Woman saved from mob in Pakistan in mixup over Arabic text on her dress

Woman saved from mob in Pakistan in mixup over Arabic text on her dress

A woman in Pakistan had to be rescued from a mob of hundreds of men accusing her of blasphemy after they mistook Arabic calligraphy on her dress for verses from the Quran.

The woman was shopping with her husband at a market in Lahore on Sunday when people began falsely accusing her of wearing a dress adorned with verses from the Islamic holy book.

A mob of nearly 300 people cornered the woman at a restaurant, demanding her to remove the dress.

Videos on social media showed the scared woman pushed into a corner of the restaurant, hiding her face with her hand. A man can be heard in the video asking her to remove the garment or saying it would be forcefully removed from her.

She was rescued by the local police, who escorted her out of the restaurant while the mob protested.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Muslim-majority Pakistan under stringent laws, and mob lynchings can occur over the mere allegation of committing blasphemy.

It was later confirmed that the word "halwa", which translates to sweet, was printed in Arabic script on the woman's dress.

It was a local garment trader, who was able to identify the Arabic caligraphy, who called police after 1pm (local time) to come to the woman’s aid.

Multiple police teams rushed to the spot and tried to pacify the crowd, before taking the woman into protective custody.

Another video showed assistant superintendent of police Shehrbano Naqvi trying to convince the mob that no blasphemous act had been committed by the woman. "During my service, I have handled three such incidents, and you should have trust in us [police],” she was seen telling the crowd.

The footage showed her putting an arm around the woman, who was by then covered in a black burqa and a hijab, and escorting her out of the premises.

"I didn't have any such intention, it happened by mistake," the woman said in a videotaped apology issued from police custody.

The woman added that she was a devout Muslim and would never insult her religion. "Still I apologise for all that happened, and I'll make sure it never happens again.”

Ms Naqvi, meanwhile, has been praised for her bravery and recommended by the Punjab police for the highest gallantry award for law enforcement in the country.

She told reporters that there has been a "mushrooming" of similar incidents in Pakistan. An eight-year-old Hindu boy was the youngest to be charged with blasphemy in 2021.