by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) - Two Christian nurses in Pakistan have been jailed for violating blasphemy laws by following a hospital supervisor’s instructions to clean up an area covered with old hangings and stickers, including a half-torn old sticker with a verse from the Koran on it, International Christian Concern reports. Rights groups have said Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws are frequently abused; Pakistan ranks 5th on the Open Doors Watch List of countries where Christians are persecuted.
Nurse Mariam Lal and student nurse Navish Arooj were charged under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s law against “defiling the Koran” on April 9, their attorney Akmal Bhatti, chairman of Minorities Alliance of Pakistan, told Morning Star News. Conviction under this legislation carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine.
The incident began when a Muslim co-worker at the Civil Hospital in Faisalabad had objected to the nurses’ removal of the Koranic sticker and reportedly attacked one of the women with a knife, ICC said. An Islamist mob subsequently gathered at the hospital demanding “death to blasphemers.”
“According to Mariam’s statement, a senior nurse had directed her on Thursday evening to remove all old wall hangings and stickers, some of them inscribed with Koranic verses. She said a sticker on a cabinet was already half torn off by some patient when Navish removed it,” Bhatti told Morning Star News. “Mariam said she and Navish were simply following the directives when a nurse made an issue over the torn sticker, reportedly over a personal grudge.”
Lal is a single parent with a teenage daughter and Arooj engaged to be married in two weeks; both nurses work in the hospital’s psychiatric ward, Bhatti said. The nurses were taken into custody for their security, and their families have gone into hiding because of fear of Islamist mob retaliation, ICC said.