, based an article I read, according to Darwin's views. That sentence has no bearing on the arguments in the rest of the book though. Let me know if anyone finds it and then we can talk about it.

08 October, 2009 11:22


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