Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Hypocrisy of Muslim Discrimination against Christians in Pakistan


3/14/2013 Pakistan (Pakistan Today) - Two hundred houses were looted and burnt – Bibles were burnt to ash and crosses put to flame – by a mob of over 2,000 Muslims at Joseph Colony, Badami Bagh in Lahore. At the heart of it was a drunken exchange of abuses between two men: a Muslim and a Christian. Somehow, after one day of silence, the exchange was reported to have involved certain allegedly ‘blasphemous’ remarks against the Prophet (PBUH). Sunni Tehreek activists entered the fray to act as ‘witnesses’ to the apparent quarrel in the Christian’s bilSourceliards shop.

First: the accused’s father was arrested under mob pressure last Friday, then the accused turned himself in. However, the climate was reported to have been amplified by the entry of certain external actors and police officials asked the over 200 Christian families in Joseph Colony to leave. They did. The next morning, it was as if police had invited the mob to ransack, loot and burn Joseph Colony as they stood and watched. Media got a full out view of the mob attack. And slowly but surely viewers began to react and condemn the incident – but while confined to drawing rooms. The homes that were burnt were not ours.

We would call the violence: “outrageous”, “madness”, “shameful” but it would not force us to get out of our homes – or even question the everyday practices which cause such an event. Surely, the daily discrimination against Christians, labelling of them as ‘untouchables’ – let alone questioning the perimeters of the blasphemy law is what the debate should have been about. “The violence was wrong but the accused must still be punished” was the view many presented on the day. The fact that a drunk man’s testimony – let alone accusation – has little weight in the due process of law. To the mob who burnt down Joseph Colony “the drunk Muslim was upholding the honour of their Prophet”.
The irony in the ground reality was lost on most Muslim Pakistanis – but certainly not on the city’s 500,000 strong Christian community. Protests began the same day and lasted till Tuesday. But more reason for outrage should have been found. The same police force that stood by and watched 3,000 people loot and plunder Joseph Colony, fired over 500 tear gas canisters on Youhanabad, the largest Christian settlement in the country, with over 4,000 households. Over a hundred Christians were arrested at a point when no one had been arrested for the Joseph Colony mob attack. Policemen in riot gear told a reporter in this newspaper: “These are choorhas.”

The term evoking the severe caste-based discrimination prevalent in the subcontinent Muslims maintains that Christians/choorhas (used interchangeably) are ‘untouchables’. This was clearly the basis of the Asia Bibi case which came to light in late 2010 and by early 2011 had resulted in the murder of both the then Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti. Having spent two months back then trying to get to the bottom of the case, the only undisputed fact was that the cleric and two accusing ladies believed that “Christians could not shake hands with Muslims, let alone eat with them”. The principle the public protests against the demand for her release defended was not the honour of the Prophet (PBUH) but the right to maintain the status of Christians as ‘untouchables’(Source).

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