Muslim Employers Forcibly Convert Two Christian Maids in Pakistan, Relative Says
Morning Star News Pakistan Correspondent Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
- 2020 Dec 29
LAHORE, Pakistan, December 28, 2020 (Morning Star News) – Muslims who employed two young Christian women as live-in house cleaners in Lahore, Pakistan have forcibly converted them to Islam and are not permitting Christian relatives to see them, sources said.
Nasreen Bibi, a Christian aunt of 18-year-old Maham Manzoor and 20-year-old Anum Manzoor, told Morning Star News that the separate employers of each of the sisters forced them to convert to Islam and are holding them against their will, and that police and courts have allowed it.
“Both Anum and Maham have been forcibly converted to turn them into slaves, and the police and court have unfortunately acted as facilitators of this crime,” Bibi told Morning Star News.
Bibi and her husband had become guardians of the two sisters five years ago, when her brother died and the girls’ mother abandoned them. Bibi, a member of the Church of Pakistan, found work for the two sisters as full-time maids in the Muslim households two years ago in order to supplement her own income as a maid, she said.
“Neither of them ever said anything about converting to Islam,” she said.
On Dec. 7 Anum told her she was excited about Christmas, and Bibi planned to take the two sisters shopping the next day to buy her nieces new clothes for Christmas, Bibi said. On Dec. 8 Bibi first went to pick up Maham at the house where she worked. She rang the doorbell for nearly an hour without anyone answering, she said.
“It was clear that they wanted me to go away from there,” Bibi said. “Sensing that something was wrong, I started pounding the gate with a stone as well as shouting the family’s names at the top of my lungs. The clamor forced them to open the gate and let me in.”
The Muslim couple, Muhammad Asim and his wife Asma, refused to let her see Maham, claiming that she had converted to Islam and did not want to see her, Bibi said.
“Their words struck me like a thunderbolt,” Bibi told Morning Star News. “My immediate concern was about Maham’s well-being, so I insisted that she be brought out of the room. The couple refused to budge, threatening to call the police if I didn’t leave.”
When she remained, Asim telephoned the police, and they arrived soon after, she said. Bibi told police that the couple was refusing to let her see her niece, and when Asim and his wife repeated that she had converted to Islam, an officer told them to bring Maham out.
“Maham was visibly distressed when Asma brought her to the room,” Bibi said. “When the officer asked her about the conversion claim, Maham nodded in approval, but I could clearly see fear in her eyes. I pleaded to speak to my niece in private, but the police officer cursed me and told me to get out of the house and never raise this matter again.”
Kidnapped Christian girls and young women in Pakistan are commonly threatened that they or their family members will be killed if they refuse to say they converted to Islam of their own free will, according to rights advocates.
Bibi then received a phone call from Anum’s employer, Muhammad Azmat – who is related to the Muslim couple who employed Maham, she said.
“Azmat told me to forget about my nieces, as both of them were Muslims now,” Bibi said. “He also warned me not to come to his house, threatening that I would rot in jail if I did. I could not believe my ears. Both of my nieces were being held hostage in the name of religion, and there was nothing I could do to rescue them.”
Bibi’s family pleaded with police to help them recover her two nieces. Officers were slow to act but eventually presented her two nieces and their employers in court on Dec. 15, Bibi said.
“We hoped that the court would consider the circumstances under which these conversion claims were being made, but to our horror the court rejected our pleas and handed the girls back in their Muslim employers’ custody,” she said.
Both Asim and Azmat refused to comment to Morning Star News about the accusations.
Alleged Kidnapper Released
The case follows several accusations of forcible conversions of Christian girls in Pakistan this year.
While claiming to propose take action against forced conversions/marriages of underage Christian girls, the government has done little to prosecute perpetrators, while courts have allowed sharia (Islamic law) to keep them from enforcing laws against them.
The most high-profile case in 2020 was that of Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Catholic girl who was kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married to a 44-year-old Muslim in the southern port city of Karachi. While the Sindh High Court annulled Arzoo’s marriage with Ali Azhar under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act and ordered the Muslim arrested, on Dec. 17 a trial court ordered his release on bail.
His lawyer argued that he could not be charged with rape of a minor, punishable with life imprisonment or the death sentence, since the girl had attained puberty, which allowed her to marry under Islamic law.
Attorney Jibran Nasir, who is representing Arzoo’s parents, expressed regret over the decision.
“There are good, bad and at times even dark days for justice,” he said in a tweet after the ruling.
Nasir said in another tweet that the judge relied on a 1990s Supreme Court ruling that held that “Islamic injunctions” apply to marriage, “hence though a child marriage, Arzoo’s marriage is still valid and so offense of rape isn’t made out prima facie.”
Nasir tweeted that the government needed to address the residual effect of now repealed laws in which “child marriages are held valid till dissolved by court, resulting in the perversion of crime of child marriage being used as defense to crime of rape.”
Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative on religious harmony, acknowledged in a recent press conference that forced conversion of Christian and Hindu girls was a serious issue. He also announced that the government is setting up a special center to examine forced religious conversion and underage marriage of minority girls.
The Center for Social Justice reports that 162 questionable conversions have appeared in the media since 2013. About 52 percent of allegedly forced conversions occurred in Punjab Province and 44 percent in Sindh Province, while 1.23 percent each were reported in the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa areas. One case was reported from Balochistan Province.
The data shows that 54.3 percent of the girls and women were Hindu, 44.4 percent were Christian and 0.62 percent belonged to Sikh and Kalash communities.
More than 46.3 percent of the victims of forced conversion were minors – with 32.7 percent between the ages of 11 and 15 – while only 16.7 percent of the victims were above 18 years old, though lower courts did not always verify those ages through records of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and schools.
“This year has seen a rise of incidents of forced conversions and underage marriages, hate speech against religious and sectarian minorities, and killings in the name of religion,” said Minorities Alliance of Pakistan Chairman Akmal Bhatti.
He said that these alarming cases were one reason the U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 re-designated Pakistan among nine other “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018.
“The government must act now to protect the minority communities, otherwise it risks losing its standing both at home and in the world,” he said, adding that the verdict in the Arzoo Raja case would certainly encourage more such attacks on Christians.
Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
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Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.
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