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.


Malaysian ministry tells women to stop nagging and wear makeup during lockdown

A security guard checks the temperatures of customers arriving at a supermarket during the partial lockdown in Malaysia to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Penang on March 27, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 44 min 52 sec ago

Malaysian ministry tells women to stop nagging and wear makeup during lockdown

  • The posters, shared by the ministry on social media on Monday, provided guidance on “building a happy family”

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Women and Family Development Ministry’s posters with guidelines on household happiness during coronavirus isolation have enraged human rights groups, who say such narratives strengthen stereotypes that lead to domestic violence.
The posters, shared by the ministry on social media on Monday, provided guidance on “building a happy family.” Women are advised to wear makeup at home and “speak with a Doraemon voice” while addressing their husbands.
Doraemon is a character in a popular Japanese cartoon series, who in its Malaysian version speaks with a characteristic high-pitched female voice.
One of the posters shows a picture of a husband and wife hanging clothes. It reads: “If you see your spouse doing something in a way you don’t like, don’t nag at him — use humorous words like ‘this is the way to hang clothes, darling’ (using Doraemon’s voice tone and giggling).”
Another poster advised women to wear makeup and dress neatly when they were working from home.
Rosana Isa, executive director of civil society organization Sisters in Islam, told Arab News the posters were inappropriate — creating the impression that wives must please their husbands and abide by certain rules to maintain household happiness.
“It reinforces negative gender stereotypes against women and men, as it implies that women are the only ones responsible for house chores whereas the burden of housework should be shared by both husband and wife,” Isa said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The women’s ministry issued guidelines for avoiding domestic conflict during lockdown.

• Rights groups fear domestic violence may be on the rise during the lockdown period.

She added that the message from the ministry supported the notion of women having to resort to “infantile language and mannerisms.”
As Malaysia has been on partial lockdown since March 18 to contain the further spread of coronavirus, women’s organizations have expressed concerns that domestic violence may rise during the period. Isa said the government should focus more on promoting hotlines and providing shelter for women in abusive relationships rather than harmful stereotypes.  
“These stereotypes are the root of gender inequality and will lead to discrimination and violence against women,” she said.
The ministry was slammed by various women’s and rights groups, with the word “Doraemon” becoming a trending topic on Malaysian Twitter following the backlash.
Women’s Aid Organization, a group that helps domestic abuse victims, said in a Twitter post: “Women should never have to act like Doraemon or childlike to be taken seriously. And even if they want to laugh coyly like Doraemon, it’s their own decision.”
The ministry has removed the posters from its social media accounts and on Monday evening issued a statement apologizing for the “tips” if certain groups found them inappropriate. “We will be more careful in the future,” it said.