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Monday, June 24, 2024  
17 Dhul-Hijjah 1445  

Professor in Bannu forced to renounce scientific beliefs by local clerics

He was socially boycotted after discussing women’s rights, scientific facts
Photo via author
Photo via author

Sher Ali, an assistant professor of biology at the Government Post Graduate College of Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was forced to issue a written apology and renounce his belief in Darwin’s theory of biological evolution after facing a social boycott from the residents of Domel.

His life turned upside down when he became the target of organised propaganda, which began when he raised his voice for the women of Domel, who were banned from going to the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) office to get assistance under the programme around two months ago.

Ali has a Masters’s degree in Biology from Peshawar University and an M-Phil from Islamabad, and has been associated with the education field for the last 15 years. Being a believer in the theory of evolution, he taught it to his students among topics of gender and sex. Besides, he would also give lectures to the students on social issues.

A progressive, Ali was against the notion that women were less intelligent and inferior to men and used to criticise the norm of restricting women to their houses.

After the local elders and clerics in Domel banned the women from going to the BISP office, some like-minded people organised a seminar in the area to educate the people about the decision, among them was also Ali who spoke during the event.

Discussing women’s rights and baseless stereotypes associated with them during his address, Ali said that the burqa or abaya was neither a part of Pakhtun traditions nor it was mentioned in Islam.

Giving examples of Muslim countries such as Turkey and Malaysia, he asked, “Are we bigger Muslims than them?”

While recalling instances when women asked questions on several issues during the time of the Caliphs, Ali said that women could raise their voices about their rights.

During his speech, he also rejected the idea of women’s lack of intelligence.

A girl matures at 12 years while a boy reaches puberty at 14 years, he said, adding that a girl matures earlier than a boy.

Further, Ali said that Article 25 of the Constitution ensures equality and equal protection and states that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of gender.

He went on to add that Articles 25(3) and 26(2) direct the State to make special arrangements for the protection of women and children.

While his speech was a mixture of references from Islam, science, and the constitution, his views did not sit well with locals as within days Ali and his family faced severe difficulties in the area.

Propaganda was spread against him by the local clerics in Friday sermons, funerals, and other social events. The family was even boycotted and harassed on several occasions.

Seeing the tense situation in the area, a few local elders and the district administration intervened and forced Ali to put an end to the matter by making him sign an affidavit where he formally apologised to the cleric while backing from his scientific beliefs.

Ali’s written statement and apology

Women’s intelligence is less than that of men as per the divine law, I consider this to be the truth and the final word.

I consider adultery by coercion and adultery by consent as a crime.

It is not permissible for a woman to interact with stranger men without necessity.

I consider all scientific and rational ideas and theories against the divine law to be invalid, i.e., Darwin’s theory of evolution among others.

I renounce them and repent from all the things that I have said against the above stated, on all occasions including Domal seminars, lectures, posts, and comments on social media and other forums.

If I violate these orders in the future, I will be found guilty.

Bomb blast on Assistant Professor Sher Ali in 2022

According to locals, Ali was targeted in a bomb blast on May 19, 2022. For them, his views on women’s rights, and civil supremacy and his social media posts on the ongoing issues in Waziristan are likely to be the cause of the attack.

Although, Ali remained safe in the blast, but the investigations were never initiated on the first information report registered against unidentified people.

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