Pakistan: Rationalist International condemns the implementation of Shariat Law in the NWFP
In a letter to President Musharraf, Rationalist International has strongly condemned the implementation of Shariat law in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and urged the government to to take all possible measures to stop the Talibanisation of the province.
On 2 June 2002, the Assembly in Peshawar has passed the Shariat Bill and made the NWFP Pakistan’s first province adopting Islamic law. After an open voice vote, the unanimous decision was welcomed by the Assembly members with the triumph cry: Allah is great, Allah is great! The small opposition was too scared to oppose the religious onslaught.
The NWFP at the border to Afghanistan is a traditional hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism. Since the elections in October 2002 ruled by the radical six-party coalition Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), it is rapidly marching towards Talibanisation. The implementation of Shariat marks the end of civil liberties. It implicates the creation of a parallel legal system based on religion as well as dramatic changes in the education and finance systems, which will be brought in line with the Quran by special committees. The small and scared opposition in the Assembly did not dare to oppose the religious onslaught. The central government in Islamabad seems to be hesitant to move against the alarming developments in the NWFP. When fundamentalist mobs celebrated the presentation of the Shariat Bill by rampaging through the streets, destroying satellite cable TV connections and tearing down advertisement posters showing women, the police, standing under command of the national government, did not take any action.
Only days after the passing of the Shariat Bill came the Hisba Bill, creating a legal base for the establishment of a Hisba (accountability) Department, a true copy of the Taliban’s dreaded “Department for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue”. Setting up a parallel legal, political and police system, the NWFP comes in total control of the fundamentalists.
In its six-month rule, the MMA has already banned alcohol, stopped music in public places and buses, changed the school uniforms for boys from “western” shirts and trousers to the traditional kurta and forced girls to cover their heads. Male doctors in hospitals are not allowed anymore to attend female patients. Since 1 June, all offices, schools and shops are to be closed during prayer time, so that all men can go to the mosque. Prayers five times a day are compulsory for civil servants.
Riding to victory on the wide spread anti-US sentiments, the MMA did not only conquer the government of the NWFP in the October elections, but could also occupy nearly one forth of the seats of the National Assembly. They are campaigning for a Taliban Pakistan and demand Shariat to be implemented in the whole country.
Intelligence services confirm meantime that most of the old Taliban leaders have survived and are hiding in Pakistan.
Jan Loeb Eisler now an Honorary Associate of Rationalist International
Jan Loeb Eisler, veteran Rationalist and Secular Humanist from Florida, has joined Rationalist International as an Honorary Associate. Eisler is Regent and Board member of the Center for Inquiry International and Board member of the Council for Secular Humanism. She is former Vice-President of the London based International Humanist and Ethical Union, whom she served as NGO representative to the United Nations in New York.
Creative and vigorous, Eisler has over the years overtaken numerous responsibilities: Vice President of the Bertrand Russel Society, Board member of the American Humanists and of the Atheists of Florida, Founder-President of the Humanist Association St. Petersburg and much more. She is the editor of Family Matters (newsletter of the Secular Family Network) and has been an active member of the advisory boards of several national publications, among them Common Sense and Scientific Review for Alternative Medicine. She has been invited to international conferences in Russia, India, Australia, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. In February 2002, she inaugurated the Third International Rationalist Conference in New Delhi (photo).
Thailand: Buddha’s tooth on the move
A very special guest from China has been invited to Thailand in December 2002, to mark the celebrations of King Bhumibol Abdulyadej’s 75th birthday. He was ceremoniously seen off at a Bejing airport by hundreds of Buddhist religious leaders and officials from China and Thailand. Accompanied by a high level delegation, he traveled in an exclusive airbus 310-300 plane of the Royal Thai Air Force to Bangkok. And there he is, now resting in a holy shrine and submitting to official honors and public worship, till time will come to catch the flight back to China: the sacred tooth of Sakyamuni, the Buddha.
Sakyamuni is the founder of Buddhism. According to traditional belief, he attained Nirvana and turned Buddha some 2500 years back. His tooth is one of the most treasured Buddhist relics. A Thai-Chinese agreement has been signed to lay down conditions and modalities of visit and temporary enshrinement of the sacred tooth, which is seen as a very significant event in the friendly cooperation of the two neighboring countries.
Australia: Jesus and the Boofheads
Jesus may have never lived. But just imagine he was born – and that too Australian! Sydney author and broadcaster Kel Richards has come out with the “Aussie Bible (Well, bits of it anyway)”. Dwelling in regional idioms and robust slang expressions of Australian English, the book retells with nonchalance the most popular episodes of the New Testament. We see the Good Samaritan being attacked by “a bunch of bush rangers”, the “Three eggheads from out east” entering the holy stable to say “G’day, Your Majesty!” and Jesus, addressing those, who build houses on sand, heartily as “You Boofheads!”
But this is not just fun and fantasy. The Bible Society of New South Wales has great hopes that this Australian ear flatterer will warm up a new generation of Bible readers and win them scores of pius new members.
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