Pakistani man wins right to change religion from Islam to Judaism

Published: March 27, 2017
Fishel Benkhald. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

Fishel Benkhald. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

ISLAMABAD: Many people embrace Islam, but vice versa seldom known. Fishel Benkhald, 29, has finally won the right to confess the religion of his choice – Judaism.

The ministry of interior has recently given the green light in response to his application where he had sought ‘conversion/correction’ of his religion from Islam to Judaism in his national identity documents.

In the record of the country’s top database authority, Behkhald is registered as a Muslim. Faisal, as he is known in his current identity documents, was born to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother in Karachi in 1987. He was registered as a Muslim due to his father’s religion.

British woman’s parents killed her for converting to Shia faith: husband

However, recently he made an appeal to the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to allow him to return to the religion of his choice, Judaism, by correcting his faith in a Smart Card he had applied for last year.

A reliable source in the ministry of interior has informed that NADRA, which was in a fix over the issue, had asked for the ministry’s opinion to correct the religion of a former Muslim. In its response, the ministry said in writing that “the applicant may be allowed to practice religion of [his] choosing and preference”.

NADRA usually turns down such requests, especially from Muslims to any other faith, due to the sensitive religious atmosphere in the country. Although the interior ministry has given the green signal, NADRA has yet to issue a Smart Card after correcting Benkhald’s religion.

A document available with The Express Tribune suggests that correspondence between the ministry of interior and NADRA over the issue had taken place in February-March 2017.

In a telephonic conversation with The Express Tribune Benkhald thanked the authorities, especially the interior ministry and NADRA, for granting him the right to profess religion of his choice.

“I studied Islam in childhood. But I never practiced it as a religion,” Benkhald said and added that he would consider that a positive development in his case as a treat from Pakistani authorities for upcoming Passover – a religious event of Jews to commemorate their liberation from Egyptian slavery celebrated in March-April.

The love story of a Muslim Iraqi refugee and a Christian cop

Pakistani Jews, a few in numbers, usually hide their identity from public and according to a top NADRA official their identity details, like house addresses, in the authority’s records are treated as top secret. According to him, there are some 745 registered Jew families in Pakistan.

Benkhald said that recently he has mentioned himself as a Jew in the religion column during the ongoing census in Pakistan. Both the mother and father of Benkhald died in 1996 and 1998, respectively.

“First milestone has been achieved,” said Benkhald, who has also been campaigning for preserving an old Jewish cemetery in Karachi.

His interesting story in past had caught attention of international media where he was dubbed ‘The Last Jew in Pakistan’.

JUI-F Senator and religious scholar Mufti Abdul Sattar, commenting over the issue, said a child was not bound to carry on the religion of his/her father or mother. “If the claimant is adult and never practiced Islam (as claimed by Benkhald that he never practiced Islam his whole life except Judaism) then he is free to adopt any religion of his choice,” Sattar said and added that the state was bound to mention religion of his choice in his identity documents.

Admitting mistakes, Nadra conditionally allows amendment in religion column

Sattar said as per teachings of Abu Hanifa, if a person practiced Islam in the past but later renounced it and adopted some other religion then he/she is bound to be punished.

Punishment, according to him, includes a three-day jail to rethink the decision, but if that person still insists he would be punished to death. However, he categorically stated that fatwa was implementable in countries/societies where Sharia laws were implemented in totality not partially like in Pakistan.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (43)

  • Sandeep
    Mar 27, 2017 - 9:52AM

    Jiyo aur Jeene do!
    Well done Pakistani JudiciaryRecommend

  • p r sharma
    Mar 27, 2017 - 9:59AM

    Jews are considered known enemies of Pakistani Muslims. Israel is still not recognized by Pakistan. Benkhald needs to take extra care now. Simultaneously decision of authorities to allow the option to choose the religion is appreciable .Recommend

  • Atif
    Mar 27, 2017 - 10:05AM

    Smart move. This man knows what it takes to survive and thrive in the modern world.Recommend

  • Khwaja
    Mar 27, 2017 - 10:23AM

    A brave man. May God protect him.
    But why did we have to make this matter public ? Recommend

  • Lalit
    Mar 27, 2017 - 11:18AM

    Three days prison term followed by death sentence for changing religion in Islam..
    Religion of peace indeed !
    And they said there is no compulsion in Islam.Recommend

