Scuffle breaks out between two clerics during Council of Islamic Ideology meeting

ISLAMABAD: A meeting of the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII) turned violent when a scuffle broke out between member Maulana Tahir Ashrafi and chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, DawnNews reported on Tuesday.

Sources at the meeting said participants were discussing the increased number of rape incidents in the country when Ashrafi, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, and Sherani entered into a heated debate about the flaws within the justice system.

In a press conference later, Ashrafi said Sherani grabbed him by the collar and and shook him hard “He shook me so hard, as if he was waking the entire country’s conscience, ” said Ashrafi. But according to an eyewitness, Ashrafi did not need to be convinced.

According to Ashrafi, council members — including himself — were all in support of the idea that there needs to be an increased discussion on the incidents of rape, specially that of children, in the country and that Imams would protest these heinous acts in weekly sermons, there already existed a consensus on the issue.

“He [Maulana Sherani] wants to take all the credit for our campaign to stop violence against women.”

Participants in the meeting intervened to defuse the situation and broke up the physical altercation.

However, Maulana Sherani, talking to reporters said, “ Women are as much a part of the society as men. We can not allow rape to be used as a tool for violence and control. I am appalled that I even had to call this meeting to discuss such an important matter” He said the council was on board in demanding better forensic labs, protecting the identity of the survivor and speedy justice. “Only a few days ago a 15 year old was drugged and gang raped by 8 men, will she ever get justice? or will her story be the same as M from Bet Mir Hazar who set herself ablaze because her rapists were bailed out?” As teared rolled down his eyes, Sherani shrieked “Could you imagine being a father and receiving a text message that said “Your daughter is lying unconscious in room number 230 of a hotel on The Mall.” my heart aches as I think of the unimaginable grief and pain”

Sherani said the matter was taken up by the council because rape and gender based violence has been a bone of contention in society, with new fatwas on the matter appearing every other day. The CII is a constitutional body that advises the legislature whether or not a certain law is repugnant to Islam, in particular to the Quran and Sunna.

Maulana Sherani, who is also member of the National Assembly on a JUI-F ticket, had earlier this year said he intended to take up three “most controversial religious issues,”. The first of these issues, he said, is the question of whether our current justice system is well equipped to provide justice to rape survivors and whether the society is playing it’s part to battle gender based violence.

The second issue, he said, was the amount of hate speech being spread in the name of religion; especially one directed towards other sects and non-muslims. The third issue, he said, was a determination of turning mosques into shelters for the homeless and those in need.

Analysts feel that the scuffle to fight for the an end to gender based violence, was heartening. Despite the physical altercation, the fact that religious scholars are so incredibly passionate about using their authority to fight heinous crime is overwhelming. Imagine if, like many other religious bodies, this too had been a meeting about dangerous spats on who should be a muslim or worse deciding who gets to stay alive in this country. On the contrary, the Council Of Islamic Ideology is working towards an important mission, to ensure that religion will not be used to spread hate of violence, to step up and fight societal ills that forces rape survivors to commit suicide and to ensure mosques do their bit so that everyone has a safe place to sleep in.

An earlier version of this report published erroneously stated that the altercation was about the status of ahmadis in Pakistan; yes the same ahmadis that were declared non muslims three decades ago.