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    Is this Blasphemy?

    May 12, 2001


    Death to Blasphemers: Islam's Grip on Pakistan





    [This message has been edited by Nefsy (edited May 18, 2001).]

    #2
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/12/wo...pagewanted=all

    May 12, 2001
    Death to Blasphemers: Islam's Grip on Pakistan


    SLAMABAD, Pakistan Blasphemy is a capital crime in this volatile Islamic nation, so Dr. Younus Shaikh, while teaching at a medical college, might have wisely avoided any discussion of the personal hygiene of the holy Prophet Muhammad.

    But the topic came up during a morning physiology class. And the doctor talked briefly about seventh-century Arabia and its practices regarding circumcision and the removal of underarm hair.

    Some students found his remarks deeply offensive. "Only out of respect, because he was our teacher, did we not beat him to death on the spot," said Syed Bilal, 17.

    Instead, they informed a group of powerful mullahs, who in turn filed a criminal complaint. Lest the matter be treated with insufficient urgency, these clerics dispatched a mob to the medical school and the police station, threatening to burn them down.

    Precisely what Dr. Shaikh said in class last October is now a matter of mortal dispute, but he has been jailed ever since, awaiting trial and pondering the noose. Defending himself presents a conundrum. What can he safely say?

    Pakistan, a nearly bankrupt nation with 150 million people, a military government and an expanding nuclear arsenal, is drifting toward religious extremism. Blasphemy cases are its version of the Salem witch trials, with clerics sniffing out infidels, and enemies using the law to settle personal scores.

    Accurate crime statistics are a low priority here, but the number of those imprisoned on blasphemy charges is estimated in the hundreds. Only the most sensational cases get much notice: when vigilantes murder the accused, or the bold judge who set him free. When a man is condemned to die if a few pages in the Koran are torn. When a newspaper is shut down after publishing a sacrilegious letter.

    Dr. Shaikh is charged under Provision 295-C of the law: the use of derogatory remarks about the holy Prophet Muhammad. Whether such an offense is intentional or not, the mandatory punishment is death.

    "Please understand, I am a deeply religious man," Dr. Shaikh said recently, professing his Islamic faith through the tight wire mesh of a jail cell. A short, rumpled man, he had the weary look of someone trying to rub a disturbing dream from bleary eyes. "I cannot even imagine blaspheming our holy Prophet, peace be upon him."

    Few Pakistanis have heard of Dr. Shaikh, but news of his woes has leapt the borders, flitting across the Internet. He is associated with the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which describes itself as an "umbrella organization for humanist, rationalist, agnostic, skeptic, atheist and ethical culture groups around the world." In 1999, he gave a presentation at the World Humanist Congress.

    In an attempt to save the doctor, a global letter-writing campaign was quickly begun, with pleas aimed at Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler. Publicity, on the other hand, has been discouraged.

    The hope was that persistent statesmanship would outlast righteous anger, with the charges then quietly disappearing. This hushed approach has proved a frustration, however, and after declining earlier requests for an interview, Dr. Shaikh agreed to speak of his case.

    "My statements about the holy Prophet, peace be upon him, were made in his praise only, and these have now been twisted out of context," he said in measured phrases.

    Moments later, pressed for specifics, he said: "My students asked me about the shaving of pubic and armpit hair, and I, in describing the glory of Allah's revelations, said that before the arrival of Islam, the Arabs did not have these practices. And they did not."

    Before his troubles, Dr. Shaikh lived alone in a small room in Islamabad. He had studied medicine in both Pakistan and Ireland but his practice had long periods of interruption. He preferred academic research and his passion has been "the history of nations." After the Koran, he said, the important books in his life have been the Encyclopedia Britannica and "The Story of Civilization," by Will and Ariel Durant.

    Pakistan may have an ample supply of free thinkers, but free speakers have long been on the wane. Governments civilian or military tend to imprison opponents. Federal laws enforce a mix of mosque and state, and questions of religion are often presumed to have a single right answer, like arithmetic.

    "Before saying anything in this country, you must always be aware of the forum, the place and the time," said Afrasiab Khattak, head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. "If accused of blasphemy, you are in great difficulty. The mullahs are not known for their generosity. Even if exonerated, you will always be in danger."

