CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 April 2019

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Religious matters are not the authority of the state

Lahore (UCAN): “The council was simply founded to impose religious beliefs and propagate the system of the majority,” Father Abid Habib, from the Justice and Peace Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors, said in describing the machinations of Pakistan’s Council  of Islamic Ideology.

Leaders of religious minorities in the country are throwing their weight behind, Farhatullah Babar, a senator and leader of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, who has questioned the legal and constitutional status of the council. 

The council is an official body of Islamic clerics known for its controversial recommendations regarding blasphemy laws, child marriage and rape, and advises the legislature on whether or not certain laws are in line with Islam.

Father Habib said, “These outdated ulemas (religious scholars) are only misleading the whole nation... Pakistan’s founder did not want this and I support the senator for bringing this up.” 

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, stressed during his address to the first Constituent Assembly in 1947 that freedom of worship was an essential feature of the country and that the business of the state was distinct from religion.

Saleem-ud-din, a spokesperson for the Ahmadi Muslim community, said neither parliament nor any council should interfere with people’s religious belief and that there must be no state authority to interpret Islam. “Religion is a personal thing,” he said.

In Pakistan, it is a crime for the Ahmadis to publicly preach or claim they are Muslim. 

Babar told parliament that the Council of Islamic Ideology had rejected a draft bill for establishing homes for elderly people because it goes against the norms and traditions of society. 

The council also declared that DNA test results were unacceptable as primary evidence in cases of rape. In addition, it also objects to discouraging abuse of blasphemy laws and has decreed that current state laws forbidding child marriage are un-Islamic.

“Recommendations such as these demonstrate how dangerously conservative and out of touch (the council is) with the times,” Babar said.

Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, the president of the Pakistan Minority Alliance, welcomed the senator’s position as did one bishop—speaking on condition of anonymity—who agreed with calls for the abolition of the council.

 

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