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Pakistani Christian Accused of Blasphemy for Asking for Her Property Back

ICC (January 25, 2007) — The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that police have arrested a Pakistani Christian woman on false charges of blasphemy against Islam. Martha Bibi, who lives in Kot Nanka Singh, a small village of 400 families in Pakistan’s Kasur District, was accused of blasphemy after she requested the return of building materials she had lent to a group of Muslims building a mosque. She was taken into custody on Monday, January 22.

Martha and her husband, Butta Masih, run a small shop that sells building materials. About one-and-a-half months ago, a group of Muslims came to borrow bamboos and logs for a building project at the local mosque. However, no one came to return the material that had been borrowed.

When Martha went to ask what had happened to the building materials, she got into a fierce argument with a shop-owner near the mosque, but did not even mention religion. The woman she argued with told her husband, Mohammad Ramzan, that Martha blasphemed the prophet Muhammad. Ramzan was so enraged that he gathered his neighbors and stirred them into a frenzy to march on Martha’s home. According to Butta, “A large furious mob had assembled and marched toward our home. I had reached home by then. We requested our neighbor Muhammad Rashid Mughal to hide us in his home which they allowed.”

Accompanied and supported by police, the mob reached Butta and Martha’s house at 10:00pm. Butta’s parents decided to remain in the house while Butta and Martha hid in their neighbor’s home.

Butta said, “The fuming mob threatened my parents that our house would be gutted out if they had not handed us to them.”

For two hours the mob threatened this Christian family and searched their house. At 12:00am they finally dispersed, and Butta and Martha came out of hiding and returned home. A relative of their neighbor Rashid came and said that the people wanted to burn Martha. He offered to speak for her innocence, but when they left to go speak to the leaders of the mob, the police accosted her and took her away in their patrol wagon. Butta said, “We could not dare to go to the Changa Manga Police Station because we were terror-stricken and left the place early in the morning in fear of our life.”

Butta and Martha have five children, ranging from teenagers to a nine year-old.

Jeff King, ICC’s President, said, “In the past two weeks we have witnessed progress in Pakistan with the release of two Christians falsely accused of blasphemy. Martha’s case is no different, and she will also experience the same long legal process and will likely be acquitted just as the two men were last week. Pakistanis ought to be ashamed that such a mockery is being made of their legal system. Accusing a Christian of blasphemy to get them arrested is no way to resolve an argument. It is high time for Pakistan to repeal its infamous blasphemy laws.”