‘No compulsion in religion’: ‘One should be able to choose their religion’

Published: July 26, 2012

They ‘converted’ to get married then reverted to Christianity and have now been on the run for six years. DESIGN: TARIQ GILANI

LAHORE: 

A Christian couple from Ichhra have been on the run for six years after facing threats from Muslim neighbours who would not let them rever to Christianity after embracing Islam.

Imran James and Nazia Masih had ‘embraced’ Islam on April 27, 2006, taking on the Muslim names Sameer Ali and Ayesha Bibi respectively but later reverted to Christianity. James explained to The Tribune in June that in converting they had only wanted to get married. He said, “[We] embraced Islam only to protect ourselves from any legal action [that my wife’s family might have taken]. I was never serious about practicing.”

The nikah took place on May 10 the same year. One of the formal witnesses was James’ Muslim friend, Muhammad Atique – according to James, has been threatening them on learning that they have reverted to Christianity. James says that Atique had twice abducted, detained and tortured him. Once, he said, Atique had forced his way into their house and also “beaten” Nazia Masih. “[One] should have the freedom to choose the religion one wishes to follow,” James said.

Trouble started early. James says after the nikah, he and his wife started living with his family. He recalls that several neighbours objected to their sharing crockery and cutlery with Christians – James’ parents. James would tell them they had separate crockery and cutlery. But when the couple had two daughters, covering up became more difficult. Atique and some neighbours started demanding that James send his daughters to the mosque for Quran lessons. When he refused, things got so bad that the family had to leave their house in Chowk Baba Azam, Ichhra and shifted to a place near Bank Stop, Chungi Amar Sidhu. However, Atique and some others traced them to their new address and demanded that they convert back to Islam. The family had to leave that house too and rented a house in Youhanabad. They then went back to their Ichhra home for a while before shifting to an undisclosed location.

James’ mother, Parveen James, had told The Express Tribune in June that she was “tired” [of all the running and hiding] and did not know what to do. The men, she said, had followed her husband – a sweeper at the Government Takia Dehri Shah School – and told him the entire family should convert to Islam.

Relatives of the family told The Express Tribune that once the family had gone into hiding, Atique had started harassing and threatening them with “dire consequences” if they did not tell him where the family had shifted to.

Rizwan Sajjad, a cousin of James, claimed on July 22 his father Sajjad Raza Patras had received several calls from Atique who asked him to reveal where James was “or be ready to face the consequences”. Sajjad says he has filed an application with the CCPO’s office, asking for protection for his family and the registration of an FIR against Atique. The application has been referred to the Model Town police station. “I have recorded my statement,” he said, “but the police are yet to register an FIR.”

The duty officer at the Model Town station confirmed that they had received the application, “We are investigating the complaint and will register an FIR after it is completed.”

Danish Inayat, another cousin of James, has lodged an FIR at Nishtar Colony police station against two unidentified people for breaking into his house in Yohanabad on July 6 and trying to abduct him. When he raised an alarm, said Inayat, one of the men started firing. Inayat’s sister, Aneeqa Irfan, and brother-in-law Irfan Masih were hit. He said the men wore masks.

His father, Inayat Masih, said they suspected the assailants were “the same people who forced my nephew and his wife to go underground.”

Asked if he had indeed been harassing James and his family Atique was frank and blunt. “We have harassed the family, are harassing the family and will [continue] to harass them,” he said. Atique described James’ reversion to Christianity as “an insult” to Islam. He told The Tribune that he had been “trying to make them [James and Nazia Masih] mend their ways”.  “Though I am not a devout Muslim – I don’t pray five times a day – it is my duty to bring them back to Islam,” Atique said over the phone. “I have no extensive religious education [but even I know that] once a person embraces Islam, there is no way out for him,” he said. Atique, however, denied attacking Inayat’s family. He said, “If I were to attack James’ relatives, I would not hide my face.”

Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan chairman Aslam Parvaiz Sahotra, said Muslim scholars should issue an edict against such hardliners who are “bringing a bad name to Islam”. He said no one could be forced to embrace Islam.

James said that anyone unhappy with to their reversion to Christianity should take a complaint to the authorities.

Lawyer Aftab Ahmad Bajwa told The Tribune that there was no provision in the Pakistan Penal Code dealing with a Muslim converting to another religion. Asked if there was any section in the PPC, which dealt with pretending to be a Muslim while one was not, he said 298-C could be applied to such instances. The said section reads: “Any person of the Qadiyani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), who directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam… shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”

Ziaul Haq Naqshbandi of the Tehreek-i-Namoos-i-Risalat Mohammadi, said that if a Muslim changes his religion, he becomes a “murtad” and should be punished with death. He, however, said that state alone could take action against such people.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2012.

Reader Comments (42)

  • immooo
    Jul 26, 2012 - 2:15AM

    Good for the liar.

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  • Mj
    Jul 26, 2012 - 4:02AM

    No different from the mafia, really. Once you’re in…

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  • Bobby
    Jul 26, 2012 - 4:14AM

    Seriously, and Muslims wonder why the world is horrified by Islam.

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  • AnisAqeel
    Jul 26, 2012 - 4:58AM

    When there is matter of theft, corruption, rape, murder, bribe and list goes on and on and on and we practice modern day living otherwise where our mullah’s business is concerned we live in fifteenth century era.
    No compulsion in religion but for “Qadiyani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), who directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam… shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”
    How much ashamed I am for contradicting the teachings of Islam right through our constitution just to please some shouting mullahs and for getting political favors and of course some oil money!!!

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  • Mj
    Jul 26, 2012 - 5:51AM

    Imagine if the same treatment was meted out to any converts to Islam, not just in Pakistan, but in Europe, America, Africa, Middle East and East Asia. There would be (justifiable) uproar, and yet there is almost no condemnation for the prevalent persecution of people who convert away from Islam. This is the 21st century, and fairness and justice demands that a person be able to chose his or her faith with peace or drop it if they so choose.

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  • QASIM
    Jul 26, 2012 - 5:58AM

    Islam do not need any enemy,the people like ATIQUE are enough.

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  • Jul 26, 2012 - 8:57AM

    “Though I am not a devout Muslim – I
    don’t pray five times a day – it is my
    duty to bring them back to Islam,”
    Atique said over the phone.

    ^This very mindset of the people needs to be changed for the progress of Islam.

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  • Awans
    Jul 26, 2012 - 10:39AM

    Why that guy use religion to get married to a girl. Mocking Any religion in this manner should not be allowed. Every religion have some sanctity and one must respect it at all costs.

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  • labeeb
    Jul 26, 2012 - 10:54AM

    Well when Islam says there is no compulsion in religion (mentioned in Quran) who are these Mullhas to stop anyone. These Mullahs should not be regarded as representing true Islam.To know about Islam read Quran yourself. Recommend

  • saleem
    Jul 26, 2012 - 11:36AM

    Why doesnt someone beat up Atique and his gang

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  • Hassan K Bajwa
    Jul 26, 2012 - 11:54AM

    I cannot do anything but laugh at the ridiculous people who consider it a mark of “strength” to keep people in a religion by threats, violence and murder.
    Only the weakest faith requires such barbaric behavior. What supporters of this nonsense law do not realize is that by their actions they are portraying Islam as a weak, petty and insecure religion.
    Think about it this way. Somebody comes to your house and you invite him in and he says he wishes to live under your roof. After a few weeks he decides he no longer wants to part of your community. Keeping him there by force would simply amount to abduction and wrongful imprisonment.
    It is the same with those who wish to keep people “muslim” by force (never mind that Islam is found in the HEART of the believer and by force one can only change the OUTSIDE, but never the HEART). Bullying people who do not wish to remain muslim and preventing them from leaving the faith is nothing less than spiritual abduction.
    Surely no right-minded muslim can consider that a right thing to do.

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  • Munna
    Jul 26, 2012 - 12:14PM

    Why did this fraud Christian couple convert to Islam just to marry each other ? why did they misuse Islam ?

    the christian couple should be punished for their fake conversation to Islam, just for their personal financial and legal gains.

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  • Atheist
    Jul 26, 2012 - 12:40PM

    This is precisely why I could never be a Muslim by heart. Forceful conversions is the true face of Islam.

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  • Mir
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:13PM

    Forceful conversions as well as keeping the population ignorant. Will not last long in todays world.

