Honorary Associates of Rationalist International
Dr. Younus Shaikh (Pakistan)
Born in a Muslim family and educated in Muslim schools, Dr. Younus Shaikh found his way to rationalism and liberalism through books. After studying medicine in Pakistan and in Ireland, he returned to his country and worked as a medical doctor and college lecturer. In 1992, he founded the rationalist organization The Enlightenment and served as its president. He fought in public meetings and newspaper articles courageously for freethought and free speech, for separation of state and religion and for women's rights. He also founded and led the South Asian Fraternity, which aims at promoting understanding, goodwill and harmony, religious tolerance, interaction, and people-to-people contact amongst the countries of South Asia.
In October 2000, he was arrested in a cooked-up blasphemy case. Islamic fanatics accused him falsely of having made derogatory remarks about the Prophet during one of his lectures on 7th century Arabia. They filed a criminal complaint against him under the draconian Blasphemy Law (Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code), which carries mandatory death penalty. Sentenced to death in August 2001, he was languishing in solitary confinement in one of the dreaded death cells of Rawalpindi Central Jail for more than two years, before he was acquitted and released in greatest secrecy and under heavy security. He had to leave his country because fundamentalists threatened his life and now lives in Switzerland as a recognized refugee.