By Asif Aqeel Pakistan
Lahore: A 65-year-old mentally ill Christian has been jailed in Pakistan charged with insulting Islam.
Iqbal Masih, a father of nine, was arrested on the day of his son’s funeral last weekend despite being recognized as mentally ill.
Masih’s family lives in the Fazlia Colony of Lahore, a Christian neighborhood with around 1,000 residents. He has long experienced mental health issues, for which he is on medication.
Muhammad Waqas, the complainant, told World Watch Monitor that whenever Masih failed to take his medicine, he would go out into the street and shout abuse at passers-by.
A close family member of the Masihs, who wished to remain anonymous, told World Watch Monitor that his son, Bobby, had died following a short illness and that his father had stopped taking his medication.
“Bobby’s body was at home and people from the neighborhood were visiting to pay their condolences when Iqbal started shouting abuse, after which the women left his home,” Waqas said.
“Iqbal then recited the kalima [the Islamic proclamation of faith] and shouted abuse. Realizing that he was not behaving normally, the police were called to take him away so that tension between Christians and Muslims of the area might not arise.”
But Dilraj John, a local resident, said several Muslim clerics and others had also gathered, angered by Masih’s comments.
“Some of them wanted to set him on fire, but other sensible people suggested that Masih be handed over to the police as he was experiencing a mental health crisis,” he said. “Since then the situation is under control and the situation between Muslims and Christians is no longer tense.”
“Masih was mentally suffering. He could start calling names in the middle of the night. The complainant lives next door to him, but there was no previous enmity between them and the sole reason for the complaint was Iqbal’s name-calling,” he added.
Waqas said Masih had previously been sent to an asylum but that his family couldn’t afford for him to stay there.
“I asked the police to send him to the mental asylum again as everyone is fed up with him,” he said. “That is why Christians of the area also consented that he was handed over to the police.”