regarding Zaid Hamid’s article/letter in Dawn

Via the Zaid Hamid “exposition” site, I read Zaid Hamid’s letter to Dawn on the occasion of Yusuf Ali’s sentencing for blasphemy. Here it is:

FATWA-FOBIA

There are a lot of allegedly moderates pakistanis on the chowk, who believe in human rights, who have woRn out their fingers posting about kashmir, the jinnah speach, the tolerant islam in pakistan, the 2% extremists. In supporting the killing of kashmir in the guise of human rights, selfdetermination etc. they are in tune with the mullahs, who prefer the word jihad.

In the following story, if the alleged moderates criticise the blasphemy laws they will be in conflict with the mullah. No, the moderates cannot afford to do that because of the fatwafobia. The human rights blah blah does not apply to pakistani nationals.

Convicted for blasphemy

A kind, benevolent and honourable Muslim Sufi of a small order has been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges by a court in Lahore. I am an eyewitness to what happened in the court and how the prosecution murdered justice, human dignity, Islamic and contemporary law and all norms of humanity in the name of Islam. Mohammad Yusuf Ali is a staunch Muslim and a scholar of the Holy Quran. He has rendered meritorious services to Islam, Pakistan and humanity in his career. It was only a difference of interpretation which was exploited by extremist mullahs and some Urdu newspapers. Yusuf Ali had already spent two years in jail and now he has been convicted.

I was present in the courtroom to assist the defence lawyers. It was barred to the outside world. I am witness to what happened inside and how he has been convicted. The prosecution had based their case on four items: audio cassette of Juma Khutba, video cassettes of Juma Khutba, Yousuf Ali`s purported diary, and one Pir and his few followers, who claimed that he had claimed to be “Muhammad“ in front of them many years ago!

There was nothing objectionable in the cassettes, and even according to Qanoon-i-Shahadat, they were inadmissible, as the one who had made these was not known. They were highly edited, doctored and manipulated.

The diary was not of Yusuf Ali`s at all, and even the prosecution admitted that they were not sure of its origin. It had no name, no handwriting match, no owner. It was simply alleged on Yusuf Ali and was torn to shreds in its originality and credibility.

The Pir and his followers were again torn to shreds, as none of them was the complainant. They never reported the alleged blasphemy to the police or any other authority, which supposedly happened many years ago. Their credibility did not exist at all in terms of contradictions in cross examinations.

One of them was on bail on fraud charges. The complainant had all the info on hearsay. He had never met the accused in his life. All his info was through Urdu newspapers. He accused Yusuf Ali of adultery, but even in the FIR, the relevant section was not mentioned for lack of evidence, making the complainant liable to “Qazaf“. His testimony was not admissible at all.

Yusuf Ali had categorically, even before the registration of the FIR, made it clear through paid ads that he had not claimed to be a prophet and he was a staunch Muslim. Top religious scholars like Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi had declared him a true Muslim and asked the charges to be dropped. According to all legal and Shariat requirements he had proved himself to be a true Muslim. Still the prosecution insisted that he called himself a prophet. How can anyone be the judge of someone`s faith? The prosecution lawyers went so overboard that even the judge had to stop them from committing blasphemy in trying to prove Yusuf Ali wrong. Even though Yusuf Ali was on bail, he was arrested one day earlier against all rules, laws and norms. It is extraordinary how the bail given by a High Court was cancelled by the Sessions Court and the accused was arrested.

The whole trial was in camera and the media was not allowed in to hear Yusuf Ali`s explanations, his speeches and comments. The media was also barred from seeing the hopelessness of the prosecution witnesses and their lawyers.

It was on this quality of evidence that a great living sufi has been condemned to death on so many counts that we have lost count.

Now Yusuf Ali is in the line for gallows. Will we wait and let the evil win or raise our voices for our own survival?

Z.Z. HAMID

Rawalpindi

Zaid Hamid makes a really indisputable point here which is why exactly there is such a shocking silence regarding blasphemy cases among the Pakistani media and Pakistanis who consider themselves to be liberal. Why is it that most people have never heard about the Yusuf Ali case until it was brought up again by the hardliners last year as a way to attack Zaid Hamid? Isn’t it a shame? Zaid Hamid’s account of the trial of Yousuf Ali also gives us some insight into the mockery of justice that blasphemy trials are.

As an example, how much mainstream media attention was given to the trial and conviction of Qamar David of Lahore and Imran Masih of Faisalabad who both received life sentences earlier this year? How many people are familiar with the details of Imran Masih’s case:

Imran Masih, for example, a Christian shopkeeper in Faisalabad, Pakistan, was given a life sentence on Jan. 11, according to sections 295 A and B of Pakistan’s legal code, which covers the crime of outraging religious feelings by desecrating the Koran. A neighboring shopkeeper had accused him of burning pages from the Koran. Masih says that he only burned old business records.

Will we ever know the irregularities that went on during in his trial?

