02/25/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that four Christian women from the Farooq-e-Azam neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan were falsely accused of blasphemy on February 19, 2019. Following the false accusation, a mob of enraged Muslims attacked the Christian-majority neighborhood, leading to the displacement of approximately 200 Christian families.
The incident began in January 2019, when Fayaz and Samina Riaz, a Muslim couple, were asked to vacate their rented house by their Christian landlord, Amjad Dildar. According to local Christians, the Muslim couple had been “causing trouble among the Christian families in the community” and were asked to leave.
On Tuesday, February 19, Samina Riaz accused four Christian women, including three of her landlord’s daughters, of desecrating a Quran. According to Aslam Masih, a local eyewitness, “Samina Riaz alleged Sunaina Amjad, age 22, Sophia Amjad, age 18, Soneha Amjad, age 14, and Sophia Qamar, age 30, [of] desecrating a Holy Quran. She claimed they stole a copy of the Quran and ruined it by submerging it into a basin of dirty water.”
As news of the accusation spread, a mob of enraged Muslims gathered in Farooq-e-Azam and attacked several Christian properties, including Amjad Dildar’s house and a nearby church. The mob killed pets, livestock, and damaged several Christian homes by stoning them.
Approximately 200 Christian families from Farooq-e-Azam have fled their homes and moved to safer areas within Karachi. Local police have regained control of the neighborhood; however, members of the mob are still refusing to allow Christians to open their churches.
“After police investigated, it was revealed that Samina Riaz borrowed a copy of the Quran from Khalid Khan, a nearby shopkeeper,” Masih told ICC. “When she reached home, she threw it into a water tub in the restroom. She purposely alleged the Christian women of desecrating the Holy Book of Islam.”
Samina Riaz later admitted to orchestrating the incident and she and her husband, Fayaz, were arrested. However, a First Information Report (FIR) has yet to be filed because negotiations between local Christian and Muslim leaders are ongoing.
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. In the past 30 years, more than 1,500 individuals have been accused of committing blasphemy. Religious minorities, including Christians, make up the majority of these accusations despite the fact that religious minorities make up only 3.6% of Pakistan’s total population.
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “ICC’s thoughts and prayers go out to the four Christian women who were falsely accused and the Christian community of Farooq-e-Azam. The abuse of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws must be curbed. Too often these laws have been a tool in the hands of extremists seeking to stir up religiously motivated violence against minority communities. Without real reform, religious minorities, including Christians, will face more false blasphemy accusations and the extreme violence that often accompanies these accusations.”