Liberal religious scholar gunned down in Karachi

Business Standard, September 18, 2014

A liberal religious scholar and professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Karachi was shot dead today by unknown assailants.

Dr Shakeel Auj (54) was shot three times in his neck and chest in Karachi’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal town near the Baitul Mukarram mosque as he was heading towards the Iranian consulate where he was invited as a guest of honour.

Auj was taken to the Aga Khan University Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival, the Dawn reported.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Pir Mohammad Shah told BBC Urdu that a madrassah in Karachi had issued a fatwa relating to alleged blasphemy against Auj.

The SSP added that following the fatwa, a message declaring the professor as ‘wajibul qatl’ (liable to be killed) was made public via SMS messages.

Auj was an author, a professor and dean at Karachi University’s faculty of Islamic Studies.

He had frequent run-ins with the conservative ulemas because of his unorthodox, liberal views.

The professor was also known for issuing controversial fatwas (religious decrees), such as a Muslim woman could marry a non-Muslim and Muslim women can say their prayers without removing their lipsticks.

Meanwhile, Karachi University students held a protest in campus against the gunning down of their teacher and demanded immediate arrest of the his killers. The university will remain closed for three days of mourning.

Attack on liberal scholars in Pakistan is not new and ‘Scholars at Risk Network’ has documented hundreds of such attacks on academics in the last few years.

In the ‘Education under Attack, 2014’ report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, Pakistan is cited as one of the six most “heavily affected” countries for violence against schools and universities.