by Salman Hameed
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!
A group of 30 students in Bursa have allegedly vandalized a fossil exhibition at Uludağ University, beating three security guards, breaking into the exhibition and damaging the fossils.
The students recorded the attack, shouting slogans and taking photos with the damaged fossils, which they claim are fake. The exhibit has been organized by an anti-evolution group that claims the fossils on display prove that life forms have not changed over thousands of years, while others doubt the authenticity of the fossils.
A very interesting attack took place the other day at Uludağ University in Bursa, a major Turkish city. A group of some 30 students broke into an exhibition, beat up three security guards, and shattered some of the objects on display. The damaged objects were none other than animal fossils, as this was a “fossil exhibition.”
Now, before going deeper into the story let me stop here and ask what most Western readers would think when they hear about this news? My bet is that most of them would readily assume the militant students in question are “religious fundamentalists” who can’t stand to see facts about Darwinian evolution and, ultimately, science itself — the torch of reason, enlightenment and modernity.
However, the facts in this incident were quite the opposite. The fossil exhibition was intended to promote not Darwinian evolution, but its main adversary: creationism, or the view that species have been divinely created rather than evolving gradually. And the students who attacked the exhibition were “fundamentalists” not of religion, but rather of one of its arch enemies: They were the members of the Turkish Communist Party or the “University Collectives,” a Marxist student association.
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent.
But if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning.
However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.Very cool. Now if you have a chance, see 2001 again - and please see it in its entirety and on the biggest screen available to you (not on a computer or an iPad).
A mob in Pakistan has stormed a police station and beaten to death a Muslim man accused of desecrating the Koran.
The victim's body was then set alight, according to witnesses.
The unnamed victim had earlier been handed over to the police after burnt pages of the Koran were found in a mosque in Dadu district, 330km (200 miles) north of Karachi, where he had been staying overnight.
Hours later a mob went to the police station, seized the man and killed him.What kind of individuals do this and what was going through the minds of individuals who thought of even making a video! Who is the video for? Their kids? A souvenir for their loved ones?
The district police chief, Usman Ghani, told the BBC the gruesome incident was filmed on mobile phones. He said the footage was being reviewed to identify culprits.
This also underscores the general stability of Pakistan. If these bombers can hit some of the highest security targets, what hope do cities have from preventing such attacks. In fact, it almost seems that the organizations behind these attacks are, at present, simply showing-off their strength. They certainly seem capable of creating mass chaos in Iraq-style bombing campaign in cities, where the population is far greater than in Iraqi cities (by way of comparison, Iraq's population is ~25 millions, and Pakistan's is 165 million).
[12/22 correction: Iraq's population today is 33 million and Pakistan's is 177 million]I really hope and wish that Pakistan can somehow reverse this downward spiral into chaos. Otherwise, we are going to find out what an Iraq-style mess would look like in a population that is more than 5 times bigger than Iraq.
Beginning their three-year terms on 1 January 2013 will be Wael al-Assad (Jordan), Mely Caballero-Anthony (Philippines), Sung-Joo Choi (Republic of Korea), Rut Diamint (Argentina), Trevor Findlay (Australia), Pervez Hoodbhoy (Pakistan), Eboe Hutchful (Ghana), Fred Tanner (Switzerland) and Wu Haitao (China).
The Secretary-General has also appointed a current member, Desmond Bowen ( United Kingdom), to chair the Board’s two sessions in 2013. The fifty-ninth session is scheduled from 27 February to 1 March in New York, and the sixtieth from 26 to 28 June in Geneva.
Established in 1978 pursuant to paragraph 124 of the Final Document of the tenth special session of the General Assembly, the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters received its current mandate pursuant to Assembly decision 54/418 of 1 December 1999. The Board has the following functions: to advise the Secretary-General on matters within the area of arms limitation and disarmament, including on studies and research under the auspices of the United Nations or institutions within the United Nations system; to serve as the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR); and to advise the Secretary-General on the implementation of the United Nations Disarmament Information Programme.
