On behalf of the Executive Committee of the IHEU, I would like to warn all IHEU Member Organisations, our contacts, supporters and colleagues that unknown people are using the Internet to attack the IHEU and our Executive Director by distributing emails and establishing Internet discussion groups in order to harm the IHEU, undermine our credibility, and weaken the world-wide IHEU campaign to save peace activist Dr. Shaikh, arrested in Islamabad in October 1999 and condemned to death on charges of blasphemy. Details of the IHEU’s world-wide campaign to save Dr. Shaikh can be accessed from our website www.iheu.org
Some of you by now are perhaps aware of the various unfounded accusations made by Mssrs. “Mohammed Ansari” and “Abdul Latheef” to detract from the campaign to save Dr. Shaikh. They claim to mail from Lahore and Singapore and accuse the IHEU of fabricating letters in the name of Dr. Shaikh. Their mails are worded as if dictated by Dr. Shaikh himself, and accuse the IHEU of fabricating letters from Dr. Shaikh.
“Ms. Susanna Pratt”, who claims to live in Australia, has also used certain Internet rationalist and humanist forums to attack the IHEU and its officers and has transmitted or repeated the above accusations. She has now created a new email discussion group, “Humanist initiative”, where anonymous attacks continue on the IHEU and its officers. Many IHEU member organisations’ and leaders’ addresses – available from the IHEU Directory and other Internet Humanist directories – have also been added to this discussion list without their prior permission.
Until a few months ago no one in the Humanist movement had heard of any of these three individuals, nor were they ever publicly connected either to organised Humanism or to the campaign to save Dr. Shaikh. One can only speculate as to their true identities and motives.
The IHEU would not normally dignify frivolous or malicious anonymous allegations by according them attention. The case of Dr Shaikh is, however, of great importance and sensitivity. Allegations of this type can only damage the campaign on his behalf, as well as causing dissension within the Humanist movement.
No-one at the IHEU has ever been in doubt that the letter from Dr Shaikh that was published in International Humanist News was in the same handwriting as that of various other letters received from Dr Shaikh over the past ten years. Careful checks have been made to verify the total accuracy of the published copy of the letter. As forgery of letters is possible, we do not want to make an extensive sample of Dr. Shaikh’s handwriting available at a time when we have not exhausted all the judicial avenues in Pakistan.
One of our campaign activists has also managed to meet with Dr. Shaikh, and a Representative of Amnesty International has met with Dr. Shaikh’s lawyer. Dr. Shaikh, who continues in solitary confinement (although now with access to newspapers and writing materials) with minimal outside contacts, has been at last fully informed of the email and Internet allegations. He is dismayed by these developments and has termed the fraudulent use of his name and misrepresentation of his views a “grave misdemeanour” by “miscreants”. He has written in the following terms to the IHEU: “I must say I was taken aback to hear about the fake email letter from the unknown Mr. Mohammad Ansari and Mr. Abdul Latheef. I am in a solitary confinement and cannot dictate letter to anybody, the policeman on duty or the prison leader cannot write or speak or understand English language … And yes, I did send you my first message on a cigarette pack”. Further details from Dr. Shaikh’s recent signed hand-written letters to the IHEU are being held back for security reasons.
We do not want to be detracted from the real goal of saving Dr. Shaikh through the lobbying of governments and international institutions. We do not want to forget that Dr. Shaikh has already been sentenced to death; and we are working to get an early date for the appeal hearing in the High Court. The future safety of Dr. Shaikh, who remains brave despite his circumstances, is our major concern.
Scurrilous allegations have throughout the ages been a disgrace to human culture. The Internet makes it possible to make such allegations under cover of anonymity. It will not be possible to address such issues each time irresponsible people or our detractors raise them. Moreover, issues of extreme sensitivity and strategic importance cannot be discussed in public fora like Internet discussion groups. The IHEU`s increasing impact on the international arena of freedom of religion and belief, our increased vigour in the International fora and presence at the UN, and our campaigns and the media coverage achieved by the organisation may be seen as a threat by others. There could be many who would like to harm the campaign to help Dr. Shaikh or to hurt the IHEU’s or its Executive Director’s credibility.
On behalf of the IHEU of which you are a member, or with whose campaigns you are associated, I therefore appeal to you: Please take care, do not be misled. I would be grateful if you would give wide circulation to this warning through your magazines, websites, email groups and other contacts to give the lie to these false claims. Please call us if you want any information verified and please let us know if you have any ideas about who and what we are up against.
Meanwhile IHEU will continue to fight for Dr. Shaikh and his safety, and for the abolition of blasphemy laws throughout the world.