Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the imam of the mosque who allegedly issued a decree on his mosque’s loudspeaker to burn Christians of Mehrabadi village alive in the aftermath of 11-year-old Rimsha Masih being accused of blasphemy, denied instigating a hate campaign against the community.
Chishti was said to have declared that, ‘All you chooras (a derogatory term for South Asian Christians) must leave here immediately or we will pour petrol on you and burn you alive …You sweepers are only deserving of such treatment.’
However, he told The Express Tribune on Friday that he never played a pivotal role in sparking any tensions, after Rimsha, who reportedly suffers from Down Syndrome, allegedly burned pages inscribed with verses from the Holy Quran.
“Neither I, nor any of my followers participated in the protest rallies. Nor did they instigate any hate campaign against the Christian community of Mehrabadi,” Chishti said, adding that “It was a legal issue that involves Rimsha and the eyewitnesses, which will be resolved in the court of law.”
Clarifying his position, the imam told The Express Tribune that he went to Rimsha’s home after people showed him the papers Rimsha had burned.
He found an angry crowd outside and three to four women attacking her. He claimed that the protestors demanded custody of Rimsha to burn her alive, but he rescued her and later handed her over to the police.
Rimsha committed ‘conspiracy’
Despite backtracking from his earlier stance, Hafiz Chishti was still scathing of the alleged blasphemy committed by Rimsha Masih, saying what she did was a “conspiracy” to insult Muslims.
He told AFP that “The girl who burnt the Holy Quran has no mental illness and is a normal girl. She did it knowingly; this is a conspiracy and not a mistake. She confessed what she did.”
Chishti claimed that the local Christian community had previously caused antagonism by playing music in services at their makeshift church during Muslim prayer time and said burning the pages was deliberate.
“They committed this crime to insult us further. This happened because we did not stop their anti-Islam activities before,” he said.
“Last Christmas, they played musical instruments and there was vulgarity in the streets during our prayers time. I warned them but they did not stop.”
During his sermon at Friday prayers, Chishti told worshippers it was “time for Muslims to wake up” and protect the Holy Quran.
Bail application filed
Meanwhile, Irshad Bibi, mother of Rimsha Masih filed a bail application for her daughter on Friday through their counsel, Advocate Tahir Naveed Chaudhry before the session court judge of Islamabad, Raja Jawad Hassan, who fixed the hearing of the case on August 31.
Previously, NGO World Vision in Progress Foundation had moved a bail application before the Islamabad session court for Rimsha.
Police remanded Rimsha for 14 days in the juvenile section of Adiyala jail after they registered an FIR under section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2012.
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I weep when I think back to the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, to the fond memories of my Muslim neighbours, fellow students, colleagues and yes even the local imam and his wife and daughters. There were no fears then, no hatreds or suspicions and I was proud to be part of the society. What has gone so terribly wrong? Pakistani Christians are those who opted to be part of the new Pakistan. They could have very easily moved out in 1947, and some did. For those who stayed there was an atmosphere of inclusion. The first Justice Minister of Pakistan was a Christian. The first Law Minister was a Christian and there were open debates in the newspapers about the role for Christians in the new Pakistan. The country's green flag has a white strip to include the non Muslims and some even suggested that Christian were "Constitutional Muslims" in a nation that came into being on the basis of the Islamic religion. I recall the freedoms the Christians enjoyed then, to live as we pleased, to dress as we pleased, to sing and dance as we pleased and also to worship as we pleased. Twice a year in May and August there were religious processions taken through the main Mall Road near the cathedral in Lahore, when the Eucharist was carried amid the singing of hymns, in English and Latin, and the traffic stopped to show respect for the beliefs of others. Where are those people I remember with so much fondness? Are they also living in fear of the minority bigots who commit blasphemy to meet their own sick purposes? I do believe that the people, I remember are still around and some are are in positions of influence. It's time my friends to save the country and speak out against the ignorance of those who misuse the holy texts.
dont be bad to christians they are people of the book, and every last one of you would jump through hoops to live in a civilised christian nation.
If there is anything sicker than this imam its the Police of pakistan
They played music?
What an outrage!