Eighth grader expelled, almost charged for ‘blasphemy’ in Pakistan

By September 30, 2011

Pakistan (MNN) — An eighth-grade student in Pakistan was expelled from school and narrowly missed a blasphemy charge–punishable by death–for misspelling an Urdu word in school, according to Compass Direct News.

13-year-old Faryal Bhatti misspelled a word on an Urdu exam last week while answering a question on a poem in praise of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, according to area Christians. Faryal wrote "laanat," the transliteration of the Urdu word for "curse," instead of "naat," which means "a poem written in praise of Islam's prophet."

Upon discovering this mistake, Faryal's teacher beat Faryal and notified the principal. After the principal told the school officials about the error, rumors began to fly. The next day, Muslim students and adults staged a demonstration, demanding registration not only of her eviction from the area, but of a criminal case against her.

The crowd wanted to charge 13-year-old Faryal's "derogatory comments" under Pakistan's blasphemy law, which is punishable by death or life in prison.

In the meantime, Faryal's mother was immediately relocated from her job as a nurse at a hospital connected with Faryal's school.

Faryal apologized to the school and explained she had no malicious intents, and one school administrator even admitted that Faryal did not seem to have misspelled the word intentionally. Nonetheless, the school expelled Faryal, much to the satisfaction of Muslim protestors.

Compass Direct reports that Muslim prayer leaders had called for action to be taken against the girl and her family. A text-message campaign with the same agenda was also created.

To avoid anyone taking the matter into their own hands, the Pakistani military stepped in to protect Faryal and her family. Faryal has not been charged with blasphemy formally, but her family is currently in hiding.

The consequences for Faryal and her whole family could be severe if any vigilante decides to act, but the effects of the situation stretch even further than just one family. Area Christians, who already advise their children not to talk about their faith or any other religious issue at school, are now even more frightened about what may happen if their children make a mistake. Faryal and her family are safe, but had the military not stepped in right away, that may not have been the case.

Christians are very cautious in Pakistan not to say anything that could be remotely perceived as blasphemy against Islam or Muhammad. Even those who are careful can end up on death row, like Christian victim of the blasphemy law Asia Bibi. Incidents like this make believers even more fearful.

Christians make up only a small minority of Pakistan, accounting for just 2.45% of the nation's population. Pray that they would be bold but also wise in how they share the truth. Pray that the Lord would open doors at the right time for church growth, and that believers would not suffer from false claims in the meantime.

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