May 17, 2016

Where Islam Reigns, Justice is Perverted

Post by Brittany Tedesco

Flag of Pakistan

They're poor and illiterate, and couldn't even afford a mat on which to sleep. So the Pakistani Christian couple slept on an old sign, which advertised various universities, that they'd found in their village. Little did they know, the sign also contained a verse from the Quran.

It wasn't long before a neighbor reported their "act of blasphemy." Soon, Islamic leaders were announcing the couple's crime at the local mosque, stirring up outrage among fellow Muslims.

Hundreds pounced on the couple, beating them and dragging the husband through the streets. They were out for blood.

They would've killed the couple if the police hadn't stepped in, which was an utter miracle as police in Pakistan typically allow or are complicit in such acts of violence against Christians and other minority groups.

Pakistani women walking with water jugs on head.

This incident happened last year. It's the kind of thing that gets lost in the vortex of news—just a tiny blip on select radar screens. Blink and you'll miss it.

I read about it in a Morning Star News article on my way to an event on religious persecution, where the husband and daughter of Asia Bibi were slated to speak.

You might've heard of Asia Bibi. She's famous for a very unfortunate reason—she's the first Christian woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy. Her crime? Drinking from the same water container as the Muslim women with whom she was working.

Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, sits on death row in Pakistan

Before she was arrested and imprisoned, in 2009, a mob of Muslims attacked and beat her. They tried to force her to convert to Islam, but she refused. She's been in prison ever since.

Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was sympathetic to Asia's case. He was assassinated by his own body guard, who was hailed as a hero among thousands of Muslims for defending the honor of Islam. Federal Minister of Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, also spoke out in support of Asia. He too was murdered. A Christian man, Bhatti stated, "I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of the cross. I am living for my community and suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights."

My blood started boiling as I reviewed several other bogus blasphemy cases in Pakistan. In 2014, a Christian couple who worked at a brick kiln were accused of discarding pages of the Quran. A mob of Muslims descended upon them, murdering them and throwing their bodies into the kiln.

Last year, after a mentally challenged man was accused of setting fire to pages with verses from the Quran on them, Muslims started destroying the homes of Christians who lived nearby. Hundreds of Christians fled. They know how this goes. In 2013, more than 100 homes were burned after someone was accused of disrespecting the prophet Muhammad.

In Pakistan, there are actual blasphemy laws that criminalize things like "acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class of citizens." This "crime" can land you up to 10 years in prison. Insulting Muhammad or defiling the Quran can earn you death or a life sentence in prison, respectively.

Young girl writing

And now for the real kicker: According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), "Accusers are not required to present any evidence that blasphemy occurred, which leads to abuse, including false accusations."

A Pakistani ministry leader informed me that he knows of 35 Christians currently in prison on charges of blasphemy. A higher number of Muslims sit in prison on blasphemy charges because this law is used vindictively in personal disputes.

Hear ye, hear ye, all you lovers of justice: where Islam reigns, justice is perverted. This religion oppresses the poor and the illiterate. Minorities, such as Christians (who comprise less than 2% of Pakistan's population), are at the bottom of the socio-economic strata. They're easy prey.

The USCIRF reported that, on average, 1,000 girls—most under the age of 18—are "converted to Islam each year, mostly through forced marriages or bonded labor."

That's nicey-nice language for how these "conversions" happen. The ministry leader gave me the low-down. A "forced marriage" typically occurs after a Muslim man has attacked and raped a Christian girl. He then threatens her family with shame—or worse—if she will not marry him and convert to Islam.

This type of thing can happen anywhere, but it often happens inside homes where Christian girls work as servants.

Young woman wearing head covering

Violence against Christians around the world has reached an all-time high, according to Open Doors. Numbers have almost doubled each year. What's behind this persecution? The answer, in 35 out of the top 50 countries on Open Doors' World Watch List, is Islamic extremism.

Islamic extremism has ramped up significantly in Pakistan during the last 10 to 15 years.

Why is this happening? One need not look further than Pakistani public schools.

The USCIRF conducted a study on public school textbooks in Pakistan, which reach 41 million children, and concluded, "public school students are being taught that religious minorities, especially Christians and Hindus, are nefarious, violent, and tyrannical by nature. There is a tragic irony in these accusations, because Christians and Hindus in Pakistan face daily persecution, are common victims of crime, and are frequent targets of deadly communal violence, vigilantism, and collective punishment."

Equally disturbing is the glorification of jihad. One grade 9 textbook states, "Jihad in Islam means making efforts for preeminence of truth by all means of sacrificing one's financial, physical and mental capabilities for the sake of Allah, Even one should not hesitate to sacrifice lives of their family, relatives, and friends."

These words are found in a grade 8 textbook: "as a student if you cannot practically participate in Jihad you can at least financially help in preparation of Jihad."

South Asian children

Can we really wonder at the violent attacks we hear about in Pakistan? Like the 2014 attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 141 people, 132 of whom were children. . . or when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a group of Christian children playing in a park last Easter Sunday, killing 74 people.

In reading the Bible, we learn that God hates the perversion of justice. Wherever Islam is being taught, however, justice is being perverted.

So what can we do? How can we champion justice for the oppressed?

We can pray for the release of Asia Bibi and others imprisoned on bogus charges of blasphemy. We can also pray that Pakistan will do away with its blasphemy laws.

We can give toward Christian education in Pakistan. Education goes a long way to elevate the status of those at the bottom of the socio-economic strata. Literate Christians are more easily able to obtain jobs and command a higher level of respect than those who are poor. Likewise, they aren't as easily targeted by Islamic extremists who would make false accusations against them. Christian Aid Mission is helping multiple ministries in South Asia that are providing Christian education to both Christian and Muslim children.

Lastly, we can spread the word to let others know what's going on in countries like Pakistan, so they too can stand up for the poor and oppressed—who just happen to be our brothers and sisters.

William - posted May 20, 2016
We must help God's children around the world.
Frank - posted May 19, 2016
It is time that those of us who profess Christ in the western hemisphere stand up for our brothers and sisters around the world or see it come to our countries. God is not pleased with our lack of concern or care.