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The Air Chills on Pakistan University Campuses

October 14, 2011
Punjab University

Punjab University is one location where Islamic groups have begun dominating the campus.

I have previously written of my admiration for Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a brave but increasingly isolated professor of physics in Pakistan. Dr. Hoodbhoy is pretty distressed by attacks on freedom of speech being made by Muslims against other Muslims on his campus. His concerns must be greater than ever. In a Los Angeles Times story from July 22, 2011 we read:

Few on Punjab University’s leafy campus, including top administrators, dare to challenge the Islami  Jamiat-e-Talaba, or the IJT, the student wing of one of Pakistan’s most powerful hard-line Islamist parties.

At another Lahore campus, the principal disdainfully refers to the Islamists as “a parallel administration.” “These people have connections with jihadi groups, and they are taking hostage our campuses,” said Sajid Ali, chairman of Punjab University’s philosophy department. “This is a real danger for the future of our country.”

In addition to trying to separate the sexes, the Islamic vigilantes order shopkeepers not to sell Coca-Cola or Pepsi because they are American brands. When they overhear a cluster of fellow students debating topics, from capitalism to religion, they demand that the discussion stop and threaten violence if it continues.

The recent trouble here at Punjab University started when a posse of IJT members slapped a male philosophy student for talking with a female classmate. Students and faculty members organized a protest rally, which led to the dorm attack on June 26.

“They don’t want the principal to do anything without their consent,” said Qureshi, the administrator who referred to the organization as running a parallel administration.

So, a serious chill is in the air on Pakistani campuses. Serious Muslims suppress the freedom to exchange ideas, specifically non-Islamic ideas. But most people long for a society that protects freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. And these are values that are protected in the free world. What is the connection between the free world and Christianity?

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