Dr Farooq: The loss of an intellectual
Dr Farooq's death reminds us once again that anyone who dares to challenge extremist and militant forces may meet with a tragic end.
The assassination of religious scholar, intellectual and author of several books, Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan, reminded us once again that anyone who dares to challenge extremist and militant forces will meet with a tragic end. Dr Farooq, a psychiatrist, was killed along with his assistant while he was taking a lunch break in his Mardan clinic. According to reports, two bearded men entered the clinic and wished to see the doctor. Dr Farooq’s assistant was killed upon resistance. One of them fatally shot Dr Farooq while his accomplice stood guard at the door. The perpetrators fled after committing the heinous act.
A defender of women's rights and moderate values
My acquaintance with Dr Farooq was through a book that he and his wife authored, about the status of women in Islam. I was writing a research paper and wanted to read an unbiased work by a contemporary author. At the time, I didn’t know that he was one of those rare religious scholars who strive to present a moderate image of Islam in the light of religious resources which are available to everyone but invariably narrowly interpreted.
Dr Farooq’s representation of religion, especially with regard to issues related to women's rights, was well-explained and impartial. I found his work surprisingly refreshing, particularly because he belonged to the conservative province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where women in rural areas are not encouraged to seek education or pursue a career.
Condemnation of militancy and terrorism
Perhaps Dr Farooq’s writings about the empowerment of women or his encouragement of family planning didn’t hurt as much as his scholarly works about the religious war or jihad did. Dr Farooq, like Mufti Sarfaraz Hussain Naeemi, vociferously lectured against the so-called jihad and suicide bombing by militants. In his pamphlet Jihad versus Terrorism, Dr Farooq wrote:
"If the people go on forming their own armed factions, different political parties erect their private armies, do not respect the state treaties and declare war at their own end, the country would be stricken with chaos and anarchy."
He wrote these lines with respect to the jihad in Kashmir, but they sound completely true even if we study them in the context of the current situation.
Dr Farooq also denounced the increasingly common suicide bombings. He said:
"If the religious scholars had issued decrees against the suicide bombing eight years ago, the menace would not have spread to such an extent. Extremism is averse to dialogue and democracy and is not related to any religion."
According to recent reports, the Taliban have accepted responsibility for killing Dr Farooq and the reason they gave for doing so was that he openly criticized the Taliban and jihad on public forums. Dr Farooq was also a vice-chancellor (VC) of the Islamic University of Swat. A while ago, Kohat University VC Dr Lutfullah and Islamia College University VC Ajmal Khan were kidnapped. Ajmal Khan is still missing.
In the wake of these attacks, teachers at public universities have demanded effective security. The first and foremost task of investigation authorities should be to determine whether the Taliban were behind these attacks or local rogue groups who kidnap for ransom. If the involvement of the Taliban is proven, it means that not only are they destroying the educational infrastructure in KP, they are systematically silencing moderate and educated voices. This is too heavy a loss to be borne by society.
The police are working on Dr Farooq’s case with two possible leads for investigation: family enmity and the possibility of target killing and a breakthrough is said to be expected in a few days. However, the fact remains that intellectuals like Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan are difficult to find today, when the opposing forces are so intimidating and formidable. His assassination has been a great loss not only for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but for all of Pakistan.