Muslim perspectives on dead Christians?

koranOne of the bigger religion stories yesterday was the killing last weekend of seven Christians by Muslim Pakistanis. Many more were wounded in attacks on the Christian community of Gojra. Here’s how the New York Times began its story on the attack, headlined “Hate Engulfs Christians in Pakistan“:

The blistered black walls of the Hameed family’s bedroom tell of an unspeakable crime. Seven family members died here on Saturday, six of them burned to death by a mob that had broken into their house and shot the grandfather dead, just because they were Christian.

The family had huddled in the bedroom, talking in whispers with their backs pressed against the door, as the mob taunted them.

“They said, ‘If you come out, we’ll kill you,’” said Ikhlaq Hameed, 22, who escaped. Among the dead were two children, Musa, 6, and Umaya, 13.

The attack in this shabby town in central Pakistan — the culmination of several days of rioting over a claim that a Koran had been defiled — shows how precarious life is for the tiny Christian minority in Pakistan.

More than 100 Christian houses were burned and looted on Saturday in a rampage that lasted about eight hours by a crowd the authorities estimate was as large as 20,000 strong. In addition to the seven members of the Hameed family who were killed, about 20 people were wounded.

There are two press angles that I found interesting. One is the disparity between different reports. Not just that some media report eight deaths and some report seven. But the crowd size estimates range from a few hundred to 20,000. There are different stories about the Koran defilement claim — some say that area Muslims accused three Christian youth of burning pages from the Koran. Others said that a wedding party burned the Koran. Here’s what the Washington Post reported:

The conflict apparently began with a wedding. On the evening of July 25, a wedding procession for a Christian couple passed through the nearby village of Korian, according to a police report. Revelers danced and threw money in the air, as is local custom. In the morning, a resident told police he had picked up scraps of paper on the ground and found Arabic writing. “We examined them, and it was the pages from the holy Koran,” the man said in the report.

Four days later, the accused, a member of the wedding party named Talib Masih, faced a meeting of local elders, who demanded that he be punished. Instead of repenting, the report said, he denied the desecration, and as a result, “the whole Muslim population was enraged.” The house burning began that night and then quieted down until Saturday morning.

And then there are the different reports regarding who was responsible. The Times (U.K.) writes that it was “hundreds of armed supporters of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed Islamic militant group.” The New York Times has this:

Officials said a banned Sunni militant group, Sipah-e-Sohaba, was among those responsible for the attacks, the third convulsion of anti-Christian mob violence in the region in the past four weeks.

Sure, maybe it’s both — but each group was only named in one report. Neither group, of course, had its name translated into English — the same problem we had when Lashkar-e-Taiba was in the news. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is described here as a Wahabi Muslim terrorist organization affiliated with Al Qaeda. These are the folks who brutally killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and bombed a Protestant church in Islamabad (during a worship service) that same year. Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan is a Sunni Muslim group established to deter Shia Muslim influence. It was also known as the Army of the Friends of the Prophet when it was founded by a Sunni cleric.

Both the Washington Post story and the New York Times piece are excellent reads with a great deal of information. They’re also captivating — really well written. But there is one huge gaping hole in both of them and many of the other stories. Nowhere do we get the perspective of any of the Muslims who were involved in the violence. There are quotes from Christians saying that clerics had incited the mobs but we don’t hear from the clerics themselves or the people they preach to. Neither is there any or much perspective from Muslims who oppose the terrorism. If there were 20,000 people involved, surely we can talk to a few of them, no? It’s not that we don’t get some explanation of their motivation or how blasphemy laws in Pakistan encourage oppression of religious minorities, we just don’t hear from the people themselves.

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  • T Stanton

    Sure, maybe it’s both — but each group was only named in one report. Neither group, of course, had its name translated into English — the same problem we had when Lashkar-e-Taiba was in the news.

    NPR ran a story today about arrests in Australia of men who “traveled to Somalia in recent months to train with the extremist group al-Shabaab.”

    Again – no translation and very little discussion as to what the details (if any) of this extremist group’s agenda might be.

  • Julia

    What kind of Christians are the target in this event?