Chosen by the Secretary-General for their knowledge and experience in the field of disarmament and international security, Board members serve in their personal capacities and do not represent their Governments. There are currently 15 members, and the Director of UNIDIR is an ex officio member. The Chairperson is appointed annually by the Secretary-General on the basis of regional rotation, and personally reports to him on the Board’s sessions. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 38/183 O of 20 December 1983, the Secretary-General reports annually to the Assembly on the Advisory Board’s activities.And here is his excellent documentary, Pakistan and India: Under the Nuclear Shadow (I think this is from 2000 - only a couple of years after the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan):
The initial plan was to hold the event next month at Imperial College London, one of the country’s foremost universities for scientific exploration and debate, in cooperation with the local Islamic student society. But the Deen Institute said it was forced to pull out when it became clear that opposition to the event from supporters of creationism began mounting. It is now being held without input from any Muslim student society at Logan Hall, a conference centre owned by the University of London.Couple of things here. We have to be careful in how we interpret this news item. First, we have to know what the opposition is for? Is the Muslim student group opposing this simply because it deals with evolution or if they want to avoid controversy (however, they perceive it). Second, we have to know if the majority of Muslim students at Imperial College oppose such an event. We have to be careful about a confirmation bias, i.e. it is only news when Muslim students reject evolution - and not when they accept it (and many indeed do - as we found out in our interviews from last year). Some of this has to do with the specific coverage of such items in British newspapers (for an example, see last year's case of London Times). The January 5th event is now taking place at Logan Hall, a conference center owned by University College London. The headline of The Independent, however, is more dramatic: Debate on Islam has to called off after revolt by student societies. And as per queue, this headline provides fodder for websites like Jihad Watch, which started it'd article with the following: "Intimidation and thuggery shut down academic inquiry".
On December 7, 1972, the Apollo 17 crew took a photograph of earth that became known as “The Blue Marble” because of the whorling clouds above the continents. Not the first image of the earth from space, it remains one of the most arresting. To commemorate the fortieth anniversary of “The Blue Marble,” Planetary Collective, a group of visual artists, philosophers, and scientists, released the short film Overview (above) at a screening at Harvard this past Friday. Overview takes its title from author Frank White’s phrase for the perspective of the earth as seen from space: “The Overview Effect.” White’s book of the same name uses interviews and writings from thirty astronauts and cosmonauts to build a theory about the psychology of planetary perspectives.
I am an anthropologist, and in recent years I have been exploring a kind of American evangelical Christianity that seeks to enable its followers to know God intimately. These evangelicals talk about the Bible as if it is literally true, but they also use their imagination to experience the Bible as personally as possible. They talk about getting to know God by having coffee with God, or asking God what shirt they should wear in the morning. A man from Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego told me that “the Bible is a love story, and it is written to me.” It is a style of evangelical Christianity with many followers: perhaps a quarter of all Americans.So that got me thinking if some Muslims have a similar relationship with Allah? I know Barelvi's in South Asia do have a belief that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is "hazir" (present) in many places - and can appear in mosques etc. But I think this would qualify as doctrinal (as is the case of Transubstantiation - the turning of the substance of blood and wine into the body and blood of Jesus - in the doctrine of the Catholic Church). There have also been instances where people (including rulers) have claimed to have a conversation with the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in their dreams (for example, the in the dream of the 12th century Seljuk ruler of Syria, Nur ad Din-Zangi). But I can also see that this is all related to the Prophet, and an encounter with Allah may be considered blasphemous.
I am no theologian and I do not think that social science can weigh in on the question of who God is or whether God is real. But I think that anthropology offers some insight into why imaginatively enriching a text taken as literally true helps some Christians to hang on to God when they are surrounded by a secular world.
First, this way of knowing God involves what social scientists would call “active learning.” These evangelical churches invite worshipers to enter Scripture with all their senses. Here, for example, Richard Foster, a popular theologian, explains how to “live the experience” of Scripture: “Smell the sea. Hear the lap of water against the shore. See the crowd. Feel the sun on your head and the hunger in your stomach. Taste the salt in the air. Touch the hem of his garment.” To Christian critics of these practices, they are a distortion of the Scripture, because they add to the text more than is actually there — your own memories of a summer by the seaside, the feel of heavy robes. To a social scientist, these practices ask that the learner engage in the most effective kind of learning: hands on and engaged.
Second, these practices make the experience of God personally specific. Vivid, concrete details help people to get caught up in a world that is not the one they see before them — and the more particular the details, the more powerful the involvement. Richly described settings — Narnia, Middle-earth, Hogwarts — become places that people can imagine on their own. Of course someone like J. K. Rowling might be horrified that readers have written tens of thousands of stories that carry on the lives of her characters, just as some evangelicals are horrified by other evangelicals who cozy up to God over a beer and chat with him in their minds. But social science suggests that details like these do make what must be imagined feel more real.
