- Fishel Benkhald is often referred as the “last jew” of Pakistan
- He was originally registered as a Muslim
- The government has finally recognized him as a Jew
Pakistan, June 30, 2017– Pakistani government has finally recognized its “last jew” when Fishel Benkhald was allowed by the interior ministry to change his religion from Islam to Judaism. It is an unprecedented move by the Muslim-majority nation.
Fishel, who is a 29-year-old outspoken activist was often referred to as the “last jew” of Pakistan, was originally registered as a Muslim.
Benkhald was born in Karachi in 1987 to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother. He was registered as Faisal in his national identity documents.After the death of his parents in 1990s, Benkhald identified himself as a Jew during the ongoing census.
After going through several rounds of appeals and several months of bureaucratic paperwork, the interior ministry finally approved his application seeking “conversion/correction” of his religion. In his appeal, Benkhald had insisted that his religion be changed on his national identity card.
Benkhald claims to be the only person of his faith in Pakistan. He is a resident of Karachi at the moment.
The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is not known for entertaining such requests commonly on the grounds that an applicant’s faith is different from the father’s. NADRA has not allowed members of the Ahmadi religious sect to proclaim themselves as Muslims so far.
Muslims have to sign an affidavit with NADRA that they are not Ahmadis or “Qadiyanis”.
Peter Jacob, who heads a faith-based organization in Lahore said, “It is a very sensitive issue where people have been killed either way.”
Benkhald thanked the interior ministry and NADRA for granting him the right to practice the religion of his choice in a telephonic conversation with The Express Tribune paper.
“I studied Islam in childhood. But I never practiced it as a religion.” Said Benkhald. He also added that he would consider the positive development in his case as a treat from Pakistani authorities for the upcoming Passover, a spring festival that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.
Despite Benkhald’s claim of being the “last jew”, NADRA is saying that there are 745 registered Jewish families in the nation.
– prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram. Twitter: @NikitaTayal6