Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rioting Muslims damage church, properties in Pakistan

Muslim protestors broke windows of a Christian-
owned elementary school in Gujranwala on April 30.
(Photo: Sharing Life Ministries Pakistan)
This past Saturday, hundreds of Muslims in Gujranwala attacked Christians’ homes, a school and a Presbyterian church building after learning that police had released two Christians accused of “blasphemy”—amid reports of another alleged desecration of the Qur’an, said Compass Direct News.

Mushtaq Gill and his son Farrukh Mushtaq were released on Friday afternoon after a handwriting expert hired by police determined that the latter had not written a threatening note accompanying burned pages of the Qur’an, police sources said.

The two Christians, who had been taken into protective custody on April 15, were relocated along with family members to an undisclosed location.

As news of their release spread, a Muslim claimed that pages of the Qur’an had been burned anew in Gujranwala’s Aziz Colony cemetery in Punjab Province. Announcements over area mosque loudspeakers began blaring, and Muslim residents and members of extremist groups began gathering.

A mob started rioting and hurling rocks at the Christians’ homes and at an elementary school. The mob also pelted the Aziz Colony Presbyterian Church building. Armed with clubs and batons, the protestors clashed with police who arrived to provide security to the besieged Christians.

At least 18 people were injured and had to be hospitalized. There were no reports of injured Christians.

The protesting Muslims then moved toward government offices and set tires on fire on the main Gujranwala-Sialkot road. They also tried to attack the Gujranwala Range regional police office, but officers thwarted their plans, police sources said.

Around 150 protestors were arrested, with two cases registered against them for attacking Christian property and “creating a law and order situation,” police said. The remaining protestors dispersed after senior police officials assured them that they would find “the real perpetrators” of the first alleged Qur’an burning within three days.

Sources told Compass that the riots compelled a large number of Christian families to flee, as they feared the kind of large-scale violence that occurred in Gojra on August 1, 2009, when at least seven Christians were burned alive by Muslim mobs after the spread of a rumour of blasphemy.

Gujranwala Police Chief Ghulam Muhammad Dogar told Compass Direct by phone that the protestors would not be allowed to target and harass Christians.

“Stern action will be taken against the provocateurs of the riots,” Dogar said. “The police are investigating the two incidents of Qur'an desecration, and only those responsible for the crime will be punished.”
Gill and Mushtaq were taken into protective custody on April 15 in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the Gojra massacre after Mushtaq was accused of desecrating the Qur'an and blaspheming Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.

The purported evidence against Mushtaq were some burnt pages of the Qur'an and a handwritten note, allegedly in his handwriting, claiming that he had desecrated Islam’s scripture and used derogatory language against Muhammad. A Muslim youth allegedly found the pages and note outside the Gills’ residence.

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