Fatwas against science and semantics

Published: May 31, 2013
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“We agree that the blasphemy law should stay, but its wrong use by anyone, Muslim or Non-Muslim, must not be allowed,” says Ashrafi. PHOTO: INP

Pakistan is a strange country. Considering the fact that 70% of the population comprises of youth, there is no Council of Youth Affairs to safe guard their rights. A great majority of the population has no access to health and reproductive facilities but there is also no council working to ensure that people of Pakistan should be provided with basic healthcare.

On the other hand, a good 97% of the population follows some kind of Islam or the other but the country still needs multiple councils and other bodies to safeguard the religion. Two such bodies – Federal Shariat Court and Council of Islamic Ideology – regularly come up with suggestions to make Islam even stronger in the country.

The latest in the line is the brand new set of Fatwas and advisements by Council of Islamic ideology (CII) against science and semantics – yes, you got it right – against science and semantics.

The Council also believes that the blasphemy laws of the country are perfect the way they are and should not be touched.

The Council also declared the process of cloning as illegal. I am not sure what their stance on stem cell research is or if they even know about it but if they are against cloning, chances are they are against that too. I have a feeling that the minute one of the members of CII loses a limb or a spleen and is assured that they would get a new one made, they will change their tune.

Last but not the least, CII chose to attack the weakest of the weakest section of the society – the women. The latest fatwa by the council says that DNA evidence should not be used as the principle evidence in cases of rape (zana-bil-jabar) and can only be used as circumstantial evidence.

As I was unable to fathom the text and logic behind this ruling, I looked around. Nusrat Javeed and Mushtaq Minhas discussed the advisements in their May 29th show of Bolta Pakistan and spoke with one of the members of CII, Allama Tahir Ashrafi to clarify the issue. Must point out that Nusrat Javeed pressed the issue as much as he could have, considering that he is a public figure and lives in Pakistan.

Tahir Ashrafi reiterated that DNA should be considered – at best – a circumstantial evidence on basis of which arrests can be made and further investigations should be carried out. However, a suspect must not be punished on the basis of DNA evidence alone, for that, the evidence of four Muslim male adults is necessary.

Tahir Ashrafi also added that they have doctors in the Council who say that there is doubt in DNA testing (DNA testing is 99.9% accurate) and as the Shariah compliant punishment for the crime is very hard, one has to be careful.

The most logical response to that line of reasoning is that most criminals who rape women do it without audience and if somehow we happen to chance upon those elusive four Muslim male adults present during the crime of rape, under any civil law they would be considered accomplices to the crime, not morally upright witnesses.

If I were a legislator, I would call for making a law that would hand out the harshest punishment for those four adults- supposedly pious Muslims men who were silently witnessing a crime as horrible as rape.

The gender bias of the CII is evident from the fact that they have ruled out use of DNA sample as primary evidence in rape crimes alone and has not barred their use as primary evidence in other criminal activities such as murder.

We are living in the 21st century where Artificial Intelligence has made human participation in so many acts redundant. Any function that can be mechanised will be mechanised yet maulvis in Pakistan are busy ruling science out from every sphere of life, from Ramadan and Eid moon sightings to crime investigation.

Rape is a crime, not a religious matter hence its investigation should also be criminal, similar to any other criminal investigation. Human beings can and do lie, but DNA evidence does not, if implicated in a crime wrongfully, most human beings would prefer to prove their own innocence through scientific evidence rather than something as flimsy as another man’s word.

It seems as if there is a bias here. Science is appreciated when it is used to make airplanes that take citizens for umrah or to make loud speakers with which they make calls for azaan five times a day, cell phones, missiles, bombs and what not but declare that DNA evidence is not a conclusive proof of rape because science is uncertain and there is a .001% chance of the evidence being incorrect.

As far as legality of things stand, appointment of Maulana Muhammed Khan Sherani who headed that CII session is also illegal, hence all the recommendations of CII should be immediately discarded.

The constitution demands that CII chairman has to be a person with no political affiliation but Maulana Sherani is a parliamentarian, JUI-F’s Senator from Balochistan, which makes the whole council a bit shady.

This post originally appeared here 

Read more by Tazeen here or follow her on Twitter @tazeen

Tazeen Javed

Tazeen Javed

She has worked as a journalist, teacher, salesperson, activist, tour guide, election observer, fruit vendor, copy writer and television producer in the past. Tazeen blogs at tazeen.net/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.