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

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


Rana Tanveer July 25, 2012

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.

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COMMENTS (42)

labeeb | 8 years ago | Reply

@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.

Cycloneous | 8 years ago | Reply

@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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