    Are they long-time Orthodox or Eastern Catholics? Are they recent converts? Have these people always lived in the colony? Are they forced to live in the colony if they convert? Lots of holes in the story.

    The motive could be different depending on who these Christians are; especially if they converted from Islam.
    Or are the Muslims angry at Christians because of the Christian Westerners in next-door Afghanistan?

  • danr

    Julia, indeed in much of the Islamic world where sharia law is observed, conversion to any other religion is punishable by at minimum being banished from the family, maximum death.

    But Pakistani law itself specifically states that blaspheming the Qur’an is punishable by death. In recent history, the mere rumor that any Christian spoke against the Qur’an or “tore pages” from it is enough to spark violent “retaliation” against apparently random Christians in known Christian neighborhoods. Distinctions between Orthodox/Catholic/Protestant and recent convert vs. longtime believer don’t seem to concern the attackers. This incident is merely one of the latest in a tragic – and increasing – trend of persecution against Christians in Pakistan and elsewhere.

    Of course, the sentiment that believers are aligned somehow with the hated “Christian West” certainly fans the flames of prejudice.

  • Jerry

    It’s worthwhile remembering that not so long ago Hindus and Muslims slaughtered each other in the millions. Sadly, that hatred is still very much alive today. Stories such as this one should always have that historical context.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    The Boston Globe had almost a completely different slant on this story. The tiny heading on their story implied that the Christians could have been the ones doing the killing. It went something like “Moslem-Christian Clash Leaves 7 Dead.” The story was put at the bottom of an inside page and was only 3 or 4 short paragraphs. Included in the mini-story was a line claiming that part of the cause for the clash was Christian gunfire at a peaceful Moslem procession.

  • henry

    Maybe Rick Warren would like to visit these peace loving Muslims.

  • Praful R Shah

    This is the peacefull Islam? What is the difference these people and animals? Pakistan is a hell on earth.

  • Julia

    I wonder about the use of blasphemy instead of an accusation of converting from Islam. These are probably Christians of long-standing and not converts. Why should we have to guess? Without addressing these issues the story is incomplete.

  • Ben

    Praful,

    I’ve now traveled to Pakistan seven times now and it’s not hell on earth. Yes, it does has problems with religious extremism. But it also has many, many wonderful, peaceful people — and quite a few who show tremendous courage in defying extremism.

  • Kinana

    There are probably relatively cooler places in hell too. I am glad Ben *8:17 a.m.) has found in Pakistan ‘many, many wonderful, peaceful people’ there but his comment should not deflect your readers from the hellish reality that exists in many parts of Pakistan.

    Technically, Christians are allowed to live under the rule of Islam as second class citizens but not as a right, only at the discretion of the Muslim rulers.

    ‘Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or payment of the Jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword – for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.’ Osama Bin Laden

    The Taliban in this instance probably feel that the rulers of Pakistan are not sufficiently zealous in their application of the Quranic principle to make non-Muslims feel subdued (Q 9:29). And in a time of war, such as the Taliban are fighting, they probably believe the harshness must increase (Q 9:123).

    ‘Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Q 9:29)

    And

    ‘…Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you…’ (Q 9:123)

  • Ben

    Kinana,

    You and I can agree that hell’s probably cooler than Pakistan in June. :-)

    What you are describing is some mythical Pakistan under Osama Bin Laden. The Pakistani constitution from the days of Jinnah isn’t quite as you suggest:

    20. Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions.
    Subject to law, public order and morality:-
    (a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion; and
    (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.

    That said, yeah, I’ve gone to a Christian enclave in Islamabad. I had a tip that Christians were being forced to pay Jizya, but after doing interviews there was nothing solid to the allegation. It did seem that at least this neighborhood of Christians — crammed into a ghetto obscured from sight by a wall — were possibly being harassed by overlords taking advantage of their uncertain land rights and minority status.

    Life in South Asia can be hard. Islamic extremism is a problem. I am merely saying don’t write off the whole country as a bunch of nut jobs.

  • Jim Lake

    Ben,
    are you a muslim? You seem to be good at Taquiya.

    The constitution you quote is of course over-ridden by later legislation, i.e. Section 295, described below.

