Pakistani Christian Barber Severely Beaten for Shaving Muslim's Beard

SARGODHA, Pakistan (Compass Direct News) – A Christian barber in this Punjab Province city is still recovering from broken bones and other injuries sustained earlier this month after eight Muslims allegedly beat and sodomized him for cutting the beard of a Muslim.

Marwat Masih, 29, initially refused the request of 19-year-old Qandeel Cheema to cut his beard in Sargodha's Gulshan-e-Bashir town on April 13, knowing that area Sunni Muslims believe the Quran prohibits it. But Cheema, a high school student, told Masih that he had lived and studied in Lahore and therefore wanted a more modern look, the bed-ridden and feeble Masih told Compass.

"I refused to shave his beard, but he showed me his packed bags and said that he would leave the town straight after the shave, and so no one would ever know that I had shaved his beard," Masih said.

Eyewitnesses told Compass that as Masih was cutting Cheema's beard, the client's older brother – local radical Muslim land owner Shakeel Cheema – was returning by tractor from his fields and, noting the family Jeep in front of the Marwat Hair Stylist shop, stopped in.

"When Shakeel Cheema saw me shaving his younger brother's beard, he became angry and started vandalizing mirrors, the sound system and chairs, and he desecrated a wooden cross perched on the top of the front mirrors," Masih said. "He also started beating my head with his shoes."

Eyewitnesses told Compass that Shakeel Cheema shouted orders to his companions to tie Masih up and throw him into the wagon attached to his tractor, and that he ordered his younger brother to leave for Lahore at once.

Masih said that he was blindfolded with a black cloth and taken to an unknown place where he was locked in a room. An hour later, Shakeel Cheema and seven others arrived and began striking him with clubs, breaking his ribs, a wrist and leg bones.

"Shakeel Cheema said, 'Now we are going to teach you a real lesson for shaving the beard of a Muslim man," Masih said, and after a long, pained pause he related how Cheema and the seven others sodomized him. "I started bleeding and fell unconscious."

His father, Laal Masih, older brother Hassrat Masih and other relatives had begun searching for him, and after midnight that night they found him lying half-naked and unconscious off the main street of Gulshan-e-Bashir town, his father told Compass. They immediately took him to Rural Health Centre, where doctors kept him under observation for two days and treated him for internal bleeding and the broken ribs, leg bones and wrist.

"We submitted an application to the Saddr police twice, but they took no action against Shakeel Cheema and his accomplices," Laal Masih said. The family is appealing to Christian ministers and parliamentarians for assistance.

Still receiving threats of harm if they do not leave the area, family members also said they cannot afford the fees of a standard physician and have resorted to help from lesser trained doctors.

Police have refused to file a First Information Report against Cheema and his accomplices, who all remained at large at press time.

A shopkeeper next to Masih's barbershop told Compass that the barber deserved the abuse.

"He deserves such punishment, as he did something that is forbidden according to the teaching of the Quran and the sunna [arabic word for the sayings or habits of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam]," said Muhammad Maqsood, who has a long, white beard. "Marwat Masih paid for his crime."

Masih's 36-year-old brother Hassrat Masih emphasized that Gulshan-e-Bashir town is inhabited mainly by radical Muslims.

"Therefore, almost all of them are against shaving, especially the beard," Hassrat Masih said. "Having a beard is seen as holy practice because it is a standard prescribed for all Muslims in the sunna, or teachings or actions of the prophet of Islam."