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When he was a teacher at a medical college in Islamabad, Shaikh was an active member of the South Asia Peace Movement and of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). He took part in the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy, and was a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. A free-thinker, he founded Enlightenment, an organization associated with the IHEU.
In October 2000, Pakistani authorities charged Shaikh with blasphemy. A judge ordered that he pay a fine of 100,000 rupees, and sentenced him to death by hanging. On appeal, on 20 November 2003, a court acquitted Shaikh, who fled Pakistan for Europe soon thereafter.
Younes M. Shaikh is a qualified medical doctor from Pakistan, who was arrested under Pakistani Blasphemy Law 295-C, merely on accusation of being an Ahmedi and talking about Islam and the Prophet of Ialam, which the Ahmedis are not allowed to; although he was a born Muslim and was not an Ahmedi, only that he felt the Ahmedis in Pakistan were being wrongfully persecuted and wrote letters about this in Pakistan, the embassies in Islamabad and to the world leaders and human rights orgs; he was a member of Pakistan Human Rights Commission Islamabad. After graduation as a doctor, he worked in Lahore, Pakistan for a few years; he had lived and studied in UK for some years for his Surgery Post-graduation, he also took membership of Human Rights organisations like Amnesty Internation and SCCL, NCCL. On his return to Pakistan, he worked at Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, practised as a general medical practitioner, then taught at Capital Medical College, G/9 Markaz Islamabad Islamabad.
While teaching at the medical college, he was accused of being an Ahmedi and still talking about Islam in his lecture while giving explaining some problems relating to medical procedures. The case of rgistered by an Anti-Ahmedi org, this at the crucial time period of Nawaz Versus Musharraf political conflict, in which Shaikh had a loud opinion. Shaikh studied Journalism in his free time and attained a diploma in Journalism from Islamabad; he was active in intellectual, literary and social circles and he regularly attended the meetings of the Halqa Arbab i Zoaq in Lahore and later in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, he was an active member of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan at Islamabad. Shaikh attracted the attention of Islamic fundamentalists because he had earlier protested against abuse of Loudspeakers from the mosques which caused pain to the children , and caused problems to his clinic patients. He often talked against the extremist Islamic Mullah and their atrocities particularly against one of his Ahmedi medical friends whose clinics and houses were burnt at Burewala Pakistan, Mullahs expelled from Islam through a religious decree-Fatwa. As a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, he wrote letters to President Musharraf and different newspapers about Islamic attacks on peace-loving Ahmadis of Pakistan-a minority group, a former Muslim sect expelled from Islam, as well as he campaigned about the human rights of women, of Hindus, Christians and liberal, secular Muslims. He also took part in the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy, and was a member of the South Asian Fraternity, South Asian Union. He talked about and showed concern on beating of women in Islamic Pakisan as Islam allowed men to beat their women - a barbaric ordinace and evil practice, hhe thought. He also expressed disquiet and exposed the horrors of the Pakistan Army atrocities in Bengal in 1971. He founded Enlightenment, an organization associated with the International Humanist and Ethical Union, in 1990.
He was arrested on presumption of being an Ahmedi and still talking about Islam which Ahmedis were forbidden. He was arrested under the notorious 295-C Blasphemy Law and sentenced to Death. His lawyers were threatened. He studied Law books in the Death Cell, and as opportunity arose, he argued his own case and defended himself legally; the Court investigated his religion and declared that he was not an Ahmeedi and that the Mullahs had lied against him while under the oath on the Islamic Holy book Koran. He was acquitted honorably. He wanted to stay in Pakistan but Mullah threatened him so he had to leave his country. Shaikh now lives in Switzerland. He is an Honorary Associate of Rationalist International and an Honorary member of Mukto-mona, a secular organization for Bengali humanists and freethinkers.
