Mob attacked couple over ‘blasphemy’
In a rare move by Pakistani police, an Islamist cleric has been arested for inciting a Muslim mob to kill a Christian couple – Owais Qamar, 35, and his wife Rukhsana, above – for committing an act of blasphemy.
Their crime? According to this report, they had been spotted sleeping on a salvaged advertising sign bearing a koranic verse.
Area residents and rights activists said that hundreds of Muslims in Makki village, near Farooqabad in Sheikhupura District, attacked the couple on June 30.
The frenzied mob beat Qamar, a father of four, shaved his head and dragged him through village streets. Rukhsana and two other women of the family were also attacked and their faces blackened with dirt before police rescued them.
Such police intervention is relatively rare in Pakistan, where mobs furious over alleged blasphemy are often left to wreak havoc and butcher their victims.
The violence erupted after Islamic leaders reportedly used the local village mosque to incite action against the pair. Soon after, Qamar, his wife, their daughter Farzana and Qamar’s sister-in-law were brought to the village center where a mob pounced on them.
A neighbour said:
Qamar was thrashed by men while his female family members were beaten up by the Muslim women. The mob later put a garland made up of shoes around Qamar’s neck and dragged him in the village streets.
The neighbor added that they immediately called police, fearing the violence could get worse and put the lives of the family in jeopardy.
Senior police superintendent Sohail Zafar Chattha played a pivotal role in rescuing the impoverished Christian family from the mob, which the police chief said was bent on killing them without first learning the facts of the case.
Chattha said that he had ordered officers to save the couple even if it meant opening fire at the Muslim mob. He said:
Clerics leading the mob demanded that police arrest the couple and charge them with blasphemy. I told them that I would not register a case because no blasphemy has been committed.
Instead, he opened a case against the clerics and 400 others for inciting violence and endangering the lives of the Christian couple.
The mob wanted to kill them right there, all because they are poor, illiterate people who didn’t realize that a line from the Koran was written on the sign.
He said that one of the clerics who led the mob, then fled after the police action, was arrested on on July 3. His name has not been released.
The police chief said that the couple had been handed over to Christian elders, and that he had advised them not to return to the village as it could endanger their lives.
Meanwhile, it is reported from Morocco that two women have gone on trial in Morocco on charges of “gross indecency” … for wearing skirts.
The two were arrested in Inezgane last month, after a market trader drew attention to what they were wearing and a crowd gathered.
An Internet petition calling the arrest an attack on personal freedom has attracted thousands of signatures.
There have been a number of demonstrations over the case, with protesters saying that women should be free to wear what they want.
Activists also gathered at the court house on Monday to support the detainees.
The two women, 23 and 29, are being tried under an article in the penal code which says that anyone found guilty of committing an act of “public obscenity” can be jailed for up to two years.
The judge will give a verdict on 13 July.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn (Morocco report)