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Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy for watching debate on Islam

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A Christian man of 25 years was accused of a blasphemy while at his workplace on 15th April 2016.  Imran Masih a sweeper was employed at the district hospital near his town in Chak 44, Mandi Bahaudin.  He had a very close friendship with a Mulsim girl also employed at the hospital. Many Muslim men were uncomfortable wth his close relationship with a Muslim woman and warned him not to get to close to her.  However the two of them simply fell in love. On the day oft the incident Imran had to travel to medical store where his friend M. Bilal worked and shared his love story with his friend.  While he was there he showed his friend images of his beautiful girlfriend.  Imran was called to do some cleaning by someone and left his phone behind with his friend Bilal in his rush.  When he returned to his friend he found his friends attitude had completely changed.  Bilal was now pushing him and shouting expletives at him calling him a blasphemer.  Bilal showed Imran a video of a western apologist who was apparently saying blasphemous comments about Muhammed.  Bilal had been flicking through the images on Imran's pone and then had noticed the alleged blasphemous material while trawling through his FB pages.

Read Daliy Express Article (click here)

Imran, tried to calm the situation by showing his colleague that the offensive material had been put up by a foreign minister and was nothing to do with him however two other men were called to the scene by Bilal, one named Muhammed Anayat and the other Muhammed Saleem. Imran was accused of having insulted the prophet and the Koran. The three men started to beat Imran severely which resulted in a number if people arriving to stop the melee.  

The duty doctor was called to the scene of the violence and to calm things he asked Imran to smash his phone and ask for forgiveness.  Imran did this and it seemed at this stage that the anger had dissipated. 

Despite never having seen the video Imran fled home and then went to stay with a relative till things calmed down. However, the incensed and crazed colleagues continued to foment hatred towards Imran by telling friends and colleagues their version of the blasphemy incident.

Eventually after several meetings with community leaders and Imams it was decided that a fatwa would be registered against Imran and a mob set out to attack Imran and his family and other Christians for the alleged blasphemy.  On 7th May 2016 local imams started to preach hatred to local Christians over their public address system. The resulting hysteria led to a mass mob in excess of 1000 gathering outside the Christian enclave where lived.

In complete fear many Christian families called the Police and they responded well.  Within minutes riot police fully armed came to the rescue of seriously frightened families.  A stand off occurred for a few hours but after the threat of use of their weapons the mob disappeared and the Christian community sighed in relief.

The family of Imran have all gone into hiding, however local Imams have attempted to level charges of a blasphemy against Imran and his family.  They are threatening the community with an attack unless Imran is brought to justice. So far the police are providing protection to the Christian but great fear exists.   The local Imam is asking for Imran and his family to be handed to them or for the whole Christian community of 45 families to convert to Islam to.   No extra protection has been provided to the community since the initial police intervention and threats of violence including the torching of the community after Friday prayers, have created extreme anxiety. A local Muslim man Irshad Jhakar has announced a bounty 1000,000 (£10,340) rupees for the killing of Imran Masih. 

Our officer Naveed Masih, visited Yaqoob Masih a local politician from the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-N, and local residents Faryaz Masih and Ishaq Masih, after the mob had dispersed.  He said:

"People are extremely frightened, Muslims have stopped trading with Christians and ignore and abuse them.  Threats have been received by several people that the community will be attacked and many of the 300 Christian villagers have already left their homes to stay with relatives.  Those that have bravely stayed behind are totally demoralized and terrified, while those that have left fear that all their property will be looted. Christian leaders have been told they must bring Imran to the Imams so he can be burned alive, or face being torched themselves. This is a community that is bereft of hope."

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"this latest attack though initially thwarted by police is an example of how easy it is for Muslim friends of Christians to turn against them. It would seem that a petty jealousy or vengeance over the love of a Muslim girl for an untouchable Christian has once again become a trigger for a violent mob. Sadly a terrorized community will have to undergo a period of huge instability and anxiety due to the fomenting of hatred of local mosques, a practice that is allowed to cause division unfettered."

BPCA is contacting the family to offer a safe house and legal support for them.  Our work in Pakistan relies upon your donations and if you would like to contribute to our work please donate using this link, which includes details such as; address for cheque payments, on-line secure Paypal and visa card payment portals and our bank details for standing orders (click here).
 

Praying for peace.

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