Afghan women’s magazine editor held for blasphemy

Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghan authorities have detained the editor of a women’s rights magazine on the orders of a presidential adviser who deemed one of his articles blasphemous to Islam, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

Mohaqiq Nasab, editor-in-chief of ‘Hoqooq Zan’, or Women’s Rights, was detained last Thursday on instructions from a religious adviser to Western-backed President Hamid Karzai, the official said.

Fazel Sangcharaki, a deputy minister at the ministry of information and culture, said he did not know the name of the adviser but Karzai’s religious adviser is Mohaiuddin Baloch, who could not immediately be reached comment. Sangcharaki said Nasab’s arrest was technically illegal as the government-appointed media commission to question him before deciding whether he deserved to be jailed or freed. He said the editor should be handed over to the commission. In his article, the 50-year-old Nasab questioned the need for harsh Islamic punishment for apostates, thieves, adulterers and murderers, Sangcharaki said.

Under traditional Islamic, or Sharia, laws, apostates and murderers should be executed, a thief have a hand amputated and adulterers be publicly stoned.

Such practices were common during the rule of the radical Islamist Taliban from 1996 until their 2001 overthrow by US-led forces for harbouring the al Qaeda network and its chief, Osama bin Laden, architect of Sept 11 attacks on US cities. Although Afghanistan is still an Islamic country and retains Sharia law, its punishments are rarely enforced, and Islamic scholars have often voiced anger about this.

Legitimate options: Sangcharaki argued that the journalist had expressed his legitimate opinions within the terms of Afghanistan’s media law.

“He has to be freed and be allowed to be questioned by the media commission over his article,” he told Reuters. Hafizullah Barekzai, deputy head of Afghanistan’s journalists union, said efforts were underway to secure Nasab’s freedom.