ISLAMABAD: An important session of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) was adjourned for a day after a scuffle between two prominent religious scholars on Tuesday.
When the three-day session started in Islamabad, CII Chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani and council member Allama Tahir Ashrafi began arguing after the former started talking about the legal status of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan.
Allama Ashrafi, a liberal-minded voice on the CII, opposed any discussion of the incendiary issue, prompting a confrontation with Maulana Sherani, who is also an elected member of parliament.
He accused Maulana Sherani of trying to bring up the issue unnecessarily, without it being on the meeting agenda. When the Ahmadiyya community has already been declared non-Muslim, the issue should not be discussed any more, argued Allama Ashrafi, who also heads the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC).
He alleged Maulana Sherani only wanted to grab the media’s attention by issuing controversial statements, which then led to embarrassment for Muslims.
Maulana Zahid Mehmood Hashmi also supported Ashrafi and criticised Maulana Sherani for his ‘dictatorial attitude’, saying he considered the CII his ‘personal fiefdom’.
The accusations infuriated the CII chairman, who, according to witnesses, lunged at Allama Ashrafi and grabbed his collar.
One of Maulana Sherani’s assistants also attempted to punch the PUC chairman, but was restrained by others at the meeting. In the ensuing melee, Allama Ashrafi’s shirt was torn and he fell down on the floor.
After the CII members intervened to stop the fistfight from escalating, the session was adjourned until Wednesday.
Both the clerics held separate press conferences after the CII session, alleging each other of starting the altercation.
Maulana Sherani said he took up the Ahmadi issue in the council meeting because it was a contentious matter in society. He denied grabbing Allama Ashrafi by the collar, saying he had only pushed him as he was standing in his way. “I never touched him and was just passing by him when he fell over,” he added.
The CII chairman also said he did not consider the PUC chairman a scholar. “The government has appointed him in a political move,” he said.
Speaking to the media separately, Allama Ashrafi accused Maulana Sherani of grabbing him by the collar and torturing him before others intervened to end the scuffle.
He claimed the CII chairman had opened a discussion which could cause unrest in society. “We are opposed to reopening such discussions,” he said.
He also accused Maulana Sherani of trying to divide Muslims with his controversial statements. He added the cleric was neither worthy of being the CII chairman nor a National Assembly member.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2015.