    This section, with its evidence requirements, is a license to mobocracy and thuggish attacks on non-muslims on the slightest pretext, even for personal gain or a personal grudge – and all with impunity.

    I wonder if you would deign to be so gracious and philosophical if it were your family facing death. If you are so virtuously trying to set the record straight, then you should try gain publicity in the UK for all the attrocities happening in Pakistan, so people could wake up to what persection by Islam really means.
    ___________________________________________________
    Several sections of Pakistan’s Criminal Code comprise its blasphemy laws.[4] § 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object. § 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings. § 295-B forbids defiling the Quran. § 295-C forbids defaming Prophet Muhammad. Except for § 295-C, the provisions of § 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the accused’s intent. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life. Defaming Prophet Muhammad merits death with or without a fine. (See below Sharia.) If a charge is laid under § 295-C, the trial must take place in a Court of Session with a Muslim judge presiding.[5]

    § 298 states:

    Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
    § 298-A prohibits the use of any derogatory remark or representation in respect of Muslim holy personages. § 298-B and § 298-C prohibit the Ahmadiyya from behaving as Muslims behave, calling themselves Muslims, proselytizing, or “in any manner whatsoever” outraging the religious feelings of Muslims. Violation of any part of § 298 makes the violator liable to imprisonment for up to three years and liable also to a fine.

  • Ben

    Not a Muslim, am a Christian. I think the blasphemy laws are vile. All I am saying is so do a lot of Pakistanis — and I think that gets forgotten when people describe the country as hell on earth.

  • Kinana

    Ben

    June in Pakistan is worse than hell? Thanks for the warning!

    But seriously, if hell is where evil resides then parts of Pakistan resembles hell all year round. Just ask the families of those murdered by these Taliban Al Qaeda type thugs. I doubt that they would care to make sure that you and I are aware that some parts of Pakistan is full of ‘many, many wonderful, peaceful people’. I am sure you know that this story is just one of many that could be told about life for non-Muslims, women etc in areas controlled by Taliban Al Qaeda type thugs/Muslims – inspired and motivated by the teachings of Islam.

    To try to be precise, I agree with you that there are nice and wonderful people in parts of Pakistan and indeed everywhere (except in Hell!). I imagine the victims of the soldiers of Allah in Pakistan are wondering what those ‘many wonderful, peaceful people’ are doing to help them. Why aren’t those ‘many wonderful, peaceful people’ actually placing their bodies between themselves and these particular followers of Mohammed.

    You take issue with Praful who said ‘Pakistan is a hell on earth.’ In the context of this story of terror, murder, and destruction you want to argue geography! My response was a reaction to the seeming triteness of your reprimand to Praful.

    You say I am describing some ‘mythical Pakistan’. Astonishing. I did no such thing. I spoke about ‘the hellish reality that exists in many parts of Pakistan.’ Do you deny that the stories in this thread are true? This sort of event has often happened in the past and is what actually happened recently and is going to happen again and again and again. What is ‘mythical’ about this reality?

    Neither did I suggest anything about the constitution of Pakistan. I spoke only about the ruling Taliban Al Qaeda type thugs/Muslims in parts of Pakistan. They have their own constitution and roll-model. It is the Quran and Mohammed.

    I agree that no individual should not be written off simply because they live in a failed or failing State such as Pakistan. And within the context of this thread I do not think Praful did either. But if more and more of Pakistan is getting closer ‘to hell on earth’ it is because of the growing confidence and capabilities of the faithful adherents of Islam. And when they get control of the nuclear weapons the geography of hell will expand.

  • http://www.compassdirect.org Jeff M. Sellers

    If it’s the Muslim perspective Mollie wants to see, she can go to Compass Direct News’ Aug. 1 story, “Christians Burned to Death in Islamist Attacks in Pakistan.”

    Our reporter took considerable risk in approaching the Islamist mob in Korian the day after attacks there to get their comments. The threat they left him with there is probably one reason more journalists don’t interview Muslims in volatile situations. Another reason is that interviewing Muslim extremists about their crimes can further turn them against area Christians who have to live alongside them.


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