Shaikh's blasphemy was alleged to have occurred at a lecture he gave on 2 October 2000 at Capital Medical College. The accusation was that he was an Ahmadi and still talks about Islam and recites Koran - the Muslim Holy book, although this was later proved to be a wrong allegation in the Court of Law. That, during the lecture, Shaikh talked about Prophet Muhammad which was not allowed to Ahmadis.
Shaikh denied that this lecture even took place, and denied that he had said what was alleged. In a letter to Babu Gogineni of the IHEU, Shaikh offered an explanation of why a charge was made against him; he claimed (albeit without corroborating evidence against the people he accused):
- 1. On 1 October 2000 I attended a meeting of South Asian Union addressed by an (alleged) ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) Brig. Shaukat Qadir (retd.) also (allegedly) running a religious-political association of Jamait – I – Islami. I asked a couple of questions about South Asian peace and Kashmir which offended him and he returned a threat ("Rebuttal", archived). There were foreign office policy makers and newsmen sitting there.
- 2. Within 48 hours, a foreign office employee who was also my student at the medical college where I used to lecture at the morning time, prepared an application against me, alleging blasphemous remarks in their class and gave it to a cleric, who improving upon the complaint, accused me of a specific instance of 2-10-2000 in the class of 11 2nd year male students and registered the case with the Police.
According to press reports, eleven students, all the students in Shaikh's class, signed a letter attesting to Shaikh's blasphemy. The cleric who received the letter was a member of an organisation known to harass and to attack non-orthodox Muslims. The reports call the organisation Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat, which the press translates as the Committee for the Protection of the Finality of the Prophethood, or the Movement for the Finality of the Prophet, or the Organisation of the Finality of the Prophet. Pakistan said that Shaikh's accuser was the head of Majlis-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat. That organisation dispatched a mob to the medical school and to the police station, and threatened to burn them down if action was not urgently taken against Shaikh. Capital Homeopathic College, without explanation, suspended Shaikh on 3 October 2000.
Section 295C of Pakistan's Penal Code says "whoever by the 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 Muhammad shall be punished with the death sentence or imprisonment for life and shall be liable to fine." A charge under Section 295C requires that the accused be kept in custody. Pursuant to Section 295C, the police arrested Shaikh on 4 October 2000. He was held in Adyala Gaol, Rawalpindi.
In August 2001, defended by a lawyer, Shaikh went to trial. The judgement was rendered at Adyala Jail, which was under vigil by armed Islamic zealots. On 18 August, the trial judge, Safdar Hussain, ordered the death penalty as well as a 100,000 rupee fine. The judge declared, "He deserves to be hanged for making derogatory remarks against the Prophet." Shaikh is the third Muslim to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union, Amnesty International, Mukto-Mona and Sea of Faith launched a campaign to win Shaikh's release. Demonstrations on his behalf occurred outside the Pakistani Embassies in London, Washington, and several other western capitals.
Shaikh appealed to the High Court. There the two presiding judges differed on whether the judgement should stand. On 15 July 2002, the case went to a senior judge. On 9 October 2003, the senior judge announced that the original judgement was unsound. He ordered a retrial.
The retrial was held over three sessions in November 2003. Shaikh did not use a lawyer to defend him because of threats to his lawyers by the extremist mullahs and the Pakistani Taliban. He defended himself after secretly studying law during his 3 years incarceration in the dDeath cell. On 21 November 2003, the trial judge acquitted Shaikh on legal grounds, and ordered that he be released. Commenting on the judgement, Shaikh explained: "The judge accepted my legal arguments and found the charges against me to be baseless. My accusers, two mullahs and some Islamist students, had lied while under the oath on the Holy Koran." He described his ordeal as: "Islamic terrorism through the abuse of law and of the state apparatus". Shaikh tried to sue his accusers, the mullahs and the Taliban. However, a fatwa was issued against him and he had to leave his family, friends and country.
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- "Islam and women" by Younus Shaikh
- Articles by Dr. Younus Shaikh: "Blasphemy--My Journey through Hell" and "Islam and the Woman"
- Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan