By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ISLAMABAD (Worthy News) – An illiterate Christian widow has been jailed in Pakistan’s Punjab province for accidentally burning verses of the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims, several Christian sources told Worthy News.
Musrat Bibi was detained April 19th after girl students allegedly saw her burning garbage that included pages with Koranic verses at the school where she worked, according to sources familiar with the case.
The incident happened on April 15th in the town of Arifwala at the Chak No. 66 Government School, confirmed lawyer Farooq Bashir who defends the woman.
In statements obtained by Worthy News, he recalled that the school leadership ordered her “to clean the school’s storeroom.
“The girls saw that in the burning garbage were pages with Koranic verses written on them, probably torn pages of a book on Islam. Then these students and residents raised noise. They gathered and protested.”
Bashir vehemently denied that the Christian widow willfully torched the Koranic pages. “She is a Christian woman but not literate or [highly] educated. She did not even know what was written on these pages. So why are these people arrogant?” he wondered.
He said before she was asked to clean up garbage, Bibi had been working in the school cafeteria established by her late husband, a teacher. “After her husband passed away, she got a job in the school cafeteria. But she barely makes enough money to effort three meals a day,” he said.
NO BLASPHEMY INTENDED
Despite evidence she hadn’t intended blasphemy against Islam, the widow, who has three daughters, was detained by police last Wednesday after complaints, Bashir said in comments obtained by Worthy News. “She was arrested and put in jail,” Bashir added.
It was not immediately clear when and if a trial would take place. However, under Pakistan’s controversial legislation, blasphemy against Islam or its Prophet Muhammad could carry the death penalty.
Several Christians have been jailed and even killed by angry Muslims on what critics view as trumped-up blasphemy charges.
“Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws target religious minorities (including Muslim minorities), but affect the Christian minority in particular,” noted advocacy group Open Doors.
“Roughly roughly a quarter of all blasphemy accusations target Christians, who only make up 1.8 percent of the population. The number of blasphemy cases is increasing, as is the number of Christian (and other minority religions) girls being abducted, abused, and forcibly converted to Islam,” the group added.
The widow’s imprisonment and the previous ill-treatment she allegedly endured also underscored broader discrimination of minority Christians reported by Open Doors. “Christians in Pakistan are considered second-class citizens and face discrimination in every aspect of life. Jobs that are seen as low, dirty, and degrading are reserved for Christians by the authorities, who continue to push them to the margins of society,” the group said.
Open Doors stressed that Christians endure a “lack of proper political representation. Although there were no major attacks against churches last year, there are almost constant attacks against individuals. Many do not feel safe to worship freely.”
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