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    » 08/06/2011, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Punjab: Christian woman forced to convert and marry her kidnapper

    Jibran Khan

    Mariam Gill was abducted on her way home from the market. Her father and brother filed a complaint with police, which failed to intervene however because her kidnapper is “a respectable Muslim businessman”. A Muslim religious leader says the action was in accordance with Islamic law. Islamabad bishop warns that cases of forced conversion are “rising at an alarming rate”.

    Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Another young Christian woman in Pakistan has been abducted and forced to convert to Islam and marry her kidnapper. Despite a formal complaint, police did not intervene because the author of the crime is a “respectable businessman”. Local Muslim religious authorities also claim that the woman’s conversion was legal. However, her case however is similar to that of Farah Hatim (see Jibran Khan, “The drama of Farah Hatim, common to many women in Pakistan,” in AsiaNews 25 July 2011) and is indicative of a climate of impunity for people who abuse Christian women. The bishop of Islamabad warns that the “the cases of forced conversion are rising at an alarming rate”.

    Mariam is a young Christian woman from Kahota, a town some 20 kilometres from Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad. She was abducted on Wednesday by one Muhammad Junaid, a local Muslim, who forcibly converted her to Islam and married her.

    The young woman’s father, Munir Gill, said that Junaid is an “important businessman”. He had “his eyes on my daughter and asked her for marriage.” He complained to the man’s fathers “without results”.

    “Mariam went to the market on Wednesday, but never returned,” said her brother Sohail Gill. “We searched for her everywhere. Some people in the market told us that they saw Muhammad Junaid forcefully taking Mariam from the market. We went to the police to register a case, but they delayed the application and showed no interest in the matter.”

    Yesterday, a local Muslim religious leader, Maulana Hafeez Aziz, “converted Mariam to Islam and celebrated her marriage with Muhammad Junaid”.

    “Muhammad Junaid is a respectable Muslim businessman,” said Amir Mirza, a police officer in Kahota. “The young woman converted and married him of ‘her own free will’.

    For Maulana Hafeez Aziz, “Muhammad Junaid is a true follower of Prophet Muhammad. He has fulfilled Sharia. Converting a non-Muslim is a pious act. Only a true Muslim can do that.”

    Yesterday, Mariam Gill was interrogated by local officials. She told them that she was abducted and forced to convert and that she has no intention of abandoning Christianity.

    At the end of the meeting, they decided to return the young woman to her family, urging the two sides to reach an agreement. However, Muhammad Junaid issued threats, saying that if he did not get the young woman back, there would be “terrible consequences” to pay.

    Contacted by AsiaNews, the bishop of Islamabad Rufin Anthony described the case as “a dreadful incident”. In his view, “the cases of forced conversion are rising at an alarming rate. The matter needs to be checked, kidnapping of Christian girls is becoming a common practice in Punjab. Law enforcement agencies need to enforce the law.”

    Young Christian women are not alone. Many young Hindu women have been forced to flee across the border into India in the face of government and police indifference.

    “It is time to take concrete action to guarantee the safety of minorities in Pakistan,” the prelate said.
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    See also

    24/05/2016 16:25:00 PAKISTAN
    Lahore High Court rules on divorce law, ends marriage discrimination for Christians

    The 1869 law is restored. In 1981, under General Zia’s rule, an amendment was introduced that allowed Christian couples to divorce only in case of adultery. This chained women to violent and polygamous marriages, and forced Christians who wanted to end a marriage to convert to Islam.



    05/04/2013 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan elections: for young people Sharia is better than democracy
    A survey conducted among 5,000 Pakistanis aged 18 to 29 delivers such a result. One third of Pakistani voters are under 30 and they will play a decisive role in May's election. Over two thirds state that they are worse off now. The economy, not extremism, is the real concern. Catholic leaders say, "It takes time" to rebuild the country and "trust" in the future.

    04/02/2013 PAKISTAN
    Christian man mortally wounded in Baluchistan for refusing to convert to Islam
    Younas Masih, 55, died this afternoon after days in agony. Last Thursday, a gunman shot him five times as he made his way home from work. Recently, his co-workers had tried to force him to embrace Islam. Police has refused so far to open an investigation into his murder.

    31/03/2012 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad, the battle of a Christian woman for her family and religious freedom
    Hanifan Bibi was segregated at home by her husband who converted to Islam following an extramarital affair with a Muslim woman. He wanted to take the house bought with money earned by his wife. The intervention of NCJP activists has helped justice prevail. Now the court will assess civil damages.

    24/07/2013 PAKISTAN
    Sanghar: Catholic nurse living in fear because she does not want to marry Muslim man
    Ghulam Muhammad, an influential and feared Muslim businessman in Sanghar District, has threatened to abduct Nazia Masih and disfigured her with acid because she has refused to marry him. The man is known to police because of several complaints against him of kidnappings and rapes. Yet he lives with impunity. Now Nazia's whole family is in danger. "We are Christians and poor," she said. "In Pakistan, our honour and property are not safe." For a Catholic priest in Karachi, "This is shameful". The authorities "need to do something to protect them."



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