    Dr. Shaikh was a member of peace and environmental groups. But while he might have asked an occasional dissenting question at a public seminar, he was not a well-known activist. His few writings have appeared mostly in cyberspace, and at least some of them accuse organized religion of mass murder, bigotry and the degradation of women. (Supporters have now removed most of this material from the Internet.)

    Last fall, as Dr. Shaikh worked part time at a small clinic, he accepted a teaching job at the Capital Homeopathic Medical College, on the second floor of a shopping plaza. He had no expertise in homeopathic cures, but his subject was physiology and he knew that well enough. He was paid $89 a month.

    However badly it ended, Dr. Shaikh's brief tenure was not a contentious one. Students liked him. If he had a fault, they said, it was for lectures that meandered into irrelevancies like poetry or free sex in Western countries.

    Occasionally, Dr. Shaikh's digressions embarrassed his students; occasionally, they seemed impious. One irksome topic was how Muslims had come to practice circumcision and, for purposes of cleanliness, the removal of pubic and underarm hair. A question arose: Had Muhammad been circumcised before receiving God's revelations at age 40?

    The ensuing discussion brought on no great ado, and Dr. Shaikh said he only remembers saying, "The Prophet's tribe did not practice circumcision."

    But the offended students repeat a different version.

    "He told us the Prophet hadn't been circumcised before," insisted Majid Lodhi, 22. "We asked, `In what book is this knowledge?' And he said, `I'm telling you the way it was, and if you have evidence to the contrary, bring in your proof.' "


    Outside of school, the students had begun talking about Dr. Shaikh. Was he uttering blasphemies? they asked each other. And if so, what should a good Muslim do?

    [/b]"I had heard from the sermons in the mosques that those who blaspheme deserve to be killed immediately," said Asghar Ali Afridi, who at 28 was older than most students and whose views were persuasive. "It was a weakness of faith that we did not do it."[/b]

    But 11 students, the entire class, did sign a letter that listed Dr. Shaikh's possible crimes. They claimed he had said that the Prophet was not a Muslim until age 40; that before then, he did not remove his underarm hair or undergo circumcision; that he first wed, at 25, without an Islamic marriage contract; that his parents were not Muslims.

    Mr. Afridi was picked to deliver the letter to the Movement for the Finality of the Prophet, a group well known for pursuing blasphemers.

    "For Dr. Shaikh's own protection, we sought his arrest," said Abdul Wahid Qasmi, secretary general of the organization's Islamabad chapter. "Otherwise, he might have been killed in the streets."

    The Movement's vigilance is most often directed at Ahmadis, who regard themselves as Muslims but believe another prophet appeared after Muhammad. By law, they are barred from linking themselves in any way to Islam. Each year, many are arrested for simply reciting a Koranic verse or using the greeting "Salaam aleikum."

    Non-Muslims make up about 3 percent of Pakistan's population, and while they have obvious reasons to fear the blasphemy statutes, there is no shortage of opposition among Muslims as well. Even a strong advocate, the minister for religious affairs, Mahmood Ahmad Ghazi, says the law requires revision. He has reviewed numerous cases and said the majority originate from "ill will and personal prejudice."

    Last year, General Musharraf himself called for a procedural change, suggesting that the merits of blasphemy cases be reviewed by local officials before an arrest. But when fundamentalists took to the streets in protest, he backed down.

    At the Movement's headquarters, the law also comes under criticism, though the complaint is of sluggish justice. Blasphemers may get locked up, but not one has been executed.

    "Even if someone is only half- conscious when speaking against the Prophet, he must die," said Mr. Qasmi, who managed to sound amiable. "In Dr. Shaikh's case, his relatives have come to see us, saying the man is sorry and that he repents. But to be sorry now is not enough. Even if a man is sorry, he must die."

    These days, Dr. Shaikh calls himself an "Islamic humanist," stressing the adjective. This surge in devotion is a return to his roots; he comes from a religious family in Bahawalnagar, and his father, a merchant, is a hafiz, a man who has memorized the Koran.

    In hiring a lawyer, the family has steered away from human rights types. Its attorney takes a rather omnibus approach. First, there is a technicality to exploit. The students should have filed the charges instead of the mullahs, he asserts. Second, his client never said the things alleged, and even if he did, the words are not blasphemous.

