Rationalist International welcomes President Musharaff's Speech: Demands freedom of Dr Shaikh

Rationalist International, in a letter to the President of Pakistan, welcomed the President's address to his nation, broadcast world wide on 12 January 2002, in which he firmly condemned Islamic fundamentalism and promised to free his country from its influences. If this speech should not remain rhetoric, the letter argues, the first step to be done, is to release Dr. Younus Shaikh.

The full text of Sanal Edamaruku's letter is given below:

Your Excellency!

Allow us to express our appreciation for your courageous address to the nation of Pakistan. We wish you strength and determination to fulfil your promise to eliminate religious extremism and obscurantism and to guide your country into a future of tolerance and progress. May your speech turn the tide and become a mile stone in Pakistan's history!

Your vision about the future of Pakistan shows great similarity to the ideas of another citizen of your country, who is currently languishing in one of the death cells in Rawalpindi jail, because he dared some years earlier to publicly speak about them. We would like to draw your attention - once again - to the case of the rationalist, physician and anatomy professor Dr. Younus Shaikh, who has been arrested under pretexts under pressure of Islamic fundamentalists on 4 October 2000 and condemned to death for "blasphemy" under their massive threats by a frightened judge on 18 August 2001.

During the last year, Pakistan's embassies in many of the world's capitals from Washington to Dhaka, have been overhanded petitions and your personal office has received thousands of letters from rationalists around the world, calling upon you to rescue Dr. Shaikh. If you want to break the power of fundamentalism, if you want to transform Pakistan into a free and democratic country, if you want to change the social and intellectual climate and open the minds of your people for the qualities of freedom, tolerance and progress, the release of Dr. Shaikh has to be one of your first steps. As long as Dr. Shaikh remains in jail and under the threat of death, your speech will be seen as nothing but rhetoric. Please do not hide behind the "independence" of the legal system, which could not even withstand the pressure of religious fanatics.

We call upon you to initiate the immediate and unconditoned release of Dr. Younus Shaikh. It is high time now, please act!

With respect and expectations,

Sanal Edamaruku, President, Rationalist International.

This is a historical moment to demand the release of Dr. Shaikh. Please write - once more - polite letters to the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf and mail a copy of your letter to us.

Email address of President Pervez Musharraf: CE@pak.gov.pk

Send the copy of your letter to: Dr.ShaikhDefense@rationalistinternational.net


Dr Shaikh in Custody

The Lahore High Court has admitted the appeal of Dr. Shaikh, Pakistani rationalist and founder president of "The Enlightenment", against the death sentence awarded to him for blasphemy by the Islamabad additional district and sessions court on 18 August, 2001 . Dr. Shaikh was given only one week's time to appeal in the High Court.

The sister of Dr Shaikh made the appeal on 21 August on behalf of him. A court official has confirmed that the appeal had been admitted.

Dr. Muhammed Younus Shaikh, British educated physician and physiology professor in a local medical college was arrested on 4 October 2000 by the Islamabad police and booked under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Dr. Shaikh was accused to have defied Prophet Muhammed with his statement that Muhammed did not become a Muslim before the age of forty and that his parents were non-Muslims. Dr. Shaikh was found guilty and convicted under the law that prescribes death sentence if charges of blasphemy are proved. This law was added to the Pakistan Penal Code in 1986 which said whoever made derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammed "by words either spoken, or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of Holy Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."

What to do now?

Rationalist International has set up a committee to build international public opinion to save the life of Dr. Shaikh. Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International, is the convenor of the DR.SHAIKH DEFENSE COMMITTEE. You are requested to everything possible to support the efforts of the DR.SHAIKH DEFENSE COMMITTEE.

  1. We request you to write letters appealing to the President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf in the following format or in similar lines at the following address with copy to the DR.SHAIKH DEFENSE COMMITTEE.


    To: CE@pak.gov.pk

    Copy to: Dr.ShaikhDefense@rationalistinternational.net

    General Pervez Musharraf


    Islamic Republic of Pakistan

    Your Excellency,

    I am shocked to hear that Dr. Muhammed Younus Shaikh, currently in jail in Islamabad being accused of blasphemy, has been convicted to death on August 18th by the Islamabad additional district and sessions court. His appeal against the death sentence is under the consideration of the Lahore High Court now.

    It is the right of everyone to express freely one's opinion in any civilized society and I hope that you will guide Pakistan to an open and pluralist society.

    I strongly support the international campaign in favor of the release of Dr. Shaikh. I request you to use all the powers available at your disposal to mediate and intervene for the release of Dr. Muhammed Younus Shaikh.


    (Name and address)


  2. If you have a web page or site, please post this message with a link to www.rationalistinternational.net. The web site of Rationalist International has several pages about Dr. Shaikh and the case, with the text of the Police First Information Report (FIR), the Pakistan Blasphemy Laws and reports of the several stages of the case. The site is being updated with all new details. If you have an email group, please post this message and promote maximum people to write to the President of Pakistan to mediate and intervene for the release of Dr. Shaikh.

  3. If you have a journal or if you have access to the media, please try to bring out stories about Dr. Shaikh and the inhuman and uncivilized blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Always remember to mention www.rationalistinternational.net for all the latest information on the Dr.Shaikh case. You are also welcome to use the information and material from the web site of Rationalist International or from the Rationalist International Bulletins. Remember: strong public opinion is necessary for the success of any mediation or diplomatic initiatives.



Rationalist International and the DR. SHAIKH DEFENSE COMMITTEE, have called upon General Musharraf, President of Pakistan, to guarantee for Dr. Shaikh's life and safety. Expressing shock and grave concern at the harassment of Dr. Shaikh by fundamentalist forces and judicial authorities, Sanal Edamaruku demanded immediate and unconditional release of Dr. Shaikh from jail and safe passage out of Pakistan. Mr Edamaruku offered to mediate with a suitable country to grant him refuge. Reminding President Musharraf at his recent announcement to take tough measures against religious extremism and lead Pakistan to democracy, Sanal Edamaruku recommended the Blasphemy Law to his special attention, which he called barbaric, shameful, unworthy of a civilized state and overdue to be abolished.

Meantime the death sentence against Dr. Shaikh has raised strong international protest.


Amnesty International, in a statement on 21 August 2001 has recognized Dr. Shaikh as prisoner of conscience and termed the trial against him unfair and demanded his immediate release. "The charges (against Dr. Shaikh) were maliciously brought, the allegations did not establish blasphemy and the trial which led to the conviction on such grounds could not have been fair", said the statement. For the full statement of Amnesty International, please visit:



The Council for Secular Humanism (CSH) headed by Prof. Paul Kurtz, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in which Dr. Shaikh's organization "The Enlightenment" is an associate member, and several other rationalist-humanist organizations across the world have launched an international campaign in Dr. Shaikh's support. IHEU President Levi Fragell overhanded in Oslo a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, requesting him to take urgent action to save Dr. Shaikh.

For more reports about the award of death sentence to Dr. Shaikh in the international press, please visit the following sites:

Dawn (Pakistan), 18 August 2001: http://www.dawn.com/2001/08/19/top14.htm

BBC (UK), 19 August 2001: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/newsid_1498000/1498121.stm

New York Times (USA), 19 August 2001: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/20/international/asia/20DOCT.html

The Times (UK), 19 August 2001: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,3-2001286144,00.html

The Guardian (UK), 19 August 2001: http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,539348,00.html

CNN (USA), 20 August 2001: http://www.cnn.com/2001/world/asiapcf/south/08/19/pakistan.blasphemy/index.html

The Daily Telegraph (UK), 23 August 2001: http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/08/22/wblas22.xml