By Thomas D. Williams
Pakistani school officials in Faisalabad are coming under fire for prohibiting Christian pupils from using lavatories reserved for Muslim students and specifically for a severe punishment administered to a young girl for using a Muslim lavatory.
In recent days, a Christian primary school student named Sara Bibi was scolded, beatenand finally locked in a bathroom for three hours as punishment for having using a toilet destined for the exclusive use of Muslim students. Sara Bibi attends a primary school in Samundari near Faisalabad, in Punjab.
Some of Sara’s classmates reportedly alerted the headmistress that she had used the lavatory.
According to a mentality prevalent in Pakistani society, Christians are considered “unclean” and thus the girl’s presence was thought to pollute the bathrooms for the other “clean” girls.
The one meting out Sara’s punishment was none other than the headmistress of the school, Zahida Rana. According to reports, before locking her in the bathroom, the principal told her: “You are a Christian, an infidel. How dare you use the toilet using Muslim girls?
The girl reportedly pleaded her innocence, but was punished and only released at the end of the school day.
Local Christians have strongly condemned principal’s “inhuman behavior” and the Pakistan Christian Congress has asked the Punjab government for a thorough investigation of the incident as well as requesting measures to promote tolerance and interfaith harmony in Pakistan.
A local police official, Muhammad Afzal, said they had not received a complaint but that action would be taken a grievance were filed. As yet no corrective action has been taken.
An imam from a nearby mosque, Maulana Asad Khan, said that Islam does not forbid people of other faiths from sharing restrooms with Muslims. “If the school headmistress has beaten up the girl for using the washroom, we strongly condemn this act,” he said.
In much of today’s Pakistan, something akin to Jim Crow laws are still in effect, and Christians often are not permitted to sit in restaurants, schools, universities or offices with Muslims, and nor can they drink water from the same fountains.