Friday, August 21, 2009

In the Name of Blasphemy, Pakistani Christians Under Frequent Attack - 6

A Timeline of Blasphemy-Based Attacks on Christians of Pakistan (contd.)

Dr. Robin Sardar who was jailed on blasphemy charges
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2008 (May 4): The police arrested Dr. Robin Sarder (55), a Protestant homeopathic physician, of Chak Chatta in Hafizabad district of the Punjab Province. On May 4, four Muslims (two shopkeepers, one trainee at the doctor's clinic, and one friend of the doctor) complained to the police that, on May 2, while at his clinic (which occupied a section of his own house), the doctor started to preach Christianity. At one point, he compared the beard of Prophet Mohammad with that of a Sikh -- thereby committing a blasphemy.

The problem started when Dr. Sarder asked Muhammad Bashir, a Muslim trainee at his clinic, to tell his younger brother to vacate the shop that he was renting from the doctor. After six months another Muslim, Muhammad Zaman, started a shop illegally in front of the doctor's clinic. The doctor told Muhammad Zaman to move away from in front of his clinic. He then moved his shop next to the one that was still occupied by Muhammad Bashir's brother. These two shopkeepers were unhappy with Dr. Sarder and were looking for ways to take revenge on him. Muhammad Yousaf, a Muslim friend of the doctor, gradually became resentful of the doctor's reputation, social status and financial progress.

On May 2, when Dr. Sarder found his trainee Muhammad Bashir discussing Islamic religious matters with patients, he told him not to waste his working hours in religious discussion in his clinic.

After the complainants' report to the police, a mob of about 200 Muslims gathered from neighbouring houses after it was announced publicly from the mosque mike that Dr. Sarder blasphemed Prophet Mohammad. These Muslims, wearing green turbans, a symbol of their Islamic orthodoxy, forced their way into the house and clinic of Dr. Sarder and smashed doors, windows and furniture. The mob, armed with guns, sticks and kerosene oil, put up a sign on the gate of the house, saying: "This is the house of a blasphamer." When they were about to attack on the persons of the doctor and members of his family, the police arrived and rescued them. The doctor was then arrested and charged under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code and was being held in Gujranwala jail. After six months of incarceration, Dr. Robin Sarder was released from jail and the charges of blasphemy were dropped.

2009 (January 22): Hector Aleem (51), was a human rights activist and director of Peac World Wide -- a small non-governmental organization (NGO) -- that lobbies for the rights of Pakistani Christians in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. Police, on this date, raided his house in the early hours of the morning and assaulted him, his wife and two daughters. They snatched away 50,000 rupees worth of valuables and smashed the picture of Jesus Christ hanging on a wall. After his arrest, he has been charged under Section 295C (blasphemy) and 109bb (abetting a crime) of the Pakistan Criminal Code.

On November 28, 2008, an Islamic scholar, associated with the Tehrik-e-Sunat, an Islamic militant group, received a text message blaspheming Prophet Mohammad from an unlisted phone number. Yet he claimed that the message came from the cell phone of Hector Aleem. He then registered a case with the police charging Mr. Aleem of blasphemy.

Photo Courtesy:
A large number of Islamist militants made their frightening presence at the court appearances of Hector Aleem. On February 2, 2009, Judge Sakhi Mohammad exonerated Mr. Aleem of blasphemy charges but did not clear him of abetting blasphemy. A government official stated that the judge's decision was heavily influenced by Islamic extremists attending the court hearing and demanding death penalty for the blasphemer.

In November, 2008, Mr. Aleem had become involved in a land dispute between a Christian congregation and the local municipality that wanted to demolish the church building.

2009 (February 13): Two female Christian students -- Amara and Sitara -- of Fatima Memorial Hospital's nursing school in Lahore have been accused of desecrating verses of the Quran, days after Muslim female roommates desecrated a picture of Jesus Christ that Christian students had hung in a shared hostel room.

Since Islamic tradition prohibits images of Allah (God), Prophet Mohammad, or any other religious figures of the Jewish, Christian or Islamic traditions. For this reason, Muslim students were upset over the hanging of Jesus' picture on the wall. One day, some of them took down the picture of Jesus, tore it up and threw the pieces around, when Christian students refused to remove it voluntarily. The nursing school administration did not take any action against Muslim students who first did the desecration of a Christian religious symbol.

Muslim students, on the other hand, accused their Christian roommates, Amara and Sitara , of desecrating Quranic verses on February 13. These Muslim accusers and some Muslim staff of the hospital then threatened legal action against the Christian students. Martha, the hostel warden with 15 years of experience at the Fatima Memorial Hospital, asked Muslim students not to blow a trivial matter out of proportion. At this, the Muslim students, through pressure on the Medical Superintendent Ayesha Nouman, a Muslim, got the hostel warden Marth and two Christian students Amara and Sitara terminated. A Christian spokesman suggested that the blasphemy accusation is part of an effort by "some elements ... to discourage Christian women from entering medical sector."

2009 (May 9):Ishtiaq Masih, a young Christian, was beaten and stabbed to death at a roadside tea-stall at Machlarkay Village in the Punjab Province after he accidentally drank tea from a cup reserved for use by Muslims only. He was traveling by a bus that stopped there to allow passengers to have a break. Makah Tea Stall was owned by a fundamentalist Muslim who employs madrasa (Islamic school) graduates as workers.

When he went to pay for the tea, the stall owner noticed his cross hanging from his neck. Pointing to a sign warning non-Muslims to declare their religion before being served, the owner and his employees beat him with iron rods and clubs, thrashed him with stones and stabbed him many times. Other bus passengers intervened and took him to a nearby rural health centre where he died from head, spinal and chest injuries. Ishtiaq had failed to read the warning sign before ordering for tea.

Later a journalist visited the tea-stall and noticed a large red sign with a skull and bones symbol, announcing: "All non-Muslims should introduce their faith prior to ordering for tea. This tea stall serves Muslims only."

2009 (July 1): Imran Masih (26), a Christian shopkeeper in Hajweri Town of Faisalabad City, was throwing out some old papers in his grocery store. At one point, he found an Arabic booklet. Haji Liaquat Ali, a neighbouring Muslim shopkeeper, noticed it and suggested that it would be better to burn it rather than throwing it out with the rubbish. Imran did it accordingly. After this, the same neighbour began to shout that Imran burned a Quran.

Next day, it was announced publicly from the mosque that Imran committed blasphemy by burning a Quran. Imran rushes to his store to find that a group of angry Muslims were setting it on fire. Then they beat him and his brother. The police also arrested him.

Haji Liaquat Ali and Faryad Ali Jat were two Muslims who lodged the complaint of blasphemy to the police. These two men were telling Imran in front of police that they would withraw the charges if Imran and his family leave the shop and their house and move elsewhere. It is to be noted that, before this incident, these two persons had repeatedly put pressure on Imran and his family to do this. They were looking for an opportunity to evict him and his family from these two properties.

2009 (August 5): A group of agitated Muslims attacked the house of Akhtari Malkani, an elderly woman of Sanghar District of Sindh Province, accusing her of desecrating the Quran. No case was registered but the District Bar Association assured the mob that, if the woman was found guilty, she would be charged under blasphemy laws.


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