Hacked Kerala professor blasts Church

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on September 12, 2010

Prof TJ Joseph of Muvattupuzha, victim of a brutal Islamist attack, on Sunday lashed out at Kerala’s Catholic Church for dismissing him from service for preparing a question paper that allegedly blasphemed Prophet Muhammad and trying to justify its act through circulars to believers.

“The Church is inventing stories to justify its wrongs,” Prof Joseph said referring to a circular read out in the parish churches under the Kothamangalam Diocese that argued that he had included the blasphemous question in the test paper deliberately. “They are asking me to apologize for wrongs I have not committed,” he told newsmen at his residence in Muvattupuzha.

The management had claimed that they were forced to dismiss him from service because he had consistently refused to apologize for preparing the question paper which they said had “hurt the sentiments of the entire Muslim community”, but the professor said he had committed no mistake. “I don’t want their generosity if I have to apologize for things I haven’t done,” he said.

“I have already apologized for what I did but the Church wants me to apologize and confess that I purposely did this. Since I have never done anything purposely, I will not apologize at their command,” Prof Joseph said. “What does the Church plan to gain by making me apologize for wrongs I haven’t committed? I remain firm in my position,” he added.

A circular indicting Prof Joseph for preparing the “blasphemous” question paper and justifying his dismissal was read out during Mass on Sunday at the 155 parish churches under the Kothamangalam Diocese of the Catholic Church which runs Thodupuzha’s Newman College, where Joseph was a Malayalam professor. The circular was issued by none other than Bishop Mar George Punnakkottil of Kothamangalam.

The circular said Prof Joseph had included the controversial question in the test paper deliberately and knowing fully well that it could hurt the sentiments of Muslims. The intention of the circular was to muster support of the believers for his dismissal in the context of the opposition it had invited from various quarters including some sections of the Church itself.

Observers say that the diocese’s intolerance towards the protestors followed the crisis it was facing due to objections being raised against the dismissal of Prof Joseph from within the Church. A strong section in the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council has already expressed displeasure at the decision of the college management to sack the professor.

Activists of the Islamist outfit, Popular Front of India, had cut off the professor’s right hand in a Taliban-model attack on July 4 for preparing the “blasphemous” question paper. The diocesan circular against the professor was read out also in the parish church of Muvattupuzha, the place where he was attacked by the Islamists.

In the meantime, Imam Jamaluddin Mankada of the Palayam Mosque said that the Muslim community’s fame would increase if it pardoned Prof Joseph. The Newman College management had said that it was prepared to review the decision to dismiss the professor if the Muslim community pardoned him.

“I personally feel that the Muslim community should consider pardoning him as he is a teacher. However, I alone cannot take a decision for all the Muslims but I hope that the community would pardon him.” Imam Jamaluddin told a television channel.

Meanwhile, various Christian organizations criticized the Kothamangalam diocese for Saturday’s attack by a gang of believers on protestors who held a march to the diocesan cathedral in Kothamangalam demanding reinstatement of Prof Joseph in service. The protest was led by the Joint Christian Council, an umbrella organization of 12 laity forums of the Catholic Church.

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