    A judge will decide. And customarily, the accusing party packs the courtroom with zealots in a show of righteous concern. The Shaikh family, however, has no intention of being steamrolled by hostile fundamentalists. At a recent hearing, they brought their own mullahs equally bearded, equally turbaned, equally able to quote from holy books.

    "No blasphemy has been committed in this case," proclaimed Maulana Abdul Hafiz. An elderly, stern- faced man, he, too, heads a chapter of the Movement for the Finality of the Prophet, his being in Bahawalnagar. "Blasphemy can be committed only if issues are raised about the period after the holy Prophet declared his prophethood. These issues are pre-prophethood."

    The mullahs from Bahawalnagar say they have tried to reason with the mullahs from Islamabad, but these efforts have failed. "They know we are right but they do not want to backtrack and lose face," said Maulana Hafiz, enraged by his adversaries.

    How dare they? he declared: "They tell us that we ourselves should be cautious, that protecting a blasphemer is as bad as blaspheming itself."





    [This message has been edited by Nefsy (edited May 18, 2001).]

    Comment


      #3
      Will this be blasphemy to quote from the students and ask for comments.

      [b] He said,

      1) The prophet was not a muslim until age 40.

      2) Before age 40, he did not remove his underarm hair or undergo circumcision( Did he have circumcision at age 40?)

      3) He first wed, at age 25 without an islamic marriage contract.

      4) His parents were not muslims.

      Comment


        #4
        I think professor Shaikh was just trying to educate the brain washed students. You cant blame the students, cuz students are just reaping years of 'miseducation' and growing extremism. When you are NOT allowed to question a god or his prophets, how can you prove to a kafir the oneness of allah. Without the acknowledging the fact that unless one ponders and questions god's existence and prophets' superiority over man- A man cannot follow the teachings of Islam.

        The questions Dr. raised are of inquisitive nature. Few of the thoughts about circumcision and him marrying without a 'nikah' are new to me.

        Pakistan is going where Afghanistan is at now. ANY discussion of prophets, gods, angels and saints which is devoid of their SUPERIOR PRAISE, is branded blasphemy. What does a common mullah know anyway? He cant be judging anyone. Specially if he is basing his judgments on reciting quran without interpreting the meanings of it in its true sense. Not all the mullahs do that. But some do. Most of them do. I say MOST of them because pakistan is MOSTLY comprised of ignorant, fire branded preaching-pervaizs.

        The Dr. is probably innocent.

        Comment


          #5
          What else you expect from the Illitrate Mullahs who have no knowledge of Science and half knowledge of Islam. As one poet in urdu said " neeam hakim khatra jaan........neem mullah khatra imaan".

          If the name of God (Kalma Shaada) coming from and ahmadi's mouth can hurt feeling of these mullahs then anything can hurt these Mullahs.

          If Army Generals such as Gen. Musraf cannot disvole this law then I cannot expect currupt politicians and stupid mullahs will be doing anything.

          The missery that started with ahamdies are now extending to all pakistanis, it is just start.........more to come from mullahs.

          From what is posted here .......it seems that everthing was pre arranged and students delibrately asked the Dr. Sheikh those questions realtiong to hygien standards of arabs.

          The reaction of students after the event shows that they had this thing in mind and rather then taking it to principle or some other hight official or even to police, they went direct to these mullahs and then the what happen later it is mentioned in thread.

          from what I read I can see that he is inoocent and he did not commint any blasphemy.
          ------------------
          "Away from Eyes......Close to Heart"



          [This message has been edited by Insaaniat (edited May 18, 2001).]

          Comment


            #6
            Blasphemy is a capital crime in this volatile Islamic nation


            Why do u think God or his prophet need protection from human beings, they are far above any law of the land and are protected by virtue of being superior and the creator.

            All these laws are to control people so that they cannot question anything or think for the fear they may not agree with what they read or hear.This is religious tyranny worse than the tyranny imposed by man.

            Comment


              #7

              I'M NOT HERE TO PREACH ABOUT RELIGION,BUT I FEEL THE DOCTOR WAS IN A 'NO WIN' SITUATION HERE.

              IF HE DID NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION, HE WOULD OF BEEN LABELED AS INCOMPETANT AND NOT WORTHY OF TEACHING.

