Bulletin # 88 (18 January 2002)



International Rationalist Conference: Registration still possible Online!

Bangladesh: Victory for Rationalists: Shariar Kabir Released

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

Afghanistan: Adulterers are still Stoned to Death

Nigeria: Execution under Shariah Law

Prof. Ajoy Roy now an Honorary Associate

Britain: Puja for Killed Cows


International Rationalist Conference: Registration still possible Online!

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Bangladesh: Victory for Rationalists: Shariar Kabir Released

After massive national and international protest, the Dhaka High Court declared the detention of of the prominent Bangladeshi writer, Rationalist and Human Rights campaigner Shahriar Kabir by the government on charges of sedition as illegal and released him. According to the judgement, police had no legal authority to keep the arrested writer in jail for nearly two months without opening a trial against him.

Shahriar Kabir had evoked the wrath of the government by raising his voice against violence and terror, perpetrated on the Hindu minority in the country by Islamic fundamentalist supporters of the government. He was arrested on 22 November by "special units" of police under the "Special Power Act", when he returned from a visit to India, and detained since then.

Rationalist International, in letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia , which got front page coverage in the Bangladesh press including the pro-government newspaper Dinkal, had demanded Shariar Kabir's immediate release. Rationalists in Bangladesh organized a huge protest demonstration in support of Shariar Kabir, in which hundreds of journalists, university teachers and Human Rights activists participated.

For earlier reports, please see:

Bulletin # 83 dated 29 November 2001 ( http://www.rationalistinternational.net/archive/rationalist_2001/83.htm )

Bulletin # 86 dated 27 December 2001( http://www.rationalistinternational.net/archive/rationalist_2001/86.htm )


Pakistan: 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, 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. (For information about Dr. Shaikh's case, please visit our web site: www.rationalistinternational.net )

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


Afghanistan: Adulterers are still Stoned to Death

The Taliban have gone, but Sharia law remains in Afghanistan. "In this country all law comes from Islam", said the new justice minister Abdul Rahim Karimi, himself a scholar of Islamic law, in an interview. He condemned, however, the cruel practices of the Taliban, which were based on "poor interpretation of Islam", and announced that Sharia in post-Taliban times was going to be applied properly.

Ahamatullah Zarif, high court judge in Kabul, explains the fine details of the changes between now and then: The Taliban used to hang the victim's body in public for four days - we will only hang the body for a short time, say 15 minutes. Adulterers, both male and female, will still be stoned to death, but now only small stones are used. This gives the condemned person a chance to escape. If they are able to run away, they are free. The Taliban used to use large stones and hurl them with force. The chance to escape is only given to those who confessed their adultery. Those who refuse to confess and are condemned by a judge will have their hands and feet bound so that they cannot run away. They will certainly be stoned to death. The first stone is to be thrown by the judge, then court officials continue, and finally it is left to members of the public.


Nigeria: First Sharia Execution

In Kaduna in northern Nigeria, Sani Yakubu Rodi, convicted in November for killing the pharmacist Zainab Hamza Kankia and her two children, became the first person, executed under Islamic Sharia law. The law would have demanded that he was stabbed to death the way he was found guilty of killing his victims. But the court decided for hanging to avoid too much public outrage, court sources said.

Nigeria has 110 million people. About half of them are Muslims and half Christians. The attempt to implement Sharia in the northern, predominantly Muslim states, has triggered fights between the communities two years ago, which left more than 2000 people dead. Despite strong protest, 12 states have meantime adopted Sharia. The next person to be executed could be a Muslim mother of five children, who has been condemned to be stoned for adultery in the northwestern state of Sokoto and is awaiting her fate from the appeal court.


Prof. Ajoy Roy now an Honorary Associate

Prof. Ajoy Roy
Prof. Ajoy Roy

Professor Ajoy Roy, veteran Bangladeshi rationalist, scientist and Human Rights activist, has joined Rationalist International as an Honorary Associate.

Prof. Roy, a reputed scientist of high esteem, studied in Bangladesh and in UK and took his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Leeds University. With his initiative an advanced center of Solid State Physics and crystallography was established in 1969 under the sponsorship of UNESCO. His work led to the discovery of some fundamental process in radiation chemistry of aliphatic and amino acids and their salts. The process of dissociative electron capture and the subsequent fate of electron is considered to be his major contribution as a scientist. He has been invited twice by the Nobel committee to nominate candidates for Nobel prize, in 1998 and in 2001.

Socially conscious Prof. Roy, since his student life, participated in all progressive movements including the Language movement of 1952, the Mass Movement in 1969, and the Non Co-operation movement of 1970 --all these finally culminated in his participation in the 1971 War of Liberation of Bangladesh as a freedom fighter.

Prof. Roy, as a secular democrat believes in rationalism and secularism. As an ardent activist of Human Rights he has participated in most movements against Human Rights violation in Bangladesh.


Britain: Puja for the killed cows!

A Hindu pandit (Brahmin priest) has flown in from India to Britain to perform pujas for cows killed during the foot and mouth cull, and to pray for those that remain. Pandit Rajyogi Narendra has begun to perform pujas already at landfill sites in the Lake District in the north of England. He has completed them at several sites where the remains of cows were buried. For many Hindus cow is a holy animal.

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Honorary Associates: Dr. Pieter Admiraal (The Netherlands), Prof. Mike Archer (Australia), Katsuaki Asai (Japan), Sir Hermann Bondi (UK), Prof. Colin Blakemore (UK), Prof. Vern Bullough (USA), Dr Bill Cooke (New Zealand), Dr. Helena Cronin (UK), Prof. Richard Dawkins (UK), Joseph Edamaruku (India), Prof. Antony Flew (UK), Jim Herrick (UK), Christopher Hitchens (USA), Ellen Johnson (USA), Prof. Paul Kurtz (USA), Lavanam (India), Dr. Richard Leakey (Kenya), Iain Middleton (New Zealand), Dr. Henry Morgentaler (Canada), Dr. Taslima Nasreen (Bangladesh), Steinar Nilsen (Norway), Prof. Jean-Claude Pecker (France), James Randi (USA), Prof. Ajoy Roy (Bangladesh), Dr G N Jyoti Shankar (deceased, USA), Barbara Smoker (UK), Prof. Harry Stopes-Roe (UK), Prof. Rob Tielman (The Netherlands), David Tribe (Australia), Barry Williams (Australia) and Prof. Lewis Wolpert (UK).

Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International, can be contacted at Edamaruku@rationalistinternational.net