International supporters of the largest world’s private school network should hold it accountable for participating in the Pakistani anti-Ahmadi bigotry.
by Massimo Introvigne
Can children be expelled from a school just because of their religion? The answer today in Pakistan is yes. Four children have been expelled from the Mithial Campus of The Educators School Network in Attock, Punjab.
The only reason given for the expulsion is that they belong to the “Qadianat Religion,” a derogatory term to designate the Ahmadis.
The Ahmadis are a persecuted religious minority founded within Islam by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908). Conservative Muslims accuse Ahmad of having considered himself a “prophet,” in breach of the Islamic doctrine that maintains that there can be no prophet after Muhammad.
The Ahmadi formula for Ahmad, “at the same time a prophet and a follower of the Holy Prophet [Muhammad],” is not enough to establish their orthodoxy in the eyes of Muslim clerics. For them, the Ahmadis are non-Muslim heretics. They are severely persecuted in Pakistan through specific laws that make them second class citizens prevented from voting and holding office.
What happened in Attock is an international scandal because of what Beaconhouse and The Educators School Network are. They claim to be the largest private school in the world, through 900 campuses in more than 200 cities, and more than 200,000 students.
The problem with Beaconhouse, established in 1975 in Lahore and now present in several countries, including in the United Kingdom, is that, while founded by Muslims, it is not a confessional Muslim school. It claims to be inspired by Maria Montessori, the Italian Theosophist and liberal educator renowned for her innovative pedagogy and for her campaigns for democracy and against racism and religious discrimination. These values are advertised when Beaconhouse promotes its schools and seeks donations.
It is inconceivable that Beaconhouse can at the same time presents itself as a beacon of tolerance and peace following Montessori’s ideas, and participate in Pakistani intolerance and bigotry against the Ahmadis. Those who allow Beaconhouse schools to operate and collect donations in democratic countries should perhaps take a second look at the organization.