Which position you take depends on whether you are more worried about heresy or atheism.Read the full article here.
While many pundits and prognosticators lament the supposed end of the world on December 21, 2012 (thanks to misinterpreting Mayan predictions), here at the ASP we encourage everyone to go in the opposite – and accurate – direction. Thus, we are declaring December 12, 2012 as Anti-Doomsday Day in celebration of rational thinking and reasoned discourse.
We also feel that, in many respects, the number 12 is most auspicious: contemporary calendars (12 months in the year), chronology (12 hours of day and night), traditional zodiac (12 astrological signs*), Greek mythology (12 Olympic gods and goddesses), holiday folklore (12 days of Christmas), Shakespeare (Twelfth Night), and of course in our culinary world (dozen eggs, case of wine)!
More importantly, in astronomy Mars is 12 light minutes from the Sun, the average temperature of the Earth is 12 degrees Celsius, and Jupiter takes 12 years to orbit the Sun.Enjoy the day.
Last but not least, this date structure – a triple set of the same two-digit number – will not occur again until 2112! So, at 12 noon on 12/12/12, please take a moment to thank all who keep us on the path of science literacy. Please also feel free to show your support by donating $12, $24 or $36 dollars to the ASP!
India’s leading Islamic seminary, the Darul Uloom Deoband, has barred Muslim women from working as receptionists, calling the act un-Islamic and against Shariah law, said a reported published on Tuesday.
According to the Press Trust of India, the Darul Uloom Deoband has issued a fatwa against the appointment of Muslim women as receptionists. The seminary issued the fatwa after a Pakistan-based company submitted a query on Nov 29 regarding the appointment of Muslim women as receptionists, said the report.
Darul Uloom said that a Muslim woman working in offices as receptionist was un-Islamic because Muslim women were not allowed to appear before men without wearing a veil, as ordained by Islam.
Muslim cleric and president of the UP Imam organisation, Mufti Zulfikar Ali, defended the fatwa and said that Muslim women could work in offices if they wore the veil. However, he added, the post of receptionist required constant interactions with people, and thus should not be practiced.
This event will be the latest in a series of educational workshops that have previously been held in Algiers, Paris and other locations. A “reasoned approach” will be taken to Islam and Science: one that is well informed, balanced and constructive. The general themes of the workshop will be: Islam and the History & Philosophy of Science, Islam & Modern Physics/Cosmology, Islam & Modern Biology, Science & Islamic Ethics, Islam & New Paradigms of Science. The workshop will represent a unique opportunity for Muslim students and young researchers to discover the contemporary field of ‘science and religion’ through lectures by, and in-depth discussions with, internationally-recognised thinkers and experts in this field, including Prof. Nidhal Guessoum, Prof. Jean Staune, Prof. Bruno Guiderdoni, Ehsan Masood and Dr. Usama Hasan.Also, if you are interested more specifically on the issue of Islam and evolution, then you can attend a conference on Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution? on January 5th. This one includes a scientific and a theological session. Dr. Usama Hasan will also be part of this, and it is fantastic that evolutionary biologist, Ehab Abouheif will also be there (he is an outstanding researcher and he also participated in the Boston Evolution and Islam event last month). However, it is unclear how much science will be in the scientific session, as one of the speakers is from the Harun Yahya group (wait - are there still people around who take Harun Yahya seriously??). Here are the details of the conference:
The Deen Institute proudly announces its first ‘Dialogue within Islam’ event. The conference titled: Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution?, will for the first time in the UK, to witness prominent Muslims tackling the controversial topic of evolution in a public forum.
“Dialogue within Islam” events seek to engage with challenging ideas of concern to Muslims, in a setting that allows for critical dialogue.
Historically, Muslims have held conflicting opinions on the theory of evolution and whether science and Islamic theology share a point of convergence. In recent years, a polarised debate on the topic has left many Muslims confused as to what Islam does, or doesn’t say, about human evolution.
The Deen Institute will therefore provide a platform to different viewpoints so that the topic might be debated and examined in an honest, respectful and tolerant environment.There you go. The next year is starting with a bang.
The conference will elucidate the issue of human evolution from an Islamic viewpoint, in order to provide the audience with a clear understanding of the points of convergence between contemporary scientific theories and Islamic theology.
The Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK) has fined Turkish private broadcaster CNBC-E a total of 52,951 Turkish Liras for airing an episode of the animated sitcom "The Simpsons" in which God is shown to be under the command of the Devil, daily Hürriyet has reported.What? Violence in the name of God. Well - that is indeed wrong!
RTÜK said the fine had been levied due to CNBC-E “making fun of God, encouraging the young people to exercise violence by showing the murders as God's orders and encouraging them to start drinking alcohol on New Year's Eve night.”
In another scene, God serves coffee to the Devil, which can be considered an insult to religious beliefs, according to the report, which explained the motive behind the fine.Hmm...but can't that be hospitality and a sign of magnanimity. Oh well. The Supreme Board of Radi and Television needs to lighten up a bit.
So, it was fascinating to hear from evolutionary biologists like Ehab Abouheif, who runs his own lab at McGill, that doing science and practicing the family’s ancestral faith does not prompt any contradiction.
Abouheif and his team made a splash earlier this year with the discovery that many species of ants retain dormant genes that can be reactivated to generate an entire caste of ‘super-soldiers.’ [His team's paper was published in the January 6 2012 issue of Science.]
When he came to Boston University last month at the request of Project Nur and the American Islamic Congress, Abouheif not only shared his personal thoughts on religion as a scientist and a practicing Muslim, but he also shared his concerns about the consequences for Islamic countries that fail to embrace the scientific tradition.
“There’s a lot at stake here,” he said, “because it’s well beyond evolution. If it’s not about the evidence, if you reject science, if you reject evolution as a science and you’re not willing to listen to evidence, then that means that for all of science, when it comes into contact with sociological, political conflicts, then you won’t believe it either.”But ultimately he asks the question:
What’s interesting from my perspective is –whatever the immediate difficulties facing Muslim countries as they grapple with democracy and technology– in the broader intellectual scheme, I think science does not pose as many challenges to doctrine in Islam as it seems to pose to traditional Christianity.
Or is it soon to tell?I think it is too early to tell. If issues like the rejection of evolution become a matter of Muslim identity for most Muslims, as young earth creationism has become for many Evangelicals in the US, then we are going to see a conflicts with biology. But at present, there seems to be enough flexibility for many Muslims to accept not just microbial evolution, but also animal evolution, including that of humans.
The vessel is built to biblical proportions and capable of provoking awe at distances of up to 700 cubits—which is about how far away photographer Dan Wagner was when he captured this shot for New York. “To see it in person, and know there’s no CGI involved, was incredible,” he says. But Wagner wasn’t willing to suspend all disbelief: “The set decorator brought in tree stumps that weren’t there before, to give the effect that the ark was made with local lumber,” he says. “And there’s no way Noah and his sons could have built such an enormous structure themselves. That would have taken 500 years.”The idea here is that the ark was not meant to go anywhere - but rather be a place of shelter. Okay - we'll see how it turns out. I have liked all of his films (yes, even The Fountain - for its ambition) and it will be interesting to see Aronofsky's take on this Biblical tale. While we are on the subject, here is one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons (full disclosure: I'm really allergic to mold - so this one really hits home for me):
Al-Sharif was one of the first prominent Saudis to start tweeting about the electronic monitoring issue -- describing the shock experienced by a couple she knew after the husband received a text message alerting him his wife had left Saudi Arabia, even though they were traveling out of the country together.
What surprised and disturbed them most, Al-Sharif told CNN, was the fact that the husband had not registered with the Interior Ministry to begin receiving such notifications.
"It shows how women are still being treated as minors," added Al-Sharif. She went on to explain how, even though a notification system has actually been in place since 2010, before last week, a male guardian would have had to specifically request the service from the country's Interior Ministry before receiving such messages.
In recent years, much has been made of the fact that Saudi Arabia is the sole remaining country in which women still have not been given the right to drive. But restrictions experienced by Saudi females extend to far more than just getting behind the wheel. In the deeply conservative kingdom, a woman is not allowed to go to school, get a job, or even travel outside the country without first obtaining the permission of her male "guardian," or mahram.depressing story here.
Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the bestselling Mars Trilogy, takes a radical view. He suggests that we get over the idea of interstellar travel altogether: a probe would take 28,000 years to get to Alpha Centauri. “We can't go fast enough to get to any of these places,” he says.
