Dorm debate led to death in Pakistan ‘blasphemy killing’

Pakistani activists shout slogans during a protest in Karachi on April 14, 2017, against the killing of student Mashal Khan, who was killed by his classmates. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2017

Dorm debate led to death in Pakistan ‘blasphemy killing’

PAKISTAN: The ransacked university hostel room of slain Pakistani student Mashal Khan has posters of Karl Marx and Che Guevara still hanging on the walls, along with scribbled quotes including one that reads: “Be curious, crazy and mad.”
The day before, a heated debate over religion with fellow students broke out at the dorm and led to people accusing Khan of blasphemy against Islam. That attracted a crowd that grew to several hundred people, according to witnesses.
The mob kicked in the door, dragged Khan from his room and beat him to death, witnesses and police said.
The death in the northwestern city of Mardan is the latest violence linked to accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan.
Those who knew Khan described him as an intellectually curious student who openly professed devotion to Islam but asked many questions.
“Whatever he had to say, he would say it openly, but he didn’t understand the environment he was living in,” said one of Khan’s teachers at Abdul Wali Khan University, who declined to be named for fear of retribution.
Aziz ur Rehman, a caretaker at the hostel who witnessed Khan’s debate with his fellow students, said he brought up arcane subjects such as whether the offspring of Adam and Eve — the original humans in Islamic texts as well as Judeo-Christian ones — would have married each other, raising the issue of incest.
Crimes related to blasphemy are a serious offense in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and penalties range from small fines to the death sentence.
At least 65 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media, and dozens more convicted of the crime are currently on death row in Pakistani jails.
The Pakistani government has yet to comment publicly on Khan’s killing.
In March, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued an order for the removal of blasphemous content online, and said anyone who posted such content should face “strict punishment under the law.”
Police say they have arrested 20 suspects involved in Khan’s murder and have found no evidence to substantiate blasphemy allegations.
IMAM REFUSES LAST RIGHTS
Rehman, the caretaker, said Khan was alive when the police arrived, but that they did not approach the hostel until it was too late.
“They could have easily saved his life but they stood away from the mob ... I heard one officer say it’s good that they sent this non-believer to hell,” he said.
Mardan police chief Mohammad Alam Shinwari denied the allegation that officers did not do enough to save Khan.
“When we entered the campus, he had already been killed and the mob was trying to burn his body,” he said.
In Khan’s home town of Swabi, around 60 km south of Mardan, his father, Iqbal Shaer, said the accusations of blasphemy were unfounded. “First they killed my son and now they are adding salt to our wounds,” he told Reuters.
Shaer, who runs a small business selling biscuits and chocolates to local retailers, said he had always been a lover of poetry and literature and encouraged his children to express themselves and appreciate the arts.
He added: “My wife told me this morning that she spent her life taking care of her son, but those who killed him have wasted that long struggle.”
At Khan’s funeral, the imam at the local mosque refused to read the last rights, according to Swabi resident Salman Ahmed. A technician who was asked to do so in the cleric’s place was confronted by several people afterwards.
Khan has since been buried.


Riyadh’s Sri Lankan gem tycoon dies at 80

Updated 20 January 2020

Riyadh’s Sri Lankan gem tycoon dies at 80

  • Razeen Salih entered the Guinness Book of World Records for purchasing a 41.3 carat diamond for $4.6 million at a gem auction
  • He was the founder of Sri Lankan International School in Riyadh

COLOMBO: Razeen Salih, the celebrated Sri Lankan gem tycoon in Riyadh, died in India on Sunday night during a visit to the Tamil Nadu capital of Chennai.

The owner of Al-Nadeera Gem and Jewelry in Riyadh, 80-year-old Salih started his business in the Kingdom in late 1970s with his first shop, Al- Sharq Jewellers, in the Saudi capital.

In the early 1980s, Salih entered the Guinness Book of World Records for purchasing a 41.3 carat diamond for $4.6 million at a gem auction in Geneva. The diamond, “Polar Star,” was once owned by the brother of the French Emperor Napoleon, and this was thought to be the highest price paid for a piece of jewelry at the time.

Salih, a renowned philanthropist, helped to set up the Sri Lankan International School in Riyadh, which has 1300 students today.

He attended Zahira College, Colombo, during the golden era of Dr. A.M.A. Azeez’s principalship, where he was a senior prefect and also represented the college at rugger. Everybody in College adored him for his enviable personality and his courage.

The Sri Lankan Ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Azmi Thassim said that the death of Razeen Salih came as a great shock to the Sri Lankan community in the Kingdom. “He was our pride and his contributions towards the community are immeasurable. We hope and pray that Allah will give him the best place in Jannah for his valued services for the community uplift,” Thassim said.

Azad Yousuf, an accountant at a private medical hospital in Riyadh said that Salih had left a vacuum which no one else could fill it: “He was an icon in the Saudi business circle who brought Sri Lankan gems and jewelry to the Kingdom’s market.”

Salih is survived by his two daughters Aysha and Jamaaliyah.

His remains will be flown to Philadelphia, USA.