On Wednesday, 19 churches and more than 80 Christian homes in Pakistan were ransacked after the inhabitants of the city of Jaranwala were accused of blasphemy against Islam. Perhaps the most unacknowledged aspect of the violence was just how expected it was.
Nationwide, non-Muslim places of worship, especially churches, have been on high alert for the past month following burnings of the Quran carried out in Sweden by anti-Islam protesters. All the Islamic clergy and groups in Pakistan needed was an excuse to ignite the tinderbox.
The excuse was provided by a rumour that desecrated pages of the Quran were found near the home of a Christian family in Jaranwala. Such ‘evidence’ can easily be fabricated, or planted, to implicate someone in Pakistan. The accusation is, anyway, a mere formality since both the vox populi, and the country’s penal code, assert that the intangible, victimless crime of outraging Islam merits violence. The one thing radical Muslim mobs and the state of Pakistan differ over is whom to delegate the responsibility of carrying it out.
Once it was alleged that desecrated pages of the Quran had been found in Jaranwala, mosques in the region whirred into action, inciting bloodshed with due references to the events in Sweden. Soon, members of the radical Islamist group Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which has previously urged Pakistan to drop a nuclear bomb on France for Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of Muhammad, started assembling the mob.
With 76 years of Islamic supremacism hammered into the national discourse, it was never going to be difficult to gather a sufficient number of Muslims who would already feel entitled to be offended by the existence of the church crosses the ensuing mob demolished and the Bibles they burnt. That Christians are considered ‘People of the Book’ in Islamic theology also becomes redundant when mosques remind everyone at least five times a day in the Islamic call to prayer that all other gods are false except Allah.
Even so, perhaps the most critical cog in Pakistan’s blasphemy machinery is the law enforcement personnel who have an unblemished record of total absence in such situations.