In Pakistan, our “friend and ally,” “at least 700 Christian girls are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam every year.” And sold abroad or not, any fate for Farah Hatim short of her being reunited with her family and legally recognized again as a Christian, and not a Muslim, is intolerable.
There is supposedly “no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256). And so Farah was made to sign a document saying she married and converted freely. Is there “no compulsion” in kidnapping victims’ signing documents, too?
The claim of “no compulsion” is a shell game in practice: all claims about “compulsion” aside, Islamic law is replete in letter and spirit with numerous means of coercion to convert. In Qur’an 9:29 itself, the alternatives to conversion are subjugation or war. The goal is to make life so difficult, so terrifying, and so intolerable as to make the targeted non-Muslims convert under duress… at which point their overlords will crow about their supposedly “free” choice.
And most crucially, after a certain point, the lines between persuasion and compulsion become blurred, and those doing the compelling could care less, because it is difficult, if not dangerous, to challenge those wielding power under Islamic law on where the distinction lies.
Pakistani Catholic sources have told the Fides news agency that a 24-year-old Christian woman who was kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and forced to marry a Muslim may soon be sold abroad.
Farah Hatim, 24, “was forced to sign a declaration stating that she had converted and married [according] to her will,” said a Pakistani nun. “The text was brought to the police and in court, so legally the case is considered closed. It will be possible to reopen it only with a written statement, in which Farah testifies that these communications were drawn out by threats and torture.”
The nun called for prayer and international pressure to help secure Hatim’s releases.
There are over 700 cases of forced conversion to Islam in Pakistan each year, according to Fides.
Lahore (Fides Service) – There are fears for the life of Farah Hatim, the Catholic girl kidnapped and forced into marriage and conversion to Islam in the city of Rahim Yar Khan in southern Punjab (see Fides 08/06/2011 7 and ). As the girl`s family refer to Fides, Farah is constantly drugged and her life is in danger. Meanwhile, attempts to discourage the family to carry on with the request to free Farah are still in progress. Yesterday Qasim and Huma Hatim, the victim`s brother and sister, were summoned by the local police who showed them the marriage certificate, a declaration of conversion to Islam and a picture of Farah, in traditional Muslim clothes. The police concluded that “everything is in order”, stressing the request to abandon all claims on behalf of the family. According to Huma and Qasim, the documents are obviously artifacts. The supposed signatures of Farah are in Urdu — they observe- while the girl used to sign in English. In the photo, moreover, the girl is totally veiled, “to hide the beatings”, they said. “The police wants to convince us to forget Farah, but we will carry on” say the family members.
“It will be very difficult to win this battle and get the girl back”, said His Excellency Mgr Lawrence Saldanha to Fides, Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore , and for several years President of the Episcopal Conference. “The law is not in our favor, and then there is a lot of pressure on Christians and public officials’ he remarks. “It must be said that our Justice and Peace Commission document numerous cases like this. And many cases remain unsolved, because Christians are threatened and are afraid to expose themselves. These are blatant violations of human rights, freedom of conscience and religion”.
As already reported in recent months to Fides from local sources, forced conversions to Islam, rapes and forced marriages are increasing in Pakistan. The victims are mostly Hindu and Christian girls, the most vulnerable because they come from poor, defenseless, marginalized communities, therefore easily exposed to harassment, threats and violence. They often do not have the courage to denounce the assaults.
We who are still free must speak out for them. There should be no foreign aid to Pakistan until Farah Hatim is released. And Saba and Anila Masih. And Asia Bibi, Hector Aleem, all non-Muslim captives, and all Pakistani prisoners of conscience, especially those held for “blasphemy.”