Pakistan: School principal abducts 15-year-old Christian girl, forces Islamic conversion

by Samuel Smith/CP, |
Members of the Pakistani Christian community hold candles during a protest rally to condemn Sunday's suicide attack in Peshawar on a church, with others in Lahore, September 23, 2013. A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the 130-year-old Anglican church in Pakistan after Sunday mass, killing at least 78 people in the deadliest attack on Christians in the predominantly Muslim country. | Photo: Reuters/Mohsin Raza

A school principal in Pakistan is accused of abducting a Christian student and taking her to an Islamic madrasa to forcibly convert her to Islam.

The Press Trust of India reports that the girl's father, Mukhtar Masih, filed a complaint at a local police station in the Punjab province after his daughter, 15-year-old Faiza, did not come home from school last Wednesday.

Masih said the family contacted the school to ask where their daughter was. It was then that the class teacher told them that the school's Principal, Saleema Bibi, had taken Faiza to a nearby Islamic madrasa to be converted to Islam.

The father says he went to three Islamic seminaries before finding his daughter. However, the staff at the madrasa did not allow Faiza to return with her family.

After Masih filed a complaint, the police raided the madrasa and rescued Faiza. The girl was then taken to a shelter in Sheikhupura. The news agency reports that the family is now appealing for authorities to allow Faiza to return home.

"We took action and recovered the girl on Mukhtar Masih's complaint but a [first information report] has not been registered against anyone yet," police official Muhammad Nawaz told PTI.

"However, we are investigating the matter."

Faiza was said to have informed her parents that she was told by a teacher that she'd "automatically become a Muslim" because she read Arabic in school.

"The principal had also offered us to convert to Islam and in return, she would compensate us by paying for our needs but we refused," Masih was quoted as saying.

According to journalist Nail Inayat, Faiza is the third reported case of forced religious conversion in Pakistan in just one week.

"Renuka Kumari, Jagjit Kaur and Faiza Mukhtar. Hindu, Sikh and Christian girls are not 'pure' enough for the land of the pure?" Inayat asked in a Twitter thread.

"The teacher who taught Arabic to the girl in the gov't school told her you can't go back home now as you're a Muslim."

Faiza's alleged forced conversion follows reports that a young Hindu woman in the Sindh province was abducted from the Institute of Business Administration in Sukkur and forcibly converted to Islam.

In late August, a Shikh family alleged that their daughter had been abducted and forced to convert to Islam. However, the girl has claimed publicly that she converted to Islam and married her captor on her own free will.

Unlawful marriages are punishable by up to seven years in prison, according to the Pakistani penal code. Yet the frequent abductions of Christian and Hindu girls by Muslim men continues to be a problem.

A 2014 estimate from the nongovernmental organization Movement of Solidarity and Peace suggests that as many as 1,000 Hindu, Christian and other religious minority girls are abducted, raped or forced into Islamic marriages each year.

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