LAHORE, PAKISTAN—Dog-eared and tattered, the blue book is an inch thick and sits on a dented metal table in the corner office of Jamia Naeemia, an Islamic school tucked in a scattering of cement-walled homes and roadside shops.
Many believe the book offers the promise of safety and perhaps even a better chance at prosperity.
The book is a registry used to document religious converts to Islam and officials at Jamia Naeemia say business is brisk nowadays.
At least 20 to 25 former Christians adopt Islam each week by pledging an oath and signing a green and white document in which they accept Islam as “the most beautiful religion” and promise to “remain in the religion of Islam for the rest of my life, acknowledging that blessings are only from God.”
Human rights advocates say it’s no surprise some of Pakistan’s 3 million Christians are adopting Islam. These are vexing and dangerous days for the country’s religious minorities.
Last autumn, politician Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most prosperous province, began to campaign on behalf of a Christian woman named Asia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy. On Jan. 4, with debate over the future of Pakistan’s blasphemy law at a fever pitch, Taseer was gunned down by one of his personal security guards.
Public reaction to Taseer’s assassination was stunning.
Pakistan’s lawyers, praised just three years ago for saving this country’s independent judiciary, showered Taseer’s assassin with rose petals on his way into court. A rally to celebrate his death attracted 40,000 in Karachi and thousands more posted tributes to the killer on their Facebook accounts.
“To be honest, I felt good when I heard he was dead; we got rid of him,” said Raghib Naeemia, an iman at Jamia Naeemia. “It’s very clear in the Holy Qur’an that if you say something nasty and harsh about the Holy Prophet, then you become a maloun (cursed) person. And we are supposed to round up those people and kill them very harshly.”
While Taseer was among several high-profile politicians who have argued the blasphemy law should be amended, human rights workers say the real issue is how often the law is misused.
An allegation of blasphemy shouted in the streets can, in an instant, whip a crowd into a frenzy and lead to assaults and dubious arrests.
In one recent example, a Shiite Muslim doctor last month was confronted in his Hyderabad office by a pharmaceutical salesman. After telling the supplier he wasn’t interested in buying anything, the salesman persisted, according to local news reports. The doctor tossed the salesman’s business card in a trash bin.
But because the salesman’s name was Muhammad — the same as the Muslim prophet — he complained to religious leaders that tossing his card the garbage was blasphemy.
The doctor was dragged out of his office and beaten by a mob. Then he was arrested by police and charged with blasphemy.
“No one feels safe right now,” said Nadeem Anthony, a Christian and a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “People are scared.
If you want something from your neighbour or you are angry at him, you say blasphemy and that’s it.”
In the most famous case, the one that has transfixed the nation and led to Taseer’s killing, centres on Bibi, a resident of the Punjabi village of Ittanwali, west of Lahore.
While working in the fields last June, she was sent to fetch water. When some of the other woman refused to drink it because it had been carried by a Christian, a spat ensued about the merits of both religions. The other women later went to a cleric and complained that Bibi has blasphemed the name of the Prophet Muhammad.
A complaint was filed and Bibi was charged, convicted, and given a death sentence.
The spirit of McCarthyism hangs in the air like the clouds of dust that swirl though this historic city’s poor neighbourhoods.
In Lahore last week, a Christian woman got into a heated argument with her sister-in-law, a Muslim. The Muslim woman went outside their home and cried out that her relative had blasphemed against Islam. A group of protesters stormed into the home and beat the woman. One of the ringleaders later bragged that his own wife had hit the woman the hardest.
“Her hand is so swollen that she hasn’t been able to make rotis,” he told the Express Tribune newspaper.
The Christian woman and her husband are now in hiding, the paper reported.
One of the results of this wave of anti-Christian activity unfolded on a sunny afternoon this week. Azra Mustafa, a 45-year-old housemaid, shuffled into the Jamia Naeemia and asked to speak to an imam. A recent convert to Islam, the housemaid and mother of six needed to get the proper documents to prove to her neighbours that she was no longer a Christian.
“It feels great,” she said. “I moved to a Muslim neighbourhood and now I feel like we are one family.”
Each day, Mustafa, whose husband remains Christian and now lives separately from his wife and children, wakes up to attend 5 a.m. prayers before she leaves for work four hours later. By the time she returns home at 7 p.m. from a job that pays her 2,500 rupees ($28) a month, darkness has fallen over her one-room home. After dinner, a teacher comes to her home to give Mustafa and her children 90-minute lessons on Arabic and the Qur’an.
Asked if she felt safer in the wake of her conversion, Mustafa replied, “of course.” (Read more.)
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Some Pakistani Christians Converting to Islam out of Fear
This is the goal of subjugating non-Muslims. If enough persecution and abuse is heaped on them, some of them will convert to Islam. Unfortunately, Muslim groups like CAIR and ISNA are so busy complaining about imaginary mistreatment of Muslims in the West, no one manages to defend the Christians being raped, tortured, burned, and killed in Muslim countries.