Pakistan allows man to register as a Jew

In an unprecedented move, a Pakistani citizen has won an appeal to change his religion and openly declare that he is a Jew.

Photo by: Facebook
Photo by: Facebook

Fishel Benkhald was born to a Jewish mother.

Pakistan has allowed a 29-year–old Jewish activist to change his religion to Judaism from Islam in official documents, in an unusual move in a Muslim-majority country.

Fishel Benkhald was born in Karachi in 1987 to a Jewish mother and a Muslim father and subsequently registered as a Muslim.

He has been trying to convince Pakistani authorities since 2014 to let him change his religion on the national identity card.

Pakistan's interior ministry has finally approved his request that he’d be issued the identity document that says his religion is Judaism, according to The Express Tribune, a Pakistani English newspaper.

"Thank you Pakistan," Benkhald, who is currently registered by his Muslim name of Faisal, said in a tweet.

"I studied Islam in childhood. But I never practised it as a religion," he said.

Often dubbed as "Pakistan's last Jew," Benkhald has been outspoken about his identity despite threats from religious conservatives.

He has campaigned for the preservation of an old Jewish cemetery in Karachi.

Benkhald previously spoke about the difficulty in making Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) change his religion.

"There, an official told me that, as per policy, changing my religion from Islam to any other faith would not be allowed," he wrote in an article for Huffington Post.

"Only non-Muslims are allowed to change their registered religion – to Islam – he said."


Benkhald has been vocal about his religion, identity and support for Israel. (Fishel Benkhald)

Pakistan once had a vibrant Jewish community, with most of them located in the port city of Karachi. But many of the Jews migrated or hid their religious affiliation after country's independence in 1947.

Benkhald says his maternal grandparents also "assimilated by hiding their Jewishness because of increasing anti-Semitism."

It’s hard to estimate the number of Jewish people living in Pakistan since many of them register themselves under other religions.

For Benkhald the news comes as a treat ahead of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the emancipation of Israelites from ancient Egypt.

In the past, he has hoped of celebrating that holiday in Pakistan along with the ritual feast.

"I need to find a bakery that can prepare matzo," he said in the 2015 Huffington Post article, referring to a Jewish cuisine.

"Maybe, one Passover in the distant future, the Jews of Pakistan will be free." 

Two years later, his wish seems to have come true. 

Source: 
TRTWorld