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.


Washington braces as crowds converge for Trump’s July Fourth fireworks, racial protests

Updated 04 July 2020

Washington braces as crowds converge for Trump’s July Fourth fireworks, racial protests

  • Disregarding the Washington mayor’s warnings of the risk of gathering as many US states mark a record number of new COVID-19 cases, crowds began to assemble early
  • Trump’s Fourth of July event follows a Friday night speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota where he accused “angry mobs” of trying to erase history

WASHINGTON: Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to converge on Saturday in the heart of Washington, where US President Donald Trump will host an Independence Day fireworks display and military flyover, while protesters will march for racial equality.
Disregarding the Washington mayor’s warnings of the risk of gathering as many US states mark a record number of new COVID-19 cases, crowds began to assemble early on a hot Saturday morning.
Police officers blocked off streets around the White House, Black Lives Matter Plaza and the Lincoln Memorial, where demonstrators planned to join one of the dozen organized protests in advance of Trump’s nighttime address on the South Lawn.
Activist groups pledged to hold peaceful protests for reforms following the May killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Millions of Americans responded in June by marching against police brutality and racial inequality, leading to widespread removal of Confederate statues and other symbols of America’s legacy of slavery.
Trump’s Fourth of July event follows a Friday night speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota where he accused “angry mobs” of trying to erase history and used the speech to paint himself as a bulwark against left-wing extremism.
Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic rival in the November election, struck a contrasting note with the Republican president and accused him in a Fourth of July op-ed of finding every day “new ways to tarnish and dismantle our democracy.”
“We have a chance now to give the marginalized, the demonized, the isolated, the oppressed, a full share of the American dream,” Biden said in a separate letter to donors.
In his Mount Rushmore speech, Trump made little mention of the pandemic that has hit his re-election hopes, even as COVID-19 moved further into Trump’s inner circle. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior campaign official and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., tested positive in South Dakota before the event.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser had tried to dissuade the Trump administration from holding the fireworks display over the National Mall and informed the Department of the Interior that it went against health officials’ guidance amid the pandemic.
Apart from fireworks spectators, activists of different stripes also appeared willing to disregard the health warnings.
Roar of the Deplorables, a bikers group, said via social media that they, too, were planning to gather in Washington on Saturday to stand in protest against what they call “the anti-Trump regime” and to celebrate the nation’s birthday.
Freedom Fighters DC, a new activist group which seeks to rally an ethnically diverse generation of supporters behind liberty for all people, especially the Black population of Washington, is one of the anti-racism groups ignoring the mayor’s heed to refrain from gathering.
“Black folks are not free from the chains of oppression, so we don’t get to truly celebrate Independence Day,” said Kerrigan Williams, 22, one of the founders of the group, which will host a march and an arts demonstration on Saturday afternoon.
“We’re marching today to showcase that Black folks are still fighting for the simple liberties that the constitution is said to provide.”