Here is yet another in the apparently endless string of stories about how Muslims in Pakistan use that country’s blasphemy laws to terrorize and victimize their Christian neighbors. “Lahore: Christians accused of blasphemy flee extremists and police,” from Asia News, July 9 (thanks to C. Cantoni):
Lahore (AsiaNews) – A Christian family from Model Town, a residential suburb of Lahore, had to flee their home to escape a mob of local Muslims. Yousaf Masih, his wife Bashrian Bibi and their son-in-law Zahid Masih are accused of blasphemy for using a discarded metal banner, with Qur’anic verses printed on, as part of the roof to their bathroom. Police have issued an arrest warrant for the three Christians, and have taken into custody two other family members to force the fugitives to surrender.
2,000 members of the Tiny Minority of Extremists turned out to terrorize this family:
The Pakistan Christian Post reported the incident, saying that the blasphemy accusation is based on “personal rancour and enmity” towards Zahid Masih and his in-laws. Last Monday, a mob of 2,000 angry Muslims tried to torch the Christians’ home. Before police could arrive, they had already escaped and have been in hiding in a secret location for the past three days, fearful of retaliation from local Muslims.
The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), on organisation that defends people accused of blasphemy, has launched its own investigation into the incident, speaking to law enforcement agents and interviewing local Christians and Muslims.
CLAAS activists found that the Christian family had been living in the house for the past four years, but was not paying rent because of its poor conditions.
The team led by CLAAS national director Joseph Francis said that last week, Lal Masih, Yousaf’s cousin, took a discarded advertising banner to reuse in the roof of his bathroom.
Local Muslims claim that the banner had Qur’anic verses printed on it and that they asked Lal Masih to remove the offending material. Last Sunday, Lal allegedly got into an argument with a Muslim neighbour, Mohammad Imran, over it.
The next day a group of Muslims went back to the Masih home, determined to remove the banner. No one was home, so the protesters turned to Yousaf’s son-in-law Zahid Masih. Faced with another rebuttal by a Christian, the Muslims reacted violently, and set tires on fire, blocked nearby roads and called the police to arrest the three Christians for violating the blasphemy law.
CLASS activists said, “At 6 pm on 5 July, Yousaf Masih, Bashrian Bibi and Zahid Masih fled; police were unable to arrest them.” Instead, they detained Lal Masih and James Masih, who will remain in custody “until their relatives surrender”.
Local Christians have refused to talk about the incident, fearing reprisal or new attacks.
After looking at the offending banner and having it examined by a local Muslim, CLASS concluded, “no words or sentences from the Qur’an are visible”.
Last of all, the Pakistan Christian Post noted that the Masih family is very poor, and none of its members can read or write; therefore, they could not know what was printed on the banner….