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    » 01/17/2011, 00.00


    Christian women attacked, publicly humiliated in Lahore based on false blasphemy accusations

    Jibran Khan

    Victims are now in a safe place because of the danger of more violence. A mob of angry Muslims beat and humiliated the two women, who are mother and daughter. The incident was triggered by a domestic dispute between them and the Muslim wife of their son and brother. A Pakistani priest says that unless there is separation between state and religion, Pakistan will slide into civil war.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) – Two Christian women, mother and daughter, who recently suffered violence and humiliation, are now in a safe place. An angry mob turned against them in Lahore, beating them, after they were accused of blasphemy. The incident began with a dispute between the two and a Muslim woman, who is married to their son and brother, over the religious education of the mixed couple’s daughter. Mgr Rufin Anthony reacted to the fact, slamming Pakistani society’s increasing intolerance, a sociological problem it must deal with the utmost urgency.

    Speaking from their hideout, John Chand, son and brother of the victims, told AsiaNews that the two women “are afraid of being attacked by extremists” and are hiding to avoid being killed.

    The mob beat Saira Chand and her mother so badly that both lost consciousness. At some point during the attack, some of the abusers put necklaces made of old shoes around their necks, smeared their faces and put them on the back of donkeys to parade around their east Lahore neighbourhood. After regaining consciousness, the two women vehemently rejected the accusations of blasphemy, touching their feet repeatedly, to demand pity from their tormentors.

    A local Muslim leader, Mian Muhammad Sameer, said he did everything to get the two women to “confess” their crime of blasphemy.

    A member of Sameer, the same organisation to which Malik Mumtaz Qadri, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s murderer, belonged, he said he was proud of his wife, who “beat Saira more than anyone else.”

    “Her hand is so swollen she hasn’t been able to cook since the day of the incident. I’ve been getting my meals from a restaurant,” he added.

    According to John Chand, the violence was sparked by a dispute between his wife Amina Zaheer, who is Muslim, and his sister Saira, who is Christian, which got worse after the mixed couple had a baby girl.

    Matters were already difficult from even before. Amina’s father Zaheer Malik had already objected to her marriage unless John converted to Islam. However, the two got married in court and each kept their religion.

    The issue became more complicated when their daughter was born. John wanted to name her Sonia and raise her in the Christian faith. His wife and father-in-law wanted her to grow up a Muslim.

    The blasphemy charge was levelled when Saira and Amina had a row that involved Saira’s mother.

    When Amina left her mother-in-law’s home, she began accusing the two Christian women of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, and this sparked action by local Muslim extremists.

    Eventually, the two women escaped to safe place thanks to the help of Zameer Khan, an NGO worker, who saved their life.

    For him, the issue had nothing to do with blasphemy but was just a dispute between two women. Senior Superintendent of Police Zulfiqar Hameed agrees. According to the police officer, it is “a domestic issue” in which Saira was unfairly accused.

    Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, said, “Our society is becoming more and more violent, intolerant and wild.”

    The problem is not religious or ethnic but “sociological”, one “that needs to be addressed quickly”.

    “Events have come to this stage in the country’s history where religion is being abused to settle personal scores,” said Fr Xavier Joseph.

    “State and religion must be separate,” he added; otherwise, “there will be a civil war and that will be the end of the Pakistan as we know it”.

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    See also

    20/01/2011 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan government, a disappointment in fight against fundamentalism, says Justice and Peace
    NCJP executive secretary complains about government inaction, which is causing suffering to people. Human rights and full religious freedom are necessary conditions to “guarantee peace in the country”. Prime minister says he will not change blasphemy law. PML-Q leader says government policies are like those of dictator Zia-ul-Haq.

    18/01/2011 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: Asia Bibi to move to a women’s prison in Multan
    The transfer should occur within seven days. The step has become necessary to protect the life of the 45-year-old Christian mother of five because of death threats from Muslim fundamentalists. A Pakistani priest hopes the transfer will be done secretly to ensure maximum security. AsiaNews’ campaign on Bibi’s behalf has reached 8,700 signatures.

    12/01/2011 PAKISTAN
    Blasphemy law: Pope’s call highlights split in Pakistani society
    Radical leaders and Islamic movements incite crowds and warn Christians against forming a party to repeal the law, a step that would bring chaos. The government denies it plans changes to the law. Civil society leaders appreciate Benedict XVI’s speech. Bilawal Bhutto defends minorities. Muslim intellectual calls for full religious freedom and a secular state.

    10/01/2011 PAKISTAN
    In Karachi, 50,000 rally behind blasphemy law
    Fundamentalist leaders organise rally and praise Salman Taseer’s murderer as a “hero of Islam”. The Pope appeals to the Pakistani government to repeal the law because it is a “pretext” for violence and injustice. Pakistani Christians pray for the governor of Punjab, a “martyr” according to Saudi newspaper Arab News.

    05/01/2011 PAKISTAN - INDIA
    Christians honour Salman Taseer, a courageous victim of the blasphemy law
    For Fr. James Chennan, Vice Provincial of the Dominicans in Lahore, the country has lost a promoter of human rights, loved by minorities. Indian Christian leaders condemn Taseer’s murder, one of the few credible voices of Pakistan.

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