Pakistan blasphemy case evokes fear

2012-09-01 12:15
<a href=\http://www.shutterstock.com\>Shuttertstock</a>

Shuttertstock

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Gojra - For Rafia Margaret, the case of a young Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy rekindled horrifying memories of the day a furious mob smashed through her front door and torched her house.

On 1 August 2009 Margaret, then aged 28, had just finished breakfast at home in the Punjab town of Gojra when she heard the announcements over the mosque loudspeakers urging Muslims to attack the Christian quarter.

Minutes later an angry crowd massed outside her modest one-storey house in the Korian area of the town baying for revenge after rumours spread that Christians had desecrated a Qur'an.

As the pack swelled still further and violence erupted, she ran to her roof to judge the seriousness of the situation while her mother and ailing father sought refuge in a Muslim neighbour's house.

The sight of the tall, elegant girl on the roof enraged the mob still further and they began attacking her door.

"I was terrified, so frightened I couldn't think. I thought I was going to lose everything. I don't know how I did it, but I managed to climb over to the Muslim neighbour's house where my parents were hiding," she said.

"Just as I got there, they entered our home and set it on fire. My father had had heart surgery a few days earlier and when he went back and saw his house burned down, he died," she told AFP, weeping.

The Muslim mobs razed a total of 77 houses in Gojra, which lies 50km from the industrial hub of Faisalabad and had never before seen tensions between its 495 000 Muslims and 35 000 Christians.

Seven members of a family were killed in the violence.

Scared of Muslims

The terror of that day came flooding back to Margaret two weeks ago when angry crowds massed in a poor Islamabad suburb to demand punishment for Rimsha, a young Christian girl accused of burning papers containing verses from the Qur'an.

Rimsha, aged 14 and mentally subnormal according to a medical report, was arrested on blasphemy charges on 16 August and has been held in prison ever since.

"When I heard a Christian girl had burnt the Qur'an in Islamabad, I felt unsafe in my home. I thought they might come to attack us again," said Margaret.

"Whenever something happens between Muslims and Christians across the country, I'm frightened that somebody might attack my house and our colony to take revenge," she said.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where 97% of the 180 million population are Muslims. Even unproven allegations of insulting Islam or desecrating the Qur'an can prompt anger and even violence.

Last month a 2 000-strong mob stormed a police station in central Pakistan to seize a mentally disturbed man accused of burning the Qur'an and beat him to death before burning his body.

And last year two leading politicians were assassinated after raising their voices against the blasphemy legislation, which includes the death penalty for insulting the prophet Mohammad.

In Korian, the focal point of the violence in 2009, newly built red-brick houses with freshly painted walls and street lights have turned the village into a model town.

But Shamaun Masih's children, who witnessed the rampage in 2009, are still traumatised.

Threatened

"They always start weeping whenever they see something unusual. They still remember that violence. When they heard about Rimsha's case, they reacted as if it happened here... and they were scared of a fresh attack," he said.

Three years on from the Gojra carnage, Margaret's house has been rebuilt along with 75 others.

Compensation of $5 200 was paid to the families of the dead and $1 057  to those who lost their homes, but the people responsible for the bloody rampage went free.

The main witness of the case, Almas Hameed, who lost seven relatives and reported the case to police, fled the country with the rest of the family.

His house was the only one of those torched in the violence that has not been rebuilt, and notices summoning him to court as a witness remain pasted to his front door.

Christians are among Pakistan's most marginalised minorities, with many impoverished and trapped in dirty, menial jobs.

The new houses built for Christians in Korian have created further jealousy among Muslims in the area.

"They mock us now, saying we have got new houses but one day they will also be destroyed," said Khaliq Barkat, the priest of the local church.

As Rimsha goes into her third week in prison and her family hide for fear of violent reprisals, Margaret doubts Pakistan's Christians and Muslims will ever live in true harmony.

"I don't think it will ever come to an end. There is lack of wisdom and knowledge among our people. We need to learn to tolerate each other," she said, wiping away tears.

- SAPA
Read more on:    pakistan  |  religion
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
17 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Health
 

Tips on how to set your fitness goals

Before you embark on a fitness or training programme, set yourself clear and realistic long-term and short-term goals.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

This all-terrain vehicle is badass!
The TRUTH about painkillers and exercise
WIN! Where were you when you last felt alive?
Watch: Fishing under ice

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Graduates English

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
O'Brien Recruitment
R10 500 - R12 000 Per Month

Group Accountant

Western Cape
Core Candidate (Pty) Ltd
R33 000 - R45 000 Per Month

Accountant (CA)

Bellville
Persona Staff

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R1000 on electronics!

Get mind blowing savings on top electronic products. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be spending too much time organising and trying to control things to make sure everything is perfect instead of just...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.