Two Pakistani clerics fight at meeting over status of Ahmadi sect

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Source: The Guardian

Two Pakistani clerics have come to blows at a meeting of the religious establishment over the fraught issue of the status of Ahmadis, a Muslim sect that hardliners want declared apostates.

A scuffle broke out on Tuesday between the two at a gathering of Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) when the chairman, Mohammad Khan Sherani, called on the group to consider whether Ahmadis, who are declared non-Muslims by the constitution, should be considered murtads that have rejected Islam.

A declaration of apostasy by the constitutional body charged with advising parliament on lawmaking would likely put Ahmadis in even greater peril, given that many interpretations of Islamic law prescribe death for people who quit the religion.

Tahir Ashrafi, a liberal-minded voice on the CII, strongly opposed any discussion of the incendiary issue, prompting a furious confrontation with Sherani, who is also an elected member of parliament.

Ashrafi, who is obese and has limited mobility, said he was unable to move from his chair when Sherani lunged at his throat, ripping his shirt and scratching his neck. One of Sherani’s assistants attempted to punch Ashrafi, but was restrained by others at the meeting in the CII headquarters in Islamabad’s government district. The meeting swiftly broke up.

Ashrafi, who heads the Pakistan Ulema Council, said discussion of the Ahmadi issue would have been dangerous. “Even if five members of the council agree they are murtads it will be a big problem, it will create violence across the country,” he said.

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