“They poured gasoline on me to set me on fire”

A guest article by Muhammad Ajeef

Muhammad Ajeef

I was born in Pakistan on May 9, 1989 to Muslim parents. My father named me Muhammad Ajeef, after the Prophet Mohammed. It was also a sign of devotion to Islam. But I was never part of this religion. How could anyone believe in a God that no man has ever seen. And how could I believe a prophet Muhammad who, after a solitary meditation in a cave, claimed to be the prophet of this invisible God. Actually, my place would have been in an atheistic family, but who can choose where he is born into. So I became the hunted, although I had not committed any crime. Actually, everyone has the right to freely determine his life, but not in a country like Pakistan, which was founded as an Islamic state and where Muslims make up 97% of the population. Although the white stripe in the Pakistani flag is supposed to symbolize these minorities and the legislation is supposed to be just, in reality it looks different. The public attitude does not correspond to this ideal in any way.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we organized an event on March 8, 2019 to raise awareness of women’s rights. At the end of this event we discussed with friends about sexual violence and the murder of Zainab Ansari, an 8-year-old girl who was raped and killed by a stranger in 2018, and the murders of many other girls. I made the sarcastic remark that sex with children is allowed in Islam, you only have to marry them afterwards. Only the murder was haram (sinful). Just like the Prophet did when he married Ayesha when she was a child. When she grew up, Mohammed died and she had to remain his widow for 44 years because she was not allowed to marry again. Wasn’t this story about the Prophet the best proof of the oppression of women in Islam? Well, my friends disagreed with this statement and so they went to the Imam of the local madrasah (school of Islam) and informed him of my statements that I had offended the Prophet of Islam. In his Friday prayer speech, the Imam issued a fatwa (a religious sentence) against me that I should be beheaded. Without thinking about it, people rushed at me as soon as they saw me, they poured gasoline over me to set me on fire.

Somehow I managed to escape them. But now I asked myself, how much longer would I be able to survive? The whole country is full of extremists. I did not know when or where someone would kill me. I also received threats over the phone. So I turned to a mediator and managed to escape from Pakistan. However, most of them do not succeed and are absolutely helpless there. They are either tortured by extremists, executed or rot in prison.

On 10 June 2019 I reached Germany and my asylum procedure is still ongoing. According to the Foreign Office, freedom of religion exists in Pakistan according to the constitution. If this were the case, why do we persecute the Ahmadiyya community, for example? They are also Muslims, they believe in God, the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed. They pray and fast. If even other Muslims in this country are persecuted, what happens to atheists or agnostics?

I have lost everything: my family, my everyday life, the people I love, friends, my community ……… simply everything. Here life is like a new birth, I have to rebuild everything. The good thing is that I am still alive.