Police Rescue Woman From 'Blasphemy' Chanting Mob In Lahore For Wearing Dress With Arabic Inscriptions

Woman apologised for her 'mistake' as senior cleric says the miscreants who frightened her should face criminal action and apologise

Police Rescue Woman From 'Blasphemy' Chanting Mob In Lahore For Wearing Dress With Arabic Inscriptions

Police in Lahore on Sunday rescued a young woman from being lynched by an enraged crowd in Lahore's Ichhra market who accused the woman of blasphemy for wearing a dress with Arabic inscriptions they mistook for verses from holy scripture.

The situation occurred on Sunday afternoon when a young woman went to the market with her husband for some shopping ahead of Ramazan. She was wearing a dress with Arabic calligraphy on its front and back. 

The Arabic inscriptions in the design make the word "Halwa" or sweet.

While browsing the market, the woman noticed people looking at her strangely, and soon, some people started asking her to change her dress because it was offending them. Soon, the situation turned ugly when a crowd started to gather and became aggressive, threatening the woman with bodily harm.

Realising the situation, some shopkeepers in the market sheltered the woman in their store. The shopkeepers were aware of clothing with the calligraphic print.

The police were called, and officers from the Punjab Police's motorcycle mounted quick reaction Dolphin Squad arrived on the scene. The shopkeepers and police attempted to defuse the situation.

Videos posted on social media show the young woman hiding in the shop and quivering in fear while vehemently denying the allegations. She repeated that there was no intention to offend anyone.

The shopkeepers, aware of the clothing, tried to explain to the mob that the Arabic calligraphy contained no holy verses.

However, it did not dissuade some in the crowd, who kept chanting slogans against her.

Noting the sensitive nature of the situation and the potential for it to get out of hand quickly, the first-responding police officers requested additional support, and ASP Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi from the Gulberg police station, arrived on the scene.

In a separate video posted by the police on social media, she can be seen asking the enraged crowd to trust the police to do their duty.

"We have been serving here for a year, and we have handled three such cases; you must trust us," she implored the crowd.

The officer then escorted the woman away to the police station as the crowd called to "behead those who blaspheme against religious personalities".

In the video where the police spirit the woman away, her dress is seen to have been covered using a black abaya while a shawl was wrapped around her head and face.

Later in the day, the police posted a second video from the police station with the ASP and some clerics encircling the woman. They said the woman had repented for her 'mistake' and, had been forgiven after she promised not to wear the dress again,.

In the video, the woman apologises for her 'mistake', adding that she had no intention to cause any offence and that if anyone has taken offence, it was inadvertent and regretted. She added that she only took the caligraphy on the dress as a design.

The woman added that she belongs to a conservative and religious family of an "Ahl-e-Sunnat family" while her father-in-law was a Hafiz of Quran (Memoriser of Quran) and that they cannot even consider committing blasphemy.

Senior cleric demands action against male instigators

Reacting to the incident, former minister for interfaith harmony and Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Maulana Tahir Ashrafi said that he had reviewed the dress in question and the Arabic text inscribed on it and found that it did not include any holy scripture nor was it contrary to Islam or Sharia.

He added that such dresses are worn by men and women across the Islamic world, especially in the Arab states. 

"Instead of this woman, those people should apologise who harassed the woman and frightened her," he said, demanding legal action against those instigators.

"Such men bring Islam and Sharia into disrepute," he said, adding that the crimes the woman was accused of cannot be taken lightly and that no one can be declared a blasphemer without solid evidence.

"There was no blasphemy here. This was utter ignorance that Arabic printed on a woman's dress is taken for scripture, and you threaten to kill them," Ashrafi stated.

He urged Punjab Police to take action against the miscreants, warning that it could lead to a frightening situation.

"Why shouldn't there be criminal action against these miscreants? If we allow such fear and chaos to spread throughout the country, our children will not be able to step out of their homes."

The design

The dress had been advertised by a Kuwaiti fashion company last year as part of their Ramazan collection. It was also available for purchase in Saudi Arabia according to another website.

However, as people started researching the dress, they ended up on the social media page of the Kuwaiti fashion company and flooded comments under the dress apart from their message box about the dress being offensive.

It prompted the company to post a message explaining that they use Arabic lettering and words in their products and that they did not have anything to do with the incident in Lahore.