Bulletin # 54 (06 November, 2000)
IN THIS ISSUE:
- ANNOUNCEMENT: DR HENRY MORGANTALER BECOMES HONORARY ASSOCIATE
- MORE ABOUT DR YOUNUS SHAIKH
- THE ENLIGHTENMENT: A STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
- BLASPHEMY LAWS IN PAKISTAN
- ATTACHMENT: PHOTOGRAPH DR SHAIKH
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Did you have a look at our new web site? If not, please visit the site and inform your colleagues about it. You are also welcome to link your personal or organizational site to Rational International site. Click at the following URL to reach the site now.
Dr Henry Morgentaler has joined Rationalist International as an Honorary Associate. The Board of Rationalist International has decided to invite him to join because of his outstanding contributions in promoting rationalism and self-determination, especially in connection with his fight for changing the abortion laws in Canada.
More about Dr Younus Shaikh
We are sure that all the readers of Rationalist International Bulletin must be waiting to know more about Dr Shaikh and his case. (See the photograph of Dr Shaikh attached to this bulletin). Rationalist International has meantime established trusted contacts in Pakistan and is in close communication with some Human Rights activists there who are in contact with the government and the court. A letter campaign initiated by Rationalist International has mobilized hundreds of letters to General Pervez Musharaff pleading for the safety and release of Dr Shaikh.
If you did not write so far to the Chief Executive of Pakistan, please do it now.
Please write letters to General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan asking for his intervention to release Dr Shaikh. While writing, please remember not to provoke the military ruler, but to use persuasive language, keeping in mind his position.
The e-mail address of General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan is:
Please send a copy of your letter to: HQ@rationalistinternational.net
Dr M Younus Shaikh was born in 1955. He is a medical doctor (family doctor) and a teacher at a medical college in Islamabad. He spent several years in UK, but decided to go back to Pakistan. He is strongly committed to the idea of democracy and has deep knowledge about its history. He wishes ardently that his country may find its way to democracy and religious tolerance and that South Asia may become a region of peace and friendship.
In 1992, Dr Shaikh made the courageous step to found The Enlightenment, an organization that is committed to rationalist and democratic principles and stands for separation of state and religion. In public meetings and newspaper articles, Dr Shaikh raised questions about women’s rights and about religion. While only few people dared to join his group openly, many watched him with keen interest and with great hope.
Another organization founded and lead by Dr Shaikh is the South Asian Fraternity, which wants to promote understanding, goodwill and harmony amongst the people of South Asia, religious tolerance, cultural harmony, greater interaction, people to people contact and friendship. “We are loyal nationals of Pakistan as well as patriotic citizens of the world”, Dr Shaikh describes The South Asian Fraternity.
Dr Shaikh was in contact with Indian Rationalist Association since 1992 and kept sending all pamphlets and publications of The Enlightenment. In January 1999 he participated in the IHEU conference at Mumbai and spoke about his experiences. He had registered himself to attend the Second International Rationalist Conference held at Trivandrum in January 2000 and agreed to give a lecture there. But he could not attend the conference. He was aware of the danger of criticizing religion in Pakistan. Till the recent arrest, he had not been directly attacked, but he had lost two times his job and his old parents had been threatened.
When General Pervez Musharaff assumed power in November 1999, he promised to bring democracy to Pakistan and declared that he was committed to the principles of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kamal Pasha. Though it was an undemocratic act that made General Musharaff the Chief Executive of Pakistan, Dr Shaikh supported him because of his claimed commitments. Immediately after the coup Dr Shaikh started a lecture series about the origins of democracy. Ironically, it is under this government that he is arrested now. Musharaff tried, by the way, to liberalize the blasphemy law, but gave up when he met with the fury of the clerics.
On 4 October 2000, Dr Shaikh has been arrested without arrest warrant by Islamabad police and booked under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code: blasphemy. He is currently held in judicial remand in Adyala jail in Rawalpindi. After two weeks in custody, he was presented before the court on 19 October. Dr Shaikh has no lawyer at this moment. Because of fundamentalist mob, lawyers are afraid to defend blasphemy accused. During the police custody, his reading glasses were broken, so that he is not in a position to read.
