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Injured Convert in Pakistan Tries to Rebuild Life

ICC Note:

Another incredible piece by Compass. Great depth of reporting. 

5/16/2012 Pakistan (Compass)-Muhammad Kamran isn’t sure who sent the men to beat him after his Muslim wife told both her family and his that he had become a Christian.

The 34-year-old native of Karachi said his wife’s brothers had begun coming to his office to threaten him before unidentified assailants attacked him as he was returning home two years ago. “I don’t know who sent those men,” Kamran said. “It could have been my family or hers. They beat me up mercilessly, the effects of which I’m suffering even today. My pelvic area and groin were badly injured by their kicks and punches, and still today I’m suffering from pain.”

Two years later, he still has a pelvis injury from the beating that requires treatment. But even help from a local politician has not been able to procure medical treatment funding for a convert from Islam in Pakistan’s current religious climate.

“The biggest hurdle I’m facing is his name,” said the politician, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Being a minorities leader, I can only recommend government funds for people belonging to minority communities, but seeking money for a man with Muhammad in his name and ‘Christian’ in the religion column of an official form is a recipe for disaster, and frankly the situation in Pakistan is not such where anyone will be willing to take such a big risk.”

Raised in an ultra-conservative Muslim family, Kamran was baptized in September 2009 and began his life as a covert Christian, though he continued to openly question Islam.

“In 2010, my family started trying to force me to marry, hoping that marriage would keep me from questioning ‘the faith of my forefathers,’” he said. “I gave in to their constant prodding and was married to a girl from a Sunni Syed family.” At first he had hoped that he would be able to bring his wife to Christianity, he said.

“After some days of our wedding, I shared my faith with her and was delighted when she told me that she would stand by me,” he said. “But my hope was dashed the very next day, when she told both of our families that I had turned away from Islam and had become a ‘murtad’ [apostate deserving death].”

Kamran said his wife’s revelation angered both families.

“Every other day, I was threatened either by my family or hers that if I ever renounce Islam I would be killed, and that I should mend my ways,” he said.

Quarrels with his wife over religion became commonplace, he added. “After a couple of months of continuous fights, I asked my wife to leave me if she could not live with someone who was having a conflict with faith,” he said. “She refused, and instead told both families that I wanted a divorce.”

Kamran said the dilemma quickly reached a crisis point.

“No one was willing to let me live the life I wanted – they say Islam is not a religion of compulsion, but no one has been able to tell me why Muslims who don’t find satisfaction in the religion become liable to be killed.”

After the torturous beating, Kamran said, he decided he would no longer remain in Karachi. He told the pastor who baptized him, whose name is withheld for security reasons, that his predicament had become unbearable. The pastor arranged a visitor’s visa to Dubai for him. Upon reaching Dubai, he contacted his family and told them that he would not be returning to Pakistan.

“In the next few days, my wife’s family sent me divorce papers, to which I readily agreed, and hence my marriage ended after nearly four months,” Kamran said.

After the expiration of his one-month visa, however, Kamran returned to Karachi.

“The kind pastor sent me to another pastor in Faisalabad, in Punjab Province,” he said. “He said that it would be safer for me to stay out of Karachi for some time because news of my conversion might put the community at risk.”

Kamran returned to Karachi in 2011.

“After some months, the pastor married me to a Christian woman,” he said. “For a few months everything went fine, and we were living a very peaceful life, but one day a cousin of mine saw us in a market and followed us to our home. He then informed my family that I was in Karachi and had a Christian wife. My father came to my house and demanded that I leave my wife and return home, but I refused. He made a lot of hue and cry and cursed me for ‘bringing disgrace to the family.’”

As soon as Kamran’s father left, the couple gathered their belongings and moved, Kamran said.

His family members found out where his wife worked, however, and have been threatening them ever since, he said. Kamran and his wife Asha, now eight months pregnant, have changed residences four times to avoid his family.

His wife told Compass they are living in constant fear.

“Every other day, we receive threatening phone calls,” she said. “They just won’t leave us alone. A few days ago Kamran’s family came to know that I was expecting our first child. They are now asking him to abandon us and renounce Christianity, threatening that they will kill me and our child.”

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