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Implicit and Explicit Sectarianism in Schools

Throughout this course on Education and Conflict, I have had some uneasy flashbacks from my school days in Gujrat. I studied in a prominent private school from kindergarten till matriculation where I was exposed to a variety of excellent academic and co-curricular opportunities. However, this learning space was simultaneously a breeding ground for conflicts among students and teachers belonging to different sects of Islam.

The principal was a Sunni man in his mid 40s who was well-known for his progressive educational vision and passion for innovative teaching-learning processes. Despite his broad academic vision, he was extremely biased in his dealings with staff and students belonging to all other religious sects except his own (Sunnism). Some instances of his discriminatory policies included hiring staff based on religious affiliations to his own sect and giving them distinctive favors off and on. The students and teachers who had different beliefs (for example Wahhabis, Shias) were left with no other choice but to hide their affiliations. These teachers were often conspired against in an attempt to slander them and ultimately render them deprived of their designations.

I remember in 7th grade, a very intelligent girl switched schools to join our class and we became friends. She was very open about her Shia identity and was often judged by other class fellows. None of the other girls in the class would sit with her during lunch break because of some messed up notions about eating with people who belonged to that sect. But the most difficult period was prayer time in the afternoon when everyone used to publicly criticize her for offering prayers in a certain manner or at a different time. All of our teachers were either aware of or complicit in these behaviors, but they never addressed these things in or out of class. The importance of tolerance and respect for individual differences in a relevant local context was never touched upon through curriculum either.

As a teenager still trying to understand my religious beliefs, I was constantly nagged for not having a solid stance. But perhaps what was more shocking to see was how stressed and threatened my school fellows and teachers, who had a strong affiliation with a particular sect, were made to feel.


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Have you experienced something similar in your school or university? Can you link these experiences with education or conflict? Alternatively, you can also share positive experiences!

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7 comentários


It is unfortunate that our society is cursed with this sectarianism, and everyone has witnessed or gone through some form of sectarian discrimination.

I too have witnessed such discrimination against certain sects in my area. But within the boundaries of school and my friend circle in school, I never witnessed anything like this.

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Zersh Salman
Zersh Salman
22 de ago. de 2021
Respondendo a

Thank you for sharing your views Muzammil. I hope at least our generation can address these issues effectively in the future.

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I think all of us have experienced us sectarianism in implicit or explicit ways in school settings. I went to an NGO funded school for 2-3 years and that was run by a Sunni professor who gave admissions to the students having the same sect as him and there were a lot of religious activities everyday. I remember, there was a rule that all students after grade 5 will wear proper Hijab. He imposed s specific dress code on teachers as well.

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Zersh Salman
Zersh Salman
22 de ago. de 2021
Respondendo a

Yes! This excessive policing of dress code especially for girls and women is so problematic even in the professional sector as well. In my school once on Rabiul Awwal some teachers did not put in as much effort in decorations because their beliefs didn't align with excessively celebrating. Our principal called these teachers out in front of the entire school, made them feel uncomfortable and anti-Islamic, and asked them to leave the event venue.

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I don't know why people are obsessed with someone's personal faith that too in a professional setting. If the teachers and schools' higher authorities are like this, one can imagine how most of the students will grow mentally.


Well, I have some of my friends who belong to different sects of Islam and we studied together in school and college too, but there was never discrimination against them. I think this is a pretty ideal situation but yes I do know some friends from other schools where there was such kind of discrimination.

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Respondendo a

yeah :(


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