Dr. Younis Shaikh Has Been Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy
The following is the text of an action alert from the International Humanist and Ethical Union Executive director Babu Gogineni.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is shocked by the conviction for blasphemy, and the award of the death penalty, to Dr. Yunis Shaikh on 18 August 2001 in Pakistan. Peace Activist and founder of the Progressive group 'Enlightenment', Dr. Yunis Shaikh has also been fined an equivalent of US Dollars 1500 by the Additional Sesions Judge, Islamabad, Mr. Safdar Hussain Malik. While a group of murderous and menacing fundamentalist clergy was present throughout the open court trial, thus intimidating the udge and the defence, the last two sittings of the Court itself were held in camera, and conducted in the premises of the Adiala jail itself where Dr. Shaikh has been lodged since his arrest in October 2000.
The civilised world should shudder at the news 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 Mohammed nor his Parents could logically have been Muslims before Islam was revealed to the Prophet. The other charges of blasphemy against Dr. Shaikh's remarks - supposedly made in the course of a routine lecture he gave in a Medical college where he was a lecturer in Physiology - are equally ridiculous and malicious.
None of the complainants to the police were eyewitnesses to the alleged offence: the complaint was lodged by leaders of the Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-i-Nabuwat (Committee for the Protection of the Finality of the Prophethood), a conservative organization that is known to have harassed and attacked non-orthodox Muslims in the past. In the course of the trial, one of the witnesses to the prosecution was completely discredited, as it was shown that he was not present in class on the day Dr. Shaikh supposedly made his 'blasphemous remarks'.
Unfortunately, none of this made any difference to the judge. A Human Rights activist writes "the lower courts are always very scared of letting off accused blasphemers. Many of the judges have been bumped off when they gave decisions in favour of such persons. Why should they stick their neck out? Particularly when they know that a recourse to higher courts would be available to the convicted person". Dr. Shaikh has been given a week's time to appeal in the High Court, as opposed to the 30 days that is usual. While so far no one has been hanged due to blasphemy convictions in the country, hundreds of Pakistanis languish in Pakistan jails after being accused or convicted of blasphemy. Convicts are locked up in extremely small 'death cells' where prisoners can barely stand. If we do not act now, Dr. Shaikh - the most moderrn minded of all the blasphemy-accused so far - will meet with a similar fate. We have a duty to try and save the life of this affable, peace loving and courageous Doctor who has a deep commitment to the welfare and freedoms of his fellow citizens - some of the poorest people in the world.
- Please write to your Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Members of Parliament urging them to put pressure on the Pakistani Government.
- Demand that your country's diplomats based in Islamabad attend the High Court trial as observers.
- Write to President Musharraf of Pakistan about the contempt Pakistan's legislation has to international human rights standards as regards freedom of and from religion, and the freedom of expression. E Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Please copy all your e mails and letters to email@example.com from where the international campaign will be coordinated. Please spread this alert far and wide, recruit as many signers to the on-line petition as possible, which is posted at , along with details of the case. You may also send a support e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who sign the petition will also be kept informed of further developments. If you are able to contribute financially, or if you can organise a protest demonstration outside a Pakistan Consulate or Embassy, please send an e mail to email@example.com
For a short history of blasphemy law in Pakistan, and various news articles about this affair, please visit the IHEU Web.
We have also learned the following from Rationalist International, where more can be learned about this crime against freedom:
The Lahore High Court has allowed the appeal of Dr. Shaikh, Pakistani rationalist and founder president of "The Enlightenment", against the death sentence awarded to him for blasphemy by the Islamabad additional district and sessions court on 18 August. Dr. Shaikh was given only one week's time to appeal in the High Court. A court official has confirmed that the appeal by Dr. Shaikh's sister had been admitted.
Dr. Muhammed Younus Shaikh, British educated physician and physiology professor in a local medical college was accused to have defied Prophet Muhammed with his statement that Muhammed did not become a Muslim before the age of forty and that his parents were non-Muslims. Dr. Shaikh was found guilty and convicted under the law that prescribes death sentence if charges of blasphemy are proved. This law was added to the Pakistan Penal Code in 1986 which said whoever made derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammed "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 Holy Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."
You can write letters appealing to the President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf at the following address with copy to the DR.SHAIKH DEFENSE COMMITTEE.