by Tarek Fatah
What does it say about our world when the election of a new Pope becomes front and centre in the media while the wiping out of an entire Christian neighbourhood, razed to the ground by a Muslim mob, gets little or no coverage?
The persecution of Pakistan’s Christians always takes a familiar route — allegations by a Muslim against a Christian who is accused of ‘insulting Prophet Muhammad’. Predictably, all hell breaks loose and invariably innocent Christians lose their lives, liberty and property.
In the latest incident, Sawan Masih, a Christian sanitation worker in Lahore, Pakistan, and his Muslim friend, the local barber Shahid Imran met up for a peg of whisky and after a few rounds, became embroiled in a heated debate about religion.
The next morning, after evidence of alcohol had dissipated, the Muslim man walked over to the local police station to file a complaint against his Christian friend, accusing Sawan Masih of having insulted the Prophet Muhammad while under the influence of alcohol.
Under Pakistan’s infamous Blasphemy Law (section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code), any citizen can file a complaint against another person, the punishment for which is a possible death sentence.
Last week, news of the “insult to Prophet Muhammad” reached the local Mosque where after the Friday congregation, enraged Muslims marched into Joseph Colony, the Christian neighbourhood, looking for the blasphemer. According to sources from the International Christian Concern, Masih’s 65-year old father was beaten and stones were thrown at their home. That night, police arrested Masih.
Instead of protecting the neighbourhood, the police escorted the residents out of the area. By Saturday morning, a frenzied mob of 3,000 Muslims attacked the Christian neighbourhood, looting the meagre possessions of the largely working class people. More than 170 homes and businesses were set on fire and ransacked that day in the name of Islam and Prophet Muhammad
As pictures emerged of Muslim youth celebrating the destruction of Christian homes, the predictable cycle of denunciations began. The Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif declared the incident as “the worst example of barbarism.”
This was little comfort to the homeless Christians of Joseph Colony who on Sunday, instead of attending church were left homeless and abandoned. One woman wailed: “Burn us too,” her hands repeatedly hitting her head. “Did they leave us alive to see all this?” she cried as she looked at the devastation around her.
At the core of the horrifying treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan is the Blasphemy Law inserted into the Pakistan Penal Code by the Islamist dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq. Unless it is struck off the law books, the killings will continue.
Then there is the Canadian connection to this tragedy.
The person who had boasted in Urdu in a video that he is the inspiration behind this law is the cleric-politician Tahir-ul-Qadri. Qadri is now a Canadian using his newly acquired Canadian passport to travel the world. This is what he had this to say to a TV audience with regard to blasphemy, its punishment and his own contribution:
“Whosoever insults Prophet Muhammad and commits blasphemy, whether he is Muslim or Kaafir (Christian, Jew or Hindu), man or woman, he or she should be murdered and kicked like a dog into hellfire, even if they repent … Let me put it on the record, it was me and only me who is responsible for that law … No one else has made any contribution in making this law.”
Isn’t it a sad day that the man who takes ownership of this dastardly law finds comfort in Canada, while Christian victims of that very same law live in misery under open skies?
Categories: Contributor Columns