On April 7, 2004, I learnt that Dr. Younus Sheikh accused me of being responsible for his sufferings under the blasphemy law in Pakistan after a Panel Discussion on Apostasy, Human Rights, Religion, and Belief. I had already heard about his case and he enjoyed my entire sympathy for his sufferings. The version I was made aware of was that he had told his students that circumcision did not begin with Islam but with Judaism; which is a fact, and for this statement he was accused of blasphemy; which is ridiculous. However his accusation of my being responsible for this is manifestly untrue. The following facts are easily verifiable:
- I have never served in the ISI or any other intelligence agency.
- I have never been employed by the SDPI or the Jama’at-I-Islami.
- My views are well known and have been carried in op-eds by our daily (The Daily Times Pakistan) and internationally by Reuters, among others (ref: External Links in the sidebar).
- These views are virtually identical with the views Dr Sheikh claims to have expressed to cause my annoyance.
I have had to jog my memory to recall our meeting. I did address the South Asian Union forum on Indo-Pak relations under the Nuclear Umbrella; I do not recall the date, but am quite ready to accept the date that Dr Younus has suggested. He did ask a question repeatedly and rather rudely. On his repetitive rudeness I responded by telling him that like him, I too could be rude but arguments are not won like that, or words to that effect. I can state unequivocally that I did not ever threaten him, despite my uncertain memory of the events of that day – because I never threaten people to win arguments. Furthermore, it should be an easy matter to find corroborating testimony from the South Asian Union.
A number of people have read his statement over the internet and particularly on the UNHCR website and the IHEU website and have raised queries. In light of UNHCR’s refusal to protect my human rights by placing my response alongside his accusation, this is my effort to put my version forward. I am fully prepared to, and encourage an independent inquiry.
Despite the foregoing, my sympathy for Dr Sheikh’s suffering remains undiminished.