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    » 11/05/2013, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Faisalabad: Muslims and Christians together to exonerate a woman accused of blasphemy

    Shafique Khokhar

    Two Muslim students report a 50 year old Christian for having burned pages of the Koran . In reality it was a text book in Arabic. Efforts of Islamic leader key to saving woman who is now in hiding for fear of retaliation. His invitation to all to "properly evaluate the facts" and not "stir up divisions."

    Faisalabad ( AsiaNews) - The active collaboration between Muslim religious leaders and Pakistani Christian activists has allowed, once again, the peaceful resolution of an alleged case of blasphemy against a poor woman ( and innocent ) , belonging to a religious minority. The incident occurred in recent days in Faisalabad , Punjab , the province with the largest Christian community.  The case has many similarities with that of Philip Masih and his family as recounted by AsiaNews, who was indicted for no reason and escaped trial thanks to the seminal contribution of Muslim leaders and police forces. The peaceful resolution of the story has prevented an escalation of tension, which often has exploded into attacks against entire communities (Gojra, in 2009). The names of the protagonists have been changed for security reasons.

    Asia Masih, 50, last week moved into a rented house in Chamanzar Colony, Faisalabad . On the second day, Oct. 29, after cleaning the apartment she burned some remains in the garden . Two Muslim students, observing the scene, saw a few pages written in Arabic among the remains on fire and immediately thought they were pages of the Koran.  A few minutes later they knocked on her door, accused her of having committed the crime of blasphemy which in Pakistan is punished with life imprisonment or the death penalty.

    Terrified by this serious accusation, Asia fled with her family and is hidden in a secret and safe place, where she is still - for fear of retaliation - even if the story has had a positive outcome.

    The intervention of a Christian activist (identified with the initials RD ) and the collaboration of a Muslim religious leader were fundamental to the peaceful resolution of the case. The first, a member of the Human Rights Defender Network, collected evidence of the innocence of the woman. In a second step he approached the Islamic leader, belonging to the Peace Committee of the city, which has offered its cooperation to analyze the facts and exonerate the Christian family of the charges, proving its innocence in front of the entire city .

    The Islamic expert's statement was key, according to whom the burned pages "are not from the Koran, but a school book in Arabic," and he has also called on Muslims to "properly evaluate the facts," before launching heavy accusations because they end up only "fomenting hatred and division".

    Speaking to AsiaNews, Iftikhar Ahmed , coordinator of the NGO South Asia Partnership -Pakistan appreciates those who " settle such delicate issues using wisdom." He adds that religious leaders "need to promote peace and harmony in their speeches, in order to create a more prosperous society". This is echoed by the Christian activist Naseem Anthony who calls for constitutional reforms and amendments to the laws, together with a culture that promotes tolerance towards other religions and faiths.

     

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    See also

    13/10/2007 PAKISTAN
    Catholics and Muslims dine together in Church for the end Ramadan
    Faisalabad’s Council for Inter-religious dialogue hosted Muslim leaders and faithful in the cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, offering them an iftar, a bequest with which Ramadan fasting is ended. Muslim scholars condemn the blasphemy laws.

    05/12/2011 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad: Christian and Muslim leaders revive peace process
    The curia hosted an interfaith seminar, attended by prominent figures from the two faiths. Bishop Coutts said that the city is "a symbol of peace" for Pakistan. Muslim personality speaks of "the blood spilled" to build harmony. During the meeting times of prayer.

    27/09/2011 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan: ten year old girl accused of blasphemy and sentenced for a spelling mistake
    Faryal Bhatti misspelled a word in urdu referring to Muhammad, resulting in incredible reactions from teachers and the ulema. Expelled from school, her mother, a nurse, forced to leave work. Bishop Anthony: "Society is becoming so intolerant that a tiny error gets major attention."

    20/07/2010 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad, murdered brothers buried. Justice and Peace: abolish the blasphemy law now
    At 8 this morning the community bid a final farewell to Sajid and Rashid Emmanuel. Their murder has sparked violent clashes between Christians and Muslims. The police are patrolling the streets but the situation is "explosive." Catholic activist: "renewed commitment to cancellation of discriminatory laws." Christian couple threatened with death for a documentary on Gojra.

    06/07/2009 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad, Christians and Muslims investigating case of young man charged with blasphemy
    An inter-religious committee will examine the case of Imran Masih, arrested and tortured for having burned pages of the Koran and beaten by police. A Catholic priest points out that is a "positive step" to dissolve the tension. Involving Muslim leaders to dismantle the charges against the young man.



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