Blasphemy for a Spelling Mistake: Christian girl goes through hell in Pakistan

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Blasphemy for a Spelling Mistake: Christian girl goes through hell in Pakistan

Xavier Patras William

Modern Tokyo Times

Faryal Bhatti made one mere misplaced dot in an exam and this led to the accusations of Blasphemy against a Christian eighth grade student in Havelian near Abbotabad, Pakistan. This is the fear that non-Muslim children and parents have to put up with when a school is run by either religious zealots or teachers who are inept.

Faryal Bhatti, the daughter of Sarafeen Bhatti, was accused at the POF (Pakistan Ordnance Factories) High School located in POF Havelian colony. According to the school authorities Faryal Bhatti made a mistake in her school exam on Thursday. Faryal Bhatti misspelled a word in the Urdu language by wrongly placing a dot in a poem written in praise of the Prophet Muhammad, the word was “Naat” (poem of praise), it was misspelled by a dot as “Laanat” (a curse), it is a common error by a child of this age because the written form for both words are quite similar.

The Urdu teacher, Mrs. Fareeda, while checking the papers located the mistake and called on Faryal Bhatti. The teacher in front of the whole class spoke harshly to the child and questioned why she did so. Faryal Bhatti said it was a mistake, but Mrs. Fareeda in her fury assaulted the child and the class pupils learning of the act also became furious. The teacher then took the matter to the principal.

After this, word got out about this and the news about the mistake spread quickly throughout the school and the POF Havelian colony. The teachers and the school management created a huge over-hype over a mere misplaced dot and made the matter serious beyond understanding. Therefore, the child was accused of Blasphemy but despite being a child and pleading her innocence, the misery didn’t end because the situation became inflamed by the school.

The school authorities called on Muslim religious leaders and this made matters worse because the clerics showed no compassion. Therefore, religious clerics along with the colony residents took to the streets and demanded a FIR (First Information Report) for blasphemy against the 8th grader.

Not only this, they demanded the expulsion of the child from school and throwing out the whole family from the colony in order to set an explanatory punishment of a blasphemer. They chanted slogans against the child, her family and Christianity. In the Friday sermons in the mosques the clerics also condemned the child and called it “a conspiracy against Islam” and that this conspiracy must be crushed.

The ten years old Faryal Bhatti is going through great trauma and she is still not aware what she has done wrong and why she is being made to go through all this suffering. After all, it was merely a misplaced dot by the innocent child, but she is made to go through a living hell as this dot is considered a grave and intentional mistake.

Muslim clerics have added fuel to the fire by claiming it was a derogatory remark and a conspiracy. MD (Managing Director) of POF School, Asif Siddiqui, on Saturday summoned a meeting of religious clerics, school staff, scholars and Sarafeen Bhatti and Faryal Bhatti. The accused in tears explained that it was a human error as both the words have a strong resemblance, she clarified that she had no ill intention. The child and her mother apologized for the mistake.

Maulana Syed Ejaz Ali, a cleric from the Jamia Masjid (Mosque), who was present at the meeting, saw the examination paper and he talked with the girl and her mother. He concluded that he is “…still unclear of Faryal Bhatti`s intentions (the eyes filled with tears show her innocence), but her dot made the word derogatory and this is a good enough reason for the consequence because she should never in her life dare to think anything against Islam.”

The school administration wanted to please the clerics and other religious elements by expelling Faryal Bhatti from school. However, Muslim clerics demand a punishment for her mother as well and forced the POF administration to terminate her from her services and vacate the colony residence immediately. The POF administration under strong pressure transferred Sarafeen Bhatti to the POF Wah Cantonment Hospital and asked her to vacate the house without delay. Not only this, the Muslim clerics demand that a FIR be placed on the child in order to fulfill the legal formalities.

The devastated mother and daughter moved to Wah Cantonment just hours after the decision was given by the administration. Pastor Tahiq Emmanuel, on behalf of the Masihi Foundation which is a humanitarian and legal aid organization, contacted the family and assured them of their support. Masihi Foundation has been providing aid to Asia Bibi as well.

On Monday morning two Muslim religious scholars from Islamabad, Maulana Mehfooz Ali Khan and Hussain Ahmed Malik, on the request of Masihi Foundation, had a meeting with the POF authorities in Wah Cantonment to discuss the matter. Maulana Mehfooz Ali Khan said, “This is merely an innocent mistake by a child due to the similarity in the two words and should have been treated as one. Many Muslim students in the madrassas wrongly pronounce Arabic words and these mistakes change the whole meaning but these are human errors by innocent children, you can’t punish a child for an unintentional mistake. The girl is only ten years old but she is going through real trauma, just because people think that a dot was such a huge mistake…”

“The teacher should have handled the matter herself instead of creating such a terrible situation. This shows the incapability of the teacher to handle the basic error and scolding her in front of the class only made the matter worse. Teaching is a sacred profession, only capable and competent people should be hired as teachers. I am 100% sure if I ask any of her own children to read the Quran in Arabic, he / she will make a mistake – then she along with her child should also be expelled. Such people are portraying a negative picture about Islam. Faryal Bhatti was made to go through hell only because she is a Christian, I protest against the decision of expelling the child and transferring the mother. This action by the committee has printed a very negative image about Islam on the child’s mind and we want people to learn about Islam, not to make them hate it.”

The scholar Hussain Ahmed Malik said, “I totally agree with Maulana Mehfooz Khan, this incident has shown the narrow mindedness of the school administration. I don’t know why a teacher would make an issue of such an error by a small child. What does she know about blasphemy and what does this say about religious tolerance and pluralism. Calling religious clerics for a routine school matter is narrow minded and shows the incapability of the school management. A ten year old child doesn’t even know the meaning of Blasphemy, but thanks to all this hype she will fear Islam for the rest of her life.”

“The reaction of the teacher and the school administration clearly shows their deep rooted hatred towards other religions. Therefore, a petty matter which could have been ignored by the teacher was given so much attention as if the child has committed an unforgivable crime. Our religion teaches us the lesson of forgiving. She is immature and an innocent girl and she just made a spelling mistake. Instead of the sadistic pleasure from humiliating the innocent child, the administration should have acted wisely. A person not belonging to the Islamic faith should not be living in fear, checking and rechecking their actions to ensure that they don’t make an error which would shake the very fibers of their existence and shun them out of society. The administration should understand that the two words are similar in written form. Masihi Foundation brought the case to us, I have talked to Faryal and her Mother and she made this mistake unintentionally. Masihi Foundation is an excellent example of bridging gaps between the communities and promoting religious tolerance in society. ”

Bishop of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Rufin Anthony said, “I condemn the incident, now even Christian students are being victimized and accused of Blasphemy. This society has become so intolerant, that merely a petty mistake was given so much attention and even the religious ulemas, clerics were called to decide the punishment for the innocent child, who didn’t even know what she has done. The misdeed, if it actually was such, should have been explained to the child, gaining her confidence and thereby doing religion a service in the process. What now has happened is exactly the opposite. Children make mistakes, assuming that this was deliberate would you burn an 8th grader at the stake? Instead of teaching her the difference between right and wrong a xenophobe doesn’t need much of an excuse to punish someone different. Pakistan was born because it did not want to be a minority but apparently it is having trouble tolerating minorities.”

Urdu of Laanat – لعنت
Urdu of Naat – نعت

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