hat tip-Margo I.
Letter from Taleban orders journalist to repent http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article4402382.ece
Najam Sethi, chief editor of the Daily Times, one of Pakistan’s most respected English language newspapers and its sister paper Daily Aaj Kal, now moves under heavy security after ultra-conservative Islamic elements warned him of serious consequences if he did not repent. His house in Lahore is now guarded by six army commandos.
The threats were provoked by the publication of a cartoon in Aaj Kal depicting Umme Hassan, principal of a radical women’s madrassa, in a veil “educating” female students to wage jihad and embrace martyrdom.
Ms Hassan is the wife of Abdul Aziz, the prayer leader of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, who was jailed after the mosque was stormed by Pakistani troops last year. The madrassa she headed was demolished in the operation in which more than 100 people, including 11 soldiers, were killed. Addressing a rally on the anniversary of the Red Mosque raid in Islamabad last week, Ms Hassan declared that the cartoon was blasphemous, equating it with Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Other clerics of the Red Mosque argued that since Ms Hassan was teaching the Koran to her students in the mosque, any attempt to belittle her was blasphemous.
After the rally, anonymous callers threatened staff in the paper’s Islamabad offices. Security officials said that the threat was serious as soldiers involved in the raid on the Red Mosque had been the target of suicide attacks.
“The spate of threats by the Red Mosque leaders was particularly worrying given their well-documented record of similar actions in the past,” a senior official said.
Mr Sethi, who received the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) International Press Freedom award in 1999, has been an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism. AntiTaleban articles published in his papers have provoked strong reactions from militants. “By accusing the paper of blaspheming and including me in the category of antiIslamic elements the clerics have provoked people to kill me and my staff,” Mr Sethi said.
A letter posted by the Islamic Taleban Movement warned him to repent of his sins and change his editorial policy, or else he would be killed. A picture of a murdered Pakistani, who allegedly worked for the Americans, was attached. “It is our Islamic duty to warn Muslims who have gone astray to repent and come to a right path,” the note said. “Otherwise you would meet the fate of other nonbelievers.”
Islamic militants have often used threats to intimidate Pakistan’s media. At least four journalists are believed to have been killed by militants in lawless tribal areas for reporting al-Qaeda’s activities in the past few years.
Mr Sethi has rejected the suggestion by authorities to stay out of the country until the situation is calmer.
“Extremists have always used coercion to silence their critics and that is exactly what is happening now,” he said. “This is a battle that media and country cannot afford to loose.”