Blasphemy in Pakistan

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sun Sep 09 2001 - 15:50:50 MDT

Thought this might be of interest...

Daniel Ust
    See "Anarchism, Minarchism, and Freedom" at:

From: George H. Smith
Sent: Friday, September 07, 2001 8:03 AM
Subject: OWL: Re: Blasphemy in Pakistan

Some people have written to me for more details about the blasphemy
conviction of Dr. Younus Shaikh in Pakistan, for which he has been
sentenced to death. I have therefore appended an account from the
International New York Times at the end of this post. (An issue of
Newsweek was recently banned in Pakistan for its coverage of this
controversy.) For additional details, see:

Rationalist International is an excellent worldwide organization based
in India. It recently issued the following appeal:

"Sanal Edamaruku, president of Rationalist International, and convenor
of the Dr. Shaikh Defense Committee has started discussions and
negotiations with selected diplomatic missions at New Delhi to identify
a country offering asylum or resident visa to Dr. Shaikh if he is

"Meantime over a thousand letters are already sent to the President of
Pakistan ( by e-mail, pleading for the release of Dr.
Shaikh, from all over the world with copies to the Dr. Shaikh Defense
Committee ( These include
writers, scientists, intellectuals, activists, leaders of
rationalist-humanist-atheist-freethinker-skeptic groups, and concerned
individuals from all walks of life. If you are yet to write a letter to
the President of Pakistan, please do it as early as possible with copies
to the Dr.Shaikh Defense Committee. For more details, please visit

"We also request you to send an appropriate donation to the Dr. Shaikh
Defense Committee which plans eventually to set up a permanent fund to
take up similar cases around the world in defense of the civil rights
and freedom of expression of rationalists, humanists, atheists,
freethinkers and skeptics.

Please send your donations to the following account by Bank Transfer or
Swift Bank Transfer and inform us by e-mail

Account Number: 5314 938 226
Bank: Citibank N.A, Delhi, India
Account Name: Sanal Edamaruku

August 20, 2001

Pakistani Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy

EW DELHI, Aug. 19 - Dr. Younus Shaikh, a physiology teacher who earned
$89 a month at a small college on the second floor of a shopping plaza
in Pakistan, was convicted there on Saturday and sentenced to death on
charges of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad.

Dr. Shaikh, who has a week to appeal the decision, is one of hundreds of
people jailed in Islamic Pakistan on blasphemy charges that carry a
mandatory death sentence, whether the offense was intentional or not.
The blasphemy law has more typically been applied to religious
minorities, but Dr. Shaikh is the third Muslim convicted.

He was arrested in October after some of his students went to a group of
fundamentalist teachers of Islam to complain that he had been uttering
possibly blasphemous things in class.

The students said he had told them that the Prophet had not become a
Muslim until age 40 and that before then, he had not followed Muslim
practices concerning circumcision or removing his underarm hair. The
Movement for the Finality of the Prophet, well known for pursuing
blasphemers, filed a criminal complaint and sent a mob to the college
and the local police station, threatening to set them on fire.

Dr. Shaikh said in interview earlier this year at the Adiala jail in
Rawalpindi that he had addressed questions in his classroom about
whether Muhammad had been circumcised before receiving God's revelations
at 40, and only remembers saying the Prophet's tribe did not follow that

His family brought their own teachers to court - from a different
chapter of the same group that brought the charges - to argue that the
doctor had not committed blasphemy because all his remarks dealt with
the period before Muhammad had declared his prophethood.

Pakistan's leaders have acknowledged that the law needs to be revised.
The minister for religious affairs, Mahmood Ghazi, a strong advocate of
the law, has nonetheless said most cases originate from "ill will and
personal prejudice."

Pakistan's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, last year suggested a
procedural change that would have required that blasphemy cases be
reviewed by local officials before an arrest. But he quickly backed down
when fundamentalists protested in the streets.

Dr. Shaikh has been championed by the International Humanist and Ethical
Union, a group with which he has been associated. The group issued a
statement today denouncing the intimidating presence of what it called
"murderous and menacing fundamentalist clergy" in the courtroom during
Dr. Shaikh's trial.

"The civilized world should shudder at the news," the statement said,
"that in this century a human being can be tried and eventually be
killed by Pakistan's brutal Islamic state for merely saying that neither
Prophet Muhammad nor his parents could logically have been Muslims
before Islam was revealed to the Prophet."


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