Christian teenager almost beaten to death in Pakistan 'for burning Quran'

Blasphemy is seen as a grave offence in the deeply conservative country 

Will Worley
Monday 21 August 2017 16:07 BST
Pakistani religious students protest against blasphemy earlier this year
Pakistani religious students protest against blasphemy earlier this year ( AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

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A Christian Pakistani teenager narrowly avoided being beaten to death after being accused of burning a Quran, according to reports.

The 16-year-old had to be rescued by officers after a mob broke into a police station to try and kill him.

Asif Stephen worked collecting recyclables from the shrine of Sundhay Shah, Jhamkay, where it was alleged he stole a copy of the Quran and burned it.

He was detained under the country’s blasphemy laws, among the most stringent in the world.

But his family said a rival hawker, Muhammad Nawaz, falsely accused the boy in order to eliminate him as a business rival.

The Quran was found burned in July but earlier this month Mr Nawaz accosted Mr Stephen in a market place and shouted that he had caught the person who burned the Quran, it is said.

“Qari Rana Arshid, who’s the pesh imam at a mosque, arrived there and without confirming anything, he too started beating up my son,” said Stephen Masih, the teenager’s father, to the Express Tribune.

The police arrived at the scene and took Mr Stephen into custody. But the mob, led by the imam, broke into the facility and began to attack the boy further, it is reported.

The police were forced to call for reinforcements to save his life from the crowd.

“The police saved him from the enraged mob,” sub-inspector Pervez Iqbal told the newspaper.

“His family should be grateful to the police. The mob surrounded the police station but we pacified the protesters with the help of the notables of the area.”

Christians in Pakistan, a deeply conservative majority Muslim country, are common targets for discrimination and violence.

Open Doors, a group which campaigns for the rights of persecuted Christians around the world, has ranked Pakistan as the fourth most dangerous country on earth for members of the religion.

Blasphemy laws are often used against Christians.

“If you are accused of having insulted Islam in any way, your life is in danger,” the group said.

In Easter 2016, at least 75 people were killed when a Taliban suicide bombing targeted Christians in a park in Lahore.

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