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Pakistan: Muslim Woman Almost Lynched for Wearing Dress with Arabic Inscriptions

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An angry mob in Lahore, Pakistan, almost lynched a woman for wearing a dress adorned with Arabic calligraphy. The dress, bearing the word “Halwa” in Arabic letters (meaning beautiful), had triggered a crowd of around 300 people outside a restaurant.

The mob, who accused the woman of blasphemy, had initially mistaken the letters on her dress for Quranic verses. According to BBC, the police were informed about the situation around 13:10 local (08:10 GMT) on Sunday. Before they arrived at the scene, however, an angry crowd had gathered around the woman at a restaurant in Lahore, the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab.

The police promptly intervened to diffuse the situation and escort the woman to safety. Videos circulated on social media showed the visibly scared woman surrounded by officers as the crowd demanded she remove the shirt. The police had negotiated with the crowd by vowing to hold her accountable as per the law. Blasphemy, in Pakistan’s laws, is punishable by death.

Central to the intervention, Assistant Superintendent Syeda Shehrbano stood at the restaurant’s entrance to restore order to the triggered crowd.

“Nobody actually knew what was written on the shirt, the major feat was to try to get that woman out of the area to ensure that she was safe”, she said.

She promised the angry mob that the woman’s actions would be considered to achieve this.

“We told them we would take the woman with us, her actions are going to be taken into account and we’re going to hold her responsible for whatever crime committed as per the law of the land.”

As the woman was guarded out of the charged premises, some individuals aggressively chanted that she was “a blasphemer who must be beheaded”. Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party, a far-right Islamic extremist political party, were reportedly present in the crowd.

At the police station, religious scholars confirmed the Arabic calligraphy on the dress were not verses from the Quaran, exonerating the said woman from blasphemy accusations. The police had further asked the scholars to record and proclaim the woman’s innocence via video.

The woman was in Lahore shopping, apologised for the unintentional situation, and asserted that she was a devout Muslim.

“I didn’t have any such intention, it happened by mistake. Still, I apologise for all that happened, and I’ll make sure it never happen again,” she said.

Reacting to this apology, Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, a top Muslim cleric, stated that the crowd should apologise instead.

This ugly incident adds to the growing list of horrifying religious sensitivities and highlights the need for a balance between religious sentiments and individual rights.

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