Barnard's star was once “the place for nearby space”, Robinson says, as his novel Icehenge (Ace, 1984) — in which characters build a starship headed for it — attests. Now that researchers have identified some 840 exoplanets, and NASA's three-year-old Kepler space telescope has spotted 2,320 candidate planets, “there may never again be a single default destination”, Robinson continues.
In his recent book 2312, which imagines humanity three centuries from now, spread across terraformed planets, asteroids and moons in our own Solar System, Robinson writes frankly about the galactic hinterland we inhabit. “The stars exist beyond human time, beyond human reach,” says the narrator. “We live in the little pearl of warmth surrounding our star; outside it lies a vastness beyond comprehension. The solar system is our one and only home.”
Of the idea that we are destined to go to the stars and inhabit, if not the whole Universe, maybe the whole galaxy, Robinson cautions “it's a fantasy, of power, transcendence and a kind of species immortality. We have to get more realistic.”May be the problem lies in our neighborhood. We live on a minor spiral arm located about 30,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way (see the schematic below).
There are actually three points I try to hit here. The first is that the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood. There is an enormous amount that we don’t know about how the world works, but we actually do know the basic rules underlying atoms and their interactions — enough to rule out telekinesis, life after death, and so on. The second point is that those laws are dysteleological — they describe a universe without intrinsic meaning or purpose, just one that moves from moment to moment.
The third point — the important one, and the most subtle — is that the absence of meaning “out there in the universe” does not mean that people can’t live meaningful lives. Far from it. It simply means that whatever meaning our lives might have must be created by us, not given to us by the natural or supernatural world. There is one world that exists, but many ways to talk about; many stories we can imagine telling about that world and our place within it, without succumbing to the temptation to ignore the laws of nature. That’s the hard part of living life in a natural world, and we need to summon the courage to face up to the challenge.
I recently came across what is a beautiful form of true interfaith dialogue: the music of the band the Epichorus. Rabbinical student Zach Fredman and Muslim singer Alsarah co-founded the band and their musical love-child is the wonderful album One Bead. In this album, Zach, Alsarah and the other members of the band combine Jewish and Sudanese-Arab musical traditions to create music that transcends the boundaries of culture or religion. The lyrics of the songs are mostly drawn from the Jewish tradition, such as the "Song of Songs" (Song of Solomon) from the Old Testament, but the album also includes the traditional Sudanese love song "Nanaa Al Genina" (The Mint Garden).
The common theme of the One Bead songs is love, the emotion that is at the core of our human existence and spirituality. Listening to the music, one feels a profound sense of harmony that exists between the various cultural and religious traditions that are part of the Epichorus. The lyrics for two of the songs are taken from the "Song of Songs" and this reminded me of something that the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote. He composed a cycle of poems called "West-östlicher Diwan" (or "West-Eastern Divan" in English). Goethe wrote these poems to represent a fusion between Eastern and Western traditions. He also wrote essays in which he elaborated on his poems and one of his comments specifically refers to the Old Testament "Song of Songs", of which he says, "...als dem Zartesten und Unnachahmlichsten, was uns von Ausdruck leidenschaftlicher, anmutiger Liebe zugekommen," which translates into English as: "...it is the most tender and unique expression of passionate and graceful love that has been given to us."
I asked Zach how he chose the name the Epichorus for their band and he said that it was a reference to Epikoros (or Apikoros), which is a term used in the Jewish tradition to describe outsiders or heretics. The members of the Epichorus are indeed outsiders in the sense that they have the courage to look beyond the boundaries of their religious traditions and have sought out a creative dialogue with people outside of their faith traditions. They are also "heretics" in the original Greek sense of the word, describing people who "make choices." They chose to embark on a creative adventure and found that they could engage in an authentic dialogue by creating beautiful songs together.Read the full article here.
On a recent autumn morning in Lahore, hundreds of uniformed schoolgirls, many wearing veils, file into the Farooqi Girls High school. The four-story school sits just off a narrow, congested street in an older section of this vibrant city in eastern Pakistan.
Getting back to class is a welcome return to normalcy for Farooqi's students and teachers. The school was attacked last month after a teacher was accused of writing insulting comments about the Prophet Muhammad in a student's notebook — something the teachers vehemently dispute.
The accuser was a vice principal from a nearby religious school, or madrassa. On the night of Oct. 30, an angry and violent mob formed outside the Farooqi school. Still inside was Sheraz Shuja, the school administrator, along with the principal and some teachers.