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  • EEA
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:18PM

    @Atheist:
    Wrong…If you fail to observe the true face, don’t blame the religion. Go and see how many people convert to Islam in Europe and America…Go and check how many people have converted in peace conference held in Dubai….Go and check how many people have converted on hands of people like Dr Zakir Naik, Yousuf Estes..

    I’d also request ET to report these kinds of conversions…

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  • sohaib
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:24PM

    If they converted for convenience, then that is dishonesty.

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  • sohaib
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:25PM

    If they converted for convenience, then that is dishonesty. In some intriguing way, Tribune only brings stories that malign islam.

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  • SouthEastAsian
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:31PM

    There is no other religion in the world that threatens its practitioners with death if they convert. Ridiculous and totally unacceptable.

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  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Jul 26, 2012 - 2:13PM

    Poor couple…..a really painful story. God bless their family and instil some sense into the larger Pakistani nation’s majority. Maro…Maro mentality will be one of the chief causes of the demise of Pakistan . I sincerely hope for India’ s sake that Pakistan survives. Really sad news

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  • Jul 26, 2012 - 2:43PM

    Please!
    True there is no compulsion in religion.. but if you try and use religious belief for benefits? You deserve what you got
    deal with the effects dont act innocent

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  • harkol
    Jul 26, 2012 - 2:44PM

    Theocracy is roughly a divine right – to decide what religion & lifestyle you should follow. Is there any question Pakistan is a theocracy?? It’s laws decide on who is a Muslim & who is not, Who is in Blasphemy, Who is allowed to convert, and how someone should live his personal life.

    Being a theocracy, why Pakistan preaches to the world about human rights violations and democratic rights etc?

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  • Mir
    Jul 26, 2012 - 2:48PM

    Then you should also go search how many converts revert back or choose another religion once they converted. Its 3 out of 4. 75%.

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  • Faraz
    Jul 26, 2012 - 2:54PM

    @sohaib:
    Please don’t confuse the actions of some retards with Iskam.
    The conversion, reconversion, persecution of the couple and this article have nothing to do with Islam.
    This article is about a rather silly couple, their malevolent, ignorant and violent friend, the completely dysfunctional society they live in and the failing state of Pakistan

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  • antony
    Jul 26, 2012 - 3:06PM

    This is the reason Islam gets a synonym of violence throughout the world !

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  • Imran
    Jul 26, 2012 - 3:49PM

    Would suggest all in Pakistan read Surah Kafiroon which clearly allows a choice in religion.

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  • labeeb
    Jul 26, 2012 - 4:02PM

    If anyone is not allowed to be apostate surely he will be hypocrite.As he will have no liberty to express his views and will have dual behavior. So the punishment for apostasy does not make sense.

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  • Hanif
    Jul 26, 2012 - 5:10PM

    This one guy Atique has been used to stereotype the whole religion, the nation and country! Shame on these journalists to have used this example and tagged the whole nation as intolerant..

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  • Jul 26, 2012 - 5:43PM

    @Arifa Batool:
    Progress of Islam?? And what about Pakistan??
    We need to put country first and religion after.. only then we can progress.

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  • HolierThanThou
    Jul 26, 2012 - 5:56PM

    @Munna

    First of all if they were in any other country with laws made for humans… they would not have to convert.
    Secondly… in this country only being Muslim gives him the right to perform such a marriage in which they united. Hence with no other choice, convert…. get married and revert is their only option. It is Islam that forces them to do what they did and not the other way around.

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  • VivaLaRevolution
    Jul 26, 2012 - 6:03PM

    Stories such as this leave me horrified. Everyone has the right to choose their religion or lack thereof.

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  • labeeb
    Jul 26, 2012 - 6:39PM

    @Imran:
    Hey thanks I read and have a very strong argument
    thanks

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  • Umer
    Jul 26, 2012 - 7:50PM

    Please please no need to talk about atrocities against Shia, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Baluchis in Pakistan. It’s OK if it happens here. It’s only bad if something like this is reported to have happened in Burma, Moon or Mars even through fake pictures and made up facts.
    People get you priorities right.

