Thursday 18 October 2012

The strange world of Pakistan's Ulema

As the world comes to terms with the attempted murder of a Swati schoolgirl in Pakistan in the name of Islam, it is worth taking a closer look at some of the characters who speak out in the name of Islam in that country. One who has been in the news recently is Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, head of something called the Pakistan Ulema and Mashaikh Council.
In particular, there is the strange story of a reception at the German Embassy in Islamabad on 5 October. After leaving the event at 11pm, he seems to have disappeared. According to one report he was found by police on the outskirts of Islamabad a few hours later, asleep on the back seat of his car. A clearly intoxicated Ashrafi later told the police he had been kidnapped and injected with alcohol or some kind of poison. Some reports said three men from Waziristan had been questioned by police, although no charges have followed.

Maulana Tahir Ashrafi
The case was widely reported in Pakistan where Ashrafi is known for his sympathies towards the Taliban and to Deobandi Islam in general. You can read one version of the story here. However, a rather different account of the story can be  found on the Let Us Build Pakistan website which strongly suggests Ashrafi was more sinner than sinned against. Whether any of this has anything to do with the fact that Ashrafi came out against Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws in an article published on 3 September is anyone's guess. You decide.

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