  • Newton
    Mar 27, 2017 - 11:19AM

    Maybe he change religion so can seek refugee in another country Recommend

  • Jay
    Mar 27, 2017 - 11:31AM

    Watch your back, man..Recommend

  • Zubair
    Mar 27, 2017 - 12:05PM

    Give the same privilege to everybody in Pakistan. Recommend

  • fahim
    Mar 27, 2017 - 12:31PM

    Good decision by courtsRecommend

  • Giri
    Mar 27, 2017 - 12:51PM

    This shows conditions of minorities in Pakistan is abominable. But Pakistanis have no qualms demanding special treatment in other countries even when hey are minority there.Recommend

  • Fishel
    Mar 27, 2017 - 12:51PM

    @p r sharma:
    Thanks Sharma for your comments and reading the article. I agree that Pakistan has many steps to go toward this path. But at least it is a much needed baby step.

    Twitter ID: @Jew_PakistaniRecommend

  • Truth
    Mar 27, 2017 - 1:42PM

    “Punishment, according to him, includes a three-day jail to rethink the decision, but if that person still insists he would be punished to death.” The so-called freedom of a religion :D Recommend

  • Awais
    Mar 27, 2017 - 2:06PM

    Was there any need to file suit so that it can be published.
    I think it is not Individual intention.
    We are proud to be Muslims and will Always be InshAllah.Recommend

  • baba
    Mar 27, 2017 - 2:32PM

    There are many that are eager to follow in his footsteps! Recommend

  • Omar Sadiq
    Mar 27, 2017 - 3:21PM

    @Lalit: Better than in your country, where they beat a person to death just for eating, or rather even when they THOUGHT he had meat in the freezer.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Mar 27, 2017 - 3:41PM

    Well done … Interior Ministry.Recommend

  • Chhota Shikoh
    Mar 27, 2017 - 3:58PM

    @p r sharma:
    Jews, a people of the Book, are not “known enemies” of Islam, no matter how much spin you want to put on it. Rather Zionists policies are inimical to Muslims, alongside those of some pagans.Recommend

  • kilo
    Mar 27, 2017 - 4:25PM

    This is indeed a great news. In a way it is a “Passover” for all conscientious Pakistanis l Recommend

  • Shakil
    Mar 27, 2017 - 4:33PM

    Actually, he was not Muslim but only to converted may be for refugee Recommend

  • Mohammed Wani
    Mar 27, 2017 - 4:57PM

    Good. wish to read the two nation theory once again.Recommend

  • Shakil
    Mar 27, 2017 - 5:05PM

    Lets see how he pursue and serve his official religion in Pakistan or in Israel! Recommend

  • ibnarastoo
    Mar 27, 2017 - 5:46PM

    Notice how afraid the Indian Hindus are. We need more Jews – maybe they will be able to liberate the rest of Kashmir and the Indian Muslims from these idol woshippers.
    Why do they come to our website to mislead our people?Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Mar 27, 2017 - 6:05PM

    This is a good decision.

    Lets become a more tolerant, open and understanding society.

    Let God judge who is right or wrong on issues of religionRecommend

  • Shah
    Mar 27, 2017 - 6:45PM

    @Sandeep: ; Absolutely agree with you; Selection to Religion of Choice is a Birth Right and cannot be denied; Finally these bearded Mullahs of my country should understand this too and should exercise this right to change their faith too; Recommend

  • Kolsat
    Mar 27, 2017 - 7:29PM

    Many people embrace Islam, but vice versa is seldom known because those who wish to leave Islam and embrace another religion are killed. There should be freedom to embrace any religion one wants. That proves the greatness of any religion whne it grants that freedom to anyone. Recommend

  • Mian
    Mar 27, 2017 - 9:29PM

    His choice, his decision. @Jawad Ali Khan no need to force your views upon others. People like you with dark thoughts are the real problem in this country.Recommend

  • Tabraiz
    Mar 27, 2017 - 10:38PM

    It’s the man’s will and Islam gives freedom of choice. this is your country and you can practice your religion in peace. You are a Pakistani and that is all that matters. Our Indian friends should look at religious tolerance in their own country before pointing out to ours. May Allah bless you Benkhald. Recommend

