ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid on Monday offered an unqualified apology for calling religious seminaries “hubs of ignorance and illiteracy”, clarifying that he was only referring to a handful of seminaries that promote the culture of terrorism.
The minister’s apology came weeks after he invited the wrath of religious scholars.
On May 3, addressing a national conference organised by the Pakistan Academy of Letters in Karachi, the minister had described seminaries as “centres”.
“If my words have hurt you (Maulana Attaur Rehman of the JUI-F), I tender an apology,” Rashid said in the Senate’s Monday session. “But my statement was actually meant for those seminaries that are promoting the culture of terrorism. I am sure you would believe me and help persuade those who have issued decrees to kill me.”
Responding to a point of order raised by Rehman, Rashid started his speech with the mention of Maulana Mufti Mehmood – Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Maulana Attaur Rehman’s father – and said: “Had he been alive, he would have defended me today.”
The minister clarified that his statement was misconstrued, saying that it was about the curriculum of the educational institutions all across the country and was not aimed only at the syllabus of the seminaries.
“No one can deny that there are flaws in our education system, as we have forgotten to teach our children the lessons of peace … and today even worship places are not safe. I was talking about the education that has divided the society and forced us to offer prayers under the protection of guns. I would not need a security guard if I were to offer my prayers in India or any other non-Muslim state.”
He lamented that decrees were issued and banners demanding his hanging put all across the federal capital. “This has not only put my life in danger but also the lives of my daughters.”
Holding his ground, the minister said: “I stand by my statement against those seminaries that are promoting terrorism, and if this is a crime and you want to hang me, then I am ready for that punishment.”
To substantiate his point, he said Shaykh Abu Ammar Zahid ar-Rashidi, a scholar who had developed the curriculum of seminaries, and Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Maududi had also expressed their views on the same subject.
“I am standing in your ranks to defend you. I cannot even think of talking against Azaan. I only talked about misuse of loudspeakers.”
Rashid said he had great respect for Ulema-e-Haq. “Yes, I raised voice against Ulema-e-Soo, who have destroyed peace by inciting people to resort to terrorism.”
After the minister’s clarifications, Rehman said: “I believe that the minister’s intention was misunderstood.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2015.