A nurse was accused of blasphemy for her criticism of the government’s reaction to the European Parliament motion censoring the country.
by Massimo Introvigne
Punjab Institute of Mental Health in Lahore, Pakistan, is the largest psychiatric facility in Southern Asia. Scholars of religion know it because although the present facilities were inaugurated in 1900, the hospital’s origins date back to the 19th– century work in Lahore of Hungarian doctor Johann Martin Honigberger. The doctor is the main character in a novel written in 1940 by the famous Romanian historian of religions Mircea Eliade, The Secret of Dr. Honigberger.
Many years have passes since Dr. Honigberger dreamed of a hospital where Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians will work in harmony. Last week, Muslim nurses and paramedics marched around the hospitals’ building shouting Islamist slogans and accusing of blasphemy a Christian nurse, Sakina Mehtab. The nurse has devoted her life to the hospital and is due to retire in two years.
The demonstrators then occupied an auditorium where Christian personnel gather for prayer, sang Na’at, a form of poetry in praise of Prophet Muhammad, and asked that any Christian worship cease in the hospital. Bibles and other Christian material were desecrated.
It should be considered that having a Christian place of worship in the hospital is not a privilege, since 345 out of some 600 employees of the Punjab Institute of Mental Health are Christians.
Nurse Sakina Mehtab’s sin was to have shared on WhatsApp some criticism of the government’s reaction against the motion of the European Parliament asking the European Commission to withdraw the trade privileges accorded to Pakistan because of the gross violations of human rights in the country, some of them connected with the enforcement of blasphemy laws.
It appears that criticizing the laws against blasphemy is regarded by some as blasphemy, although the nurse claimed her criticism was political rather than religious. The hospital appointed a one-person committee, Nursing Superintendent Khalida Sulehri, to investigate the incidents. Christians claimed the committee was biased, as Sulehri had been herself one of Mehtab’s harshest critics, but for the sake of peace Mehtab apologized for any unintended offense to her Muslim co-workers’ religious feelings.
Christians are however afraid that the auditorium will no longer be granted for their prayers, and believe an organized effort is taking place to accuse non-Muslim nurses of blasphemy in several hospitals under various pretexts, the final aim being replacing them with Muslim nurses.