  • Black Hawk
    Mar 28, 2017 - 2:17AM

    Smart man. I hope other educated people follow suit. Recommend

  • Mahmood
    Mar 28, 2017 - 4:40AM

    ““I studied Islam in childhood. But I never practiced it as a religion,”” Since he never actually accepted or practice Islam, he did not change his religion. The title, “Pakistani man wins right to change religion from Islam to Judaism” is not only misleading but mischievous. The only change was correction of him declaring himself Muslim, whereas he was not Muslim but he only used that to fill in the column as a matter of formality but he later decided to disclose his true identity or he might not have opted for any religion until he decided that he wanted to follow Judaism and then he subsequently petitioned to change his erroneous identity.
    ET moderates must exercise caution in reporting.Recommend

  • Optimist
    Mar 28, 2017 - 4:52AM

    Punishment for leaving religion
    It was not for leaving religion. It was for high treason. In old times, there were no separate army. Ordinary people formed the army. When someone left Islam, it was literally a soldier taking his swords and switching sides, thus becoming a survival threat. Even the Mullah said that it was for Sharia countries only (he should have mentioned that this doesn’t apply today because we have regular armies).
    There is no compulsion in Islam. Sadly, Muslims need to learn this more than others. Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Mar 28, 2017 - 5:40AM


    When I was growing up in Pakistan we were taught Jews and Christians are our cousins.

    I am very happy for you, and I am proud of our Government also for this step.

    I dont care what religion you are, as long as you are Pakistani, you should be respected and treated fairly, period.Recommend

  • MK
    Mar 28, 2017 - 6:20AM

    I rarely comment because the site feels poor now, but I just wanted to add; this chap is only doing this so that his prospective asylum applications have a stronger footing. He seems smart and can use this as a launch pad to either leave the country or stay and make a name out of it – albeit with security and what not since he’s decided to take up his cause so publically. Recommend

  • Farhan
    Mar 28, 2017 - 11:01AM

    @Truth: Can u show any country where they have freedom of rebellion ?Recommend

  • Indian snek
    Mar 28, 2017 - 1:17PM

    Why are majority Indians comments​ in most of your articles downright cancer?Recommend

  • Farru
    Mar 28, 2017 - 2:41PM

    With this much filth in your mind, its better for all of us that you don’t comment on any website. Recommend

  • reader
    Mar 28, 2017 - 6:42PM

    What is important is the person, not the religion. Every religion is good, every religion teaches us to be good human beings. Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Mar 29, 2017 - 12:22AM

    I don’t think that the majority of Pakistani community (which is youth) have any problem in living with Jews,Christians or Hindus.Yes,there are some extremist outfits,but their ideology is fading day by day and Pakistan is moving towards liberalism.Recommend

  • reader
    Mar 29, 2017 - 11:30AM

    Religion and politics in our part of the world go hand in hand. Politics is about numbers, more the numbers more the strength, same about religion. Therefore one or one thousand wish to leave a certain religion and wish to follow another religion is not about faith, it is simply about numbers. When the number is so insignificant that it does not make a difference, courts will allow, but if numbers tend to increase and cause political issues will then begin, this individual case is only for publicity for news outlets to lap up, to say that Pakistan is not that extremist. Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Mar 29, 2017 - 9:53PM

    To remind everyone that the children born of jewish mothers are jewish first and muslim second. The children of Imran Khan fall into this category.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • Iqbal
    Mar 30, 2017 - 2:07AM

    Why was the Court involved? It is his choice to change his religion irrespective of what the Mullahs and the illiterates of Pakistan say. Remember, most of the Muslims in Pakistan were forcibly converted. He is my hero and perhaps I will follow his foot steps.Recommend

  • Truth
    Mar 30, 2017 - 12:05PM

    @Farhan, it seems that you are trying to compare apple with oranges. There is no sense in what u wrote. Recommend

  • K.Khalid
    Mar 31, 2017 - 12:19PM

    I am one of the blood brothers of this person (Faisal Khalid. aka Fishel benkhald). He is lying about our mother’s religion. And our maternal family. Please do not support \ believe his lies.

    My brothers and I will be submitting relevant documents to NADRA & Ministry of interior for verification. And to get his false claims rejected.

    Our family apologizes to all people (of all religions and stats) who were taken advantage by him. Please do not let him further pray on goodness of your heart.Recommend

  • Iqbal
    Apr 1, 2017 - 3:07AM

    Why should your blood brother not convert to Judaism? When he was born he was not offered to choose a religion. It is not your business nor of the Judiciary. We are all born free.
    Why don’t you throw your tantrums on your ancestors who were forced to convert to Islam?Recommend

More in Pakistan