11/02/2012, 00.00
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Lahore: extremist crowd sets fire to girls schools over alleged blasphemy

by Jibran Khan
Roused by an Islamic leader, the fundamentalists targeted the Farooqi Girls High School, one of the country’s tops schools. The attack sparked by rumoured offense against Mohammed in a class translation. Principal and teacher arrested and under investigation. Pakistani priest: “unacceptable” episode.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Strong animosity towards the school principal and the intention to strike at an Institute of excellence in women's education are behind the attack on Farooqi Girls High School in Lahore, in Punjab, on 31 October last. The school was targeted by an angry mob, roused by a local Islamic leader, for an alleged case of blasphemy involving the principal and a teacher. Well-informed sources speak instead of envy toward the man and his institution, considered one of excellence among the schools in Pakistan. A priest explains to AsiaNews that this is yet another episode of abuse committed under the protection of the "black law", without the State and the Government being able to enforce the law.

October 31 a crowd of hundreds of people torched the Institute in Lahore, of 3 thousand students and at least 200 teachers, considered among the centers of excellence for education in Pakistan. The opening dates back to 1978 and it is divided into three sections, over the years it has received over 30 awards and is appreciated for its commitment to women's education. Behind the attack there would be an alleged case of blasphemy: a wrong translation from English into urdu of a passage from the Koran on Muhammad.

The Islamic religious leader Jamia Kareemia Sadidia, who lives near the school, filed a complaint under article 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code--which also envisages the death penalty for anyone who desecrates the name of the Prophet-the headmaster Asim Farooqi and teacher Ahmed Irfa. The police have arrested the principal and teacher, while the Islamic leaders assembled crowds of people handing out photocopies relating to the (alleged) mistranslation of the Holy Book.

A crowd, made op of totally unrelated people, some of whom were not even aware of the affair, attacked the school and torched the structure, carrying out looting and mayhem. The police was unable (or perhaps unwilling) to contain the wrath of the masses of people, allowing the destruction of the building.

Human rights activists and international organizations condemn the episode, judging it to be umpteenth proof that in Pakistan the lunatic fringe-on the pretext of blasphemy and with the approval of law enforcement-can commit abuses and violence sure to remain unpunished.

Fr. Arif James, a priest in Lahore, stresses that the Court "will decide if" the principal and teacher "are guilty or innocent", because the proceedings for alleged blasphemy case continues. However, he adds that " guilty or innocent, but taking the law into the hands is a condemnable act" as well as evidence of the fact that the Government is unable to enforce the law. The priest points out that in a similar case, when a mob killed a mentally unstable man (cfr. AsiaNews 7/5/ Punjab: Muslim extremists burn alive a mentally disabled man accused of blasphemy), the Government should have taken "serious measures" while nothing has changed and the violence continues. "It is time that the institutions-concluded the priest-promote legislation able to curb these phenomena".



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