jump to navigation

Court action promised in Pakistani blasphemy murders: Church of England Newspaper, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
Tags:
comments closed

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has directed the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take immediate steps to investigate the 4 Nov 2014 murders of a Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama Masih, who were burnt alive by a Muslim mob for allegedly desecrating a page from the Koran. The Court further asked the government to enumerate the actions it had taken in response to a June 2014 Supreme Court order directing the state to establish a National Council for the Rights of Minorities and a task force to protect Christian places of worship. Church of Pakistan leaders have welcomed the court action, telling the Church of England NeShahzad_Masih_Shama_Bibiwspaper they hoped government pressure would end local persecution and discrimination of Christians. However, the Fides News Agency reports the family of the murdered Christian couple — whose death the Church of Pakistan reports, was orchestrated by an unscrupulous debt collector who used religious fervor to exact revenge — are under severe pressure from local Muslim leaders to abandon their campaign for justice. Fides reported: “ Even the Christians of surrounding villages are under threat. A Christian from the village of Bhail said that the tension in the area is strong and great hostility of Muslims towards Christians has developed after the raid and arrests carried out by the police in Muslim houses.”

Advertisements

Death penalty for blasphemy for Lahore Christians: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Persecution.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

A Christian couple has been sentenced to death for blasphemy by a civil court in Lahore for sending blasphemous text messages. On 4 April 2014 a court in the Toba Tek Singh district ruled Shafaqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta Kausar were guilty of sending English-language text messages defaming Islam to two prominent Muslim activists. Lawyers for the accused noted the defendants were illiterate and further noted they did not speak English. The lawyers further noted that Mr. Emmanuel, who is disabled, and his wife, a waitress, were not the registered owners of the SIM card that was the source of the alleged message.  An appeal is planned. Their conviction follows the death sentence handed down last month to Christian sweeper Sawan Masih, who was also convicted of blasphemy. The NGO “World Vision in Progress” (WVIP), which has been supporting the couple, responded that “Kangaroo Justice is going on in this country called Pakistan.” They added that for the “last five months we [have been] yelling in front of the International community that all the victims of the Blasphemy Law will be awarded with the same punishment. … If a bold step [is not taken by] the Christian community soon, then it [will] become impossible for them to live in Pakistan.”

Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy freed: The Church of England Newspaper, April 14, 2013 p 7. April 16, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Persecution.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

Seven years after being sentenced to death for blasphemy a Pakistani Christian has been set free.

On 3 April 2013 Lahore High Court justices Khaja Amtiaz Ahmed and Khalid Mehmood Khan overturned the conviction of Younis Masih and ordered his immediate release from prison.

On 10 September 2005 Masih was arrested after he had asked a party of Muslim men the night before if they would lower the volume of their singing. The men responded by attacking Masih and beat him unconscious. Islamic leaders then incited a mob to burn Christians’ homes, saying Masih had committed blasphemy. More than 100 Christian families were forced to flee.

His lawyers alleged that to placate the mob the police arrested Masih. A Lahore Court sentenced him to death on 30 May 2007. In overturning his conviction the appeals court held there was no proof of blasphemy.

In a statement released last week Release International, which had been working with lawyers from the Legal Aid for Destitute and Settlement society in Pakistan, welcomed the news. 

Release chief executive Paul Robinson said: “We are celebrating with Younis, his family and our partners who have supported them for all these years. We hope this sets a precedent for other victims of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws who should now be released.”

Release commended the “bravery of High Court judges” who released Masih, “despite intense pressure from Muslim hardliners who filled earlier court hearings, apparently trying to intimidate the judges.”

Release partners were now making arrangements for the “safe transfer of Younis from jail to an unspecified location,” it reported.

No proof of blasphemy in the Rimsha Masih case: The Church of England Newspaper, September 30, 2012 p 5. October 5, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
Tags: ,
comments closed

A police investigator has testified that there is no evidence that Rimsha Masih, the 11-year old Christian girl with Downs Syndrome, violated Pakistan’s blasphemy code.

On 16 August Rimsha was taken into custody after she was accused of burning pages of the Koran.  The leader of mosque in Mehrabadi, a mixed Muslim-Christian neighborhood outside Islamabad, filed a complaint with the police alleging the young girl had committed blasphemy – a crime punishable by death under the Pakistani penal code.

