Huge bounty put on his head by a local Muslim man
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
MANDI BAHAUDIN, PAKISTAN (ANS – May 13, 2016) — A Christian man in his twenties was accused of blasphemy while at his workplace on Friday, April 15, 2016.
He is Imran Masih, a sweeper employed at the district hospital near his town in Chak 44, Mandi Bahaudin, a city in central Punjab, Pakistan, which is also the capital of Mandi Bahauddin District.
According to the British Pakistan Christian Association (BPCA), Masih “had a very close friendship with a Muslim girl also employed at the hospital.” The BPCA story went on to say, “Many Muslim men were uncomfortable with his close relationship with a Muslim woman and warned him not to get too close to her. However, the two of them simply fell in love.”
On the day of the incident, Imran travelled to a medical store where his friend, M. Bilal, worked and there he shared his love story with him. Thinking he could trust him, he then showed his “friend” the images of his beautiful girlfriend on his mobile phone.
Imran was then called away to do some cleaning by someone and, in his rush, he left his phone behind to be charged with his so-called friend, and he then started check Masih’s phone, and when he returned, he found his Bilal’s attitude had completely changed.
As he walked through the door, Bilal began attacking him and shouting expletives, and also began calling him a “blasphemer.”
Bemused by what was happening, Bilal then showed Imran a video of a western apologist who, he said, was saying blasphemous comments about the Prophet Muhammed that he said he had found on the while trawling through his Facebook pages.
Area Christians said he is an illiterate man with no knowledge of the Internet, so couldn’t have known of some of the content on his mobile phone.
The BPCA story went on to say that Imran tried to “calm the situation” by explaining that the offensive material had been put up by a foreign [Christian] minister and “was nothing to do with him.”
Two other men were then called to the scene by Bilal — Muhammed Anayat and Muhammed Saleem – and they then all accused Imran of having insulted the prophet and the Koran (the Islamic Holy Book).
“The three men started to beat Imran severely which resulted in a number of people arriving to stop the melee,” continued the story. “The duty doctor was called to the scene of the violence and to calm things he asked Imran to smash his phone and ask for forgiveness. Imran did this and at this stage it seemed that the anger had dissipated.
“Despite never having seen the video, Imran fled home and then went to stay with a relative until things had calmed down. However, the incensed and crazed colleagues continued to foment hatred towards Imran by telling friends and colleagues their version of the blasphemy incident.”
Eventually after several meetings with community leaders and local Imams [Islamic religious leaders], it was decided that a fatwa [Islamic religious ruling, a scholarly opinion on a matter of Islamic law], would be registered against Imran Masih and a mob set out to attack Imran and his family and other Christians for the alleged blasphemy.”
Then, on May 7th, local imams started to preach hatred to local Christians over their public address system. The resulting hysteria led to a mass mob in excess of 1,000 gathering outside the Christian enclave where many local believers lived.
“In complete fear, many Christian families called the Police and they responded well,” said BPCA. “Within minutes, fully armed riot police came to the rescue of the seriously frightened families. For a few hours, a standoff occurred, but after the threat of use of their weapons the mob disappeared and the Christian community gave a huge sigh of relief.”
The latest news is the family of Imran Masih has all gone into hiding, however local Imams have attempted to level charges of a blasphemy against Imran and his family. They are threatening the community with “an attack unless Imran is brought to justice.”
According to local Christians, the police so far are providing protection, but a “great fear exists.” The local Imam is asking for Imran, and his family, to be handed to them, or for the whole Christian community of 45 families to convert to Islam.
No extra protection has been provided to the community since the initial police intervention and threats of violence including the torching of the community after Friday prayers, have created extreme anxiety. A local Muslim man Irshad Jhakar has announced a bounty of 1000,000 rupees ($14,852USD) for the killing of Imran Masih.
The BPCA’s local officer Naveed Masih, has visited Yaqoob Masih, a local politician from the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-N, and local residents Faryaz Masih and Ishaq Masih, after the mob had dispersed.
He said: “People are extremely frightened and Muslims have stopped trading with Christians and ignore and abuse them. Threats have been received by several people that the community will be attacked and many of the 300 Christian villagers have already left their homes to stay with relatives.
“Those that have bravely stayed behind, are totally demoralized and terrified, while those that have left fear that all their property will be looted. Christian leaders have been told they must bring Imran to the Imams so he can be burned alive, or face being torched themselves. This is a community that is bereft of hope.”
Wilson Chowdhry, Founder and Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, told ANS: “This latest attack, though initially thwarted by police, is an example of how easy it is for Muslim friends of Christians to turn against them. It would seem that a petty jealousy or vengeance over the love of a Muslim girl for an untouchable Christian has once again become a trigger for a violent mob.
“Sadly, a terrorized community will have to undergo a period of huge instability and anxiety due to the fomenting of hatred of local mosques, a practice that is allowed to cause division unfettered.”
Morning Star News (http://morningstarnews.org) is now reporting that Muslim shopkeepers in the area are now denying Christians basic, everyday items, making their lives even more miserable, he said, and Christians are being pressured to renounce their faith or leave.
“Some local Muslim landowners are eyeing this as an opportunity to force us out of the village so that they can grab our homes,” said one Christian. “We have been living among the Muslims for over 70 years. We work for them as bonded labor, use our hands to remove dung and filth and cultivate their lands, and this is how they repay our years of service – by forcing us out of our village.”
BPCA is contacting the family to offer a safe house and legal support for them. Their work in Pakistan relies upon donations and if you would like to contribute to its work, please donate using this link: https://britishpakistanichristians.worldsecuresystems.com/donate.
Photo captions: 1) Local Politician Yaqoob Masih with his family and BPCA’s Naveed Aziz. 2) Young Pakistani boy joins protest against blasphemy laws and violence against Christians. 3) Pakistani Christians praying for peace. 4) Dan Wooding outside his Southern California home with his BPCA award.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books. Dan has a radio show and two TV shows, all based in Southern California. He has been bestowed a special award by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) for his long-standing reporting on the persecution of Pakistani Christians.
*** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).