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  • Neela
    Jul 26, 2012 - 8:05PM

    Is this seriously true….amazing!!! Why don’t we hear things like this from other Muslim countries like Indonesia, Malaysia or the Islamic CIS countries. The only way out…and pleas bear with me on this advice….is for Pakistan to declare Arabic as the national language and make it compulsary for all to gramatically learn it. Only then will the ordinary Pakistani really be able themselves understand the true meaning of the words written in the Holy Quran. Please shut your ears to these uneducated Mullas and….as the holy prophet wanted it….understand the Holy Book yourselfs….I is hard to believe some of the intepretation that comes out of these peoples mouth….Recommend

  • Asif Mehmood (Ex-muslim)
    Jul 26, 2012 - 8:16PM

    Choosing religion is basic human right. Recommend

  • Jul 26, 2012 - 10:50PM

    In non-islamic countries, people generally convert to Islam only to get an additional wife to satisfy their lust.

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  • Truth bites
    Jul 27, 2012 - 12:29AM

    @Atheist:
    Islam can live without you

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  • Mr Sanity
    Jul 27, 2012 - 12:36AM

    Islam only states that there is no compulsion in religion in regard people of other religions holding onto non-muslim faiths. There is nowhere that it says to tolerate other beliefs in the quran… That is why the world is waking up to the realities of the cultRecommend

  • Arsalan khan
    Jul 27, 2012 - 12:48AM

    Even the Saoodi scholars are pleading non-compulsion in the religion. Kindly see the following

    http://en.islamtoday.net/artshow-262-3441.htm

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  • Cycloneous
    Jul 27, 2012 - 8:44AM

    Wow, I thought islam is a religion of no compulsion? This clearly shows that islam is NOT a religion of peace and has a cult like mentality. People need to stop pretending that it is a religion but a belief system based on fear. Don’t believe? Whammo, you’re dead. Want to leave? Whammo, you’re dead! Criticize islam and Muhammad? Whammo, you’re dead! Any one see a pattern here?

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  • labeeb
    Jul 27, 2012 - 8:05PM

    @Cycloneous:
    you are wrong man,you are judging a religion from wrongdoings of its followers title of this post is that there is no compulsion in the religion and that is the verse from the Quran if someone is not following it then it is not the fault of religion but of the followers. Even the title explains that there are sensible people who think anyone should not be killed for his/her belief. Sir you criticizing Islam because of its followers but don’t think about the Christianity which clearly states that apostate must be killed here is the link http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+13%3A6-9%2C1+Kings+18%3A40&version=NASB .But Quran says not to kill as evident from the title of post

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  • Cycloneous
    Jul 28, 2012 - 10:51PM

    @labeeb:

    You said that in Christianity that an apostate must be killed, which is true; to which I ask you, when was the last time you saw en masse, like islam, that there were actual manhunts, read hit squads, for former Christians to be killed? Please, answer that one, because we would love to know! Christians, at least people from the West don’t care what religion you choose, because that is something that is personal, in other words, it is NOT the business of the State or community. No one has the right to take the law in their own hands, or take something that is personal, and make it a public a execution.

    Secondly, in the sunnah, it actively calls for former muslims to be killed and followers of islam actually do engage in pursuing former muslims; this is a fact. Don’t point to Christianity, because you know, as I stated above, no one will try to kill you decide to worship bunny rabbits, rocks or stones. In islam, it is a different story. Even imams call for death for former muslims and those that speak out against the clerics or imams are persecuted and even killed.

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  • labeeb
    Jul 29, 2012 - 8:54AM

    @Cycloneous:
    There is clear message for Muslims in Quran to not to kill anyone for his/her beliefs.If Muslims are not following then it is not the fault of Islam but of Muslims and I condemn Muslims who call for killing for apostate. I agree that state should not interfere in the religion.I know many Muslims who don’t believe in killing for beliefs and really peace loving.

    In past Church forced Galileo recant his views.So this explains such retards are in both religions but may not represent the true teachings of that religion.

    Here is the link and the thing I like is this that it says “Christian” should not be confused with “Christianity”. And I would say same for Islam that please don’t confuse “Muslim” with “Islam”.
    http://www.personal.psu.edu/cpl2/blogs/powerforce/2010/10/the-church-vs-galileo-or-christianity-vs-galileo.html
    Actually this nonsense should be stopped, does not matter if it was by Christians or now by Muslims.
    In my opinion Islam or Christianity should be judged on the basis of their scriptures not the wrongdoings of its followers.

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