PESHAWAR: Clerics in Bannu district have forced a senior zoology teacher of the Government Postgraduate Degree College to denounce English naturalist Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution and mixed-gender gatherings, and declare that women are inferior to men.

Assistant Professor Sher Ali gave a three-page undertaking to the deputy commissioner’s office that “all scientific and rational ideas, which were in contradiction to Islamic Sharia, including Darwin’s theory of evolution, are falsehood.”

He also declared that he believed in women’s inferiority to men “in terms of wisdom as stipulated by the Sharia and declared that unnecessary mingling of women with men is not allowed.”

The senior teacher also renounced his speeches in seminars, lectures, and social media posts for being “contrary to the teachings of Islam” and said if something untoward happened to him, the clerics of Domel area of Bannu district would bear no responsibility for it.

Sher Ali also resents mixed-gender gatherings, calls women inferior to men

Mr Ali, who holds MSc degree in zoology from the University of Peshawar and MPhil’s in human genetics from the Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, reportedly addressed a seminar on Oct 5 in Domel area about women’s rights in light of the Constitution and the law.

His remarks didn’t sit well with local clerics, who convened a meeting and accused him of “spreading debauchery and speaking against Islam and local culture,” and demanded strict action against him by authorities.

As the issue caused an outcry on social media, the assistant professor took to Facebook, where he has over 20,000 followers, to “clarify” his position on Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Holding a biology textbook of the intermediate course published by the KP Textbook Board, he insisted that he was teaching biological evolution as part of the course.

“Chapter 24 of the biology textbook discusses Darwin’s theory of biological evolution and if someone has problems with this topic, then they should approach the government for the removal of the chapter from the course,” he said.

Mr Ali also said if he didn’t teach the topic, the students would question his teaching ability.

He added that he always taught Darwin’s theory of evolution after seeking the consent of his students.

“I always ask them [students] whether they’re interested in studying this chapter, and if they say yes, only then I proceed,” he said.

After the district administration intervened, clerics and the professor agreed to resolve the issue. Mr Ali submitted an undertaking to the office of Bannu deputy commissioner renouncing his thoughts on Darwin’s theory.

A Facebook video showed him reading 11 points of the undertaking, which was signed by both the clerics as well as the professor.

When contacted, the professor refused to discuss the issue with this correspondent.

A senior district administration official told Dawn that the issue had been discussed on social media for two weeks prompting the administration to bring both sides to the table to resolve it.

He said Prof Sher Ali told clerics in the meeting that social media posts regarding purdah (veil) or women’s rights didn’t belong to him and that they’re “digitally altered.”

The official said both sides agreed to resolve the issue amicably.

Published in Dawn, October 22th, 2023

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