Some of the material I'll be presenting to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada later this week:
1. The life of Younus Shaikh:
Following his release in the greatest secrecy on 21st November 2003 Younus Shaikh initially remained in Pakistan but his accusers than lodged an appeal against his acquittal, and he has now left Pakistan for Europe and safety.
Many victims of the Pakistani blasphemy laws have failed to survive prison, and a number of those tried and acquitted have been murdered following their release. As recently as July 2002, Mohammed Yousaf was shot dead inside the Central Gaol in Lahore while awaiting his appeal. On 7th February 2003, Mushtaq Zafar, a 55 year-old man accused of blasphemy was shot dead on his way home from the High Court. And in June 2003, Naseem Bibi, 35, who had been the victim of a gang rape by police, was charged with blasphemy, and was murdered in prison before her trial could begin.
Even the legal profession are not immune from attack. Defence lawyers have been intimidated by fundamentalists and even a High Court judge was murdered after acquitting an accused.
A supporter of Mr. Shaikh anonymously comments:
“It is also a sad reflection on the state and society of Pakistan that even when individuals are exonerated by law of any guilt, they are forced to flee the country for their safety. The state or society is unable or unwilling to provide them protection. Dr. Sheikh was not at all eager to leave the country. If he had a choice he would have stayed with his family and friends [...]"
2. The life of Yasaar Hameed, an ex-Muslim:
A Pakistani “blasphemy” suspect has appealed for asylum in Holland after facing police torture and attacks by Muslim extremists for his controversial religious views.
In addition to the legal accusations of blasphemy, “there were processions against us,” Hameed recounts. “First they were only in Lahore, and then it spread to the whole of Pakistan. Muslims threw petrol bombs on our houses and killed many of us. I was shot six times.”
Extremists murdered his younger brother – who had become a Christian – in March 1998.
3. The life of Sehar Muhammad Shafi, an apostate. She:
[...] fled her home city of Karachi with her husband and two young daughters after being attacked and raped for changing her faith.
With help from the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, the Christian couple has relocated to another city. But as long as Shafi and her family remain in Pakistan, they must hide the truth of Shafi’s conversion.
How apostates are treated in Pakistan:
Pakistani Muslims often cut all ties with a family member who converts to another religion. “Apostates” – those who renounce Islam – can experience difficulty finding a job, and they may even face torture and death at the hands of vigilante extremists.
According to Rehman, director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, many Pakistani Muslims view leaving Islam – “apostasy” – as a form of blasphemy, a crime that merits either life imprisonment or death under Pakistani law.
During recent debate surrounding the trial of Abdul Rahman, a Muslim convert to Christianity in Afghanistan, Pakistani clerics reinforced their stance that “apostates” be punished with death.
“Pakistan’s top cleric, Mufti Munib ur Rehman, announced that ‘if a state is truly Islamic,’ it would have to kill the apostate,” Pakistani newspaper Daily Times reported in a March 29 editorial.
4. The life of Ranjha Masih:
A Pakistani Christian has won a religious persecution award after spending eight years in prison on contested charges that he damaged a sign containing verses from the Quran.
Read that sentence again.
At least 23 people involved in blasphemy cases have been murdered in Pakistan, according to the National Commission for Justice and Peace. A quarter of the victims were Christians, although Christians constitute less than 2 percent of the country’s population.
Masih, his wife and six children may face greater danger if Masih is acquitted.
“In case [Masih] is released, it is to be feared that he, like other acquitted Christian blasphemy prisoners, will have to live in hiding or outside of Pakistan,” an IGFM representative told Compass. “The threat from Islamic extremists and self-proclaimed guardians of sharia, Islamic law, would be too great.”
Dear Reader: If you come across a story about Pakistan and the treatment of ex-Muslims (or blasphemers), then do send me the link. I'd appreciate it.
Credit for the above links:
Adil - for emailing me the article about Younus Shaikh.
Robert Spencer - for linking to many recent news items in one post.
[This post was originally published on Sep. 04, 2006 at 06:15 a.m.]