Sunday, August 16, 2009

In the Name of Blasphemy, Pakistani Christians Under Frequent Attack - 5

A Timeline of Blasphemy-Based Attacks

on Christians of Pakistan (contd.)

2005 (June 5):
The Nawa-I-Waqt, a daily Urdu newspaper, reported that the Daughters of St. Paul bookstore in Karachi downtown was selling CDs and videotapes that contained blasphemy against Islamic prophets. It was also reported that the Daughters of St. Paul nuns were using these items for proselytizing and converting Muslims.

The police, on June 13, raided the bookshop and confiscated all CDs and videotapes, intimidated the nuns and interrogated a salesperson for 24 hours. These nuns run the bookstore on behalf of the Archdiocese of Karachi. A spokesperson of the archdiocese condemned the media accusations against this bookstore.

2005 (June 28): Yousaf Masih (60), an illiterate sweeper in Nowshera of the North-West Frontier Province, was arrested on charges of desecration of the Quran. The owner of the house gave him some papers to burn. He did as asked for, not knowing what he was burning as he couldn't read or write. A child, who saw him burning the papers, alerted the local authorities. Members of the Islamist six-party alliance, called MMA, were calling for his death. On August 6, 2005, he was granted freedom on US$ 4,200 bail, raised by well-wishers. Having learning difficulties and a weak heart, Yousaf Masih was still at risk of attack from fanatics after his release.

2005 (September 10): Younis Masih (40), of Chungi Amer Sidhu of Lahore, was arrested on charges of blasphemy. On previous midnight, he had gone to his Christian neighbour Baba Chaby's house and requested him that the Qawali songs (mystical Sufi Islamic songs) being played were too loud for himself and the neighbours to sleep. His neighbour refused saying that his Muslim friends in the house were also listening to it. Younis again made the request, but Muslims there became angry and roughened him up. After this incident, Younis left the house.

Next day, Muslims in the community accused him of blasphemy and beat him with sticks until he became unconscious. His wife wanted to intervene, but was assaulted and her clothes were torn to shreds. Upon gaining consciousness, Younis Masih with his wife and the same neighbour of previous night's incident went to the police station to lodge a complaint.

In the meantime, public announcement was made from the mike of the local mosque that Younis Masih committed blasphemy by uttering derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammad. The announcement also instigated Muslims to attack and set fire on homes of the Christians. At this several hundred Muslim protesters came out of their houses with sticks and attacked and looted Christian houses. For safety reasons, more than 100 Christian familes fled the area.

The mob then surrounded the police station, where Younis Masih, his wife and their neighbour were still present, and demanded that the police arrest Younis for blasphemy. They refused to move unless the police took action against Younis. The police then arrested him and accused him of blasphemy.

2006 (March 3): Naseem Bibi, a Christian woman, who tried to prevent some Muslim youths drawing a cross on a rubbish heap, was arrested on blasphemy charges. Later the same youths returned with an image of the Ka'abah (the small and cubed black stone in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, facing which Muslims all over the world say their daily prayers ) soiled with excrement, saying she had done the desecration. Naseem was jailed awaiting trial. Her husband reported that she was stripped naked and beaten in police custody.

2006 (May 24): Qamar David, a hospital canteen worker in Karachi, was arrested after Khursheed Alam, a travel agent, complained to the police after receiving a blasphemous SMS text message from him. He was very upset at the Muslim attacks on churches in Sukkur of Sindh Province and Sangla Hill of Punjab Province. He then decided to send these SMS messages as a revenge through his cellphone to some Muslims. The Saddar police have sealed details of his case, FIR No. 127/06. Shabaz Bhatti, Chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities, Alliance (APMA), said: "We asked the police to show us the famous messages, but they refused saying only that it was blasphemous. But if he has to be charged, the incrimating text should be made public. Otherwise, David has been arrested without evidence." In such cases, the sentence can run from 25 years in prison to death.

2006 (September 21): Shahid Masih (19), was jailed on suspicion of ripping pages containing Quranic verses. On appeal, he was finally acquitted on September 17, 2007, for lack of evidence.