An anti-Christian pogrom ensued in Mehrabadi and the Pakistani press reported that approximately 1000 Christian families fled the neighborhood in fear for their lives. Police held Rimsha and her mother in custody in Rawalpindi from 16 Aug to 7 Sept for their own protection after the riots, interior minister Rehman Malik told the senate last week, and released them after a Christian NGO made bail for the girl.

In the 22 Sept court hearing in Islamabad, police official Munir Hussain Jaffri said there was no evidence that Rimsha had burned a copy of a Koran. He also testified that the Muslim cleric who had brought the charges against the girl had been accused by three witnesses of fabricating the evidence against Rimsha.

However, Rao Abdul Raheem, the lawyer representing Muslim cleric Khalid Jadoon Chisthi who is now facing charges of perverting the course of justice warned the court that his client enjoyed wide popular support.  Mr. Raheem told the court that just as the accused killer of Punjab’s Governor Salman Taseer, Mumtaz Qadris, was a hero to some for his actions – so too was his client.

The judge hearing the case ordered an adjournment until 24 Sept.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Rimsha bailed on blasphemy charges: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012 p 5. September 20, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

Rimsha Masih, the mentally disabled Christian girl jailed for blasphemy in Islamabad has been released from prison on bail.

She was freed on 7 September 2012 followed a statement made by Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik to the senate that his investigation revealed the girl had not left her home on the day she was alleged to have burned pages from a Koran.  He further stated that a medical examination found the girl to have a mental age of 7, though she was approximately 14 years of age.

The judge hearing the case released Rimsha on bail after her attorneys argued that the arrest of her accuser, a Muslim cleric, on charges of fabricating the evidence against her raised reasonable doubts about her guilt.

On 16 August Rimsha was taken into custody after she was accused of burning pages of the Koran.  The leader of mosque in Mehrabadi, a mixed Muslim-Christian neighborhood outside Islamabad, filed a complaint with the police alleging the young girl had committed blasphemy – a crime punishable by death under the Pakistani penal code.

An anti-Christian pogrom ensued in Mehrabadi and the Pakistani press reported that approximately 1000 Christian families fled the neighborhood in fear for their lives.  Rimsha and her mother were had been kept in custody since 16 Aug for their own protection, the interior minister told the senate.

The arrest of Rimsha Masih has focused international attention upon Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which critics charge is used to intimidate Christians for personal and business reasons.  It has also sparked a backlash within the majority Muslim community.  A prominent conservative cleric, Tahir Ashrafi, defended Rimsha against the charge of blasphemy, describing her to reporters as the “daughter of the nation.”

After a minority rights group gave a £6500 bond to the court, Rimsha was released from custody. She is being kept in seclusion, a spokesman for the minorities group said, pending the outcome of her case.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican bishops call for U.N. ban on blasphemy: Anglican Ink, September 17, 2012 September 18, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
Tags: , , , , , ,
comments closed

Bishop Mouneer Anis

Four North African and Middle Eastern Anglican bishops have written to U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon urging the adoption of an international declaration against religious defamation.

Bishops Mouneer Anis of Egypt, Michael Lewis of Cyprus and the Gulf and assistant Bishops Bill Musk of North Africa and Grant LeMarquand of the Horn of Africa wrote to the U.N. leader on 15 Sept 2012 following the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Cairo and consulate in Benghazi on 11 Sept.  In the days that followed mobs demonstrated outside American diplomatic posts across the Middle East and attacked U.S., German and British embassies in Tunis and Khartoum, ostensibly in response to a Youtube video that attacked Mohammad.

The bishops wrote that in “view of the current inflamed situation in several countries in response to the production of a film in the USA which evidently intends to offend our Muslim brothers and sisters by insulting the Prophet Mohammed, and in view of the fact that in recent years similar offensive incidents have occurred in some European countries which evoked massive and violent responses worldwide, we hereby suggest that an international declaration be negotiated that outlaws the intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Mullah accused of fabricating evidence in Pakistan child blasphemy case: The Church of England Newspaper, September 9, 2012 p 7 September 12, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Islam, Persecution.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

One of the accusers of the 11-year old Christian girl imprisoned in Pakistan and awaiting trial on for blasphemy has been arrested by Islamabad police for fabricating evidence and filing false charges.

On 31 August 2012, a witness came forward to inform the police that a local mullah, Khalid Jadoon Chisthi, had concocted the accusations against Rimsha Masih, and had conspired to foment anti-Christian hatred.

The Express Tribune reported that Hafiz Zubair informed police that he had witnessed Mr. Chishti fabricate the evidence and had heard him describe his plan to frame the Christian girl.  “We tried to stop him but he said this would strengthen the blasphemy case against Rimsha,” said Zubair in his statement to the police.

