Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is conducting research on 'politicisation of religion in Pakistan' a crime ?

Thought Control
Ayesha Haroon, The News, April 11, 2012
A student was thrown out of a university for emailing a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and for insisting on doing his research paper on politicisation of religion in Pakistan. 

He is now on the streets protesting his removal from the university. He not only has a right to protest, he has a right to every possible legal remedy that is available to any citizen.

Throwing a student out of a university is not a small thing – and should not be treated as such. Throwing a student out allegedly on the basis of his sending “threatening” emails supposedly filled with revolutionary poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz makes the matter even more worrying.

Students are supposed to ask questions – and not just about how a car transmission works but also about why is there injustice in the world, who benefits from the economic hierarchy, what is freedom? Dozens were killed in Kohistan a few weeks ago in a religious sect-based crime; Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan carries out blasts across Pakistan for its political agenda; Difa-e-Pakistan Council is a political grouping of mainly religio-political parties, trying to improve their image before the elections. Given our current societal context, Arsalan Bilal’s proposal for writing a thesis on politicisation of religion in Pakistan is an obvious one.

Prima facie the treatment of this case calls for an investigation on the part of Bahria University, the Higher Education Commission and the appellate courts of the country. The future of a student and his family is at stake. What is also at stake is the intellectual space students at Bahria and other universities should take for granted.

Universities are supposed to be places where knowledge is created, boundaries of the status quo are challenged, perceived truth is pushed to its limits. Faculty and students are provided a space where exchange of ideas takes precedence sometimes over their acceptability – and this space is protected by institutions of tenure, on one side, and freedom of speech as well as the inviolability of university boundaries, on the other.

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