Thursday, May 29, 2008

Saleema

We begin with a story from a Christian website. The story is undated, but the events described began in 1997. Here is Saleema!, by Tom White:

Saleema grew up in a Christian family in Pakistan. To her, faith in Jesus Christ is a part of everyday life and often comes with great costs. Saleema knows the dangers of sharing her faith in the Muslim stronghold of Pakistan, but like thousands of other Christians, that does not prevent her from being a living witness of her Lord and Savior.

Last year, Saleema gave a bible to a friend of hers who was also a Muslim. This Muslim friend was so impressed by what she read that she immediately fell in love with Christ. She longed to know more about Jesus, and on Good Friday, she found the courage to attend a Chritsian church.

It was on this day that Saleema's friend heard, for the first time, of the crucifixion, the atonement, and the resurrection of Jesus. She had read about Jesus in the Koran, but the Islamic Holy Book failed to mention his crucifixion and atonement for sin. That morning before returning home she gave her life to Jesus Christ.

Her parents were very disturbed by the news. According to Islamic law, their daughter was guilty of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed. Saleema's friend was beaten, kicked and tortured by her parents. However, she would not deny Christ. In fact, the more she suffered for Jesus, the more she loved Him.

Her parents continued the persecution and decided it would be best to give their daughter in marriage to a Muslim man. It was at this time that Saleema's friend had no choice but to leave her home and go into hiding.

When the girl's parents discovered that she was missing, they immediately went to Saleema's home believing that she was guilty of hiding their daughter. They demanded to know her whereabouts. Saleema told them that she did not know where their daughter was and that her family had nothing to do with her disappearance.

Saleema, along with her parents, was picked by the Islamic authorities and interrogated for three days. They were beaten, starved, and continually questioned. As part of the torture, Saleema was forced to stand on the tips of her toes for over twelve hours. Each time she came down from this excruciating position, a stick came across her back. Saleema was eventually handed over to the police.

Saleema's pastor was also arrested and placed in the cell with her. The guards removed the prisoner's clothing and attempted to force Saleema and her pastor to commit adultery. When they refused, they were again beaten. The pastor's son was also arrested, hung upside down in a tree, and nearly beaten to death.

Every day and every night Saleema was tortured. Her tormentors inflicted unspeakable wounds both physically and emotionally. Saleema is an attractive young woman, and she was repeatedly violated.

Three weeks after Saleema was handed over to the police, the young Muslim girl who had turned her life over to Jesus, was discovered hiding in a woman's shelter. Her Muslim parents brought her back to her village where she was publicly executed. She was only a Christian for a few months when she learned the meaning of being "faithful unto death."

Saleema has since been charged with the girl's death. The judge found her guilty on two counts, 1> for proselytizing a Muslim girl, and 2> causing the events leading up to the girl's execution. Saleema now faces murder charges, and if found guilty under blasphemy law 295c, will herself be executed.

This tragic story is all too common in Muslim nations like Pakistan, where our family in Christ, our brothers and sisters, are beaten, tortured and even killed for their faith. It is for Saleema and so many others like her, that The Voice of the Martyrs exist. Your brothers and sisters need your prayers. They need your encouragement. They need to know that they are not forgotten, and that we will do everything in our power to help them.


More on the story can be found in a March, 1999, piece entitled Pakistani Teen Still in Legal Trouble:

28 March 1999 (Newsroom)--A Pakistani teenager arrested for helping to convert her Muslim friend to Christianity remains in legal jeopardy but is not dead or about to be executed, as some reports spread via the Internet assert. She and her pastor both were tortured while in police custody, however, Pakistani human rights groups claim, and her friend is dead.

Saleema (likely a pseudonym to protect her security) is accused of the crime of "converting a Muslim." According to International Christian Concern (ICC), a Washington, D.C.-based rights group, Saleema has not appeared at several scheduled court hearings. ICC President Steven Snyder believes that is either out of concern for her safety or because her advocates want to draw more attention to the case.

"We feel her case could be resolved," Snyder says. "Our concern is that there may be some Christians manipulating Saleema to maintain this as a high profile case in order to keep attention on the persecution of Christians in Pakistan."

The events leading to Saleema's arrest began in 1997 in the city of Sheikhupura in Punjab province when the then-17-year-old gave her friend, Raheela Khanam, a Bible. Saleema apparently had a part in the 18-year-old Muslim girl's conversion to Christianity. Under Islamic law, or Shari'a, converting from Islam to another faith--called apostasy--is punishable by death. Though the Pakistani civil code does not apply the death penalty to apostasy, Shari'a is often enforced by private citizens, who consider it their duty as a Muslim. On July 8, 1997, the local newspaper reported that Raheela was shot to death by her brother Altaf Khanam, who then turned himself in to police.

Sources in Pakistan connected to Advocates International, a Virginia-based Christian legal agency, say that shortly before her death Raheela had sought refuge at the home of her pastor, Arthur Salim, but was turned away. The pastor, according to ICC, is from Wandalla Junction, a community in the Shadara section of Lahore. ICC sources say that Altaf Khanam illegally detained Salim for two days, accusing him and his son Robin of kidnapping Raheela. On June 23, 1997, Khanam turned over the pastor to police. A day later, police jailed Robin as well.

