Charges of desecrating the pages of the Qurʾān saw three young Christian women, including two minors, placed under arrest, Asia News reports. It was later discovered that none of the charges were true, but by then the news had spread across their Karachi neighbourhood, provoking a violent reaction by local Islamic radicals who forced some 200 Christian families living in the area to abandon their homes to save themselves.
In Pakistan the accusation of blasphemy – even without evidence – triggers action by Muslim extremists. Thankfully, Christian clerics were able this time to intervene quickly and mediate the affair, which ended peacefully.
One of the clerics, Fr Saleh Diego, a member of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan (CBCP), told AsiaNews that “police released the young women, who now live at a secret location for security reasons.”
The three victims falsely accused of insulting Islam are Permisha, 16, Suneha, 15, and Sunaina, 22. The latter is married. All live in a predominantly Christian part of the Farooq-e-Azam district. At the centre of the incident is a woman related to all three, Ms. Khurshid Bibi, who is the grandmother of the first two and Sunaina’s mother-in-law.
In January 2019 she rented a flat to a Muslim couple, Fayaz and Samina Riaz. After three weeks, however, given the disrespectful behaviour of the couple, she asked them to leave the premises. On 19 February, the three Christian women went to the flat owned by their relative to clean it. Since the Muslim couple had not yet moved, they asked Fayaz and Samina to take away their belongings so they could clean the rooms.
At that point, Samina, by her own admission, decided to accuse the three of blasphemy. She went outside and started screaming that the “kafirs” (infidels) had stolen a copy of the Koran and thrown it into a tub. Her screams attract the attention of Muslims, who surround the area and attacked several Christian homes causing damages.
The young women were saved only thanks to the timely intervention of police. Later Samina confessed that she made up the blasphemy charge “to teach Christians a lesson”. At present, mediation is underway and no complaints have been filed.
Sadly, “false blasphemy accusations are often motivated by personal revenge and religious hatred,” Fr Diego explained.
Meanwhile, the Christian families who lived in the area are still displaced and the three young women are still in hiding.