KARACHI (AFP) – A professor of Islam known for his liberal religious views was shot dead in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi Thursday, officials said, two years after he was labelled an “apostate” in a text message campaign.
Mohammad Shakil Auj, the 54-year-old dean of Islamic Studies at the prestigious University of Karachi was gunned down in his car while on his way to an Iranian cultural centre where he was invited as a guest of honour.
His car was being driven down a ramp from a flyover, when “bullets were fired, one hit the professor in the head and he died”, senior police officer Pir Mohammad Shah told AFP.
Another bullet struck a junior colleague of Auj in the arm, wounding her.
Auj, a recipient of a presidential medal of distinction, was known for his unorthodox views and was fighting a legal case against the originator of a widely-circulated text message that called him an apostate. Colleagues alleged his predecessor was to blame.
At the time he opened the case, he told police: “It has endangered my life and on the basis of the propaganda I could be murdered.”
The professor had issued controversial fatwas (religious decrees) – pronouncing for example that a Muslim woman could marry a non-Muslim man, and that women need not remove lipstick or nail polish before saying their prayers.
Such views can cause serious offence to some conservative Muslims in Pakistan, which has been battling a homegrown insurgency for more than 10 years.