‘Ayaz Nizami’ Needs Far More Attention

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Ayaz Nizami’ is a part of a hashtag.#FreeAyazNizami, others, against him, posted a hashtag #HangAyazNizami, i.e., calls for the hanging of a public human rights activist., as reported in 2017.

He is the Vice President of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan. He was placed in an anti-terrorism cell. ‘Nizami’ is an ex-Muslim and has been punished for organizing as one in Pakistan.

This case and its concomitant issues need more coverage and wider activism, as this has been over two years ongoing in terms of imprisonment of him. Obviously, the alias name was for self-protection, as with others who utilize fake names in order to hide identity for safety and livelihood.

As previously reported, “Who is Ayaz, though? He is a religious scholar and ex-Muslim. He pursued religious training after standard, mainstream education. He was admitted to an Islamic studies school. He began to doubt the authenticity of the claims of his faith at the time. I suspect that not being an easy thing to undergo or endure, especially being part of an orthodox religious family. Even with the doubts, he accomplished accreditation in the Islamic studies. He was not only a religious scholar in general, but an Islamic scholar in particular.”

This was part of a larger wave, and an ongoing one, of charges against bloggers and writers. ‘Nizami’ has expertise in Tafseer and the principles of it. Tafseer is the tradition of providing explanations for the purportedly holy Quran. He has an expertise in the Hadith and its principles. It is the words, actions, and implicit approvals of Muhammad. 

Furthermore, ‘Nizami’ holds expertise in Fiqh and its principles, as well as philosophy and logic, and the Arabic language. Fiqh is the Islamic Jurisprudence. He has a wide range of expertise and knowledge on the religion, on Islam, and can be a powerful ally in the world of those who may wish to leave the religion. The Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan is the organization of Fauzia Ilyas and ‘Ayaz Nizami.’

Mr. Nizami stated the religious creations seen here. They are not from above, the divine, another transcendent realm, or an otherworldly place that can engrave the messages of the Theity upon the hearts and minds of the prophets.

No, “[They are] a mere creation of the human brain and are a bi-product of culture and civilisations in the world especially the Middle East,” Mr. Nizami said, where he wants to “educate and enlighten his fellow countrymen and share his findings with them.”

This mission can be a basis for human rights activism and secularization of the nation-state in the midst of a troublesome setup. Problem: his communication, with me — and presumably others, went dark. 

As noted at the time:

It seemed suspicious. The common knowledge in the educated secular community is bloggers with critiques of religion or religious patriarchs, or practices, can be killed, given lashings, or stigmatised and ostracised in their communities.

So the answer to the latter two questions: no, and no. Answer to the former query: as far as I can tell, he existed as a non-believer, especially an ex-Muslim, with self-confidence rather than acculturated diffidence and spoke out on religion and Islam, and with highly educated, scholarly authority in the relevant subject matter. It was taken as terrorism and blasphemy.

Whether or not the statements are true or not, and whether or not you’re religious or not — and especially if you’re religious take the parable of the hypocrite and the Golden Rule into account, ask, “Should someone be imprisoned on blasphemy or terrorism charges — even threatened with a hashtag hanging campaign (#HangAyazNizami) based on belief, in particular non-belief, in the public arena?”

There were comments with the #HangAyazNizami hashtag on social media with calls for hanging him in a variety of forms. Some of these went alongisde a claim of “fuck with freedom of speech” from Sardar Waqar, an admission with “call us terrorist or extremist or whatever by Daniyal Ahmed, that first “he must be drag in the streets” prior to the proposed justice of hanging by Nida Ahmed, and so on.

These claims of violence over doubts and founding a non-religious organization — one for atheists and agnostics — seems fundamentally unjust, unfair, and the root of the attitudes of religious privileges within societies to openly call for violence with no reprisals in kind other than requests for respect for freedom of expression and reversal of arbitrary imprisonment.

I think the original query from over two years ago still stands:

At root, some subset of Pakistani Muslims are offended, and some non-Muslims. But does this justify the sentiments and the very real consequences on the life of Mr. Nizami? No, and take the footnote about the hypocrite and the Golden Rule into account, I get it.

But if in his situation, if something you did was that offensive, would others be justified in imprisoning or threatening to hang you? I feel offence at the offence around Mr. Nizami. Does this justify blasphemy charges and imprisonment, and public threats of hanging? No, and I would not condone it, as I do not condone the same for the offence — which from that perspective, I can feel sympathy for — felt by some Pakistani Muslims, and others.

These are environments for cyber-dissidents. These are the lives some will live. Some will be killed. Others imprisoned for years or even life. Still others, they will not see the light of day due to mob justice, as we found in some of the cases of the Bangladeshi bloggers. This is the world in which the Internet provides a space for freedom of expression and a furtherance of the destruction and emaciation of the lives and livelihoods, respectively, of those in difficult circumstances. Lives of the arbitrary precarity of health and wellbeing. This can be stopped. It has to start one at a time, to show how these cases can pass, how the authoritarian efforts and regimes are, in fact, fragile, and, therefore, can be overcome.

This is why ‘Ayaz Nizami’ deserves a whole lot more attention now and into the future until he is released.

Photo by Sameer Akhtari on Unsplash

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