In December 2015, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), an apex constitutional body suggesting further “Islamising” of the law in Pakistan, witnessed a comic scene. The chief of the CII nearly came to blows with a member who protested what he thought was a rather arbitrary agenda of the day. The chief priest — Islam forbids priesthood — Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani wanted to reopen discussion on the re-apostatisation of the already apostatised Ahmadi community. Member Maulana Tahir Ashrafi thought the item was not notified earlier and protested loudly enough to have his shirtfront grabbed by the chief while other overweight followers of Sherani towered over him threateningly.
Sherani, made chief of the CII by the former PPP government as a political bargain with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), was seeking to do to the Ahmadis what the Islamic State is doing to sects it doesn’t like in Syria-Iraq: Kill those who were not born Ahmadi but had embraced the sect as “normal” Muslims. The CII was going to recommend to the government that it round up the targeted offenders and put them to death.
The Ahmadis are already under disabilities that a modern state should be ashamed of. They can’t call themselves Muslim on the pain of being stuffed in jail, where they are liable to be killed by a prison guard seeking salvation through murder. They can’t say the kalima, unless they want to land in the cooler. If they say “masjid”, pointing to their mosque, they go in for six months. The mind fails to imagine what would happen if they handled the Quran and pronounced its name.
Ahmadis are routinely attacked by their neighbours, which the state tacitly approves as piety. Their old graves are desecrated and corpses thrown on the roads. True Muslims go round trying to trap an unaware Ahmadi into pronouncing an Islamic phrase before putting him in police custody. One notorious cleric called Muawiya, known for doing this, happens to be the brother of Maulana Ashrafi, who has defied the CII chief and almost got thrashed by his Islamic goons. Ashrafi is a rare maverick who often stands up for the underdog in a society where humanity disappeared long ago. He has also put himself in harm’s way by opposing Pakistan’s heartless blasphemy law victimising mostly defenceless non-Muslim women.
When Maulana Sherani was made head of the CII, Pakistani scholar Nazish Brohi wrote in the Daily Times: “Pakistan has witnessed accelerated Saudiisation and all discourse seems increasingly legitimised only through religious inferences, so what difference does handing of the chairmanship of an Islamic review body, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), to a deputy of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) make?”
Pervez Musharraf had tried to cool the pious madness by appointing moderate Islamic scholars like Khalid Masud and Javed Ghamdi. When the “liberal” PPP came to power in 2008, it overturned Musharraf’s “reform” and brought back the dreaded extremists by appointing Sherani. Later, Ghamdi resigned and was made to flee the country after a terrorist attack felled his deputy.
The CII is an advisory body, which means its recommendations can be ignored, but it spreads the toxin of extreme Islam that many Pakistanis think is the true faith. Its members make the air more sulphurous by giving out to the media “recommendations” not even sent to the government. Here is a sampling: According to the Daily Jang, the CII will soon recommend that anyone blaspheming against Allah too should be punished. It will also recommend that no woman be allowed to marry without the permission of her wali (male guardian). It is expected to ban kite-flying, organ transplant and smoking.
According to the Daily Khabrain, the CII has become seized with the question of a Christian jallad (hangman) executing Muslim convicts in Pakistan. Among issues taken to the council by the religion ministry was the issue of girls marrying of their own choice. The CII announced that the nikah of a girl without the permission of the wali was un-Islamic and those girls getting married of their own choice should be punished under law. The other enlightened opinion of the CII was that co-education be banned, that all lotteries like prize bonds be banned and the paper used for printing the Quran not be recycled.
According to the Daily Din, the CII chairman criticised the Supreme Court for postponing the removal of bank interest for another year. The CII ruled that insurance of all kinds was against Islam and should be abolished forthwith. It had earlier endorsed the destruction of Afghanistan’s archaeological heritage by the Taliban.
The Daily Khabrain reported that despite the passage of 23 years since the CII made its first proposal about it, the government had not changed the flag. The recommendation was that the kalima be inscribed on the Pakistani flag along with “Allahu Akbar”. It was a pity that such a good scheme for Islamising the national flag was not accepted so far, it was said. It also said women should be disallowed from appearing in ads and that only men should be used to promote products. Women were allowed to work as air hostesses but they should be wearing the burqa or hijab on board. No darzi (tailor) should be allowed to sew women’s clothes and only women darzis should be used by women. It also declared that sending anyone to prison was against Shariat and recommended that prison sentences be abolished. Early Islam had no jails, no police, and no banks. Thieves used to have their hands cut.