              IF HE DID ANSWER(AS HE HAS DONE) THEN THE RISK OF IMPRISONMENT WAS ON THE CARDS.

              6 OF ONE AND HALF A DOZEN OF ANOTHER.

              WETHER HE INTENTIONALLY BLASPHEMED OR NOT, ONLY ALLAH KNOWS BEST.

              I DO BELIEVE THAT CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE HOLY PROPHETS LIFE SHOULD BE LEFT ALONE, AS THE HUMAN MIND IS VERY INQUISATIVE(WITH THE HELP OF SHAYTAAN) AND WE DO NOT WANT TO FALL INTO THE TRAP WHEN WE ULTIMATELY START QUESTIONING OUR LORD ALMIGHTY.

              Comment


                #8
                "No blasphemy has been committed in this case," proclaimed Maulana Abdul Hafiz. An elderly, stern- faced man, he, too, heads a chapter of the Movement for the Finality of the Prophet, his being in Bahawalnagar.
                "Blasphemy can be committed only if issues are raised about the period after the holy Prophet declared his prophethood. These issues are pre-prophethood."


                Seems like the mullas have conflicting opinions about this issue too. In my opinion he did not commit any blasphamy, but even if he is set free by the court of law his life is going to be in constant danger and he and his family are going to recieve death threats from the extremist ones. So either way the poor guy is royally *beep*, unless he says Khuda Hafiz to Pakistan permanently and seeks asylum elsewhere. I feel sorry for him.



                ------------------
                I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Sad indeed, a classic case of my mullah is better than your mullah.

                  Comment


                    #10

                    This Movement for the Finality of the Prophet is purely a political organisation who have been planted into Pakistan to undermine the true Islamic faith , and to undermine Pakistan itself. They are called "Tehrik Khatme Naboowat" but they are actually very active to insult and humiliate the Prophet secretly.


                    When Pakistan was in the process of formation, the leaders of "Khatme Naboowat" were sectretly cooperating with Congress. They wer fooling the people of their Islamic false notions. These were the ones who called Quaid-e-Azam as Kafr-e-Azam, and these were the ones who called Pakistan as "Pleedistan".


                    They get their funds secretly from India and Israel. On the face they appear very Islamic, but in fact they are main factor in dividing the Muslim Ummah these days. Their 'Ulemas' are very greedy people who fight among each other to get the biggest share of the funds collected from the poor Muslims in the name of Islam.


                    In 1953, when these mullahs ignited bloody riots in Punjab against Ahmadies, they were quickly grabbed by the army. In the Punjab Inquiry Tribunal these mullahs were asked to narrate the definition of a "muslim" by Quran. They all failed. All of them were telling multiple definitions which had no reference from Quran.

                    ALL THEIR DEFINITIONS OF A "MUSLIM" ARE DEVISED ONES AND HAVE NO BASIS IN QURAN OR IN AHADITH. THESE MULLAHS ARE SOLELY WORKING TO DIS-INTEGRATE PAKISTAN. THE ARMY OF TODAY IS UNFORTUNATLY VERY WEAK IN DEALING WITH MULLAHS.

                    MULLAHS HAVE NOW BECOME A MONSTER IN PAKISTAN. IT'S LIKE A GENNIE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. IT WILL BE A HELL OF A JOB TO PUT THIOS GENNIE BACK INTO THE BOTTLE.


                    ...

                    Comment


                      #11
                      For our Indian friends some of the responses are testiomonies of the fact that not all Muslims are fundamentalist, Jihadi and terrorist in thinking. In fact most of them are open minded and do differentiate right from wrong.

                      This news was published in New York Times. I am surprised that I did not see it in any pakistani NewsPaper as yet.

                      [This message has been edited by Nefsy (edited May 18, 2001).]

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Although I agree with many of your allegations, what is the basis of these allegation?
                        ================================================== ========================================
                        [QUOTE]Originally posted by NMK Hajana:
                        [b]
                        They are called "Tehrik Khatme Naboowat" but they are actually very active to insult and humiliate the Prophet secretly.
                        ------------------------------------------
                        What is the proof?


                        They get their funds secretly from India and Israel.
                        --------------------------------------------- What is the evidence?


                        You have to admit that despite their alleged evil nature they have a great following and have been successful in their mission.

                        Comment

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