01/28/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Muslim leader: Islamic courts are not a solution, but another problem

Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology and one of the most respected Islamic scholars in Pakistan, rejects the proposal to introduce distinctively Muslim courts into the country's tribal areas, and warns the government: extremism is fought by making no concessions.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, one of the most authoritative Islamic scholars in Pakistan, contests the proposal to institute Islamic courts in the country's tribal areas, because "a problem is not solved by creating a larger one". Ghamidi, known for his efforts to modernise Islam, then emphasised that "the law, and not its interpretation, must be sovereign".

The scholar's statement of his position is part of the wide and unusual debate sparked in Pakistan by the law proposed by the interim government of the North-West Frontier Province. This has in fact decided to modify its Islam-influenced judicial system - the Shariah Nizam-e-Adl, approved in 1994 - to introduce the new Qazi Courts, which would replace the secular Supreme Court of Peshawar in cases of judicial recourse.

According to some analysts, this decision will separate the tribal areas of Swat, Dir, and Chitral from the rest of the region: these will receive special treatment, based on laws of a religious character. According to the new scheme, in fact, the judges must adhere to the principle of "Islamic perfection", and will be forced to appoint "assistants" for the judicial bench. These will be chosen from among local religious figures.

The proposal has been criticised by human rights activists and secular jurists, who maintain that it is an attempt to introduce radical Islam into the country. Ghamidi, a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, goes even farther: "The government must understand that religious extremism is a scourge that can be fought only with a steady hand, without ceding anything. Conceding the Qazi Courts means failing to punish horrendous crimes, which would certainly be pardoned by men who look to Mohammed through a distorted perspective".

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