Poison pill of Sharia: An affront to the civil society

By Jamal Hasan

The flashy caption that I chose for my article’s is not depicting a sequence from a Hollywood movie by any long shot. In this short article I will discuss a serious matter. It is a matter of life and death. It is a heartbreaking real-life drama where you see a man is in manacles. Believe me, the manacles came as a result of Wahhabiized Sharia’s perilous shadow in Pakistan.

The subject of this profoundly sad image is none other than Dr. Younus Sheikh, a medical doctor and teacher, who were sentenced to death by none other than Pakistan’s draconian Blasphemy Law.

Dr. Sheikh was charged with blasphemy for answers he gave to students about whether the Prophet Muhammad followed Muslim practices before he assumed prophethood. The 1986 Blasphemy Law C-295 of the Pakistani Penal Code (PCC) in practice gives license to any fanatic or cynic to accuse arbitrarily anyone for insulting or defaming the Prophet of Islam.

It reads as follows: Use of derogatory remarks etc. in respect of the Holy Prophet: Whether by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) shall be punishable with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall be liable to fine. The Amnesty International views this barbaric law this way: "The Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan are a handy tool to silence debate and dissent. They are also used to detain people when the real motivation includes land issues or professional rivalry. In the interest of justice, the blasphemy laws should be abolished or as a first step amended to prevent abuse".

Blasphemy Law is integral part of Wahhabite brand of Islam, which propagates its divinely driven Sharia Law. In the Indian subcontinent during the hundreds of years of Mughal Raj, Islam had been the dominant religion. Wahhabite Sunnism with its enormous power of petrodollars was not even existent those days.

That is why chopping hands for minor thievery or capital punishment for "insulting the Prophet" was not heard of for hundreds of years. Moreover, the Indian subcontinent gave birth to a kinder and gentler form of Islam, which was in true sense, "a religion of peace." Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Sufism flourished in many parts of India during those golden days of benevolent Islam.

Let us not forget for a moment that South Asia was also a place of saints like Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi or Hazrat Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer or Hazrat Shah Jalal in Sylhet. Till today, devotees from all facets of life, from all religious groups gather in those shrines for spiritual salvation. This is an amazing scenario of composite culture where Hindus and Muslims come to a common place of Divinity.

The present-day high tide of Wahhabite brand of Islam is a juxtaposition of peaceful Sufi Islam, which used to be prevalent in the Indian subcontinent. This fascistic philosophy that espouses a draconian archaic idea is gathering strength not only in Muslim majority countries, but also in western societies where Muslims are gaining a stronghold. This is a far cry from the teachings of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, the greatest Sufi Islam had ever produced.

The vicious cycle of Sharia with its abdication of women’s rights and imposition of an antiquated judiciary poses a serious challenge in liberal countries with a Muslim majority. Like the domino, Afghanistan and Iran are following some forms of Sharia-based political ideology. This surmises a totalitarian worldview where individual rights are squashed at the mercy of some religious elites. The oligarch attains absolute power where accountability is a rare subject. As the extreme example of Mosque-State conjugation, these Sharia-based societies showed the ultimate ugliness any philosophy could produce.

The vanguards of Sharia would like to portray the religion they practice as "peaceful and humane" and they would always claim that there "are no excesses in the religion." They also constantly paraphrase another rhetoric for public consumption regarding the most "tolerant form of religion." In reality, though, their hypocritical ploy may dwarf the big brother in George Orwell’s famous novelette, "Nineteen eighty four." Whatever the champions of Wahhabite ideology pronounce, the opposite may be true in reality. Dr. Younus Sheikh’s fate is an ideal example justifying this argument.

Muslims in America, especially Bangladeshi Muslims are becoming the innocent preys of the Wahhabite Islamists’ global agenda. Many of them are unknowingly becoming part of a mosque-based political network. Also, a substantial number of them join various Islamist groups without knowing that they are ultimately strengthening a force that may someday push them (Bangladeshis) to a collision course against their host country.


Many of them love music but they have no clue that in Sharia-based societies listening to many such music may be tantamount to committing a big crime. Unfortunately, blind adherence to faith often transforms a rational human being into a living robot.

While Islamists want to portray that the basis of religion has strong footing on historical rationale, no historical scrutiny of the religion is permissible by them. There is no outcry if Jesus Christ is discussed among secular historians in a historical perspective. Nobody gets a capital punishment by uttering such word, "Jesus Christ was born a Jew." That is why ABC TV’s "In Search of Jesus Christ" boldly gave the non-devotee’s perspective.

The reality is such that Christianity is showing its tolerance and mercifulness. Moreover, it seems that there are no compulsion or excesses in Christianity. In the Christian domain, no moral police or members of virtue or vice censored any documentary to be palatable to the devotees. This is why viewers did not have to watch a sanitized and patronizing version of the ABC documentary.

Bangladesh is next in line to embrace the intolerant brand of Wahhabite Islam if it has not already done so. The followers of such archaic dogma overshadow one of the leading parties in Bangladesh. If they are fortunate to win the election, more and more Younus Sheikhs with manacles tied in hand may be seen in front of Bait-ul Mukkaram or any other famous Mosque. Because of the historical blunders of secular forces, that could be a real possibility.

Voters in Bangladesh should think twice before they cast their valuable vote in the next election because too much is at stake including future direction of Bangladesh’s civil society. They shouldn’t be smitten twice. 

Call to Save Dr. Shaikh