09/23/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Faisalabad: magician who burns Qur‘an in ritual ceremony arrested for blasphemy

by Jibran Khan
According to police, Muhammad Akram, 45, has practiced “necromancy and black magic for years.” Muslim leader slams the practice but hails the ‘black law’, which guarantees peace and stability in society. A Lahore Sikh leader, active in interfaith dialogue and harmony, is targeted by extremists.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Muhammad Akram, 45, a self-styled magician from Faisalabad (Punjab), was arrested on blasphemy charges for burning a copy of the Qur‘an during a ritual ceremony. A resident of Faisalabad’s Mureedwala suburb, he has practiced necromancy and black magic for years, police sources report.

Muhammad Sarfraz, a merchant, hired Akram to conduct “black magic against a business rival”. The two men left together yesterday for the cemetery of Mir Ali, a village in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The two began chanting magic words over a Qur‘an. At the end of the ritual, Akram burnt the copy of Islam’s sacred book. Sarfraz reacted angrily to the act, shouting at Akram, drawing people to the scene where they attacked Akram for his blasphemous action.

Senior Police Superintendant Rana Iqbal confirm that “divination and black magic are commonplace in rural areas”, especially among the illiterate who “hope to solve their problems through magic”.

The official added that “Muhammad Akram is one of a number of self-styled magicians who trick people in Mureedwala”, an area where people still live in “darkness”.

Police charged Muhammad Akram under Section 295 B of the Pakistan Penal Code, the so-called ‘black law’, which often leads to the extrajudicial murder of people accused of blasphemy before or during their sentence.

Lahore Sharia expert, Mullah Syed Hassan Tabish, condemned the profanation of the Qur‘an and those who practice magic, playing “with the lives of innocent people”. However, for him, the blasphemy law is legitimate because it punishes “acts contrary to Islam”. In fact, “Islamic laws are the best in the world to maintain a balanced and peaceful society”.

In the meantime, Sardar Bishon Singh, the 74-year-old head of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, is still in hiding after Islamic extremists threatened him. As a leader of Pakistan’s Sikh community, he has complained several times against the discrimination and attacks suffered by his community.

Originally from the tribal areas of Khyber Pukhtunkhawa Province, he moved to Lahore in 1993 to start an import business. In the past six months, Singh became the target of fundamentalists who hit his stores in Lahore’s commercial district on more than one occasion.

Speaking about another attack against a leader of a Pakistani religious minority, Fr Francis Xavier slammed the discrimination endured by “Urdu-speaking Hindus and Sikhs, who pay their taxes and love their homeland like all other Pakistanis” of the Muslim faith.

“We demand immediate protection for Sardar Bishon Singh,” the clergyman from Lahore Diocese said, because “he is a prominent leader of his community and his services for his community and interfaith harmony are remarkable. Such a person is an asset for the country”.
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