The alleged burning of pages from the Quran has Pakistani Christians living in fear of an attack on their lives and beliefs.
Khuram Masih, a 23-year-old Christian man, has been charged with desecrating the Quran in Pakistan. Pakistan police officials took Masih into custody under the country's laws pertaining to blasphemy.
Police in Shahdara Town, near Lahore, arrested Masih on Dec. 5 and charged him under Section 295-B. Masih's attorneys went on to state that his landlord, Zulfiqar Ali, accused him of burning pages of the Quran in order to prepare tea.
Section 295-B deems willful desecration of the Quran or use of an extract in a derogatory manner punishable with life imprisonment.
One of Ali’s tenants and a neighbor of Masih also told the landlord that he had seen Masih and his wife Bano burning the pages of the Quran to make tea. Mian Shafqat, officer in charge of the investigation, said that police had seized the allegedly burned pages from the "scene of the crime" and that police had proven Masih had indeed burned them.
Other Muslim's in the ensuing area soon became aware of this incident, according to the First Information Report (FIR). Soon, a crowd of Muslims gathered near Masih’s house and started shouting slogans against the Christian family inside. Muslim leaders from nearby mosques later called for Masih and his wife to receive severe punishment.
Christian rights activist Khalid Shahzad spoke to Compass about the hardships Christians are facing due to this case. "Panic among Christians spread after announcements were made from mosques, and several people left their houses anticipating violence," he said.
"Thank God the situation normalized in a couple of days, although we have strictly forbidden our boys from standing in groups outside their homes or in streets and from reacting on unconfirmed reports," he continued. However, Christians in the area still fear potential attacks from Muslim followers.
Masih later told his attorneys he was falsely accused of this blasphemous crime.
"The charges are completely fabricated. Ali has accused me of burning pages of a Quranic booklet that had been [later] placed in a cavity in the wall [to keep them from touching the floor], while the truth is that the walls of our room and courtyard are cemented, and there’s no hole or cavity where the pages could have been placed," Masih stated.
Ali stated in the FIR report that he later realized Bano, Masih’s wife, had no role in the incident, as she was sleeping while he prepared the tea. Police released her after questioning. Masih and his wife, a convert from Hinduism, have been living alongside five other families for the past few months.
Masih appeared in court on Dec. 24, but the judge was not present. A trial date is now scheduled for Jan. 7, with a bail hearing set for Jan. 3.
A commenter, "1BethelPlace1," spoke on the issue of persecution on Charisma News' website. "This type of persecution is common, from Vietnam to China to Egypt to Pakistan and India. False accusations are and have been the tool of Satan from Genesis thru Revelation and the history of time."
Adding, "This is one reason we here in America must be careful of what we speak about others, since lies, slander and fear mongering align us with the enemy of our souls, not with the Savior of our souls."