Salim reportedly made a written compromise with the Khanam family that allowed him to be released with his son on July 4, 1997. While in custody, Salim told members of two Lahore-based human rights groups that he had been tortured by police. In response, the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance, and Settlement (CLAAS) filed a petition in Lahore High Court on June 17, 1999. CLAAS and the group Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported that when they visited Salim in jail he could not stand up due to the severity of the torture. But the pastor denied the charge when called before the court on June 30, 1997 and the case was dismissed. A few days after Salim's release, Raheela was murdered.

According to some accounts, the Khanam family pressed murder charges against Saleema because of her role in the conversion. ICC's Snyder questions that. "We have not seen any evidence that there was a murder charge brought by the family," he says.

Nevertheless, authorities took Saleema into custody at Sheikhupura jail shortly after Raheela's murder. On July 14, 1997, members of CLAAS visited Saleema at the jail. She told the rights group that police severely beat her with her clothes off, using a leather belt and hose pipes. She accused police of raping her and burning sensitive parts of her body with a hot iron rod and cigarette butts.

In its 1997 report on human rights in Pakistan, the U.S. State Department reported similar cases. A study of Lahore newspapers from January to July 1997 by the Commission of Inquiry for Women found 52 cases of violence or torture of women while in police custody, the State Department said.

Saleema was released on bail Aug. 7, 1997, facing the charge of converting a Muslim. According to Snyder, a guilty verdict would be punishable by no more than two years in prison.

Though Saleema did not make a required February 15 court appearance, sources say that negotiations are under way to drop charges against her. Legally, her prospects are good, according to a spokesman for an agency involved in the case that requests anonymity due its sensitive nature. "The way the case is going it doesn't look like the court will convict her," the spokesman said. "We are encouraging people not to call Pakistani authorities (on Saleema's behalf). There have been literally thousands of calls to Pakistani embassies, which has created bumps in the road."

Advocates International confirmed in a statement that Saleema so far has not been convicted of any crime and therefore is not in imminent danger of execution. The agency says it got involved because of queries from a number of Christians who had heard various versions of the story through the Internet. "We went to our own sources in Pakistan," says Wallace Cheney, Advocates director of international programs. "Our biggest concern is that if somebody is about to be executed we want to know and help, but we also are concerned about people embellishing a story."

Several sources point out, however, that in Pakistan people who have been acquitted of religion-related crimes have been killed by private citizens after leaving the court.


A couple months later, a short update at a Christian website appeared informing us that Saleema was acquitted:

In June 1997 the young Pakistani girl Raheela came to Christ through the influence of her 17-year-old friend, Saleema. Saleema and her pastor, Salim, were detained and beaten.

When Raheela's brother, Altaf, murdered her on 8 July 1997 for apostasy and for refusing to marry a Muslim man, Saleema was blamed and arrested again. In jail she was beaten, burned, raped, and received permanent and disfiguring injuries.

On 7 August 1997 Saleema was released on bail. In late April of this year the court acquitted Saleema. But Saleema's life and the lives of all those who have nurtured her are still in danger from Muslim extremists who won't accept the court's verdict. Pastor Salim and his family have already fled their homeland.


Of course, that is not the end of the line for one accused of converting a Muslim.

From Pakistani women unite against victimisation, Wednesday, April 6, 2005:

In a landmark move for human rights, Pakistani women protested peacefully on the streets of Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar against the victimization of Christian women on International Women's Day (March 8). According to Christian human rights activist Shahbaz Bhatti, "Subjugation of Christian and minority women is common in the Muslim social strata; they are harassed, tortured, raped and forcefully converted to Islam.

In a landmark move for human rights, Pakistani women protested peacefully on the streets of Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar against the victimization of Christian women on International Women's Day (March 8). According to Christian human rights activist Shahbaz Bhatti, "Subjugation of Christian and minority women is common in the Muslim social strata; they are harassed, tortured, raped and forcefully converted to Islam.

"Since the enforcement of sharia laws, thousands of women have been unjustly involved with the criminal justice system and subjected to sexual assault, torture and illegal confinement. Social attitudes, cultural practices and religious precepts in Pakistan have allowed violence against women, and the law has failed to provide safeguard against violence or to promote attitude conducive to the women's enjoyment of their fundamental rights.

"Minority women are victimized, harassed, tortured, raped, abducted and forcefully converted to Islam, due to their Christian faith. Those who commit these crimes (extremist elements and perpetrators) consider it to be part of jihad (Holy War) and give a cover of religion to their crimes."


"No compulsion in religion" - brought to you by the Religion of Peace.

1 comment:

anticant said...

Religion is the self-inflicted curse of humanity! But never fear, the intrepid Tony Blair is on the case, and has just announced that he is dedicating the rest of his life to sorting this mess out through his new Faith Foundation. Like he helped bring democracy to Iraq, I suppose.