Sherani, Ashrafi at each other’s throats over Ahmadis

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  • Council members opposed to debating status of Ahmadis because of existing consensus, says Ashrafi
  • Says Sherani wants to make law on Ahmadis controversial and push country towards violence
  • Sherani says matter taken up by council because it has been bone of contention in society, with new fatwas appearing every other day
  • Sherani denies attacking Ashrafi, eyewitnesses say Ashrafi attacked first

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

Sources at the meeting said participants were discussing the status of Ahmadis under the Pakistani constitution when Ashrafi, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, and Sherani entered into an argument that later turned personal.

In a press conference later, Ashrafi claimed that Sherani had grabbed him by the collar and tore it.

“He tore my collar with his own hands,” said Ashrafi. However, according to an eyewitness, Ashrafi had first lunged at Sherani to grab his collar.

According to Ashrafi, council members, including himself, were opposed to the idea of debating the status of Ahmadis because there already existed a consensus on the issue.

“He [Maulana Sherani] wants to make the law on Ahmadis controversial, and push the country towards violence,” he said.

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

However, Maulana Sherani, talking to reporters said, “Ahmadis are non-Muslims under the Constitution and there is a unanimous fatwa on that.” He said the council did not intend to declare Ahmadis Muslim.

“The CII chairman had brought up a discussion on whether Ahmadis are non-Muslims or Murtads (apostates), an issue which has already been settled in the Constitution of Pakistan. We were opposed to reopening this discussion, as it would cause unrest in society. We wanted them to clarify that this discussion was not included in the agenda by CII members,” said Ashrafi.

“Maulana Sherani should answer whether attempts to torture a CII member are part of his responsibilities. Can a person who resorts to torture be the head of the CII?” said Ashrafi.

Sherani said the council took up the matter because the Ahmadi issue has been a cause of disagreement in society, with new fatwas on the matter appearing every other day.

The CII is a constitutional body that advises the legislature whether a certain law is repugnant to Islam, in particular to the Quran and Sunnah.

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,” but lacked the necessary support from council members, according to an earlier report. The first of these issues, he said, is the question of whether Ahmadis are to be classified as non-Muslims or murtads (those who renounce Islam).

The second issue, he said, was the imposition of religious tax – or jizya – on Pakistani non-Muslims. The third issue, he said, was a determination of which sects fell under the ambit of Islam and which ones should be considered to be outside the ambit of Islamic ideology.

But analysts feel that by taking up such non-issues, the CII is stooping beneath its stature.

The CII has often faced criticism for its recommendations on women’s issues.

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