Riled by blasphemy charges, a Muslim mob of 3,000, torched 100 houses in Joseph Colony, a largely Christian neighbourhood in Pakistan's second largest city Lahore, on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
The residents of Joseph Colony, within Lahore's Badami Bagh area had already fled their homes on Friday night and the early hours of Saturday, after the police warned them of a potential revenge attack over an alleged blasphemous remark made by Sawan Masih, a 28-year old sanitation worker from their community.
Pictures of Joseph Colony's burnt houses were circulated on social media by the Express Tribune Facebook page. In these pictures, a jubilant mob is setting beds, washing machines and household stuff on fire.
@norbalm (i N O R B A L M ™) With Pride I BURN & Record it with my Mobile #Lahore #BadamiBagh pic.twitter.com/3agi09KxE2
@TahaSSiddiqui (Taha Siddiqui): See burnt homes in #Lahore via @etribune pic.twitter.com/rJBRFBj0vz
Pakistan's Blasphemy Law is a sensitive issue; Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and the Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated for their opposition to the law.
Reza Habib Raja writes in Pak Tea House:
In countries like Pakistan, it is the reverence of religion (which at times does not even have neat correspondence with actual adherence to its rituals) which is the main culprit. A law implemented in the name of religion is often impossible to repeal. People may not be following religion in their personal capacities, but fully understand its power in collective settings.
The Blasphemy Law is often used against religious minorities in the country. The Constitution of the country also discriminates against religious minorities. Non-Muslims are barred from becoming head of the state and other institutions according to the 1973 constitution.
Reza Habib Raja in his blog in Pak Tea House states it's not only the law:
Much more than the law, it is the mindset. I really don’t think that merely repealing the law will change anything. In fact law can only be repealed if there is a sufficient majority in the assembly. And that majority will only repeal it, if majority of the electorate wants it to be repealed. I really don’t think that any party has the political courage to even present the possible repealing as an agenda point in its political manifesto.
BoloBhi, a right-based organization tweeted a video made by Saad Sarfaraz Shiekh about the Badami Bagh incident.
@BoloBhi (Bolo Bhi): “As sweepers, we clean their houses. They would die in the garbage if we didn't ” voices from #Josephcolony http://vimeo.com/61458898
@salmansid (Salman Siddiqui): Just imagine being a Christian or an Ahmedi or Shia 4 a second in #Pakistan what future will u think u'll have 4 urself, ur family here?
Blogger and columnist Sonya Rehman interviews one of the residents of Joseph Colony:
Beena Sarwar, a Pakistani journalist based in the US writes in her blog post, ‘Planned attack on Christian properties in Lahore; protest demonstrations Sunday':
The mob was given a free hand to burn and loot; it destroyed more than 150 houses and shops, as well as a church, including bibles and religious symbols (blasphemy case against perpetrators, anyone?). This is not the first time this has happened. Remember Shantinagar (1997), and Gojra and Kerian. (2009)
Pak Tea House blog sums up the situation in Pakistan:
Religion has been elevated to such level and in a way that any debate on it has become impossible. Consequently, as a society we are completely impotent to even condemn those who misuse religion for committing horrifying acts. This impotence is the real tragedy and is even more horrifying than the actual act.