Five Christian families have fled their homes and gone into hiding after a false blasphemy accusation was made against one of their community. According to reports, a fake Facebook page was made alleging Sonu Arshad, a member of Sukheki village’s Christian community, committed blasphemy against Islam and must be killed. In Pakistan, accusations of blasphemy, especially against religious minorities, often precipitate communal violence. In a number of occasions, blasphemy accusations against a single Christian have led to entire Christian neighborhoods being destroyed in mob violence. Will the individuals behind this fake Facebook page be brought to justice?
11/08/2017 Pakistan (World Watch Monitor) – Five Christian families in rural Pakistan have gone into hiding after death threats were made against an 18-year-old because of his alleged blasphemy against Islam.
Sonu Arshad, who lives in the remote village of Sukheki, 200 kilometers north of Lahore, belongs to one of the families – the only Christians in the village.
The families fled on Friday, 3 November, after a Facebook page purporting to be that of a local TV channel posted a photograph of the teenager and asked locals to “burn his church and give him the death penalty”.
There were rumors that a mob formed following the local Muslim community’s Friday prayers, but the chief of police in the nearby city of Daska told World Watch Monitor the situation was now “under control” and that a police case had been filed against the unidentified people who created the fake Facebook page.
“There is no evidence that Arshad committed any crime,” Tahir Hussain said. “This is a fake campaign and the case has been forwarded to the Federal Investigation Agency to identify those who made this fake Facebook page.”
The TV channel, Madhani, has not commented or responded to the use of its logos, etc., which means that the case has not received much coverage in the mainstream Pakistani media, to the Christian community’s relief.
Local Christian councilor Naseer Ghulam said he had “no knowledge where the family has gone”.
“No-one knows the reason for accusing [Arshad] through this smear campaign,” he added.
Pakistan has the most stringent blasphemy laws in the world, which have been used disproportionately against religious minorities – Pakistani Christians make up only 1.5 per cent of the total population, but over a quarter (187) of the 702 blasphemy cases registered between 1990 and 2014 were against Christians.
Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony said last week the country’s controversial blasphemy law “cannot be revoked”, while the government has set up a regulatory body to monitor “blasphemous” content online.