Complainants say Samuel did not blaspheme
* Condemn his murder, say govt should consult scholars to prevent abuse of blasphemy laws
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: The complainants of the case against Samuel Masih, who was accused of blasphemy under Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), said they did not want him charged with blasphemy because he didn’t commit it.
Samuel was arrested on their complaint and attacked by a police constable on May 22 with a brick cutter while he was recuperating from a tuberculosis attack in Gulab Devi Hospital. He died last Friday in Lahore General Hospital of head injuries sustained in that attack. The 27-year-old Christian man was facing trial under Section 295, which carries a maximum sentence of two years. The constable, Faryad Ali, said he felt it his religious duty to kill Samuel.
The three complainants - Chaudhry Muhammad Yaqoob, chief librarian of Darul Islam Library at Lawrence Gardens, Qari Rifatullah, moazzin, and Muhammad Aslam, assistant librarian – in the case against Samuel registered on August 23 last year condemned his killing. They said they only wanted the police to tell him not to throw litter at the outside wall of their mosque.
Mr Yaqoob, who has worked at the library for seven years, said Samuel had repeatedly thrown litter at the mosque’s outside wall.
“Some people saw him doing this on and off,” said Mr Rifatullah, who has worked at the mosque for nine years. “The last time, before we lodged the complaint, he was seen littering at the time of Zohar prayers. We tried to catch him, but he ran away. He was healthy at that time and we couldn’t catch him.”
Later, they asked security guards at the Lawrence Gardens to monitor the walls. When he was caught in August, he did not look healthy.
“He looked like he was under the influence of magic. It was Friday and he came early in the morning, at 7:00am. We don’t know, maybe he was being used by a peer,” Mr Yaqoob said.
They said they asked the police to prevent him from throwing litter outside the mosque. “Our aim was not to accuse him of blasphemy. We just pointed out his deed and hoped a warning would reform his behaviour,” they said.
“We didn’t want to pursue the case and we didn’t approach the police again,” they said. They were also unaware that he had been sent to jail for alleged blasphemy. Asked whether they talked to Samuel to try and stop him from littering, they said he did not speak to them.
They condemned Samuel’s murder on the belief that he committed blasphemy, normally considered derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Mr Yaqoob said overreactions by people of any sect or religion should be condemned.
He said he did not know the specific law and what Section 295 of the PPC stood for, but added that Samuel’s case appeared to be an abuse of blasphemy laws and the government should consult noted scholars to remove the confusion in the law.
“The constable should have known that his religion does not permit him to become over emotional. Our religion asks us to think over and consider each action calmly and rationally. If he knew what Samuel had actually done, he should not have been that upset,” Mr Yaqoob said.
He suspected that the constable had developed a personal grudge against Samuel in jail. Asked what he thought the constable’s punishment should be, Mr Yaqoob said this was up to the courts.
“Our religion teaches us tolerance and forgiveness,” Mr Yaqoob said. “The Holy Prophet (PBUH) even helped Christians when they came to the mosque.”
He said a Christian once entered a mosque and a companion of the Prophet (PBUH) tried to kick him out, but the Prophet (PBUH) welcomed him and offered him food. “The Christian went to his town and told his people. The people said these were signs of prophethood and they accepted Islam,” he added.
“Mostly, we are Muslims because we as we born into Muslim families and Christians are Christians because they are born into Christian families,” he said.