Faisalabad (AsiaNews) -
Philips Masih, a 19-year-old Christian man, and his family are still in hiding
at a safe house, following blasphemy charges brought against him, but his case
appears to be ending on a positive note thanks to the intervention of police
and some Muslim leaders. The Masihs will remain in hiding since Islamic
extremist groups vowed reprisals until the situation has calmed down. Based on
past experiences with the 'black' law, security forces have increased controls and
deployed agents in riot gear to prevent possible attacks
The case in question
began last Saturday in Daudnagar, Faisalabad (Punjab), scene of a serious anti-Christian
incident in 2010 in which two Protestant clergymen, Revs Rashid Emmanuel and
Sajid Emmanuel, were shot
dead by extremist gunmen outside a courthouse where they were on trial
This time, the victim
of the 'black law' was a shopkeeper, Philip Masih, who sells electric material.
He was accused of blasphemy by one of his neighbours, Muhammad Jameel, because
he had tried to remove the poster (pictured)
of a Muslim conference from a wall in his store. When the Christian man began
to take the notice down, Jameel told him to stop and went out to get some armed
Muslims to strike at him.
Only the timely intervention
of the police prevented a mass attack against the Christian minority. Agents in
fact took Masih and his family to a safe place where they have been hiding for
the past four days.
Jameel and his acolytes tried to file a complaint against the young Christian
man based on Article 295 B of the Pakistan Penal Code.
However, as a result of
the testimony of some local residents and the decisive intervention of Islamic
religious leaders, including Muhammad Rehan, who is a member of the local Committee
for Interfaith Dialogue, and Mufti Muhammad Zia Madni, the charges were dropped.
the investigation, it appears that Philips Masih and
Muhammad Jameel had had a disagreement. The Christian man was renting commercial
space owned by the Muslim man, which he used his store. However, he was forced
to close because he was late in paying the rent.
When he finally came up
with the rent money, he took all his stuff from the store and complained to the
owner for loss business. The latter did not take it very well and an argument
broke out between the two.
Jeol Aamir Sahotra, a
Christian and a former member of the Provincial Assembly, spoke to AsiaNews about the incident, condemning it
and all those "who use the blasphemy law for personal gain."
At the same time, he
wanted to thank "Muslim religious leaders, the local administration and police
for settling the matter in a peaceful manner."
Remembering Shahbaz Bhatti's
sacrifice and the fate of Asia Bibi, who is still in jail pending appeal, the
Christian politician noted that he is still the object of death threats because
of his fight against the 'black law'. Despite it though, the government has
recently decided to take away his escort.