Convert to Islam or leave village: Christian community threatened after a Christian boy accused of blasphemy
A Christian boy working as joiner at a health care centre has fled his home after learning that Muslim religious scholars had issued a fatwa (Islamic decree) against him for committing blasphemy, and that he is likely to killed.
Imran, a young Christian boy who worked in Chak (village) No. 44, Phalyian District Mandi Bahauddin in the Punjab, Pakistan, attended the wedding of one of his Muslim friend’s daughter on April 16 and recorded a video on his mobile phone.
On April 19 a colleague asked him to show him the recording, and instead Imuran handed over his phone and left to finish the job he was working on.
When he came back he saw that Bilal, a local Muslim pharmacy owner, was holding his phone and was showing provocative lectures of Pastor Sami Samson to other workers standing around him.
When Imran asked Bilal to return his phone, Bilal slapped on his face and accused Imran of watching anti-Islamic lectures of the Christian Pastor on YouTube.
Imran swore to Bilal and his angry coworkers that he had never browsed Pastor Sami Samson’s lectures but they refused to let him go.
His colleagues became his enemy and after beating him severely they locked him in a room.
It was a difficult situation and Imran had some idea of it that what is going on. Luckily he had another cell phone in his pocket and he called members of his Catholic Church Committee and told them what was going on.
Members of the church committee got alarmed and Amir Masih and Arif Masih along with a few other members rushed to rescue Imran.
They met with the senior doctor, they told the doctor that Imran is illiterate and does not know how to operate the search engine on his phone, and after a long time of persuading him, the Committee members agreed to release Imran.
After his rescue Imran thought the issue was resolved and went back to his job.
But three days later, one of his Muslim co-workers, Mulvi Manzoor, told Imran that Bilal was still upset and urged him to apologise and ask for Bilal’s forgiveness.
He accompanied Imran to Bilal’s pharmacy, but he was not there. To find him, Mulvi Manzoor called Bilal on his cell phone and put in on loudspeaker.
Bilal said he was in Sargodha, another city, to meet with religious scholars to discuss with them about Imran. He further told Manzoor that the scholars had issued a fatwa (religious decree) against Imran as he has committed blasphemy by watching an anti-Islamic lecture and was thus entitled to be killed.
After this conversation Mulvi Manzoor advised Imran to run away to save his life.
The conversation with Bilal terrified Imran and be did not return home that night. The next day his father Sharif Masih called the health centre to inquire about his son. The doctor on duty told him that Imran was not at work.
While the family was still looking for Imran, his Muslim colleagues spread the news of this incident to nearby villages, and on April 29 Muslim clerics made provoking announcements on the loudspeaker during Friday prayers, encouraging the Muslim community to impose a social boycott of Christians living in the village.
Muslims shopkeepers stopped selling food and other items to local Christians.
Local Muslim businessman Irshad Jhakar announced a 10 lakh Pak-rupees nearly $ 10,000 reward for killing Imran.
On Monday May 2nd, 2016 members of the mosque Committee went to Imran’s work place and asked the senior doctor about the whole incident, the doctor told them that no such incident of Blasphemy had taken placed in his health centre. This did not satisfy the committee members and they continued to plan an attack.
The boycott against Christians in the village continued for a number of days and the Committee deputed a few young Muslim men to surveillance Sharif Masih’s house so if Imran is seen they can take hold of him and hand him over to them.
According to local news reports, the Muslims have put three conditions before the Christians, in exchange for a pardon.
They have told them to convert to Islam if they want to continue living in the village, leave the village forever, or despicably, they have asked them to hand Imran over so they can burn him alive in front of the church.
Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS UK, has condemned the ferocious and tyrannical attitude of the local Muslims.
He said: “They have no right to impose any of these conditions and forced beleaguered Christians to bend on their knees and ask for their mercy.
“I cannot believe that such things are still happening in this world. Such treatment towards Pakistani Christians is a slap on the face of the Punjab and central government, and to all those who never tire of telling the world that minorities are protected and enjoying equal rights in the country.
“I don’t understand how watching a video on the internet can be criminalised as an act of blasphemy. And if this is blasphemy then all those who watch this video or any other videos against Islam have committed blasphemy and everyone should be arrested, charged and punished under the blasphemy law.
“I believe this is not an act of blasphemy and if people still think Imran has committed blasphemy then he should be punished according to the law. No one has any right to take the law into their own hands, harass local Christians, threaten them, burn Imran alive or force Christians to convert to Islam or leave the village.
“Such conditions from lay people make a mockery of the law. The Government of Pakistan must take this matter seriously, provide protection to the local Christians, and those who are breaking the law should be dealt according to the law.”