"We heard a loud knock at our door, and they were trying to break the door. They were pushing it hard," Shuja says. "So we went on the top floor. Then they broke into the building, hundreds of people. They looted and burned everything. We were very afraid. If they had got hold of us, they would have killed us."
The police arrested Farooqi's 77-year-old principal, and the teacher accused of blasphemy is in hiding, in fear for her life.And here is a bit that should be of concern to all:
This is the fourth time this year that teachers working with nonreligious curricula have been accused of blasphemy. Sumbul Naseer, who teaches science at the Farooqi school, says she's worried.
"So many people are having threatening calls from so many numbers, [saying], 'Don't open the school, don't go inside, we will not spare you people,' and this and that," Naseer says.So yes, Lahore is not Swat, where the 14-year Malala was shot by the Taliban for being outspoken for her girl's education. However, given the fact that even most moderate (within the country's spectrum) Pakistanis support the blasphemy law ("oh - it is just the issue of implementation - but it is actually the right law..."), local religious groups and institutions can gain power using these blasphemy cases. If tomorrow members of the madrassa that led the charge against Umair's school demand some modifications in the secular curriculum or in the dress-code of the girl's high school, people will think twice before challenging them. Not to mention that already, people are seeking their approval for the dismissal of the blasphemy case. That is indeed some power. And this kind of Ulema power is relatively new and we are seeing these changes take place in front of our eyes.
Under Pakistan's stringent blasphemy laws, it takes only one accusation — backed up with little or no evidence — to lead to an arrest. The original laws date back to British colonial times, before Pakistan gained independence in 1947.
The laws were strengthened under President Zia-ul-Haq during the 1980s, when insulting the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran was made a capital offense. However, to date, no one has been executed for blasphemy.
The laws do not clearly define what "insult" means. This gives wide berth to Islamist extremists, who have been increasingly using the laws to further their religious goals, says Joseph Francis, director of the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, which helps Christians accused of blasphemy.
"Extremists have been able to exploit the situation," Francis says. "Pakistan is under attack from militants, trying to introduce their version of Islam and creating intolerance against minorities. The blasphemy law is one of the instruments they can use."
Francis says Shiite Muslims, Hindus, Christians and other minorities are being increasingly targeted. The accused, their families and their communities often face vigilante justice, he adds.
"If one person is accused, the entire community is punished," Francis says."In one case, six people were burned alive and 147 houses burned down. Many people have to go into hiding — they cannot lead a normal life."
In a twist, her accuser was arrested for planting evidence against her. In a television interview, he said he wanted to drive the Christians from the area.And these issues - including that of madrassas versus "secular" schools are connected to class differences, widespread poverty etc. I don't think this is exclusive of the way religious groups are strengthening their positions. Here is I.A. Rahman on this matter:
I.A. Rehman, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, says charges of blasphemy often have nothing to do with insulting the prophet or the Quran.
"Our finding is that blasphemy cases are initiated, in a large number of cases, to settle personal scores, to settle economic competition issues and to settle sectarian differences," Rehman says.
And that is likely to continue, he adds, because the government won't tackle Islamic extremism.
"The government is not in a position to take on the militants straight on," he says. "It is weak. And the extreme ... wave of intolerance has sympathizers and supporters across the board in Pakistan."
Pakistan's politicians may take warning from what happened to Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab. He was gunned down last year after suggesting that the blasphemy laws be reviewed.Listen to the story here.
The 16th-Century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe is unlikely to have been poisoned, according to a researcher studying his remains.
The body was exhumed in 2010 in a bid to confirm the cause of his death.
Brahe was thought to have died of a bladder infection, but a previous exhumation found traces of mercury in hair from his beard.
However, the most recent tests have found the levels of mercury were not high enough to have killed him.
"There was mercury in the beard, you will also have traces of mercury if you have a beard... But the amount of mercury was as you see in people [alive today]," Dr Jens Vellev, from Aarhus University in Denmark, who is leading the investigations, told BBC News.
Dr Vellev now thinks there was no foul play involved in Brahe's death.
"It is impossible that Tycho Brahe could have been murdered," he explained. When asked whether other poisons could have been used, Dr Vellev said: "If there were other poisons in the beard, we would have been able to see it in the analyses."
Instead, he says, the description given by Kepler of Brahe's death at the age of 54 matches up well with the progression of a severe bladder infection.
One widely told story about Brahe was that his bladder burst at a royal banquet when he had been too polite to leave the table and relieve himself. Accounts say he died 11 days later.