A police spokesman told the Express Tribune Chishti “put pages into the ashes, showed them to the people of the area, gathered them to attack the girl’s house and detained her before taking her to the police station. He made the boy Hammad become a complainant in the case and urged the police to press blasphemy charges against the 11-year-old girl,” said the police officer.

Rimsha, whose baptismal certificate indicates she is 11 years of age, although a police medical examination places her age at 13, has Downs Syndrome and is illiterate.  She was arrested on 16 August after she was accused by Chishti and others of burning a Koran.  The girl and her mother remain in protective police custody and a hearing is scheduled on her case this week.

The outcry over the arrest of Rimsha led to an anti-Christian pogrom, allegedly fomented by Chishti, that forced 900 families from their homes – emptying the Islamabad neighborhood of Christians who feared for their lives.

If convicted of falsifying evidence in a capital case, Chishti could face life imprisonment.  If charged with blasphemy for burning the pages containing Koranic verses, he could be executed.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

11 year old girl with Downs Syndrome jailed for Blasphemy: The Church of England Newspaper, August 26, 2012 p 6. August 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Persecution.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

The Government of Pakistan has confirmed that an 11 year old Christian girl with Downs Syndrome has been arrested for blasphemy and is being held by police for questioning – and for protection from a mob that is seeking her death.

A spokesperson for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, said the president has taken “serious note” of the arrest of Rimsha Masih and has directed the Interior Ministry to look into the matter.

The sequence of events that led to the arrest of Rimsha (also spelled Rifta) Masih remains unclear. However the Express Tribune reported that officials at the Ramna Police Station outside Islamabad had confirmed the girl had been accused of burning a Muslim text – variously described as 10 pages from the Koran or portions of the Noorani Qaida – a children’s Koran reader. The girl has since been taken into custody, the police have confirmed.

The police said after the complaint was filed on 16 August the girl and her mother were assaulted by a mob.  The website “Christians in Pakistan” which first reported the arrest, stated the girl who lived in the Mehrabadi neighborhood of the capital had Downs Syndrome – a fact subsequently confirmed by the police after a medical examination.

Following her arrest, local mullah’s called for all Christians to leave the village.  The Pakistan Christian Post reports that approximately 1000 Christian families have fled the Islamabad slum out of fear of reprisals from Muslim extremists.

A police investigation into the incident is underway, however, on local official said that if the girl had not been taken into custody, she might have been harmed by the mob.  Under Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws, those found guilty of insulting Mohammad or the Koran can be sentenced to death.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Text message ban for Pakistan questioned: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2011, p 6. December 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has retreated from its proposal to ban obscene words and phrases offensive to Islam from text messages. A PTA spokesman told Agence France-Presse that it would review its proposed list of 1600 forbidden words that include “Jesus Christ” before issuing the ban.

Last week the PTA informed SMS providers in Pakistan that they would be required to block text messages that contained words or phrases that appeared on the forbidden list of 1100 English and 500 Urdu words.  While the overwhelming majority of words were obscene or scatological, the list also included religion related phrases such as “Jesus Christ” and “Satan” as well as words that do not appear to have an immediate offensive meaning such as “athlete’s foot.”

Church leaders in Pakistan cried foul upon hearing of the proposed ban.  The Church of Pakistan’s Bishop of Lahore, the Rt. Rev. Alexander Malik released a statement on 23 Nov saying that “Jesus” was a sacred word and its inclusion in a ban on obscene words was “tantamount to blasphemy.”

The secretary of the Roman Catholic Commission for Social Communications, Fr. Nadeem John Shakir told the Fides News Agency the Catholic Church “will put pressure on the government to eliminate the name of Christ from the prohibited list.”

“We understand the desire to protect the minds of young people but why include the name of Christ? What is obscene? Banning it is a violation of our right to evangelize and hurts the feelings of Christians,” Fr Shakir said on 21 Nov.

“If the ban is confirmed, it would be a black page for the country, a further act of discrimination against Christians and an open violation of Pakistan’s constitution,” he said.

The PTA has the authority to restrict speech under Article 19 of the Pakistani constitution.  While the law permits free speech, it is also “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by the law, in the interest of the glory of Islam.”

Questions as to the feasibility of the ban are misplaced, internet consultant Kevin Kallsen told The Church of England Newspaper.  “For a cellular operator, even in a developing country, filtering SMS messages is not a problem.  It does not slow delivery or effect normal network performance.”