And finally, why is it that Zaid Hamid – someone who has seen firsthand the damage that the introduction of religion into the legal system can do – can still support an Islamic state? Would Zaid Hamid step forward and give the same defence to someone like Imran Masih who had not “rendered meritorious services to Islam, Pakistan and humanity in his career”. Why is it that despite paying such a large price as a result of the blasphemy law, people like Zaid Hamid cannot accept the basic principle of secularism which is that in the interests of all members of society, we surrender the right to invoke the state’s authority in matters of religion. i.e. we give up the right to put the force of the state behind declaring someone a kafir and gain, in return, the security of not being persecuted by the state for our own beliefs.
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15 responses to “regarding Zaid Hamid’s article/letter in Dawn

  1. ahmad husain

    Under the guise of secularism, religion is then increasingly marginalized from public discourse and then disappears like what happened in most parts of the west and the former soviet bloc. Also it is not as if the state does not interfere in religion it does intefere even if it is secular.
    Let us remember what happened in moorish Spain, the Chrisitians deliberately blasphemed and saught martyrdom. It is also to prevent people from making fun of religion as they do in the west and hence deliberately marginalized and people gradually became irreligious .
    This is what most secularists what. Most of them dont beleive in religion and hence want to reduce its influence under the pretence of justice and security.

  2. ahmad husain

    “that the introduction of religion into the legal system can do ”
    Since the Quran itself gives out some legal rulings it is difficult to argue against introduction of religion into the legal system.

    Offcourse there should be transparency in the system . Also wide spread corruption and the fact that the influential and the elite can get away is also a serious problem.

  3. grandtrunkroad

    interesting comment, ahmed. as you say, why would anyone voluntarily give up what they see as objectively right under quran and sunnah.

    the problem is that it seems to be a recipe for constant internecine conflict with each side wanting to be the only dominant one. e.g. in the case of Zaid Hamid vs. ATKM each side would probably like to be in a position where they could declare the other as apostate.

  4. Sadia Hussain

    Quite an interesting read! I wonder when did ZH have change of heart? The blasphemy laws are used as tool to target minorities in cases which mostly pertain to property issue, the public hysteria is used to pressure the courts and at the risk of contempt of court! Our judges are quite baised as the recent statements of LHC CJ clearly demonstrates them!
    Such cases need to be reexamined so that an innocent is not hanged to appease the interests of religious zealots

  5. Very interesting!
    Blasphemy laws have always been only a tool of exploitation for our regular mullahs and nothing else. Track down all the cases that’ve occured since the introduction of the law and none of them is transparent enough. It’s about time the law was trashed and an end was put to the killing of beings by guising personal grudges in religious motives.

  6. sarahmarch

    salamualaikum…
    i didn’t get it (sorry)…r u against or in favour of ZH??? sorry i had to ask…n trust me, don’t believe everything exposition site posts…
    God bless u
    ma’assalama 🙂

  7. Rafay

    Umm, what’s happened to Kazab’s appeal? We all know that blasphemy cases are a sham at the trial stage and that they usually get sorted out in appeal before the High Court. All capital cases have a right to appeal. Where’s Kazab’s appeal?

  8. ahmad husain

    Also the critics of blasephemy law must also come clean
    Are you against the law because it is being misused to settle personal scores, grab property etc or is it you are ok with someones right to blaspheme under the guise of freedom of expression ?

  9. grandtrunkroad

    Rafay, perhaps it could be because Yusuf Ali was killed in jail before his appeal was heard?

    Ahmad: well I can’t speak for anyone else but I’m against any kind of blasphemy law because I think it’s barbaric.

  10. grandtrunkroad

    sarahmarch – sorry for being unclear, I don’t support Zaid Hamid but I suppot his defense of Yusuf Ali in the above article. How about you?

    • sarahmarch

      I do support Zaid hamid 🙂 …the only thing i didn’t get was did Yusuf really claim false prophethood??? cuz the people who alleged it said that they were actually TOLD that he claimed as such but never heard him speak of it…

      so i honestly dunno :P…..
      God bless u… 🙂

  11. ahmad husain

    So let me be clear in regards to your position You would support someones “right” to insult the Prophet (SAW) ? You wouldnt have any problems with the infamous Danish cartoonists then ? So you would like to see Pakistan to turn into a society where the Prophet (SAW) and Quran can be mocked and insulted without the guilty being oscratised and punished?
    If that is your position thanks Allah SWT there is no secularism in Pakistan we should fully oppose this kind of “secularism”.

  12. grandtrunkroad

    ahmad perhaps you should clarify your position: you would rather have hundreds of innocent Pakistanis be tried for blasphemy and risk losing their lives just to preserve the good name of your religion? I am assuming you also support the death penalty for adult apostates?

  13. if i’m not mistaken yusuf ali’s right hand man was a certain mr. zaid hamid, who was known by a differnt name back then.

    i highly doubt this is his principles speaking

  14. grandtrunkroad

    karachikhatmal,
    yeah, the point is he was defending Yusuf Ali because he was associated with him, but he made some good points – the problem is he is not willing to generalize those points (which would basically be a secular framework) to protection of people whose viewpoint he doesn’t believe in.

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