Pakistani Christians Protest Sale of 'Insulting' Shoes With Cross Emblem

Social unrest in Pakistan took a new shape Thursday, as over 3,000 Christians staged an angry protest in which they burned tires on the street and chanted anti-government slogans in Lahore, as a sign of discontent with a line of shoes featuring the symbol of the cross, local media reported.

The crowd protested what the local community sees as a provocation that disrupts the harmony between local Christians and Muslims communities. The fire-starter for the upheaval was a store which sold shoes imprinted with crosses and other Christian symbols. Many participants reportedly expressed it was not fair that authorities took no action against that desecration of a Christian symbol, while many Christians were suffering severe consequences for alleged blasphemy against Islam.

The demonstrators included members of the local Christian community as well as some Muslim participants, according to reports. The crowd wore black armbands and headbands, chanted anti-government slogans and burned tires on the road until quieted down by pastors singing hymns, Eurasia Review reported.

The store's owner was previously arrested on Nov. 26 and 1,200 pairs of the shoes were confiscated, but the man was freed after three days, according to the Pakistan Daily Times.

“This is no drama. Our Christian identity has been insulted as Christmas approaches,” the president of the Pakistan Minorities Movement (PMM) told Eurasia News. The protest was organized by the PMM and staged outside the Lahore Press Club and the U.S. Consulate.

The PMM has also reportedly demanded the re-arrest of the shopkeeper, while threatening with further unrest.

Pakistani Christians are often faced with violence from extremist Muslims. In Pakistan, which is 97 percent Muslim, Christians are still subjected to Shariah, or Islamic, law and are often accused of blasphemy.

The blasphemy law is one of the most controversial laws in Pakistan, as it is often used to persecute religious minorities, Jonathan Racho, the Regional Manager for South Asia at the International Christian Concern (ICC), an advocacy group, told The Christian Post in September. Blasphemy against the the prophet Muhammad can even result in a death sentence, while offending the Quran can be punished with a lifetime prison sentence.