Bulletin # 97 (2 June 2002)



Stop war mongering - Rationalists urge political leaders of India and Pakistan

Pakistan: First success of Rationalist protest in the case of Zafran Bi Bi

UK: Is the Catholic Church going Dinosaur ?

Bangladesh: Banned film gets Critics' Award in Cannes

USA: Religion no license to violate laws


Stop war mongering - Rationalists urge political leaders of India and Pakistan

In a statement issued on behalf of the Rationalist International, Sanal Edamaruku urged the Prime Minister of India, the President of Pakistan and other political leaders of both the neighboring countries to stop war mongering and open up diplomatic avenues to end the present crisis. Calling for peace, Sanal Edamaruku reminded the governments of India and Pakistan of the historical truth that war has never solved any issue. Another war between India and Pakistan will not only bring death and misery to thousands of people on both sides, but will also escalate terrorism, religious bigotry and militancy, said Edamaruku.

"India and Pakistan are neighbors and have to march together on the path for a better tomorrow. A war will push back the agenda both India and Pakistan have for the development of their people. Hostilities will destroy civilization and increase sufferings of people on both sides," said Edamaruku. "There is an urgent need to stop terrorists and religious extremists and to restore the faith in secularism and democracy. Militancy and extremism must be neutralized in order to bring peace." Edamaruku said people in India and Pakistan did not want war and expressed hope that the governments of India and Pakistan will show political will in favor of civilization.


Pakistan: First success of Rationalist protest in the case of Zafran Bi Bi

SMore than two thousand of our friends and readers reacted immediately, when we asked in Bulletin # 95 to send letters to Pakistani President Musharraf, demanding his intervention to rescue the life of Zafran Bi Bi. The young woman, after being raped, had been condemned for "adultery" and sentenced to death by stoning by a Shariat court.

Our protest has moved mountains.

Death sentence to be reviewed

Pakistan's highest religious court has admitted Zafran's appeal for hearing and decided that the death sentence be reviewed.

26-year-old Zafran is awaiting the hearing, which will decide her fate, in a death-row cell in Kohat, a small town in northwestern Pakistan. Occasionally the only visitor allowed to see her is brought in by a jail nurse: her meantime one-year-old daughter, born in prison and the "corpus delicti" of the case. Zafran became pregnant after being repeatedly raped by her brother-in-law, who has neither been held responsible for "adultery" nor for rape.

Zafran is one of many women convicted under the Quran-based hudood law, which bans extramarital sexual contacts without making any difference between consensual and forced ones. "The illegitimate child is not disowned by her and therefore is proof for zina (sexual contact outside marriage). This left no option to the court but to impose the highest penalty", said Anwar Ali Khan, the judge who convicted Zafran to death by stoning. Even if the death sentence will be overruled in the next hearing, say women's rights advocates, under the dreaded hudood law, Zafran may have to expect at least a jail term of several years. - But the law may be changed!

Draconian Islamic adultery law may be changed

Reacting to the massive protest against the conviction of Zafran Bi Bi, the Council of Islamic Ideology, Pakistan's top religious body, has made a sensational statement. It announced a basic review of the draconian adultery law of the Shariat.

In its official statement, the Council informed that the hudood ordinance, enacted 23 years ago, was to be thoroughly studied to identify those parts, which were not in accordance with the Quranic teachings and the Sunnah traditions (traditions of prophet Mohammed). The Council has realized, explained its chairman M. Zaman in Lahore, that the hudood ordinance could have human errors.

The case against Zafran Bi Bi triggered wide protest in Pakistan also. There was an outcry in a section of the media against the judgement. Women's and Human Rights groups organized a huge demonstration in Islamabad, during which 30 persons have been temporarily arrested.

Draconian Islamic adultery law may be changed

The fight has to continue!

The fight for Zafran Bi Bi's life and freedom has to continue! Please call upon the Pakistani President to use his high office to prevent Human Rights violations in his country. Demand freedom for Zafran Bi Bi and the abolishing of the inhuman Islamic hudood law. Remind President Musharraf that he has promised in his Address to the Nation of Pakistan on 12 January this year to free his country from the influence of religious fundamentalism!

President Musharraf's e-mail address is: CE@pak.gov.pk. Please send a copy of your letter to Campaign@rationalistinternational.net.


UK: Is the Catholic Church going Dinosaur ?

There seem to be less and less young men, who would feel it attractive to become Catholic priests. Priesthood is out. The number of applicants for training places, worldwide declining since years, has suffered another major drop - already before the recent wave of sex abuse scandals dirtied the image of the Catholic Church. In England, more than half the seats of the four priest seminaries have been left vacant for this academic year. The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales expects the downward trend to continue and decided - subject to the Vatican's approval - for a drastic step. It plans to merge the seminaries and close down half of them.

Watch out! We may be privileged to witness the Catholic Church stepping down the path of the Dinosaur.


Bangladesh: Banned film gets Critics' Award in Cannes

Matir Moina by Tareque Masud, the first film from Bangladesh, which made it to the Cannes Film Festival, has been awarded the International Critics' Prize. The film was chosen by the jury out of 40 films from around the world.

In his 98-minutes work, Bangladeshi director Tareque Masud gives an account of his own childhood that impressed critics by its authenticity and sensitivity. As a student of a madrassa (an Islamic seminary), he witnesses his country's struggle for democracy during the civil war before Bangladesh gained independence in 1971. The Government of Bangladesh has banned the film, anticipating the wishes of Islamic fundamentalists.


USA: Religion no license to violate laws

Religion cannot be invoked as defense for drug import, stated the 3-0 decision of a federal appeals court in San Francisco. It overruled a judgement of the Supreme Court of Guam (American island in the Pacific Ocean).

The Guam territory Supreme Court, obviously under the spell of the Reggae religion, had recognized that the use of Marijuana was fundamental for the practice of Rastafarianism and acquitted a man, accused of importing Marijuana to Guam, as it found him perfectly within his rights to freely exercise his religion. In fact, the island's drug prosecution had violated the religious freedom of the Rastafarian, said the judgement, establishing an highly objectionable principle. Once religion is accepted as a licence to violate the law of a state, courts could soon okay human sacrifices and other criimes and perversities, if they are only done in the name of religious freedom!

The Rastafari movement is a messianic religion named after Prince Ras Tafari of Jamaica, who was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in 1930. He was worshipped as the living god of a new religion, which celebrated the superiority of the Black man over the White. Its famous symbols became Reggae music, Dreadlocks (a special hairdo) and the religious use of Cannabis and Marijuana.

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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