There are not many details known about the blasphemy case against Dr Shaikh, since the FIR or other documents are not accessible. One Maulana Abdur Rafoof registered the FIR in Margalla police station, Islamabad. He seems to be connected to the radical Majlis-I-Khatam-I-Nabuwat, which also attended the court hearing with about 20 clerics. Informer is allegedly a fanatic student of Dr Shaikh with the name Muhammad Asghar Ali Khan. Dr Shaikh is accused to have defied Mohammed with his statement that the Prophet did not become a Muslim before the age of 40 (until receiving the first message of God) and that his parents were non-Muslims. An Islamabad based Urdu language newspaper is carrying a campaign demanding death penalty for Dr Shaikh.
A STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
1. We are committed to the application of Reason and Science to the understanding of the universe, and to the solving of human problems; and here we are engaged by Arts no less than by Sciences, by Environment no less than by Ethics, by Culture and Tradition no less than by Modernism and Rationality.
2. We believe in an Open and Pluralistic Society; and that the Responsible and Accountable form of Democracy is the form of Government that guarantees the protection of Human Rights and Civil Liberties from totalitarian regimens and repressive majorities.
3. We are committed to the principle of separation of religion and state while precisely defining the limits of religion.
4. We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence for us and for our children; with special reference to moral decencies like Altruism, Integrity, Honesty, Truthfulness, Responsibility, and Civic sense.
5. We believe in the Culture of Peace and Tolerance; and stand for Equal Opportunities, Social Justice, Respect and Dignity for all loyal citizens of a State, male or female, irrespective of race, religion, gender, nationality, color, creed, class or ethnicity.
6. We affirm the Liberal way of life – an alternative to fundamentalism, dogmatism, narrow-mindedness, sectarianism, violence, and the political interference of organized religions. And believing in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as Human Beings, and in enjoying life here in this very world; and in developing our talent to the fullest.
(First published by The Enlightenment, Pakistan. January 2000)
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan
Offenses relating to religion: Pakistan Penal code
Defiling, etc, of copy of Holy Quran. Whoever will fully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable for imprisonment for life.
Use of derogatory remarks, etc; in respect of the Holy Prophet. Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
Use of derogatory remarks, etc..., in respect of holy personages. Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles a sacred name of any wife (Ummul Mumineen), or members of the family (Ahle-bait), of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), or any of the righteous caliphs (Khulafa-e-Rashideen) or companions (Sahaaba) of the Holy Prophet description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Misuse of epithet, descriptions and titles, etc. Reserved for certain holy personages or places.
1. Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves Ahmadis or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation:
a. refers to or addresses, any person, other than a Caliph or companion of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), as "Ameerul Momneen", "Khalifat-ul-Momneen", "Khalifat-ul-Muslimeen", "Sahaabi" or "Razi Allah Anho";
b. Refers to or addresses, any person, other than a wife of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), as Ummul-Mumineen;
c. refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a member of the family (Ahle-Bait) of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), as Ahle-Bait; or
d. refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship as Masjid;
shall be punished with imprisonment or either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.
2. Any person of the Qadiani group or Lahore group, (who call themselves Ahmadis or by any other names), who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, refers to the mode or from of call to prayers followed by his faith as "Azan" or redites Azan as used by the Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Persons of Qadiani group, etc, calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith. Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves Ahmadis or any other name), who directly or indirectly, posses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years ans shall also be liable to fine.
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Honorary Associates: (alphabetically) Katsuaki Asai (Japan), Prof. Colin Blakemore (UK), Prof. Vern Bullough (USA), Dr Bill Cooke (New Zealand), Helena Cronin (UK), Prof. Richard Dawkins (UK), Joseph Edamaruku (India), Jim Herrick (UK), Christopher Hitchens (USA), Lavanam (India), Prof. Paul Kurtz (USA), Dr Henry Morgentaler (Canada), Taslima Nasreen (Bangladesh), Steinar Nilsen (Norway), Prof. Jean-Claude Pecker (France), James Randi (USA), Dr G N Jyoti Shankar (meanwhile deceased) (USA), Prof. Harry Stopes-Roe (UK), Prof. Rob Tielman (The Netherlands), Jane Wynne Willson (UK), Prof. Lewis Wolpert (UK).
Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International, can be contacted at Edamaruku@rationalistinternational.net