2006 (October): James Masih (67) and Buta Masih (72) -- two Catholics -- were arrested and jailed on suspicion of burning pages of the Quran. They did not know how to read and write. Without producing any evidence against them, they were jailed merely on the basis of hearsay. A month later, both of them were sentenced to prison for 10 years. They were released after the High Court overturned their convictions on April 16, 2009. Both of them always insisted that the charges against them were fabricated due to a land dispute between a Muslim and James Masih.

2007 (January 23): Martha Bibi Masih, of Kot Nanka Singh village in the Punjab Province, was arrested on charges of blaspheming Prophet Mohammad. In May 2007, she was released on bail against a payment of 100,000 rupees. Extremists demanded her death by hanging. Her husband with five children have been hiding from these fanatics.

Her husband Boota Masih said that his wife had gone to a local mosque construction site on January 22 to get back some construction materials (bamboos and logs) that the builders had borrowed from her. Since as a Christian she could not enter the mosque compound, she requested some people present there to get the materials for her but no one helped her. Then she sought the help of a nearby woman-shopkeeper. She also refused and an altercation followed between them. Later the shopkeeper told her husband Muhammad Ramzan that Martha had cursed Islam's Prophet during the argument. Ramzan told other Muslim neighbours about the blasphemy and a mob marched to Martha's house at 10:00 p.m. In the mean time, at the request of Martha's husband, Muslim neighbour Muhammad Rashid Mughal hid them in his house. The dispersed after two hours when they failed to locate the blasphemer.

Next day, when Martha left her neighbour's house early in the morning, police arrested her. The shopkeeper's husband's friend Muhammad Dilbar, who was not present at all at the scene of the event, filed the complaint of blasphemy against Martha Bibi Masih to the police.

2007 (April 1): A case against Salamat Masih (45) and four other Christians, of Toba Tek Singh District, were filed with the police for desecrating Islamic posters and stickers containing the name of Allah, Prophet Mohammad and Quranic verses. Later about 80 Muslims from the neighbourhood ransacked Christian houses in the colony.

2007 (April 13): Sattar Masih (29), a water-pumping station worker in Kotri city of Sindh Province, was attacked by Muslim fanatics for allegedly uttering blasphemous remarks. Maulavi Umer, an imam of the local mosque, publicly announced that Sattar Masih was the author of some written papers against Prophet Mohammad and those were found outside the mosque. Muslim worshippers attacked Sattar's house and were about to kill him when the police arrived and saved him. Later the police arrested him, but in January, 2009, the accusation was declared baseless.

2007 (May 2): Javed Anjum (23), of Toba Tek Singh District in the Punjab Province, died of injuries received from five days of torture by fanatic Muslims of a madrasa (Islamic school) on the accusation of theft and refusing to convert to Islam. The torture included beatings, electric shock, burns from iron rods. After receiving 26 severe injuries, he was hospitalized for eleven days and died at the Allied Hospital in Faisalabad. Hospital doctors wrote: "His bladder stopped working. Instead of urine, he was passing blood or pus."

Before this death, in his statement to the police, Javed Anjum said: "I was searching for water near the Islamic madrassa when the Maulvis (mullahs) took me inside and told me that I was a thief and was trying to steal the water pump. I rejected the charge and told the Islamic leaders that I am a Christian youth and a student. I had come here to attend a marriage. As soon as the Islamic extremists came to know that I am Christian, they asked me to convert to Islam. I refused and they started torturing me. They would continue the torture from night till morning. They tortured me badly and during the torture they continuously asked me to accept Islam."

2007 (May 17): After female students of Jamia Hafsa (the fundamentalist Islamic madrasa adjacent to the Lal Masjid -- Red Mosque -- in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan) protested that blasphemy was committed at the nursing school of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad, the authorities closed down the school for two weeks and suspended the Christian principal and four Christian nursing students. Rumours spread that verses from the Quran, posted on a wall of the nursing school, were defaced. Principal Stella Hidayat said that she was shocked at her suspension. " I was on leave when the incident happened. I don't know why they punished me," she told the Associated Press.

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