Tag Archives: Shantinagar

Death by a thousand cuts

By Farahnaz Ispahani

After each act of violence against religious minorities, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Sipah-e-Sahaba proudly own up to it without fear of punishment

The recent mob attack on Christians in Lahore, resulting in the burning down of over one hundred Christian homes while the police stood by, is a reminder of how unsafe Pakistan has become for religious minorities. The attacks on Christians follows a rising tide of attacks on Pakistan’s Shia Muslims, sometimes mischaracterised in the media as the product of sectarian conflict. In reality, these increasingly ferocious attacks reflect the ambitious project of Islamists to purify Pakistan, making it a bastion of a narrow version of Islam Sunni. Pakistan literally translates as “the land of the pure”. But, what started in an imperceptible way as early as the 1940s, picking up momentum in the 1990s, is a drive to transform Pakistan into a land of religious purification.

Muslim groups such as the Shias that account for possibly 20-25% of Pakistan’s Muslim population and Non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been target-killed, forcibly converted, kidnapped and had their religious places bombed and vandalised with alarming regularity. At the time of partition in 1947, Pakistan had a healthy 23% of its population comprise non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately three per cent. The distinctions among Muslim denominations have also become far more accentuated over the years.

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Cries for a lost home(land)

By Xari Jalil

LAHORE, March 9: “Burn us too!” wails a woman, her hands repeatedly hitting her head. “Did they leave us alive to see all this?” Her tears stream down her face and her nose is red and swollen. In one of the doorways, a mother and son stand hugging each other and weeping as if someone has just died. “They took everything from us…” sobs the boy. “Those robbers took everything we had worked hard for.”

Not many of the homes in Joseph Colony are left intact. They are now skeletons, empty shells, housing nothing but ashes.

The Christian families, who had been shifted one night ago for ‘safety’ as the police told them, only came the next day to find out that all of their belongings and all their assets – in fact everything that they owned had been ransacked, robbed, and the rest mercilessly burnt to the ground. All because one man from among them was accused under Section 295-C: an accusation which has not been proved.

While the police remain guarded, only carefully revealing any kind of information to the media, and the Muslim community prefer to remain mute, the Christians are ablaze with fury.

“There are about 250 families in total,” says Aslam Masih. “Each family has faced a loss of about Rs0.8 to Rs0.9 million, and this figure is the lowest I am talking about.”

Mariam Bibi stands in her doorway peering inside. She cannot step inside because the ashes are still white and burning, and acrid, black smoke fumes out angrily.

“We saved every penny to collect for my daughter’s dowry,” she sobs. “In one night they have left us homeless and out on the streets. Where will we sleep now?”

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Some misconceptions about Badami Bagh

By Omar

Today a charged mob” set fire to about 150 poor Christian homes in Badami Bagh Lahore. see pictures here.

The order of events was pretty standard.
Wednesday: A Christian sanitary worker (yes, they clean gutters and sweep roads) argued with a Muslim Barber at a snooker game. At some point after this he accused the Christian of having blasphemed he who must not be named.

Friday: “Enraged Muslims” marched into Joseph colony looking for the blasphemer. They beat up his father (age 65, very much in the “beatable” age group) and did some property damage. Police arrested the accused that night. They also advised the local Christians to clear out since more “rage” may be on its way.

Saturday: Thanks to the timely efforts of the Punjab police, no Christians were home when the rage returned on Saturday. 178 houses were burnt, as was one church. No one was killed since no one was there.

Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif has suspended the local police officers and promised to rebuild the houses. He has also said the trial of the blasphemy accused will be held in prison and it is looking possible that the trial will be quick and he may be set free (unlike Aasia bibi, who remains in prison).

“Civil society” has reacted with outrage and the President and the PM have condemned this outrage. Most of the outrage is probably genuine. But I noticed some common misconceptions too.

1. This outrage is new and shocking and marks a “further deterioration” in how things are done in the Islamic Republic….In this case, NOT true. This event is small scale compared to the assault on Shantinagar in 1997.

There have been many other blasphemy accusations and mobs between then and now. The outrage is outrageous, but neither new nor out of proportion to “usual practice”.

2. The mobs are led by misunderstanders of Islam. Actually the mobs are led by people who know what they are doing with remarkable clarity. Blasphemy and apostasy memes (memes, not laws…no law is needed if the meme is firmly in place, since they allow for freelance action) are the twin pillars on which Islamism is built. See here for details. 

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