“ However, If the operator had to notify you the message you sent was filtered; or the receiver that an incoming message was blocked that would slow down the system,” said Mr. Kallsen, the founder of Anglican TV.

“The issue in Pakistan is with the amount of words to be filtered. As comedian George Carlin said, there are only 11 ‘dirty’ words banned from commercial broadcasting in the U.S.  Taking 1600 words out of any language is beyond reason,” he argued.

Pakistan Facebook ban?: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 23, 2011 p 7. September 27, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

Tweeted image of the Facebook order

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Facebook may be banned in Pakistan for blasphemy.

The Pakistani press has reported the Lahore High Court issued an order on 19 September banning the social networking website. However, as of our going to press, Facebook is still up and running. Sources in Pakistan have also tweeted reports that the story is premature and that the ban has not yet been imposed.

In May 2010, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Technology ordered ISPs to block access to Facebook ahead of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

Access was then blocked for three days by ISP providers, forcing 4.5 million Pakistani users off of the popular social networking site. An Islamic lawyers group had filed a petition with the court arguing that “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” violated the country’s blasphemy laws. The ban was lifted after Facebook agreed to block the “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” site to visitors from Pakistan and India.

“Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” was a 2010 event in support of free speech and freedom of artistic expression in the United States following the decision by the cable television network Comedy Central to withdraw episode 201 of the cartoon show South Park. Postings on RevolutionMuslim.com website under the pen name Abu Talha al-Amrikee, a man subsequently identified as Zachary Adam Chesser, said the authors of South Park could suffer the fate of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was shot dead by a Muslim extremist.

Writing on Facebook, American cartoonist Molly Norris proposed everybody draw a cartoon of Muhammad as a challenge to critics. By 20 May, 2010 101,870 Facebook members had participated in the event.

A second petition filed by Muhammad Azhar Siddique has asked the court to make the Facebook ban permanent. Mr Siddique has argued the drawing contest that prompted the original controversy was merely the tip of the anti-Muslim iceberg, and that the social networking website was a hotbed of anti-Islamic hatred.

He has asked the civil court to ban Facebook and all other websites that foster “religious hatred” from being viewed in Pakistan and has asked the police to register a criminal case under Section 295-C of the country’s blasphemy laws against those who made objectionable comments about Islam.

The Express Tribune on 20 September reported the Facebook ban order had been given to the Ministry of Information for action, with the judge requesting an update by 6 October. However, a copy of the judge’s order tweeted by human rights activists in Pakistan does not call for a ban, but sets the matter down for further discussion at the 6 October hearing.

The Facebook controversy follows statements made on 17 September by the Interior Minister Rehman Malik who said that if Google and Youtube did not cooperate with the government in its fight against terrorism, the government would block access to their websites and services as well.

Beirut flip-flop flap: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 9, 2011 p 9. September 12, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: ,
comments closed

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A flap over Halloween-themed footwear has prompted cries of blasphemy and has led police to issue arrest warrants for the managers of a department store in Beirut.

The Dubai-based news website MBC.net reported that Lebanese Catholics held a sit-in in front of the Big Sales store in East Beirut last month after the store offered novelty Halloween sandals for sale.

The plastic sandals featured the scene of a bat flying through a graveyard that included cross shaped headstones.  Catholics claimed the flip-flops were offensive to Christian sensibilities and filed a complaint with the police.

The National News Agency of Lebanon reported the police confiscated the shoes and launched an investigation in the “reason why such products were being sold and the shoes’ country of origin.”

Store owner Ali Fakih, a Muslim, told a local radio station that he was “not trying to do anything detrimental to religion,” and had committed an “unintentional error.”  Big Sales would remain closed until further notice.  However, the store’s managers have been taken into police custody for questioning on suspicion of inciting religious hatred.

The sit-in held at Big Sales was ended, however, by the appearance of the local Roman Catholic parish priest, Fr. Dominique.  MBC.net reported the priest chastised the crowd for blowing up a “trivial” incident into a sectarian crisis that threatened the peaceful coexistence of “all Lebanese communities.”

“We as Christians should not have a reaction to a cross” used in non-sacred settings, he said.  According to the Dubai news site, Fr. Dominique told the crowd to go home and he did “want any cracking of insults or crying out for revenge or hatred” for the Muslims store owners.

The “fire of hatred” was “not quenched by fire” he told the crowd, “but through love.”